By DeSmogBlog Co-Founder John Lefebvre
It is very important for all of us to make every effort to reduce our carbon footprint, whether by driving less, going hybrid, acquiring carbon neutral energy sources like photovoltaic or buying carbon credits. But it must be said, and it is unfortunate that it must, none of these, nor all of them together, will solve the problem or even put a significant dent in it.
Go to China. Go to India. Travel throughout the third world. Look and see. Our efforts in our personal spaces are at the most symbolic. Sorry. But it’s true.
But that doesn't let us off the hook. The U.S. and Canadian governments, saying they will sign no accord for CO2 reduction that is not signed by India and China, are like little children in a sand box putting their hands over their eyes and saying “You can’t see me.”
The problem will not be solved until it is solved for India and China.
India and China do not have the capacity to solve the problem.
We either solve it for them or they will continue to burn carbon fuels prodigiously for a century or centuries into the future. We can clean ourselves up but they will sink us anyway.
Waiting for them to “come to the table” amounts to waiting to sink. Sorry. But it’s true.
The climate change we are experiencing now is driven, mostly, from carbon fuels consumed up to 30 years ago. The fuels we have consumed since then will continue to create change for a century to come. What we burn for the next 30 years will redouble our troubles. It’s funny that the word we use for this process is “snowball.”
Ice free Arctic summers within 10 years. Hello?
If we carry on for 30 years, we’re looking at rising oceans, storms, draughts, floods and other meteorological weirdness that will make our recent surprises look like a spring sun shower.
It is trumpeted that converting to clean energy will create unacceptable economic costs. What do the changes in weather that we are already witnessing create? “Snowfalls in China cost billions” was the headline this January. Everyday there are new examples: “30% of worlds maize crop will fail by 2020.”
Climate change will certainly bring with it more, not less, upheaval - much more, But that’s not all. It will also bring an inescapable truth, an undeniable lesson that will show the way to the future of our species and our planet. Earth may be scores of “nations.” But it is one property. Climate change will make it impossible to persist in the youthful illusion that we have neither rights nor responsibilities beyond our borders. When we alter the atmosphere with CO2, we irrevocably alter only one property. It is no defence of our inaction that others are unaware. If China continues to desiccate the property, we will pay the price even if we clean up our own corner. One property.
We know how things work here. People will rush headlong towards wealth and power, no matter what. And that’s final. We either provide them with non-destructive ways to do so or they will persist in deploying the destructive means. Asking human beings to settle for less is as likely to succeed as asking youth to abstain from sex.
One property, one market. Changing energy sources will not end the market. It will merely divert it. People will always purchase energy. They will always purchase the energy that is cheapest.
We are realizing that carbon fuels come with colossal “hidden” costs in environmental disruption, that is if you can call drought, famine and flood “hidden”. These costs will be born by all, not only the carbon burners.
So, now we face a bleak future on one hand or a big research and development project on the other. With $300 billion, we can develop infrastructure sufficient to provide super cheap absolutely clean electricity to the world forever. That's seven years of Exxon profit. One-tenth the U.S. annual budget.
Fuel Cell. Use geothermal energy to separate hydrogen from water. Use hydrogen to create electricity by fuel cell. The sole emission is water. Circular. Eternal. Take the emissions and make tea. And supply the world with cheaper, non-destructive no hidden cost energy for ever. And as always, for income.
We will sell more cars not less. We are already making them. They will be clean and quiet. And if we want, bigger cars. No problem. Drive huge SUV’s forever. Powered by fuel cell batteries. Don’t settle for less. Expect more.
By making personal efforts locally we will exemplify for our peers and our children the importance of acting globally. The contest is on. Can we make it here for as long as the dinosaurs did?