Governments must accept responsibility and therefore must lead in defending the environment. Voters must make politicians fully aware that their vote is dependent on a credible environmental programme. The media too have a critical part to play in keeping the public informed. Investigative journalists need to prize-open the dark chest that hides the secrets of ‘hidden subsidies’ that governments presently give to business. Only then can the electorate use their vote rationally.
Progressive media are the vanguard, the elite force of the people. It is to them that we must look to unearth / expose every crevice where government and the big boys try to hide their devious dealings. We need individuals who have the expertise and whistle-blowers to make sure we are kept in the loop. Of this elite group the investigative journalist is a member of the Sherwood Forest brigade.
To emphasise the point, two pieces of evidence from Reuters, 2015/01/29 + 2015/02/5 respectively. Based on Pew Research Center USA, 87% of scientists polled believe people cause climate change but only 50% of the public agree. Secondly, 70% of democrats think that human activity is causing global warming whereas, only 27% of republicans do. However, the UN is 95% certain that ‘we’ do cause global warming. Although the evidence is US based the public are no better informed elsewhere.
Ha-Joon Chang (p268) is unequivocal in his assessment, “There is no doubt that climate change, mainly caused by our material production and consumption activities, threatens human existence”. This is a stark and somewhat dramatic statement but it is in keeping with the scientific view. Economics: The User’s Guide
- Scientific consensus states that carbon emissions must be reduced by 80% by 2050 to avoid a temperature rise of more than 2%. www.carbonneutral.com
- Emissions from burning of coal, oil and gas are rising to record levels and are not yet falling. UN Panel on Climate Change November 2014.
- “…policy makers must realise that their instincts to completely use the fossil fuel within their countries are wholly incompatible with their commitments to the 2C goal”. Dr Christophe McGlade UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, quoted in www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-30709211
- International Conference to be held in Paris December 2015; the talks are to seek a limit on the increase of CO2 in order to put off a rise of 2C (3.6 F) as this could spark off dangerous climate change. www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31872460
- In a recent interview on France24 news, 2015/04/02 Janos Pasztor a UN representative commented that ‘ours should be the last generation to make decisive change’. To wait any longer will be more expensive and more difficult. While acknowledging he was hopeful he thought it unlikely that agreement would be reached at the UN Inter-Governmental Conference on climate change, in Paris.
It’s Good News Week
The International Energy Agency has reported that CO2 emissions have remained stable in 2014 for the first time in 40 years. One main reason is thought to have been the reduction in coal burning by China. It is good news because it shows what can be done and how it can be done. Governments must now invest heavily on research into credible alternative energy supplies. This can be funded in part by a carbon tax on the main polluting industries.
Unfortunately the experiment with wind power has failed. Wind power needs the back-up of a power station in the event that the wind doesn’t blow or blows too strongly. Nuclear power has a nasty offshoot condemning our offspring to generations of worry. What a legacy!
A tax scheme has been put forward by professor William Nordhaus of Yale University. In this way everyone is made aware of the true cost of the product’s carbon footprint.
Oh hell, the downside!
Bp the oil giant has recently published its Energy Outlook up to 2035. It predicts that CO2 emissions will exceed levels scientists say pose a threat to climate change. The report accepts that the burning of fossil fuels is unsustainable and that concerted action is necessary.
- CO2 will increase 1% per year to 2035
- Oil use will increase by 0.8% per annum – 2035
- China will become the biggest consumer of petroleum
- Global demand for energy will increase by 37%
- Use of natural gas will grow fastest.
- Use of coal will continue to increase but at a lower rate.
- Asia Pacific will outstrip Europe for gas imports.
Is this a catalogue of doom?
Carbon emissions are expected to rise by 25% by 2035; significantly above recommendations. Wow! The Telegraph 2015/02/22
They’re killing us but the profits are excellent!!!
What Can Be Done?
Sadly, we cannot trust business to have our best interest in mind. There are too many instances of bad business for them to be trusted by anyone. I have written recently about the effects of diesel vehicles. Diesel: The Killer in our Midst. Read the post.
Writing about the market in the early 1990s author Charles Handy (p19) made his view clear, “The market left to itself, would not work”. What a portent of the 2008 crisis; when unrestricted the market imploded. Handy (p31) goes on to caution us that, “It is only a tool, and tools are not for worshipping”. The Hungry Spirit
Support for Handy’s view comes from Ha-Joon Chang (p456) who does not mince his words, “The economy is much bigger than the market. We will not be able to build a good economy – or a good society – unless we look at the vast expanse beyond the market”. Chang and others are thinking of government and of the jobs and business it generates. J E Stiglitz (pxlv111) is far more damning of the market when he poses a question of what capitalism has brought us, “… inequality, pollution, unemployment, and, most important of all, the degradation of values to the point where everything is acceptable and no one is accountable”. The Price of Inequality
- The selling of derivatives which was a major cause of the crisis which engulfed the world in 2008.
- The rigging of the Libor and foreign exchange rates to maximise profit at everyone else’s expense.
- Tax avoidance on a massive scale. Nearly every MNC multi- national company.
- Not paying corporate tax in the country where they do business.
There are a thousand + other cases; just too many to mention. A major downside of the market was identified by Charles Handy (p23) “Anything that is unpriced is ignored by the market…” As the environment has no profit margin it is not given any consideration. This has been recognised by world leaders who have put a price on pollution, as Chang (p395) points out, “Today we buy and sell the rights to pollute (carbon trading)”.
Since 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol was first agreed it has developed into a major trading sector. The world is divided into CO2 blocks whereby countries and industries are given a target of CO2 emissions. Their emissions are measured by the number of ‘credits’ issued. If a country / industry does not use all of its credits it can sell the remaining ones to another business. A company which is likely to overshoot its target, (cap) can buy the unused credits and continue to pollute.
Read an original report on Kyoto: www.oocities.org/yosemite/rapids/Rapids/
The Price of Credits
In 2009 ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia paid $8000 for the carbon already trapped in the trees of a local forest. The deal would offset three (3) years of the company’s carbon footprint. Thus as long as the trees are not cut down and the carbon released the company can continue with its present carbon policy. The company wants the scheme to run for the next hundred years. www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/
The BBC interviewed a company selling carbon credits for £5.50 per tonne. The BBC questioned this and sought clarification from an oversight body, Climate Care and were told that ‘credits’ should be sold at £1.00 per tonne. However, later the BBC found that Climate Care was selling ‘credits’ at £7.50 per tonne on their website. Can business be trusted? www.redd-monitor.org/2013/01/22/
Another interesting deal is one between the American states of Louisiana and California. In this instance Louisiana could earn in the region of $550 million & $1.6bn by selling the carbon captured by their cypress and tupelo trees. California must reduce its carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and can achieve this by paying Louisiana not to chop down their trees. www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2015/03/
A further example which clearly illustrates how the market in pollution is growing comes from Byron Shire Council in Australia. Here, the council initiated a new Landfill gas flare project for which they won government approval. The scheme brought them 6,616 carbon credits. The council sold these credits to a Queensland State energy provider @ $22.60 per credit and profited to the tune of $149, 521.60 This programme is named the Carbon Farming Initiative. www.byron.nsw.gov.au/media-releases/2014/03/31 For me the word farming conjures up thoughts of the growing of food, our very sustenance and certainly not the dealing in CO2 which is slowly killing us.
There are a host of other examples which will be dealt with in the follow up to this post. Suffice to say that the pollution market is big and about to become vast. Unfortunately wherever profit is involved rationale goes out the window. Some individuals have bought ‘credits’ from dealers thinking that they have made an investment only to discover that there is a time limit on the ‘credits’ and they quickly become useless. Look out for fraudsters!
Nonetheless, the market is growing, “Carbon will be the world’s biggest commodity market, and could become the world’s biggest market”. Louis Redshaw, Barclays Capital. Whoopee!!!! www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_credit
They’re killing us but the profits are excellent!
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