The Copenhagen climate change summit will fail because the meeting is about politics and marketing, not about climate change. The Copenhagen meeting looks like doing little more than the Kyoto summit and the Kyoto summit did nothing. Is there any hope that Copenhagen will be more than a political whitewash?
James Hansen, the person who first presented climate change problems to politicians, says Copenhagen will fail because it will promote the carbon tax approach pushed by the current federal government of Australia and the carbon trading approach favoured by most other countries. James Hansen suggests we switch to a tax on the carbon fuel producers. James Hansen should look at previous campaigns to alter the world. A tax on a raw material does not reduce consumption long term or change behaviour.
If you make a raw material dearer, there is a temporary decrease in consumption then the price falls and consumption is back to normal. Along the way many of the buyers reallocate a larger share of their budget toward purchasing the raw material and, combined with the price fall, consume more. After each oil price hike bust, consumers came back with increased purchases within a few years. The subsequent price drops produced sales booms including bigger gas guzzling cars.
The latest global financial crisis reduced car sizes by throwing people out of high paid jobs, removing overtime, and forcing people off full time work. Their lack of money meant they could not buy bigger cars and, at replacement time, had to buy something so cheap, it had to be significantly smaller. We do not want to put people out of work but we do want to make a difference at the critical time of purchase. Waiting until after the purchase then slugging someone an extra few cents for fuel does nothing to stop the purchase of wasteful cars. Charging a little extra for electricity will not stop the purchase of wasteful appliances.
Stop killing trees
The biggest cause of climate change is the destruction of trees, not the use of cars. Go into any forested area, measure the temperature across the day, night, and year. Then chop down the trees for a housing estate. The average temperature goes up 3 degrees centigrade. The daytime temperature goes up by a far larger amount and the houses suddenly need air conditioning. The night time temperature drops by a huge amount and all those houses need heating. An area where you could previously camp in comfort without electricity suddenly becomes dependent on massive consumption of energy to fight the degraded climate.
Old grow forests are needed for biodiversity and to provide the DNA pool for future tree farming. Trees depend on birds to protect the trees from damaging insects. We need working old forests to study the way plants and animals interact.
Tree farming captures carbon in wood and you can use the wood to build furniture, houses, make paper, manufacture endless products to replace plastic. Plastic is made with unnatural carbon from oil, coal, and unnatural gas. The plastic breaks down slowly into carbon dioxide and increases global warming. Recycling plastic only slows down the conversion to carbon dioxide. Replacing plastic with wood based products reduces the carbon dioxide build up because the trees get their carbon from the air, not oil.
Carbon trading schemes, including Kyoto, let companies continue to use oil and fake being green by paying someone to grow trees. The trees grow on land where there used to be trees and the trees consume the carbon dioxide produced by the burning of the previous trees, the trees do not absorb the new carbon from the oil used to make plastic.
A few years ago McDonalds replaced some plastic containers with paper and cardboard containers. That is exactly they type of change we need at the consumer level. Buy wooden furniture instead of plastic. Buy plant based cloth instead of plastic cloth. Buy cotton, not microfibre.
Kyoto did nothing to help consumers change from plastic to plant. Copenhagen will also let manufacturers fake being green.
Carbon trading is useless
Carbon trading Kyoto style, the style proposed for endless continuation at Copenhagen, does not recognise all carbon inputs and outputs, does not look at all carbon sources or carbon sinks. It is useless and is one of the reasons the previous Australia federal government refused to sign the Kyoto protocol.
Carbon trading is also useless because it treats all carbon sources the same. Some sources are renewable and sustainable. Most plant based sources of carbon are renewable and sustainable. Other sources, coal, out, unnatural gas, should be given a far stronger negative treatment in the trading schemes.
Carbon trading does not include energy trading. Natural sources of energy are more expensive than oil and coal based sources. Carbon taxes makes the unnatural sources more expensive but not expensive enough to be replaced by natural sources. Carbon trading reduces the cost of unnatural sources without reducing the cost of natural sources. Unnatural sources should not be allowed to trade their way around the problems they cause.
Targets too low
Another reason the previous Australia federal government refused to sign the Kyoto protocol was that the targets set set for reducing carbon were way to weak. under Kyoto, Australia would have had to reduce carbon dioxide production by only a few percent instead of the 12 percent already planned. The current Australian federal government won the last election by claiming 12 percent was way too low and we should aim for 15, 20, 25 percent. After the election, the new government silenced their minister for the environment and set the pathetic target of only 5 percent. The idiots in the current Australian federal government have dragged Australia from one of the climate change leaders down to the bottom of the list.
We need a new election before Copenhagen so Australians can show they do not like being lied to and want to do something positive toward reducing climate change.
Change the sunshine laws
Sydney, the one in NSW Australia, not the one in Canada, has a lot of sunshine we can use to generate energy. Solar power systems need 8 years to pay off their construction. The current state government of NSW has stamped out the right of residents to use sunshine to generate power. The government claims it supports solar power and provides token subsidies but does not protect our right to sunshine and actively approves disastrous multi story slum construction right up against residential housing, blocking out all sunlight for huge portions of the day. Imaging investing in solar with a view to payback in 8 years then another 20 years of clean free energy, only to be kicked in the guts by the government and get practically no energy out of the solar panels.
The same happens in other locations. People need either a law guaranteeing access to sunshine or a law guaranteeing a 100 percent refund of your solar investment before construction begins on adjoining properties.
Uranium is not a renewable energy source. Nuclear power is not sustainable. If the trillions of dollars proposed for nuclear power was directed into sustainable power sources, we would have the same energy supply without the horrific quantity of nuclear waste. A nuclear power station requires 6 billion dollars and ten years to construct. The power station lasts as little as 30 years and then has to be buried for 250000 years.
Kyoto and Copenhagen treat nuclear power as a viable alternative to coal.
Wind is a renewable energy source and is sustainable. 6 billion spent on wind farms would produce the same power and the first generators would be online within a year. The generators need replacing after 30 years but can be recycled into new generators and do not need burying for hundreds of thousands of years. Wind power is intermittent but the energy is easily stored. Wind power is available in areas too far north or too far south for solar power.
Neither Kyoto or Copenhagen do anything to consider energy sources based on different geographic needs or to promote research into improving the existing clean energy sources that are of marginal cost benefit because they are still manufactured in too low a volume to compete on price with coal and oil. Doubling the use of clean energy sources through subsidies at the consumer end would eventually increase the number of equipment manufacturers and lead to lower equipment codes making the clean energy supplies more attractive than the fume belching cola and oil based generators.
The world needs more research grants for alternatives. What works in Sydney might not work in Ulan Bator. We need research into many energy sources and that research repeated all over the world to find where it works. There is not talk about any country promoting research grants at Copenhagen.
The current Australian federal government dragged Australia 10 year backwards in the climate change area. The same people are going to Copenhagen to call for
strong action. If the
strong action is a reflection of their pathetic action in Australia, our world is doomed.
China and India
Kyoto failed because it gave China and India permission to do any that they like. Manufacturers in other countries shipped their carbon intensive manufacturing to China and claimed the result as a carbon credit. The reality is carbon pollution increased because materials have to be shipped to China then the finished products have to be shipped back, producing a massive increase in carbon pollution from shipping.
Both China and India have announced they will set small targets for token carbon reduction at Copenhagen but the announcements sound even weaker than the Australian federal government target and their announcements are all full of fine print that lets them do nothing if they want. Their announcements for Copenhagen would have been useful back at Kyoto because Europe, America, and Australia would not have been able to ship so much carbon pollution to China and India. Now it is too little too late.
Brazil is replacing all petrol with alcohol. They have the right climate. Some other countries could switch to biodiesel. The Australian climate suits a mixture of alcohol and biodiesel. Many countries could follow the lead of Brazil.
The current Australian federal government listens to the big American car manufacturers who dominate the Australian car industry. Those Americans say that it is impossible to produce a car that runs on alcohol or a truck that runs on biodiesel. They say this despite Brazil having zillions of cars running on pure alcohol and many brands of diesel truck running happily on recycled cooking oil.
Cook for your car
Yes, you can cook dinner then pour the oil into your car. Instead of polluting land fill with the oil, you filter it and feed it to your diesel car. Some oils need the same cleaning as regular diesel to remove water and waxes that would block the fuel injectors in cold weather. The cleaning process is something you could do in an establishment that would be about the same size as a car wash and could be placed in the same locations as car washes.
We need to act now because the result will take many years to have an effect, many years for gas stations to switch tanks and pumps over to the new fuels, many years for people to upgrade their cars, plus time for farmers to alter their crop mix. Some of the fuels are ideal for marginal farm areas because marginal farm areas grow only what we now call weeds. Some of those weeds are useless as food but can produce fuel. Farmers need time to research ways to grow new crops without reducing the existing supply of food.