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Tracking Dangerous Climate Change This Week

By Bill Henderson

21 May, 2007

So what's new this week in the race to dangerous climate change?

Well quote of the week goes to the deputy Mayor of London:
We both know that our infrastructure and the accumulated wealth of centuries are at risk with a sea level rise of just a few meters. We are experiencing currently the effects of greenhouse gases from the 50s, when we consumed as much oil in a year as we now consume in 6 weeks. And we have to feel the effects of four and a half decades. There’s a time lag and currently we’re chucking, pushing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as if there were literally no tomorrow. So we have about, people say, 10 years maximum, maximum 10 years, to actually prevent runaway climate change. That’s on top of everything we have yet to experience.

The turn it around within a decade, 2 degrees imperative seems to be sinking in, but, for the moment, at the government level, only as a lofty European goal to be rejected by the White House and sycophants.

Positive feedbacks. I suppose that incrementally this understanding of the danger from presently safely sequestered carbon bombs and other latent sources of runaway climate change is trickling down to the general public, but policy makers everywhere refuse to get out of the business as usual box to recognize the most serious danger.

So even as more evidence comes this week that Earths present carbon sinks are filling and poised to turn into carbon emitters, policy shapers and makers and lowly legislators everywhere are spinning green products like hybrids, or junk bond-style carbon neutrality and such while relentlessly pushing domestic consumption, mega transportation infrastructure projects: highways, airports, ports, pipelines, etc., increasing fossil fuel energy production, and more entrapping globalization.

This week I had an informative e-mail discussion with Brad Arnold whom most DCC(RCC, RGW)ers on the net know for his frank description of the DCC problem. Brad is a techno-optimist who argues for a bio-tech solution: pulling carbon out of the air with seeded GM organisms instead of accenting emission reduction, a reduction that has been put off for two decades, an emission reduction now of a scale he thinks is no longer possible. Of course there are problems with geo-engineering approaches but could be one fruitful path to possible solution. Can't hurt to at least explore Brad's bio-tech possibilities. But even in a society so rich it throws billions of dollars at research and development of mundane entertainment products there seems to be little money or organized research into possible ways of pulling carbon out of the air.

And I just finished reading SUSTAINABLE FOSSIL FUELS a very informative worthwhile read, by Vancouver resource economist Mark Jaccard. Jaccard is one of the leading advocates of carbon sequestering from power plants and other big industrial emitters. You don't agree - read his book. But research and development of carbon sequestering remains minimal even though several hundred new coal fired power plants are currently in planning globally.

Jaccard has been an eloquent critic of Canadian governments concerning the lack of meaningful emission reduction. In a press release this week for the release of Canadian Policies for Deep Emission Reduction Jaccard and co-author Nic Rivers say Canada has failed to reduce greenhouse gases because the country “relies primarily on measures that are politically painless but ineffective.”

They say voluntary and subsidy policies have fundamental problems and they are skeptical about the government’s most recent proposal to control large industrial polluter’s emissions.

But Jaccard's position on climate change remains completely within the presently configured socio-economy business as usual where effective climate mitigation remains as impossible as sustainable agriculture, forestry or fisheries management.

Considering our place in the race shouldn't we already have many mega-Manhattan Projects exploring and developing potential geo -engineering solutions, other biological solution paths such as algae CO2 scrubbers, or agrichar / terra preta as a possible new carbon sequestering wedge, and basic, workable, economically viable carbon sequestering from power plants? Shouldn't we be effectively exploring many diverse possible solutions and why aren't we?

How far away from these potential paths to salvation are we this week with probably less than 500 weeks to turn it around? Such Manhattan Project-style initiatives and the beginning of real emission reduction both await government innovation so that change of a needed scale is possible. This week we remain firmly quarantined from reality by climate change denial enforced by the Church of Business. Is your government facilitating movement in these hopeful directions or is it firmly in denial trapped by service sector economy path dependence? But talking the good green talk, of course.

This week, nearing the threshold - maybe even over, the news is no meaningful governance innovation in sight.

bill (at)

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