19 July 2015

Greenhouse gas emissions accelerating

Michael Le Page, writes in New Scientist (18 July) about the 'coal renaissance' and in particular about the heavy investments in coal power of poor, fast-growing countries in Asia and Africa. The result is that 'global CO2 emissions are rising faster than ever. And they are likely to continue to grow.' Indeed 'not only are carbon emissions rising, the pace has accelerated since 2000'. A graph (in the print issue) illustrates this: emissions rose at an average rate of 1.3 percent a year from 1970 to 2000, and have been rising at 2.2 percent since then.

I have for years been pointing out the futility of the Kyoto agreement and other apparent attempts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. I favour a clearer identification of what we actually want to achieve. Is it reduced greenhouse gas emissions? Even with that exceptionally narrow and arguable goal (can we really identify all the greenhouse gases and weight their contribution to climate change accurately?), Kyoto, as Mr Le Page tells us, is a failure. Will reducing greenhouse gas emissions, even were we to be successful in doing that, actually affect the climate? To what end? Nobody knows. But perhaps Kyoto and its interminable followups is intended to be a respectable-sounding forum within which bureaucrats from all countries can talk to each other and syphon off enough taxpayers' money to bring up their families. Ok, yes, it's had more success there. But that's probably not an achievement that taxpayers support with enthusiasm.

We do need to focus on what we want to achieve. Climate Stability Bonds, which I advocate, don't need to be exclusively, or even partly, about aiming to reduce the variability of the earth's climate. We could target some physical and biological indicators of climate change, but we could instead, or as well, target social and financial measures, such as the numbers of people killed or made homeless by adverse climatic events and the cost of compensating them, or the costs of preventing the negative impacts from arising at all.

A bond regime would be sufficiently versatile to include all these indicators, and more. It wouldn't even require people to agree on the - still questioned - thesis that the climate is actually changing or that, if it is changing, it's something for which we are responsible. It would, though, require clarity and honesty about what we want to achieve. Hmm, perhaps that's why it's gone nowhere in the 25 years or so it's been in the public arena. But all is not lost, yet. For more, see this page, and the links therefrom.

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