LOW CARBON LIFE
Financial incentives to keep within C&C carbon quotas:
As well as providing the basis for national carbon budgets, C&C’s per capita carbon entitlement could also provide the basis for domestic Tradeable Emissions Quotas and therefore also for a carbon tax based on each person’s consumption of fossil fuels. This could/should create scope to cut other taxes. C&C will certainly make everyone more conscious about carbon as a pollutant and ingrain the need to minimise emissions.
Don’t waste energy:
Increasing the energy efficiency of new homes, existing housing stock, offices and factories is essential. Buildings consume more energy than any other sector (48.7%) compared to transportation (28.1%) and industry (23.2%) (source US Energy Information Administration, 2011). This will require incentives to help families with the costs of insulation and energy efficient heating. The UK’s Royal Institute of British Architects adopted C&C as its policy on climate change in 2008.
The key policy decisions concern energy production. Germany and Japan have turned their backs on nuclear energy, but this is likely to lead to increased use of coal in the short to medium term. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) sounds good, but funding for scale-tests has been cut and it is far from certain that it will be economic or practical. Burning gas puts less carbon into the atmosphere than coal, but it is still a fossil fuel and supplies are finite. They will also be dependent on a few countries, notably Russia, which will have a near monopoly.
Renewable energy makes sense in terms of fuel security and because the fuel is free. It is unfortunate that recession means governments can afford fewer incentives for green investment. Just when they are most urgently needed, some key manufacturers of wind turbines and solar panels in the USA and UK have gone out of business or shelved plans for expansion.
Meanwhile, China’s production of solar panels now above 3,000 MW per annum, with most exported to other countries.
The biggest challenge is that for decades to come we are locked into fossil fuelled infrastructure for most energy production, heating, air conditioning, industrial production and transport.
Air transport accounts for 2% of global carbon emissions (676 million tonnes of CO2 in 2011), but its impact on global warming is amplified since aircraft engines introduce water vapour into the atmosphere at high altitudes where its warming effect is more marked. Aviation emissions per passenger kilometre are over 70% less than they were in the 1960’s, but there is no way of flying without burning fossil fuels. Flying presents a particular challenge since it isdifficult to allocate emissions from aircraft to particular countries. The airline industry has set targets to improve fleet efficiency by 1.5% per year from now until 2020, cap net emissions after 2020 and ensure that by 2050 emissions are half what they were in 2005. It will need to meet them.
Shipping is responsible for 2.7% of global carbon emissions. 90% of everything we consume, including half the food we eat and half the fuel we burn, is moved by sea.
(Source: International Chamber of Shipping http://www.shippingandco2.org/index.htm)
Shipping is the most fuel efficient form of transport by volume, but there is plenty of room for the shipping industry to clearn its act up and it accepts the need for action. http://www.shippingandco2.org/ Fossil fuels will power the biggest ships for decades to come, but there are initiatives to clean up marine engines and also create carbon zero sail-powered cargo ships. (www.b9.com)
Humans obtain about 20% of their protein from animal based products, but new research by water scientists at the Stockholm International Water Institute suggests this may need to drop to just 5% to feed the extra two or three billion extra people that are expected to be alive by 2050 when the global population could reach 8 or 9 billion. If the current global trend toward western diets continues, there won’t be enough water on existing farmed land. However, if animal-based foods are kept to just 5% of total caolories, the water defecit can be met by food trade. Crop production is less carbon-intensive than raising livestock. http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/1566070/food_shortages_could_force_world_into_vegetarianism_warn
Changes in agriculture and diet are inevitable given the need to feed more people and reduce carbon emissions.
Game Over for the Climate...
In an article for the New York Times in May 2012, James Hansen, the scientist who alerted the world to the threat of climate change in 1981, expressed dismay at President Obama's acceptance that Canada would exploit its tar sands, regardless of US opinion, because to do so would be ‘game over for the climate.'
“The tar sands contain enough carbon — 240 gigatons — to add 120 parts per million (to the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere). Tar shale, a close cousin of tar sands found mainly in the United States, contains at least an additional 300 gigatons of carbon. If we turn to these dirtiest of fuels, instead of finding ways to phase out our addiction to fossil fuels, there is no hope of keeping carbon concentrations below 500 p.p.m. — a level that would, as earth’s history shows, leave our children a climate system that is out of their control. We need to start reducing emissions significantly, not create new ways to increase them.”
Hansen goes on to urge action by the USA to create financial incentives for US citizens to avoid using fossil fuels, but the reach of incentives through a global C&C – based deal would be far greater.