Saturday, March 24, 2007

It has to be everybody or nobody

The cover story "Global Warming: Who Loses -- and Who Wins?" in the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly by Gregg Easterbrook suggests that climate change my create economic winners and losers. This is at odds with what most experts and their climate models predict. The suggestion that some regions of the world might realize competitive economic advantages as a result of climate change could make it more difficult to achieve the level of global cooperation on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that will be needed to avert humanity's irresponsible experiment with atmospheric chemistry from spinning totally out of control.

Bucky Fuller reminded us that "We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody." (GW)

Business: 'Climate action useless without global support'


22 March 2007

EU leaders have agreed to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by up to 30% within 13 years but the real battle will be in convincing the world's other big polluters to follow suit, according to business leaders.


EU heads of state and government, meeting in Brussels on 8-9 March 2007, committed themselves to reducing European CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020 compared with 1990 levels – a bold promise, when one considers that Europe is already struggling to meet its current target, under the Kyoto Protocol, of cutting these emissions by 8% by 2012.

EU leaders also pledged to raise the target to 30% if the US, China and other economic powers agreed to comparable reductions.


Europe’s pledge to unilaterally reduce greenhouse-gas emissions could not only damage economic growth and lead to industry moving to other parts of the world, but might also prove worthless if other countries refuse to join in the fight against climate change, said business leaders speaking at the European Business Summit on 16 March 2007.

Furthermore, concrete action is now needed if the target is to be more than just a gesture, they added.


Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs defended the EU plan, saying that even in the worst-case scenario – if no other countries followed the EU’s example – the decision taken by the European Council to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% "still makes sense". "Less carbon means more energy security," he said, adding that without such a shift, Europe would simply continue to pay more and more for oil and gas supplies from elsewhere.

Professor Utz Claassen, CEO of the German energy company EnBW urged rapid action at global level, saying that climate change is "life-threatening for mankind" and that the problem does not end at national or at European boundaries. He argued that the solution lay in renewables, especially solar power, for which "the potential is outstanding and fantastic" although we are still only benefiting from a very small percentage of this potential. He also underlined the "undisputable" contribution of nuclear power to both climate protection and security of supply.

Lars Josefsson, CEO of the European energy company Vattenfall, said: "Even today, we still underestimate the challenge that lies before us…We have the technologies, the capital is abundant, but we’re still lacking the policy."

He added that, if all regions of the world contributed to the fight against climate change, it would be possible to achieve a reduction of 27 gigatonnes of CO2 – ie the reduction necessary to get on track for long-term climate stabilisation – at a cost of less than €40/tonne CO2.

But US Ambassador to the EU Boyden Gray seemed unconvinced, pointing to a seeming link between Europe's "considerably lower economic growth" and its considerably lower CO2 growth between 1990 and 2004. "There are trade-offs," he said, adding that the US, on the other hand, had been more successful in decoupling economic growth from CO2 growth: "There is no reason you can't keep the economy going without emissions rising."

While admitting that the US remained a "big emitter", he said that the market could be counted upon to come up with solutions and attempted to divert the attention from the US, by pointing to the fact that China is "catching up very quickly" and that EU carbon savings are "blown away about eight times by China each year".

However, WWF’s Stephan Singer retorted: "Although the EU has only half of US levels of CO2 emissions and energy use per capita, we have the same levels of wealth in the EU," adding: "Today, we are proud to be European."

He commented that everyone keeps pointing to China, but if one looks at per-capita emissions, a person in China emits just one fifth of what the average OECD citizen emits. And, he stressed, this "fairly poor country" has committed to much more ambitious climate-change targets than the US.

He cautioned that it will be up to 20 times more expensive to clean up the mess caused by climate change later on than to invest now in clean technologies, and pointed to the job-creation potential of the renewable energy sector.

He concluded that he was sure that other countries, including Japan, Norway, Switzerland would follow suit and that this would initiate movement in the United States – once the next US president arrives.


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