Thursday, 5 March 2009

Global warming and what we can do: Part 2

Here is the promised part 2 where I discuss some possible things we can do to deal with the global warming.

This leads us to the situation we are now in, the world is warming and our CO2 emissions are the most likely cause of it.

  • Will cutting back on our CO2 emissions have any effect?
Probably not a big effect unless we can get China and India to sign on as well.
  • Does this mean we should not try to cut back?
Certainly we should try to limit our CO2 production, any reduction is better than no reduction at all.
  • What about the technological ideas that might save us?
We have very little idea what any "geo-engineering" attempt to sequester atmospheric carbon will be able to achieve and how bad the side-effects will be, such as ocean acidification.
  • What happens if we don't cut back on the levels of atmospheric CO2?
Well the warming will probably continue to increase, we will continue to lose ice caps (this will happen even if levels do not increase, we have now lost about 10 ice sheets and new studies are showing that ALL of Antarctica is indeed warming) and begin to experience sea level rises. This will put a strain on our food production, if not through direct loss of arable land then by migrations of people from coastal areas.

As we live on a finite planet and have shown only finite growth in technological advances in the past, one should really plan to use the resources we have in a responsible manner.

We need to encourage investment in cleaner and renewable technologies that we have, as well as fund research into more such technologies. Particularly the government and the power generation industry needs to get into this as does much of the rest of industry.

Unless there is incentive to invest in new technologies and a disincentive to continue as is then things will not change. We cannot leave this up to the free market to adjust our behaviours.

Whether we cap and trade with a steadily reducing cap, or we carbon tax depends on how the proceeds are distributed, and how the incentives for new technologies are to be handled. For example IF the best way to induce investment in new technologies was by government funding incentives then this would probably be best to be funded by a carbon tax (where all of the proceeds of the tax go back into the new technologies).

Though I would like to point out that if businesses simply pass on all there new costs associated with either the cap and trade or the carbon tax straight to the consumers then the system will not work. In the case of petrol the costs should probably be passed on (as much as it pains my very limited budget to admit).

But for power generation, which is something that is very integral to our modern civilization, this is where the costs should be born almost solely by the corporations involved in the generation. If the costs are simply passed on to the consumer then there will be very little incentive for investment in new tech on the part of the power companies.

As for what we should do for China and India and the like, well clearly if they keep burning coal as they are particularly in China, we may all be completely f'ed. So the first world nations will need to help out, with incentives to use clean sources for energy, nuclear power being probably the first cab off the rank. Followed by the sharing of all the renewable technologies we have.