Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Carbon and Hot Air

Variations on a theme of previous gripes.

Thousands of delegates attended the Conference in Bali, discussing the impact of climate change, carbon sequestration and all that goes with it. An estimated 15,000 people will have taken part in this jamboree -- and if we estimate an average cost of $10,000 per person (which is actually ridiculously low even as an average), then the total (excluding infrastructure costs)is over $150 million for delegates. Now as anyone who supports the World Land Trust knows, that could buy around 1,500,000 hectares of rainforest (that's 150,000 sq kms, or an area bigger than Bulgaria, Iceland, or Greece)

And while politicians wittered on in broadcast after broadcast about reducing emissions they all seem to miss the point that emissions are totally dependent on a free market based around consumerism, and that in turn is linked to expanding economies, in turn based on rapidly growing human populations. And then phrases (or rather oxymorons), like sustainable development are thrown in for good measure, together with wiping out poverty in Africa. Does anyone ever think these things through? If the standard of living in Africa was to be raised to the basic 'poverty' level of Europe, where would the resources come from? How much energy would be needed, and how much water would be needed and where would that even more scarce mineral come from? What would be the global impacts of all the carbon emissions? Before aid agencies tell us they are going to wipe out poverty, perhaps they should develop a 10 year plan, which answers some of these key issues? Personally, I don't believe it is possible, given the accepted rates of human population growth in the region.

Billions of pounds and dollars have been poured into aid schemes, which while they have undoubtedly benefited the economies of the developed world, except on a small scale they have done little or nothing to prevent the descent into poverty of millions, or prevent the spread of civil wars. Of course we don't know what would have happened without these interventions, but it is difficult to see how the situation could be a lot worse.

Conferences on global warming, climate change, and greenhouse gases have a very high risk of being nothing more than hot air, and do little or nothing about the root causes of environmental problems. As far as I am concerned there are two fundamental issues that need addressing: We need to save what little is left of the world's wild places (and all the biodiversity they contain), and we need to curtail the increase in human population.

If we don't, the planet is not threatened, but we all are. Very seriously threatened.


  1. To lift everyone in the world out of poverty (give them access to clean water, sufficient food, electricty and health services) would require very little additional energy/carbon. It could have environmental benefits (e.g., reduction in birth rate, reduced over-use of forest products such as bush meat and fuel wood etc). To give everyone the same standard of living enjoyed in the west is a different issue altogether.......

    There was an analysis of this by Robert Socolow along with the stabilisation wedges. See the link below:

  2. The problem with this is that, it is totally unrealistic in the present world we live in to achieve a lifting out of poverty without the massive imbalances that occur in the western world. To get those at the bottom end of the social scale out of poverty, will inevitably mean that those at the top end will be wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice. This is one of the underlying problems of the so-called third world. Nearly all the countries suffering extreme poverty, actually have the resources to reduce that poverty, but choose to spend those recources in other ways -- such as buying armaments from Britain and the USA. And of course, maintaining the high standard of living in Britain (if that is what our out of control consumerism is), is dependent on buying primary resources and manufactured goods at incredibly low prices from poorer nations. For the past 50 years the free market economies have increased poverty --but there is no realsitic alternatives.

  3. And speaking of a society based on consumerism, I thought you might like to read this:

    Greed In the Name Of Green
    To Worshipers of Consumption: Spending Won't Save the Earth