Climate Change - Time For a New Approach
    Category: Column By : David Parry Read : 855 Date : Sunday, May 04, 2014 - 17:09:13

    Three recent articles highlight the state of the current climate change debate. The first article claimed that man-made climate change amounted to terrorism, the second that we were heading for a 40C rise in average global temperature by the end of the century and the third that snowfall in North Vietnam and Typhoon Haiyan were caused by climate change.

    With such scary headlines why, one must ask, was the latest U.N. climate Conference of Parties (COP) held in Warsaw unable to generate agreement about tackling the problem other than to agree to meet, yet again, next year to discuss the issues? The answer is obvious to anybody with any common sense. Whatever the merits of the case of man-made global warming, the route chosen by the U.N. and member governments to achieve an international agreement on carbon dioxide reductions to replace the expiring Kyoto Accord is doomed to failure. The efforts of governments to curb green house gas (GHG) emissions through the Kyoto Accord have been an abject failure. GHG emissions have kept rising even though Kyoto demanded a modest reduction of 5% below 1990 levels. A replacement protocol will need to be agreed upon by the 193 member-states of the U.N. in the foreseeable future. The Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban and, most recently, Warsaw COP summits have failed to come up with any binding agreements to replace Kyoto.

    Whatever climate change consensus can be achieved by the U.N. will always be compromised by the vested interests of China, India, the U.S. and Russia, the world’s four largest polluters. China and India will not curb their development and will continue to use coal as a cheap power source. Indonesia, for its part, will continue to supply coal to China and India since curtailing those exports would have serious repercussions on its own development. In the developed world, the high cost of alternative power sources such as wind and solar will ensure that oil, coal, gas and now oil shale will be the dominant power sources for the next 50 years. By which time, we are told, a 20C worldwide temperature increase will have occurred, the so-called tipping point which, it is said, will send the Earth into an accelerating downward spiral of catastrophic heating.

    Unfortunately, nuclear energy, one low carbon energy source that can replace fossil fuels, has been firmly rejected by the environmental movement and most governments. Waste disposal problems and environmental dangers following a nuclear accident, such as what happened recently in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, following the devastating Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011, have trumped the green benefits of nuclear power for now.

    Why do we and our governments refuse to accept the consensus of scientific opinion, as encapsulated in the many and usually meticulously researched reports of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)? Even allowing for the so-called deniers of anthropogenic global warming, the pro-lobby has established its message firmly with governments, businesses, academia and the media. It is a brave scientist who challenges the orthodoxy of man-made global warming. Yet many governments and businesses make little effort to reduce their carbon footprints. Is this because they do not believe in this problem at a more visceral level?

    This article is the first in a two-part series.