Ashes to ashes: how to benefit from a problem (CO2 emissions) that you (Great Britain) helped to cause (global warming)!

Written by M. Glantz. Posted in All Fragilecologies

Published on October 21, 2009 with No Comments

Paris, France
16 September 2009
Lots of history books report on how Great Britain became a world power in the 17 and 18 hundreds based in its use of coal to fuel the Industrial Revolution. The use of coal and the trading of coal enabled Great Britain to conquer large parts of the globe and to foster commerce by dominance on the oceans.
In the process of industrialization based on the increased use of fossil fuels large amounts of carbon dioxide, a major heat -trapping gas, were released into the atmosphere. Fossil fuels became the energy source of choice to countries seeking to develop their industries. Today the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere has accumulated to more that fifty percent higher than its level at the onset of the Industrial Revolution. This has caused a heating up of the Planet’s atmosphere, thus far, by 0.74 deg C.
Given the decades-long residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere, it is now expected that the global average temperature would rise to a level between 2 and 3 deg C by the end of this century. This warming is expected to have major worldwide devastating impacts on human activities and on the ecosystems and environmental processes on which societies depend for their well being.
A picture of likely winners and loser under the conditions of a warmer Planet is beginning to emerge, though the picture is still quite fuzzy. We are told by climate modelers and researchers in other disciplines that there will (not might) be more intense and more frequent droughts and floods, forest fires, vector-borne disease outbreaks and epidemics, coastal inundation, and more frequent and more intense tropical storms. Right now China and the United States are the two major emitters of carbon dioxide but there are many other lesser culprits as well. These countries have also designed scenarios that have variously identified regions and economic sectors that are likely either to benefit or to suffer from climate change.
International as well as domestic negotiations are underway on how to reduce emissions, when to reduce them, who is to reduce them, and when? Lines are being drawn in the sand based on levels of development and on degrees of vulnerability. For example, African countries negotiating as a bloc with industrialized countries are demanding hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to cope with the impact of a changing climate caused historically in large measure during the development processes of the industrialized countries.
Governments are scurrying around looking for ways to reduce the costs of emitting CO2 which are sure to become limited as well as taxed in one form or another. In addition to reduce the use of fossil fuels, thereby reducing emissions, others are seeking alternative forms of energy. Still others are looking into ways to get credit for ‘sucking’ CO2 from the atmosphere, through carbon sequestration methods such as planting trees that take carbon from the air and store it for decades or centuries. Another popular concept for sequestration is to devise ways to get the oceans to take up carbon and become sequestered in the deep ocean for several hundreds of years. Yet another way is to sequester industrial CO2 emissions in abandoned mines and in geological formation deep underground. Now back to Great Britain, where this story started.
Most recently, the Financial Times (UK) reported that British researchers had or a century or so. Here’s how it was described (September 9, 2009, p.4).
Britain could earn billions of pounds a year and sustain tens of thousands of jobs by selling space deep under the North Sea for storing carbon dioxide captured from power station emissions … Carbon capture and storage could be an industry the size of North Sea oil.
They propose to bury CO2 of its own as well as that from many other European countries in saline aquifers geologic formations deep under the North Sea portion that falls within its coastal zone jurisdiction. There is an irony to this proposal: A country that made its fortune and became industrialized at the expense of sullying the Planet’s atmospheric chemistry now proposes to enhance its fortune by offering to clean up the atmosphere it “polluted”. Great Britain has identified a way to capitalize on cleaning up an environmental crisis it helped to cause.
Let’s say that what these researchers propose — making tens of billions of dollars from sequestration of carbon — is a good thing for both Britain and the Planet. The question arises (from a developing country point of view) should Great Britain “have its cake and be able to eat it too?” My answer is “yes, but …”
Let them make money — of dollars, pounds, euros, whatever — but let them also give a substantial share of its profits to the victims of global warming, a share of the “downstream profits”. In that way everyone benefits, not just the perpetrators of the harm but the victims as well. This notion should be applied to all the major GHG-emitting countries that choose to make money off of the global warming problem that they contributed to.

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