Climate Change: The Earth Shall Win, People Shall Lose! (2nd part)

Posted on December 4th, 2013 by

continuation from:

A 2013 report “Trends in Global CO2 Emissions” by Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency concluded: “Actual global emissions of CO2 reached a new record of 34.5 billion tonnes in 2012. Yet, the increase in global CO2 emissions in that year slowed down to 1.1% (or 1.4%, not accounting the extra day in the leap year), which was less than half the average annual increase of 2.9% over the last decade. This improvement signals a shift towards less fossil-fuel-intensive activities, more use of renewable energy and increased energy saving. We are still experiencing cumulative increases every year . Since CO2 lives for 100 years in the atmosphere, we will still be unable to meet a 2C (carbon used in metal production, primarily in blast furnaces) target for 2050.”

In the wake of U.N. climate talks in Warsaw known as the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19), global attempts to control emissions have arrived stillborn. The European reported on November 7, 2013, “there is little global will for an overarching agreement akin to the failed Kyoto protocol; big CO2 emitters had no limits (China and India), or left (the US), or didn’t keep their promises (Canada); and full implementation of Kyoto would, by the end of the century, have reduced temperatures by an immeasurable 0.05°C, despite costing about $200bn annually.”

The European further states, “Yet there is a very different option that is not even on the agenda: instead of pouring more money into still very inefficient renewables, we could make massive but much cheaper investments in research and development into new energy sources. The world is already spending about $1bn a day on renewables – $359bn in 2013. $100bn a year invested worldwide in research & development (R&D) would be hundreds of times more effective, a panel of economists, including three Nobel laureates, found in a Copenhagen Consensus on Climate study. This would increase global R&D tenfold and would cost much, much less – only 0.2 per cent of global GDP.”

For new ideas to bring about change, the precepts behind the failure must be the point of focus. Investment in new energy sources is hardly the answer. The aftershock of yet another vision that is divorced from reality resonates with the futile sweat of a desperate world trying to hold back the hands of time. Each nation, each industry and each company has its own agenda, political accord and economic basis that for the most part is immiscible with the others. The collective notion is there, the practical sense is not. Giving up is certainly not the answer! That the world has given up is probably true. How best the global community can effectively, work together in unison to achieve the shared goal of combating climate change is the Holy Grail of the modern age.

A report in Renewable Energy World stated, “feed-in-tariff incentive programs used mostly in Europe and Central Asia to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy, have become a primary concern for policy makers in many countries. Whether the rising costs are recovered from ratepayers or taxpayers, they can create both political and economic pressures. Households in developing countries are particularly vulnerable to rising tariffs, as spending on energy accounts for a larger share of their incomes than for households in developed countries.”

A proposal by the BDI Industry Federation of Germany said, “Germans are now paying more for electricity than any other nation in the European Union except Cyprus and Denmark. BDI, which represents about 100,000 companies including Siemens AG (SIE) and Volkswagen AG (VOW) wants to get rid of feed-in tariffs that guarantee owners of new clean-energy plants above-market payments for 20 years under the EEG renewable law. Instead, it wants developers to sell their power on the market to encourage output that responds to demand rather than whether the wind is blowing or the sun shining. Pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel to change the subsidy system is growing. The VCI chemical lobby, Germany’s biggest utility industry groups VKU and BDEW as well as the Free Democratic Party, Merkel’s junior coalition partner, have previously called to phase out or halt feed-in tariffs.”

On November 15, Reuters stated, “The Japanese government decided to target a 3.8 percent emissions cut by 2020 versus 2005 levels. That amounts to a 3 percent rise from a U.N. benchmark year of 1990 and the reversal of the previous target of a 25 percent reduction.” The Inter Press Service News Agency went on to say, “Japan, the fifth largest emitter of CO2, is just the latest to abandon its international commitments. Japan’s renege on its carbon emissions pledge, likely ending any hope global warming can be kept to 2.0 degrees C.”

The New York Times published on November 15, 2013, “the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed reducing the amount of ethanol that is required to be mixed with the gasoline supply, the first time it has taken steps to slow down the drive to replace fossil fuels with renewable forms of energy. The move was expected, but it drew bitter complaints from advocates of ethanol, including some environmentalists, who see the corn-based fuel blend as a weapon to fight climate change. It was also unwelcome news to farmers, who noted that the decision came at a time when a record corn crop is expected, and the price of a bushel has fallen almost to the cost of production. We’re all just sort of scratching our heads here today and wondering why this administration is telling us to burn less of a clean-burning American fuel,” said Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association.”

In what has to be the irony of ironies, BBC News reported on November 17, 2013, that “environmental groups have sharply criticized the Polish government for hosting a coal industry meeting while UN climate talks are held in the country. The World Coal Association believes that coal is an important part of the energy mix right now and is growing in many parts of the world. They say that coal accounts for 41% of the world’s electricity and in 20 years’ time is still expected to be providing a quarter of the world’s primary energy, the same level it was at in 1980.”

On the bright side, the Cato Institute recently announced, “Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States from the production and consumption of energy have been on the decline since about 2005, after generally being on the rise ever since our country was first founded. The decline in emissions between 2012 and 2011 was 3.8 percent, which, according to the Energy Information Administration was the largest decline in a non-recession year since 1990 and the first time that CO2 emissions fell while the per capita economic output increased by more than 2 percent. In other words, we are producing more while emitting less carbon dioxide. The big player in 2012 was the continued switch from coal to natural gas for electrical generation.”

Bloomberg noted on October 17, 2013, “China, the top greenhouse-gas emitter, is seeking to cut emissions per unit of economic output by at least 40 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels.” Huffington Post went on to say, China is closing heavily polluting factories, prohibiting new coal-fired power plants in major industrial regions, and investing more in renewable energy than any other country in the world. It is experimenting with CO2 cap and trade programs, debating a carbon tax and drafting a climate change law. NRDC (the National Development and Reform Commission People’s Republic of China) is also working with China’s top energy experts to develop a comprehensive, enforceable program that will put a nationwide cap on coal consumption, the leading contributor to climate change. However, China’s actions are driven not just by climate change, but by other reasons such as energy security and the need to address choking levels of air pollution. Moreover, enforcement of laws, policies and programs remains a major challenge in China, in large part because of strong resistance from vested interests including state-owned fossil fuel companies and local government leaders who profit from polluting industries.

In closing, what little world policy on climate change may exist lies in a wretched state. Despite all the agreements and the hundreds of billions of dollars spent in green technologies, CO2 emissions climbed 57 percent since 1990. Could the issue be just too complex to do anything about it on the world stage? The interest in doing something is certainly there. Is humanity truly capable of banding together to do the right thing?  That is the question.


The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author Dr. Barry Stevens, an accomplished business developer and entrepreneur in technology-driven enterprises. He is the founder and President of TBD America Inc., a global technology business development group serving the private and public sectors in energy, fuels and water industries. To learn more about TBD America, please visit

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