21 Apr A Big Green Elephant
Climate change as a threat to our world and our future
The impacts of climate change are manifold. One can see the effects of climate change already with the increasing frequency of extreme weather events across the globe. On a smaller scale, life supporting ecologies are also becoming more noticeably affected. Changes to seasonal patterns are affecting food production (through drought/excess rainfall/unfavourable temperatures) and such damage is compounded by agricultural practises that leave crops more vulnerable. Changes in seasonal temperatures are also affecting natural habitats and impacting areas of wilderness, putting at risk many cultural species and ecological diversity.
The climate interacts with all global processes with impacts that are hard to predict. Changing weather patterns affect the hydrological cycle, compromising fresh water resource. The warming atmosphere passes heat to the oceans, which risks of altering the oceanic currents largely responsible for maintaining the moderate temperatures we experience on this planet. Gaseous exchanges are affected as carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater causing acidification. This is detrimental to habitat creating organisms such as corals, along with directly affecting marine animals and their life cycle. Such impacts – amongst many more – jeopardise the ability of the planet to sustain human and other life.
A further point to be made is that many of the adverse impacts will be felt most harshly in third world countries- i.e. to nations that have contributed least to the anthropogenic warming. Therefore, as the principle polluters, it is largely the responsibility of the more affluent countries to develop and share technologies and procedures for renewable energy systems.[/vc_column_text]
Mitigation and adaption strategies
Mitigation and adaption strategies will require support through policy to effectively tackle climate change. The most important strategy initially is to restore the Environmental Agency. Budgets and staffing levels have been cut in the region of a quarter in the last four years (and such cuts have continued despite the occurrence of extensive flooding events). The role of this agency is; to analyse flood/coastal-change risks and issue warnings; to develop and deploy mitigation strategies and defences for extreme weather events; and to provide emergency response to these events when they occur. It needs to be ensured that this department has sufficient resources and the proper tools to operate effectively. Their advice is key and needs to be fully integrated in decision making for policy. Support of this department should be imbedded within effective green policies. The Principles of Politics party sees a lot of promise in community ownership of resources. A new precedent needs to be set through support of pilot projects that optimise processes in the locality. Such projects would undergo viability assessment for improvement into the future and would facilitate education in sustainability, and normalisation of such practices. This will help create new procedures for renewable power production and also transport, housing, agriculture and waste disposal with lower carbon footprints.
Mitigation and adaption strategies vs. financial and business interests
Climate change mitigation and adaption strategies must be prioritised over short term financial and business interests. As it stands fossil fuel use continues due to low costs. A tax shift is required so that the full environmental costs of the fossil fuel industry are realised and paid for by polluting companies. The market effects of this will be essential to bring about the proper societal changes that will be required for the transition to a carbon zero economy. The changes will be felt in all aspects of human activity. A crucial feature in the move away from fossil fuel dependence is an imperative to dismantle the current automobile culture and replace it with improved public transport, and in particular with light rail infrastructure. This also applies to the transport of goods, where the requirement for a dramatic reduction the haulage long distance demands localisation of production wherever possible. Housing should be optimised with a view to minimising resource use while embracing the potential of intelligent architectural design (making use of thermal mass systems and southern facing windows for example). Agriculture, as practised, is a major cause of the loss of organic content of soils, water pollution, aquifer depletion and sedimentation of waterways. Practises should be much improved following the recommendations published in the ratified Water Framework Directive and the proposed Soil Framework Directive – without the compromises for agriculture and industries that choked the latter are undermining any possibility of meeting the targets set by the former.
Greenhouse Gas Targets
To achieve the agreed EU targets of at least a 20% reduction in carbon emissions below levels in 1990 by 2020, a multitude of policies are required. Together with the aforementioned tax shifts, there is a requirement for political instruments to support the transition to renewables. Improvements in infrastructure for electrical transmission and national grid function will be important to cope with intermittent energy supply. As far as possible, a mix of local renewable energy sources should be utilised by combining information from accurate power forecasts and predictions of customer demand loads (with DSM1), through smart grid technology. This technology allows collection of digital information aided by modern communications, and will automatically act on the information to provide for efficient distribution. Measures for energy efficiency and absolute reduction of demand will also be important alongside these systems.
In addition to reducing emissions, realising the capacity for carbon sequestration by natural systems is significant. The ability of soils to store carbon is central in this. Reducing livestock industry would free up land for woodland planting whilst removing the significant portion anthropogenic greenhouse gasses that arises from animal farming. Woodlands, whilst securing carbon dioxide for the atmosphere in terms of biomass, also create habitat for biodiversity especially within soils. A healthy soil ecosystem greatly increases the carbon stored within the loam in the medium and long term.
The Renewable Energy Association advocates a renewable energy target of 30% by 2030. More than this, there is literature supportive of the feasibility of achieving 100% energy from renewables by 20502. However, neither goal can be achieved without a significant societal move away from fossil fuel dependence. Shorter term targets are important to achieving these longer term goals. Concordant with Green Party aims the Principles of Politics Party would support an emissions reduction target of 10% every year, to be achieved through an effective system of carbon quotas.
- DSM – Demand Side Management altering customer demand through adjustment of thermostats slightly at peak times on refrigeration, heating and air conditioning, and providing off peak water heating etc. for homes.
- Institute for Energy and Environmental Research; Mark Jacobson – Stanford University; Lund and Mathieson Department of Development and Planning, Aalborg University, Denmark; EREC Rethinking 2050.
Subsidy of fossil fuel is presumably given to maintain a “business as usual” scenario, with hopes of securing employment nationally and providing energy security. But the business as usual scenario has not been regarded as sustainable for a long time. It is interesting to note in industry that as oil use increases, productivity increases – but at a decreasing rate. However, as fossil fuel use increases the productivity per employed person increases, and continues to rise constantly. So it is more economically viable to replace labour with fossil fuel use; decreasing the potential for employment. In contrast, renewable technologies in Germany now provide more employment than fossil fuel and nuclear industry. A transition to local use of renewable resources returns labour and employment to communities.
Environmentally, the focus of the Principles of Politics Party is to restore and maintain local ecological supports. The fossil fuel industry, and in particular fracking, put these life sustaining resources – water and soils – under severe risk. Policy needs to be enforced so that compromise of local resources is no longer be possible.
Expanding this outlook globally, it further compromise of the climate is not viable option and this is a paradigm that needs to permeate government, industry and society.