Tuesday, March 25, 2008

George Monbiot: How can we win the race against climate catastrophe?

I have a lot of respect for George Monbiot. He has been a relentless campaigner for action on climate change. He has researched the issue in great detail and his book "Heat" was a real wake-up call for me.

In a speech given on Nov 8th 2007 in London at a Campaign against Climate Change meeting, Monbiot moves on from "Heat" and shows that the scale of the problem is even bigger than he or anybody else had previously assumed.

Part 1: Why a 60 per cent reduction target by 2050 is completely inadequate and will not prevent run-away climate change with catastrophic consequences. Instead, we need to make cuts in the order of 90 to 100 per cent.

On the international scene, the British government is one of the few governments pushing for real cuts. Yet, many British government policies currently being developed, particularly those in the transport sector, actually point in the opposite direction, with increases in emissions inevitable. Monbiot believes that British politicians hope to be able to buy carbon credits from other nations to achieve their stated goal of 60 per cent cuts by 2050. Monbiot argues that this is not possible, as everybody has to make cuts to achieve a global reduction in emissions - low emission countries will have to make smaller cuts, large emitters bigger cuts.

Part 2: Monbiot outlines his reservations about the effectiveness of the European carbon trading scheme. He also discusses solutions to some of the challenges currently faced by renewable energy sources based on a recent German study.

Part 3: Monbiot continues his outline of how to de-carbonise the entire economy.

Monbiot argues that while these changes are technically possible and in fact necessary for our survival, we will not be able to get these changes happen unless people stand up for real solutions and against the power of the polluting fossil fuel industries.

In Australia, the government is currently working towards an emissions trading scheme. Big power generators are demanding free permits so that they can continue polluting. This is exactly what happened in Europe, with the result that the big power companies ended up with windfall profits and no or little carbon reduction, as described by Monbiot in his speech.

It will be interesting to see whether in Australia, the government will listen to the advice from Professor Garnaut who wants to see a 90 per cent reduction of carbon emissions by 2050 and advises against free permits.

Certainly, governments have to be very brave to follow the path to a sustainable future against the demands from the big end of town. And citizens need to inform themselves so they won't fall for the propaganda and scare tactics we already see from those who do not want to see any change in order to secure their own profits at the cost of everybody else.

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