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No one on the planet is going to escape the effects of global warming, and for billions the resulting environmental deterioration is going to make life considerably more difficult. It is too late now to put the clock back, but we can at least attempt to alleviate the worst impacts of warming. The question is, will we ever be able to achieve a worthwhile international consensus that allows us to do this with any degree of effectiveness? The Kyoto Protocol gave us some hope in 1997, with its goal of a 5.2 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (below 1990 levels) by 2008-12, but following the failure of the USA to ratify the agreement we are back to square one. In fact, we are even worse off than this. Without US ratification, emissions from all the industrial countries put together could rise by about 1 2 per cent by 2008-12, which is even higher than the 'business as usual' predictions. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, things are getting steadily worse not better. It is difficult to see how this situation can improve until the United Statecthe world's greatest polluter, emitting a quarter of all greenhouse g a s e c together with its almost equally profligate partners in crime, Australia and Canada, can be persuaded to join the rest of the international community in trying to tackle the problem. Personally, I suspect that the only persuasion that will stand any chance of working will be the persistent pounding of eastern US cities by hurricanes or perhaps a decade-long drought in Australia.

The more global warming continues to grab the limelight, so the more we hear from what I will call the 'techno-fix tendency'. Some of their proposals for mitigating warming are wild and wacky, such as placing giant reflectors in space to divert solar radiation or, even more fantastically — and heaven forbid — diverting a comet or two past the Earth, using their gravity to wing the planet out into an orbit further from the Sun. Others are seriously thought-out scientific options that we may well have to utilize at some point in the future if the situation gets really out of hand. The latter include ways of using the oceans as a dumping ground for atmospheric carbon dioxide, either by physically discarding it in the deep ocean via pipeline and tanker, or by seeding the ocean with iron to encourage the growth of marine micro-organisms that extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Pilot experiments have shown that both methods can work, but to operate on a large enough scale to make any difference they would be hugely expensive and require a concerted international effort that is difficult to foresee unless the current position becomes untenable. Furthermore, convincing public opinion that we need to mess about with the oceans in order to repair the damage we have wrought in the atmosphere would be a considerable PR coup.

There is no doubt that if we are to have any impact on global warmingwe will all have to change our lifestyles, moving away from a disposable society and towards one that promotes and rewards the most effective and efficient use of available energy and resources. Tackling global warming is inextricably linked with the widespread adoption of sustainable development. Global warming will bring to an end the world as we have known it through dramatic changes to our environment, but if the situation is not to continue to slide it must also provide the incentive and impetus for changing the way we live. In the developed world we have no choice but to cut fuel consumption, invest in renewable energy sources, recycle on an immensely greater scale, and produce locally as much as possible rather than flying fruit and vegetables halfway around the planet. Much as I can understand their resistance, governments of developing countries must not follow the wasteful route to industrialization that Europe and North America have taken, for the simple and logical reason

Cumulative carbon emissions, 1950-1996



20,000 30.000 Million tons of carbon

40,000 50,000

COa emissions US I 2ÖI

Tons CO, emissions from Canada I 17l fossil fuel combustion, Australia | 1^1

percapita, 1998 Netherlands I--15l

Russia I 10l

Germany I 1Ö1

Italy I 81

Japan I 8l

France I 7\

Spain I 7|

Brazil |H China [2] India 0

13 This coun try-by< ountry breakdown of carbon emissions reveals who the greatest polluters are that if they don't, they — and their people—will be the ones who suffer most. In particular, the developing world has to embrace renewable energy sources and recycling now, and the world's economic powers have a duty to support them on this path. Despite the gloom after the collapse of the Kyoto Protocol, there is an alternative plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the table that mightjust start things moving on the long road to stabilization and even reduction. Called Contraction & Convergence, or simply C&C, the new way for— ward was thought up by London's Global Commons Insti— tute. This ingenious plan is based upon two principles. First, that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced and, sec— ond, that the means by which this is accomplished must be fair to all. C&C therefore proposes reducing emissions on a per capita basis. International agreement will determine by how much emissions must contract each year, and then per— mits to emit will be allocated to all countries on the basis of their populations. The emission permits would be tradable so that countries such as the USA and Australia that could not manage within their allocations could buy extra ones from populous developing countries with a surplus. This remarkably simple scheme has not yet entered the limelight, but it does have many powerful supporters in the UN, Europe, and China, and even amongst developing countries and US senators. It is now inevitable that we and our des— cendants are going to face a long and hard struggle as our temperate world draws to a close and we enter the time of hothouse Earth. Perhaps, however, C&C can help to make the transition a little less desperate.

Facts to fret over

• By the end of this century the Earth is predicted to be hotter than at any time in the past 150,000 years.

• By 2100, global temperatures are forecast to rise by up to 8 degrees Celsius over land, with sea levels up to 88 centimetres higher.

• Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere may be higher than at any time in the last 20 million years.

• In the year 2000, iin 30 of the world's population were affected by natural disasters.

• By 2025, 5 billion people will live in countries with inadequate water supplies.

• Within 50 years all the world's great reefs will have been wiped out by higher sea temperatures.

• The winter sports industry is unlikely to survive to 2100 in its current form.

• If the Greenland Ice Sheet melts, all the world's coastal cities will be drowned, from New York to London to Sydney.

The Ice

One of the main reasons for a growing disillusionment with science amongst the general public is the perception that scientists are always arguing with one another and constantly changing their minds. It is no use explaining that this is how science progresses, through battles between competing theses until the accumulation of evidence ensures that one triumphs and becomes an accepted paradigm. People want scientists to agree, to present a united front, and to tell them what is true and what is not. They want this because it makes life that much easier and gives them that much less to worry about. If you are concerned about your career or your marriage you don't want to think about whether GM crops are good or bad, or whether you have to eat your beef on the bone or off, or whether your children's children are going to fry or freeze. Here once again, however, the scientific consensus at least appears to have done another U-turn over the last couple of decades. As we saw in the last chapter, all but the most maverick of climatologists now accept that the Earth is warming up rapidly and that our polluting activities are the cause. As recently as the 1980s, however, the big question in climato-logical circles was when can we expect the next Ice Age? So what has changed? Well, actually, not much. As I will explain shortly, the glaciers are still due to advance once again and we should expect our planet to be plunged into bitter cold within the next few thousand years. What has changed, however, is the recognition that anthropogenic warming and its associated climatic impact may have a role to play at a critical time of natural transition when our interglacial world is due to give itself over to ice and snow for tens of thousands of years. Problematically, however, researchers are not quite sure what this role will be, and although, intuitively, you might expect global warming to delay or even fend off entirely the next Ice Age, some scientists have suggested that the ongoing dramatic rise in temperatures may actually accelerate the onset of the next big freeze. Even if the latter is shown not to be the case, we still have a problem. Knowing that a new age of ice is on the way should we not be trying actively to keep our planet warm? Should we not welcome global warming with open arms? In other words, we are currently faced with a stark choice that is only rarely voiced during the great global warming debate. How do we wish our familiar, contemporary world to end—by fire or by ice?

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Solar Panel Basics

Solar Panel Basics

Global warming is a huge problem which will significantly affect every country in the world. Many people all over the world are trying to do whatever they can to help combat the effects of global warming. One of the ways that people can fight global warming is to reduce their dependence on non-renewable energy sources like oil and petroleum based products.

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