Eco News Q2 2020

Editorial:

Exceptional Times:  Videos with food for thought!

Picture of the Quarter:  To all those frontline NHS and Care Home staff who put their lives on the line, and all those who kept our daily needs satisfied a huge:

Humanity’s Damascene Moment?  The Planet has struck back with speed and accuracy as Humanity (a species evidently unessential to its wellbeing) continues its rampage, plundering it to the core. 

The Planet has been forced to change its strategy:  Climate Change was/is far too slow for Humanity to understand what it is doing to its only home.  An attack on its lungs, several thousand deaths, and a continuing, lurking threat was needed to make it “get real”.  The message is clear:  stop disrespecting Earth or face short viral shrift. 

Yet at the same time it magnanimously presents us with hard evidence of the great opportunity staring us in the face.  In only three months of forced pause there have been huge benefits for our lifestyle:  no pollution, increased wildlife, blues skies, bear outlook for fossil fuels, bull outlook for sustainable energy. 

In addition it has forced us to recognise our global interconnection; that putting right the environment is well within our grasp; and that we can stymie the social inequalities which our rampant greed has engendered.

Is Covid-19 Humanity’s damascene moment?  Will it force us to reflect and reassess how pharisee we have been?  Will it force us to recognise the damage we do to our own Home?  Will it move us to change course, to make amends, generate sustainable lifestyles and beat back Climate Change?

© Harry Haysom

We all know what has to be done.  We know that Humanity’s greed is based on a culture of rampant consumerism, driven subliminally by an arsenal of advertising and easy credit, stoked by the everlasting investor fetish of better returns, year on year. 

We know that the frenetic clearing of forests and draining of swamps for logging, farming, mining and building has forced and will continue to force, exotic species (viruses!) out of their natural niche straight into Humanity’s hearth. 

What we do not know is whether Humanity’s willpower is robust enough to make the change unforced by virulent threats?  Whether its inherent, narcissistic qualities of greed and self reproduction will drive it to extinction!  It knows that the solution must take place on this Planet as there is nowhere else to go.  But, can it rein in its insatiable desire for growth; for extracting and wasting more and more of the Planet’s finite resources?  Can it reduce population growth so that Everyman can have a decent, sustainable lifestyle? 

The Covid pause has shown that a new normal has to be established; but (yet another “but”!) it needs governments to act with covidian speed, now! 

A Grecian Tragedy?  This satire was written by Spirit of Mars as it languishes in Space and observes the tragedy unfolding on Earth, the same that befell its Planet.  Oh, lush green and tranquil blue that was once its home!

The Cast:

  • The Chorus (the United Nations)
  • Main Characters – Pending Doom and Pending Hope
  • Other Characters – COP-after-COP, G-XX, Flaccus Davos, Melting Glaciers and Withering Crops. (Much to its annoyance Detritus Maximus had been furloughed).

Prologue – The Scene is Set 

Enter Melting Glaciers & Withering Crops, looking at the floor. They stand in a corner.

Enter COP-after-COP, G-XX & Flaccus Davos, heads held high.  They stand on the rostrum centre stage, so that they can look down at the others.

Enter Chorus singing and dancing slowly to “It’s Now or Never”.  “The Covid pause has presented us with an opportunity to change course; and just in time too.” 

Enter Pending Doom “Holding global temperatures to 1.5 ºC is a lost cause.  At current trends, pledges and policies we will be at 3.2 ºC by the end of the century; and you know what that means:  catastrophic, irreversible climate impacts.  We are lost!  Throw in that dry sponge!”

Chorus:  “You are right.  That is the stark truth.  We have to reduce emissions by 7.6% every year up to 2030, yes 2030, if we are to hold to 1.5 ºC.” 

Enter Pending Hope“Do not despair!  It can be done, if we act now!  Technologies already exist to do it.  Listen to Prince Charles, ‘We simply cannot waste any more time; the only limit is our willingness to act.’  Let us act, (and with great emphasis) NOW!”

Act I – The Facts are Clear 

Pending Doom“There is no chance that Climate Change and Humanity’s demise can be stopped.  Just look at the data.  Ponder upon these diagrams“.

“Look at which sectors emit the most greenhouse gases.  The greatest emissions are the result of the generation of energy for industry and transport; and take note, they are increasing rapidly year after year!

Global Emissions by Economic Sector

Source – Joint Research Centre (European Commission)

“Surely you cannot deny that we will always need more and more stuff, that we will need to transport it to wherever we want it; that it is more comfortable to drive to work, to the shops; and after all our hard labour be flown to a wonderful Maldivian beach to bask in the sun!   “That will never change!

“Oh, and remember we have to salve our own high status conscience and raise the standard of living of all the less privileged countries to our own comfortable style.

“Look at the fuels we will use to do all that.  85% are fossil fuels; and just for our comfort!   Fossil fuels are Humanity’s nemesis!

Global Energy Consumption (M toe)

Source – BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019

Pending Doom,  continues unabashed, pontificating amidst the hushed silence:  “We know which fuels are used in industry and look how they are forecast to grow by one of the world’s largest oil companies.  It cannot be wrong:  it is its own market forecast!”

Energy Consumption in Industry by Type of Fuel (Bn toe)

Source – BP Energy Demand by Sector 2019

“We know which fuels are going to be used in transport and also how they are forecast to grow by 2040.  Again, a forecast from a company interested in its own future!”

Energy Consumption in Transport by Type of Fuel (Bn toe)

Source – BP Energy Demand by Sector 2019

Pending Doom, rant stops; pauses for breath.

Act II – Heated Debate 

Pending Hope, grabs its chance,  “My word you have slung an albatross around our neck!  I agree fossil fuels are the driving force of the Planet’s two biggest polluting sectors; but don’t be a chump.  Listen to this”.

“Our governments are committed players in the Big Climate Fightback.  They will confront the lobbies that defend fossil fuels.  They will pass draconian legislation in favour of sustainable energy”.

“What is more we know exactly which countries are the greatest emitters of CO2, and that G-XX alone accounts for 78% of all emissions.  They will resolve the problem in quick time!

“Do not despair.  It can be done!”

Share of CO2 Emissions by Country

© 2020 Union of Concerned Scientists, www.ucsusa.org – Data: IEA Fuel Combustion 2019 Highlights

COP-after-COP, interrupts Pending Hope, excited:  “Of course it can be done; and we will do it!  At COP 26 all will be resolved.  You’ll see!”

Pending Doom:  “Nonsense!  Your meetings are nothing but a jamboree where 200 countries and thousands of delegates meet to blame each other and have a break on expenses.  Totally useless!  What have you accomplished?  Only number 21, five years ago, made a little progress.  Fossil fuel is still King, and will remain King.”

G-XX & Flaccus Davos,  step down from the rostrum, in unison they chime:  “We are the strongest and the best.  We will solve Earth’s problems.  Of course it may take time.  One has to be sensible, Rome was not built in a day.  Let’s discuss it again when we next meet; and if we reach no conclusion we can continue discussions at the following meetings.  We’ll get there!”

Pending Doom“You two make me laugh, no, guffaw!   G-XX, how many of your 20 members have signed up to the Big Climate Fightback and carbon zero by 2050?  I’ll tell you:  five.  Absolute disgrace!

“As for you Flaccus Davos, your 119 billionaires and 53 heads of state chose a luxury ski resort for their meeting and arrived in 309 private jets, except for tripper Trump who had to outdo everyone and arrived in Airforce One!”

“I know your first meal was ‘pan-seared Indonesian soy cutlets cooked by a celebrity vegan chef’.  As a public gesture of penance demonstrating that you had offset your transport emissions by eschewing filet mignon, or in the case of tripper T, chateaubriand, it fooled no one.  We all know you indulged yourselves in the next meal.”

“You over there.  Melting Glaciers and Withering Crops, you have been very quiet.  Have you nothing to say?  You know the score better than anyone.  What I say is true, is it not?”

Melting Glaciers and Withering Crops nod, and hang their heads.

Chorus (coloraturas only in a long drawn out crescendo)

Act III – Action at Last!

Pending Hope:  “Enough Pending Doom!  This is what we are going to do.

  1. We will invite only the major emitting powers.  You know a camel is a horse designed by a committee.  We want to cut to the chase, so only China, EU & UK, India, Russia and USA will be invited to a Final Opportunity Meeting (a FOM).  With them on board the rest of the world will follow. 
  2. They will realise that they either act now, without a trade off, or PD will be right.  They know Covid has given us time to pause, reflect and reassess our behaviour. 
  3. The FOM will establish the new normal:  fossil fuels are out!  They will agree:
  • To reduce their production and consumption of all fossil fuels by 50% in the next decade; and between 2030 and 2040, the remaining 50% will be eliminated.
  • To introduce a carbon tax on all fossil fuels. 
  • Said tax to be a 10% value added tax on top of which their standard VAT will also be charged as usual.  In an aside, “Prices are low now, so 10% will not be noticed by consumers who are used to prices two to three times greater than they are now.
  • To ringfence the proceeds of that tax to help finance:

o    The application of sustainable electricity generating technologies in industry and the private sector;

o   The introduction of electric vehicles of all sorts – lorries, tractors, vans and cars;

o   R&D in the perfection and application of fuel cell technology.

  • To ringfence savings arising from improved air quality for all health and care services for reinvestment in those services.

4.  Finally, the FOM will agree that all fossil fuels will be left in the ground, in perpetuity, with one exception. 

5.  The extraction of oil will be allowed; but only, repeat only, to make plastics; and this only, repeat only, after its molecular structure has been rejigged so that when sent to the NCB (National Compost Bin) it decomposes within three months into loam, lovely saleable loam. 

Act IV –Denouement!

Pending Doom:  “Balderdash!  Pending Hope, forgive me for calling you a name; but you are an Innocent!  Pie in the sky.  That’s just not going to happen.  Look at the facts.

“After Covid all world economies will return to GDP growth and more GDP growth; profits and better profits; stuff and more stuff.  The FOM will lead this tsunami.  Don’t forget fossil fuels generate luscious lucre for them.

“Look at China:  It is determined to be the strongest military nation in the world and lift all its people out of poverty by 2050.  By then 50% of its energy consumption will still be from coal and gas.

“Look at the USA.  It too is determined to be the strongest, and by 2050, 50% of its energy consumption will be derived from natural gas and coal.

“Look at India:  Doing its best to catch up.  Fossil fuels account for 91% of its energy consumption now and it is set to double by 2040!  

“And Russia!  What else have they got?  Oil and gas represent 30% of GDP and 60% of their exports.  No one is going to give that up, and impoverish themselves!

“Only the EU & UK have some sort of policy designed to get to carbon zero by 2050; but even that is insignificant on a global basis.

“Look at this diagram:  by 2050 the Planet will still be 60% fossil fuel dependant!

World Primary Energy Consumption 1950 -2050 (Million toe)

Source: seekingalpha.com/article/4083393

“Melting Glaciers and Withering Crops you may as well drop dead:  As for you Pending Hope you should do that too.  Humanity ist caput!

All three drop dead and fall to the ground

Pending Doom, looks around.  He is alone:  There is no one to listen to him.  May as well drop dead too and falls to the ground.

Epilogue – Nil Desperandum! 

Pending Hope, who was only pretending to be dead; rises, and shouts,

“We’ve cracked it!  We’ve discovered the Energy Grail!  We have a hydrogen economy!  PD, you should have hung around a bit longer!”

The Hydrogen Economy

Source: Charley Rattan Associates

Triumphant, Pending Hope bounces off stage with the invitation, “Join me at the IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit on 9 July, and we will stake out the future!”

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