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Ominous thaw

Posted in Personal on 2007-02-04 20:55

Local grafitti

This has been the warmest autumn in Europe since the 16th century, and for the first time I can remember there is no real possibility for skiing in the woods around Oslo. From Japan my friend Naito-san writes that the winter has been unusually warm, and in Trondheim the local microbrewery has named their winter warmer beer Global Warming. It all points to the same thing, doesn't it?

Rather more ominously the United Nation's International Panel on Climate Change has published part of its Fourth Assessment Report. The panel of 700 scientists, supported by 2500 reviewers, have concluded that it is now 90% certain that human emissions of climate gases are contributing significantly to global warming.

Thankfully, there are signs that the world's politicians and ordinary people are beginning to wake up. The trouble is that we need rather more than signs. In fact, according to the climate scientists at RealClimate.org we need to cut our CO2 emissions in half in the short term, and by 85% in the long term. It doesn't seem likely to me that this can be accomplished without significant disturbances to the world's economy.

A case in point: tomorrow I fly to western Norway for a single-day business meeting. This is entirely normal, and I need to do this kind of thing to keep the company I work in going. Apart from that, the only thing I've got to say for myself is that at least I don't own a car.

There is the Kyoto process, but its current goal is only a 5% reduction from 1990 levels, which is nowhere near what is needed, and needed soon. Thankfully, the oil price is high, and likely to remain high, but, again, nowhere near as high as it needs to be. In short, I think we all have a problem. And I think it's hard to do something about it. Longer term, when I vote, the most important (though not necessarily the only) consideration is going to be which party has the strongest environmental credentials. The most encouraging thought I have about this is that I live in a place which could use some warming, or so I hope...

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Comments

Arnoud Haak - 2007-02-05 10:18:34

I don't think the solution lies in making oil more expensive. People just keep using their cars the way they're used to. The gouverments should make economy cars a lot more attractive. And we should promote alternative fuels more.

Lars Marius - 2007-02-05 10:29:40

I'm no expert on this, but I think if the price of oil trebled or quadrupled it would affect people's use of oil quite substantially. The current price increase has already made quite an impact in the US. But the trouble is that there's now this wave of "bioenergy", meaning stuff like natural gas, pellets (for heating), ethanol, etc, all of which also release CO2 when burned.

So the ultimate solution is probably the Kyoto approach. In a market economy, market pricing is the way you limit people's access to a scarce resource, and the right to emit CO2 is becoming a scarce resource. So trading in quotas like Kyoto does seems like the right approach to me, provided it covers absolutely all kinds of emissions. Which again will raise the price of pretty much everything.

The trouble is: this is probably going to take decades to put into effect, even if we start moving faster than we have so far. And we don't have many decades...

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