Energy bill delays setting carbon target until 2016

Posted by | Posted in climate change, environment, government, Life | Posted on 23-11-2012

So a government, this one not that it really matters, has failed to achieve the hopes of meeting the minimum targets hoped for on the environment/carbon/climate-change (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20451189).

These weren’t lofty goals either, these were the minimum goals that we’ve legally agreed too.

Those legal agreements weren’t the best course possible either, they were the minimum required to provide a 50/50 chance of avoiding “catastrophic” climate change and keep temperature rises below 2C by 2100 (it’s 2012 btw keep that in mind) and then only if we were following the best-case predictions.

Then recent reports have indicated that the rate of change and it’s effects might have been underestimated by up to 5 times, i.e. things we expected not to happen until 2100 appear to be on course to happen by 2020-to-2035 (http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21628923.100-we-are-leaving-emissions-cuts-too-late.html & http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21628914.700-estimates-for-future-global-warming-narrowed-down.html).

So this is the situation… we’ve just failed to set policy which would let us meet a weaker-than-required agreement, which was targetting the bottom-end of a best-case scenario which we already new was wrong, which has recently been shown to be out by at least 2 but possibly up to 5 times.

Remember that was the target to have a 50/50 _chance_ of stopping “catastrophic” climate change. Not, merely “a bit bad” but “catastrophic“. Severe damage to the environment and changes which make it difficult for us to do useful things like grow food, prevent flooding and storm damage to our biggest cities, survive summer heat waves, yet not freeze to death in the winter. Not exactly little things are they.

This isn’t a post about the environment by the way.

No, I’m just confused by the way that governments, companies, even individuals decide what to do about the things they face.

The above case is drastic but a perfect example: We’re failing to prevent, or even slow, the race to “catastrophic” climate change. We’re failing because of a series of things which all aim to do the bare minimum for the most cheerful and optimistic predicted outcomes that meet our hopes rather than face our realities. Then to compound the error we seem to accept that falling short of the commitments we’ve agreed is ok.

All this seems to mean that we’re setting ourselves up for inevitable failure. I bet we do it in a range of things, I can think of several on my own personal scale where I do the same, where I fail to commit and then eventually abandon stuff because it’s not working… of course it’s not working, I’ve identified something that will take 100% of my effort to do, then I  allow myself 20% of that in time or money, then when “real-life” gets in the way I accept that I can only meet 15% really. Then I fail.

In my life that might mean the bathroom needs some work that I’ll eventually have to get someone to pay for. Or that the oven really stinks sometimes because of something bubbling over.

When the governments of the world give 15% to prevent something like climate change.

Then it seems that we’re all fucked.

So why do we go into these things half heartedly? Why do we pick the most optimistic outcome? We all know the maxim or preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. Yet repeatedly we prepare for the best, hope for the best and then have to rush and panic to deal with the worst that we’ve allowed to happen by doing so.

We could turn the fact that we’re building whole new energy industries into a major bonus, new energy industries, new infrastructure, new jobs!
We could be investing in things like Desertec (http://www.desertec.org/) (I mean in technology like it not the company necessarily) and then reaping the benefits in owning the suppliers of energy to ALL of Europe and Africa. Just like Russia does with it’s gas supplies to Europe, an industry worth many billions of pounds to it’s government.

If something like Desertec ever does happen we’ll just be another customer, we’ll pay, but we won’t earn.

We could be going into these things 100%, whilst accepting that the worst case might not happen, but it’s so bad that we should be preparing for it. We can all hope that it works out just fine, but that’s not what we should be prepared for.

Damn, it did turn into an environment rant.

Comments posted (1))

  1. Democratic governments don’t get rewarded for fixing problems 50 years down the line, only for fixing problems now. So long term problems will always be underfunded. I don’t think it’s as much about optimism as about the system not being adjusted for long term goals.

    Worse, in a globally competitive environment, any unilateral steps taken can put you at a massive disadvantage. So if you tell companies to cut emissions by 10% when your neighbours only tell them to cut by 2%, those companies move to the other country, overall emissions only drop by 2% but your tax revenue plummets. Which country can sell that to its people?

    It’s no coincidence that the fastest growing large economies – Brazil, India, and China – don’t generally give a fuck about the environment. They want the same benefits that we got from heavy industrialisation and won’t listen to us lecture them about it like world champion boxers telling kids that violence is bad.

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