Thursday, 27 August 2009

Climate change Thursday #5

High Impact, Low Impact

Let's start off with the high impact this week. The UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change has launched a 'Road to Copenhagen' document which details its aims, analysis, arguments, proposals, and action. It is worth a read- you can download the document here.

There is now a Copenhagen portal website also where they are seeking your support for a deal at Copenhagen. Go on, sign.

The UK government is seeking a deal where:

- Developed countries commit to cutting their emissions by 25%-40% by 2020 on 1990 levels and by 80% by 2050;
- Ensure developing countries- with the support of the developed world- cut their levels by between 15%-30% compared with the 'business as usual scenario' by 2020;
- Encourage developing countries to complete low carbon development strategies so a sound assessment of how much support they will need can be undertaken;
- Ensure emissions from international aviation and shipping are included;
- Establish robust reporting, monitoring and verification systems to ensure that committed emission reductions are achieved.

It is a very positive approach from the UK Government. Some of the analysis in the document shows how far there is to go:

As can be seen, Japan, the USA, and Russia are considerable laggards when it comes to climate change with the EU and Canada- those socialist idylls with their healthcare and their equality and their public investment- way out in front. When you bear in mind the extent of EU expansion eastwards, this is a considerable target.

And just in case there was any doubt about the strong link between carbon emissions and growth. Here is a table that maps carbon emissions per capita with GDP per capita:

And finally, for a low impact approach to carbon emissions, see the story of Colin Beavon in this week's New Yorker. He tried to make his life as close to zero environmental impact as he could- he became "No Impact Man" with supposedly hilarious results. Only they are not really, they are predictable. And his family are miserable. He writes a book, blog, and gets the film deal. The book is No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process. Narcissus is alive and well.

As Elizabeth Kolbert's review concludes:
What’s required is perhaps a sequel. In one chapter, Beavan could take the elevator to visit other families in his apartment building. He could talk to them about how they all need to work together to install a more efficient heating system. In another, he could ride the subway to Penn Station and then get on a train to Albany. Once there, he could lobby state lawmakers for better mass transit. In a third chapter, Beavan could devote his blog to pushing for a carbon tax. Here’s a possible title for the book: “Impact Man."
Give me the high potential impact of Copenhagen any day over metropolitan guilt and obsession. And self promotion.

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