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Page history last edited by Malcolm 12 years, 7 months ago

Is a Total Ban on Fossil Fuels Necessary and Possible?


The world (nature) appears to be doing things that surprise the scientists and each time they have to search for an explanation rather than having anticipated it.


Examples are the hole in the ozone layer, shrinking polar ice, first hurricane in the South Atlantic, oceans becoming less alkaline, faster than expected erosion of Greenland and the Antarctic. We are reacting after the event, or not reacting at all.


In general governments should be playing much safer with our grandchildren.


My concern is best expressed in a paper by Piere Freidlingstein and Susan Solomon entitled "Contributions of Past and Present human generations to committed warming caused by Carbon Dioxide". In it the authors demonstrate that we already have too much CO2 and illustrate the paths open to us.


The full text may be found at http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/102/31/10832


Their findings are summarised in this graph which appears to be on the conservative side as it has not incorporated many of the feedback mechanisms which we are starting to understand.


It shows the carbon dioxide levels we inherit from past generations and what we pass on to future generations. The dotted lines illustrate a total ban on fossil fuels (or total CO2 capture). The firm lines indicate emissions stabilised at the rate for that year.


Using the middle range of temperature changes anticipated in 2005 climate models they anticipate average temperatures as illustrated.



The dotted lines indicate the temperature trend after a total ban on emissions and the firm lines indicate emission stabilised at a point in time. This clearly shows that even to stabilise at 1950 emission level would not be a long term answer.


This lines up with commonsense arithmetic. If 220 gigatons of excess carbon have been emitted since 1950 and we measure 120 gigatons of it in the atmosphere (where it is doing damage) and 60 gigatons of it in the ocean (where it is doing damage) then only at most 40 gigatons has been absorbed safely.


To redress this balance we must use the capacity of Gaia to absorb its 17 gigatons per decade and not burn any more fossil fuels.


This has been recently confirmed in a book "Climate Code Red" by David Spratt & Philip Sutton 2007 A Summary.



The possible route to this could be to set a date like 2020 for a total ban. This would focus energies on alternatives, preferably solar. Immediately raise taxes on fossil fuel consumption to make it as expensive as solar energy. Use the taxes raised to compensate the oil companies, oil states, coal interests and to finance their conversion to clean energy businesses. Then steadily increase the taxes to achieve the full ban in 2020.


The Stern Report is one of the first to recommend taxation to make renewables an attractive option but the idea of compensating oil companies is my own!


Strangely I find a total ban is the only option which gives the opportunity for the standard of living to continue to improve in all nations, rich and poor. Poor nations in general have an abundance of solar energy and can provide this resource. It allows for the second world to enjoy first world standards.


Many technologies are available but suppressed currently. These must be released and financed with war time urgency. Some barriers may appear difficult but are not impossible. Air travel should be possible using renewable fuels but with lower efficiency and higher costs initially. After all in my lifetime aircraft fuels have changed from explosive petroleum to parafin. Will the next fuel be cooking oil from algae?


Action for the sake of our grandchildren. Greenhouse gases must be first priority.

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