A letter by Russell Lyon
Recently I found an article on the net from a Swede who is employed at the Copenhagen Business School, Bjorn Lomberg, discussing what people and Governments are doing to combat climate change. He said we are all doing little bits but are being taken in - that electric cars and vegetarianism will be big saviours.
People are turning to eating plant based food but the failure rate within a year is 84% (results of a large USA study) The achievement per person is only 540 kgs of carbon per year (saving of 4.3%) but that can be nullified by the transportation and processing, reducing the savings to 2%
Electric cars, when they reach the market have a large carbon footprint and they need to travel at least 60,00km to break even with a normal car. Even with large subsidies, up to $US10,000, less than 1% of the cars sold last year are electric. At present, 81% of the worlds energy consumption is from fossil fuels and is estimated to drop to 74% by 2040. If you use an electric car in a country that supplies electricity from fossil fuels, electric cars will never win. However there is a good health benefit in large cities in having non polluting cars, in that it’s better for the health of the locals.
He was recommending that people should be demanding that their leaders should be looking for energy alternatives that do not require fossil fuel. Germany reacted to the nuclear reactor failure in Japan after the tidal wave, by stating they would close all their reactors over the next decade. Result, they have closed two thirds of them, resulting in mining more fossil fuels (coal) and their electric power prices have been raising alarmingly, so they are having second thoughts, stopping the closures and even considering commissioning modern new reactors.
We hear that Greta will not use aircraft to cross the Atlantic because it creates lots of carbon emissions. Aviation is estimated to create about 3% of total annual carbon emissions. But what about the internet? It has been estimated that it creates about a similar percentage of emissions as aviation. How? The big cloud providers like Google have big electric data storage bases in areas where electric power is cheap and lots of water for cooling (Google has one on a very large barge in San Francisco harbour), and they are mega users of electricity. Much of the power used is
generated from fossil fuel. It’s easy to target low hanging fruit (aviation) while challenging data bank use is more difficult (do we have to go back to letter writing?)
You may have noticed that the weather has been cooler of late. With all the smoke being put into the stratosphere this will be having a cooling effect due to the ash cloud blocking some of the suns rays reaching earth. When Pinatubo volcano erupted some years ago it cooled the northern hemisphere weather for about five years. The Aussie fires are caused partly by global warming, but also introduced burn in a different way and much hotter (there was a report of an Aboriginal elder guarding river gums now surrounded by introduced grass cover around them). Also more people have decided to live in the bush compounding the problem. If you observe gum trees growing, they have long bark leaders hanging down to encourage fire to burn high in the forest. Exotic trees don’t do this.
Footnote:- Napier City Council are debating banning washing your car on the street or sealed driveway but instead do it on the lawn. The chemicals etc used and grime off the cars drain into storm water system discharging without treatment into the sea or streams. The reaction was that they were interfering with a Kiwi right to do this. It’s the council’s problem to solve. They forget that they will be paying for any treatment through increased rates.
Trying to change people’s attitudes to reduce climate change is difficult. What are you doing?