Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What is the Silver Bullet for Climate Change – Going Carbon Neutral or Degrowth?

Also discussed here: Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism(464 pages, Ozzie Zehner, Jun. 2012)

And here: Renewable Energy's Not-So-Bright Side(Paul Krugman, Truthout, Mar.31 2011)

And here: Degrowth(Wikipedia)

And here: The Limits to Growth(Wikipedia)

Today we review a challenge to the conventional answer to the mitigation of climate change by a shift to a green economy with renewable energy instead of carbon fuels, growing more trees and driving in electric cars. The author instead points out that each of these “cures”, when accompanied by more use of energy because of growth driven by population growth and new technology, result in more, not less, greenhouse gas emissions. Governmental policy approaches, even when well-intentioned in terms of the environment, make the problem worse. He calls for “degrowth” or a new environmentalism. “On verra”, as they say in French. At least, it causes one to examine more carefully the alternatives offered and whether, finally, to accept the warnings about global consumptive growth, contained in the book on Limits to Growth, published over 40 years ago by the Club of Rome. In a city context, growth equates to sprawl, whether it is done in a seemingly green way (e.g. electric LRT) and the result is a polluted city.

 green illusions  

Key Quotes:

“We don’t have an energy crisis. We have a consumption crisis”

“go to any climate rally and you'll see a strip mall of stands for green products, green jobs and green energy. These will do nothing to solve the crisis we face, which is not an energy crisis but rather a crisis of consumption.”

“[Isaac M. Gaetz, published by]
  • Increasing energy production sources (by using power from "renewable" wind, solar, geothermal sources etc. or improving fossil fuel technologies) results in a reduction in energy prices..results in a rebound effect in which consumption rises, consuming whatever short term gains were accomplished.
  • Comparing the environmental impact of renewable energies to fossil fuels is fundamentally flawed because being more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels is a preposterously low bar which to clear. This results in "less bad" technologies being portrayed as "good" because they are slightly better than the previous "bad" options.
  • Looking exclusively at the power generation side of the equation, whether fossil or renewable, is an approach akin to treating a symptom. Environmentalism would be more productive treating the causal side of the equation, which is consumption.”
“the solar cell industry is one of the fastest growing emitters of virulent greenhouse gases such as sulfur hexafluoride, which has a global warming potential 23,000 times higher than CO2, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”

“the entire life cycle of an electric car and .. its impact to epidemiological …electric cars merely create a different set of side effects. It's just that those side effects don't come out of a tailpipe, where we are accustomed to looking for them…Subsidies for electric cars are ultimately a subsidy to car culture and the infrastructure that goes with it.. Car culture is not sustainable within the limits we face to growth. The more durable transportation options are cycling and walking.”
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