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The Forum > Article Comments > You canít have your yellow cake and eat it too > Comments

You canít have your yellow cake and eat it too : Comments

By Chris Dey and Manfred Lenzen, published 12/12/2006

Climate change is a global concern, therefore responsibility for abatement has to be measured per capita, not per country.

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The suggestion that "It does not appear that by 2050 renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, will be able to supply sufficiently large amounts of energy, at any time of demand, to an ever-burgeoning population." is wildly off target.

Australia has monumental quantities of energy falling as sunlight on its deserts and 'concentrating solar power' (CSP) is a proven technology for tapping into it. The basic idea is extremely simple: use mirrors to concentrate sunlight to create heat, and then use the heat to raise steam to drive a turbine and generator, exactly like a conventional power plant. CSP plants of this type have been generating electricity successfully in California since 1985 and, currently, half a million residents of California get their electricity from this source.

It is possible to store solar heat in melted salt or other substance so that *electricity generation may continue through the night or on cloudy days*.

The cost of collecting solar heat equivalent to 1 barrel of oil is currently about US$50 (already less than the world price of oil) and is likely to fall to US$20 with economies of scale.

Hardly a month goes by without announcements of new CSP projects around the world.

More information may be found on http://www.trec-uk.org.uk/index.htm .
Posted by Gerry Wolff, Tuesday, 12 December 2006 10:39:24 AM
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This key statement, "Since climate change is a global concern, it is our considered opinion that this issue addresses all of us equally as people, as personal affluence is the main determinant for the level of emissions", has left out the most crucial word, NET emissions.

It is not good enough to consistently base arguments and promote principles on the basis of national or per capita emissions when there is such variation in sources and sinks. The only sound basis for comparison is on net emissions and as many of the processes that absorb carbon are of a national character, then these must be allocated on a per capita basis.

And this is why the Kyoto Protocol cannot deliver equitable outcomes for anyone and certainly not ordinary Australians. The IPCC accounting rules do not record the carbon that is absorbed by territorial oceans. They have, of their own volition, and without appropriate debate at any proper international forum, taken it upon themselves to overturn the vast body of international law that assigns sovereignty over parts of the oceans to specific nations.

So we have the curious situation where Australia lays claim to a vast whale sanctuary in the southern ocean on the basis of it being sovereign territory but appears to accept a framework for carbon accounting that treats all ocean waters as international "commons", owned by no-one.

When territorial oceans and our vast area of thickenning woodlands is taken into account it is clear that Australians have some of the lowest net per capita emissions in the world.

When the same accounting standards are applied to the Europeans it becomes painfully clear that too much carbon emitting industry and consumption is taking place in a continental ecosystem that is not capable of dealing with it.

Those are the simple facts of life and it is no small irony that it is the Europeans who are now stridently trying to create a level playing field in carbon after decades of the very opposite in trade.
Posted by Seditious, Tuesday, 12 December 2006 10:55:59 AM
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Colonialism is not dead just of new form.So for a time, maybe until some other resource becomes a constraint, if GHG sceptics are right, we can have our yellow cake and eat it.

International sharing or even self restraint by electors, energy efficiency, is ruled out by our system as it stands. The need for democratically elected politicians to depend on an expanding economy which is mostly easily achieved in Australia by selling our Uranium, bugger any consequences world wide, treaties will quieten the offended and can then be ignored as we are ignoring our U.N obligations, and using coal of which we have much as source of energy and export.
The latest energy group guidelines indicate this.
So why not equate GHG pollution on a country basis it makes Australia a small player and suitís the above scenario.
This is good business and politics, not hypocricy as the left would doubtless claim.
Yes the alternatives plus avoidance/reduction of need for energy use by better design seems to me a possibility, houses that are energy neuatral including heating cooling and white goods is possible as Germany demonstrates. How much this and simailar would cost I do not know but suggestless than the cost of Nuclear and without many downsides although some entrpreuners will not become as rich and Austrlalia will need to learn to manage its current account.
Posted by untutored mind, Tuesday, 12 December 2006 11:59:44 AM
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Why should Australia be penalised for having a low population that has kept the total volume of emissions, which is the real critical factor in global warming, to a reasonable level? At least China has seen the error of trying to increase its population while it is not sustainable. India hasn't. India adds more than the Australian population every year. Do all those people want to be rich or poor? Do they want to use resources or barely survive?

Why should Australia be penalised for being prosperous? China's and India's goal is to have the same standard of living as Australia's. They won't be reducing their greenhouse emissions per capita any time soon and their populations will increase. This will have a far greater impact on global warming than Australia's impact.

Why is "an ever burgeoning population" so important? Why is it a given that requires that we make all sorts of horrible Sophies choices. The easiest method for control of greenhouse emissions is population stabilisation. Stop the baby bonus and have net zero immigration. Then start working on renewables, carbon taxes, carbon trading, etc. Nobody has come up with a cheap reliable method of nuclear waste disposal or decommissioning a nuclear power plant all around the world. If it is so simple as the Ziggy Switkowski committee says, why not give us the details.
Posted by ericc, Tuesday, 12 December 2006 12:10:22 PM
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These learned gentlemen, along with many others, fail to allude to the whole fuel cycle of nuclear energy.

The Roxby expansion in SA would over time become the world's largest radioactive tailings dump. They have applied for nearly 20 square kilometres of radioactive tailings piles and ponds.

Roxby are already the biggest electricity users in SA. Their expansion is set to blow the State's greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25%.

In addition, they are the biggest users of ground water in the southern hemisphere and take millions of litres of water daily (free of charge) from the Great Artesian Basin.

I suggest that the learned gentlemen peruse the "National Pollutant Inventory" emissions reports for uranium mining, before writing papers promoting nuclear energy.

Another documented piece of evidence reveals that the USA have 103 nuke reactors, more than any other nation on earth, with France in second place - 59. And yet the USA are the biggest polluters on the planet and still left to deal with the diabolical volumes of radioactive waste.

Given the appalling history of the Departments of Environment and radiation regulators in Australia, could anyone seriously think that RA waste would be properly managed?

And the latest twist, PM Howard has included on his "stacked" task force for carbon trading, some of the biggest polluters in Australia - not one environmentalist or expert on atmospheric pollutants!

Mitigation of CO2 would occur immediately if regulators enforced scrubbers on all pollutant industries but of course their paranoia with all things fiscal, simply exacerbates the emissions of carbon based chemicals. Environmental ethics do not enter the equations! Just one company dumped 8 tonnes of mercury over my small community last year!

Please gentlemen, cease exploiting public gullibility, move out from your dusty corridors of academia and put your scientific skills to good use by researching and supporting sustainable energy alternatives. Are you not yet aware that our governments share the same bed as polluters and that human, ecological and environmental casualties are simply regarded as "collateral" damage?
Posted by dickie, Tuesday, 12 December 2006 1:36:15 PM
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The notion that alternative sources of energy can't supply a significant amount of of our energy needs is absolute twaddle, for instance the Solar Ball system can supply 50% of the average household needs for about 1/2 the price of the average family car, and thats not affordable, come on,(50 nuclear reators will supply only 18% of our usage) all rooves in the world should be solar collectors. There are other solar systems that collect and store energy, this is without mentioning hydro, wind, geothermal and tidal.
We have huge areas of land where the sun shines in excess of 300 days of the year, we could build giant solar power stations and lead the world in alternative energy production. As has been demonstrated in computers, sound delivery systems and television, technology has the inherant ability to innovate and improve at an an unstoppable and incredible pace, with support and resources what we have now in 20 years time would probably look like a valve radio.
The main thing that is lacking is the political will and the main obstacle is the established mining and energy corporations, also political parties who are blind to anything beyond the next election.
If you can convince peple that going to war, to waste lives and waste squillions of dollars is a good thing, then convincing them that saving the planet is a good idea should be a soda. As the old saying goes theres always enough money for a war.
I am afraid the authors of this article and their fellow travllers are captives of the past, its time for new ideas and solutions and time to throw the baby out with the bath water.
We really don't have much choice we either go for sustainable energy and maintain a lifestyle roughly equal to that to which we are accustomed or we stick with thermal or nuclear and go down the gurgler.
Alan Hunter
Posted by alanpoi, Tuesday, 12 December 2006 1:41:56 PM
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