New Internationalist 357 June 2003
Climate Change / FACTS
Last year was the second warmest since 1860 – the hottest was 1998. Fossil-fuel use is mainly to blame – with the rich world doing most of the damage.
To stabilize the global climate will require huge cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions – and a big increase in justice. The UN-endorsed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that emissions reductions of 60% by 2050 are essential.1 But many experts now think even this is not enough – 70 or 80% is needed.2
In 2002 the British Meteorological Office’s Hadley Centre reported that climate change was happening 50% faster than originally believed. By 2040 they predict most of the world’s forests will begin to die.4
The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
EU average: 10.3; Britain: 11.4; New Zealand/Aotearoa: 14.1; Japan: 10.2.5
Balance: If account were taken of their rampant use of polluting fossil fuels, industrialized countries would have totted up an environmental debt of $141-$612 billion to the highly indebted poor countries.3
More than 80 per cent of human-made carbon dioxide emissions come from burning fossil fuels for our energy requirements.2
›› Solar photovoltaics (PV) are providing more than a million households in the developing world with electricity for the first time. More than 100,000 households in richer countries now support their utility power with PV systems.7
›› Enough windpower is now generated worldwide to supply 14 million households in 45 countries.7
›› If current growth rates for PV solar and wind persist to 2020 they could provide 45% of global electricity needs.7
›› A third of the world’s greenhouse gases come from transport. Universally applied, zero-emission hydrogen-fuel technology could have a dramatic impact – providing the hydrogen was produced using clean energy.
Renewables are said to be uneconomic.
›› Fossil fuels and nuclear power get $150 -$300
›› Canada gives fossil-fuel subsidies of $1,300 million compared with just $12 million to renewables.2
›› US fossil-fuel subsidies and tax loopholes total $29 to $46 billion per year.2
›› An investment of $660 million would make solar competitive in price – that’s 0.5% of the $89,000 million spent by oil companies on exploration in 1998 alone.8
And while oil exploration costs rise, renewable costs are tumbling due to improved technology and economies of scale:
WIND POWER cost 10 times more 20 years ago.7
SOLAR PV cost 15 times more 25 years ago.2
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