Thursday, November 26, 2009

ENVIRONMENTAL POLITICS: Copenhagen at the Crossroads - Adaptation Or Mitigation?

By Klaus H Hemsath

The Copenhagen Climate Conference 2009 was intended to commit world governments to a common purpose and approach on reducing climate changes. Already before the meeting, it is becoming obvious that such an agreement cannot be reached. The reason is simple; the concept of the Kyoto Treaty is deeply flawed and more and more countries are urged by their citizens to find more effective and more agreeable provisions for a new treaty.

Such a worldwide pact must treat every country fairly and must take into account past practices and missteps. Scientific evidence has become undeniable; the Earth is getting warmer and climate changes are proliferating. Consensus is building that a worldwide arrangement must be arrived at that initially halts further warming and that eventually restores historic climate conditions when such restoration becomes economically and technologically feasible.

The Copenhagen meeting is unable to decide on future countermeasures because many nations feel uncomfortable consenting to binding provisions that aim at the reduction of energy consumption in all participating nations. The general apprehension and distrust is based on past history; the wealthiest nations are pushing the hardest for energy reduction but cannot agree on energy reduction targets and cannot achieve targets previous agreed upon.

Additionally, there is general unease; will the rationing of energy lead to a slowdown of national economies? World populations are continuing to grow. National economies must keep pace and governments cannot dare to take the chance of strangling domestic growth. How should Copenhagen or a subsequent convention respond?

Fortunately, at least one workable solution is beginning to take shape. This is the concept of turning back the clock; reducing today's excessive carbon dioxide concentration back to historic levels. For thousands of years, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were maintained by Mother Nature at 280 ppm. Historic climate conditions can be reestablished with certainty if we can get back to this magic level and can do so in the near future.

A new environmental movement has sprung up that is trying to impress upon the world's governments that atmospheric concentrations have to be returned to 350 ppm. This movement, which calls itself, has the right concept. If we are able to reduce carbon dioxide levels to 350 ppm from higher levels, we will automatically be able to reach lower levels, too. The challenge of being able to save Earth from overheating, therefore, comes down to resolving several, important questions.

What technologies must be available for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration? How can the world community agree upon an equitable and fair approach to significantly reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions, restore them close to historic levels, prevent the slowing down of world economies, distribute the responsibility for cleanup judiciously, and allow younger nations to catch up to energy use levels of industrialized countries?

Fortunately, scientists, inventors, and investors have accumulated an astonishing armory of technologies and equipment for converting and utilizing energy.

However, the assortment of technologies needed for first arresting and subsequently reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations is not complete, yet. Several technologies must be advanced before they become usable. Others must be developed entirely.

Technologies for storing large quantities of electric energy, for reducing the cost of electricity from solar energy and wind energy, for growing huge quantities of biomass without threatening food crop agriculture, and for converting biomass into petroleum substitutes must be developed to stop the destructive use of fossil fuels.

Scientists and technologist can, however not stop there. Completely different technologies are needed for retrieving carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The very low concentration of carbon dioxide, which is so powerful in causing global overheating, is thermodynamically not suited at all for economic recovery and sequestration of this pollutant.

New inventions are required to provide such a much needed technology for restoring historic carbon dioxide levels.

Can scientists, technologists, inventors, and investors respond in time? This is a judgment call. This author believes that at least one decade is needed for getting missing energy technologies developed and readied for installation. Private industry will not be able to provide the early funding for developing very expensive and risky concepts. Industry will get involved only after developments have reached a stage, at which risks can be quantified.

A major national or international agency must be formed to tackle the formidable challenges, which need to be resolved before Earth can be saved.

The agency must be committed to a very tightly written mission: - Develop and prepare the implementation of a worldwide plan that will develop novel energy conversion systems, which will halt global warming and which will be capable of furnishing plentiful, affordable, and secure energy supplies for the next few centuries without slowing world economies or harming the environment.

Funding required for such an agency will be comparatively small when measured against past, huge, and worthless efforts related to technology developments for combating climate changes.

Dr. Hemsath's books, Climate Change-Gold Rush or Disaster? and Clean Energy For Centuries, offer a comprehensive plan for saving Earth from overheating. He is now writing a follow-on book, Petroleum Substitutes From Biomass. For fifty years he has worked on advanced energy technologies as scientist, engineer, inventor, Corporate R&D Executive, CEO, entrepreneur, and author. He holds more than 60 US Patents.


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