Sunday, November 21, 2010

Climate Change and Peak Oil Are Intimately Related and Require Urgent Action

Carbon dioxide variations over the last 400,00...Image via WikipediaBy Greg Grochola

Due to continued government inaction around the world, climate change and peak oil (oil depletion) are now fast looming as two of the greatest challenges ever faced by humanity. These issues are intimately related such that when considering solutions for one, we must consider the other. There are proponents for tackling climate change using geo-engineering approaches and/or other means which do not involve reducing our rate of fossil fuels usage.

It can be argued that any such approaches, are insufficient over the required adoption of dramatic reductions in fossil fuels usage. Further, these approaches could cause more harm than good if they divert investment funds away from technologies which cut the use of fossil fuels and if they provide a false sense of security, allowing a business as usual attitude in the business sector and/or a "they'll fix it" attitude in the general public.

From the perspective of peak oil, most industry observers now agree that we are either past peak oil or will pass it within a few short years. The main issue is this - in the coming decades, as easy to get at reserves of oil disappear, countries faced with the challenge of peak oil and all that it entails for their domestic economy and population WILL - regardless of climate change and the resulting environmental consequences - transition to carbon intensive reserves such as coal, coal liquefaction, deep sea oil, oil shale and tar sand deposits, for which the energy and hence carbon emissions costs to develop is huge. If we invest in technologies which do not at the same time reduce fossil fuel usage, then this transition will not only come earlier but the world will be even more dependent on green house gas emitting fuels when it does arrive.

Moreover, the earth's environment is incredibly complex; there is a very real chance that any such geo-engineering solution would either have adverse consequences elsewhere in the system or worse yet, be ineffective. If so, where would that leave our (not too distant) future generation? Saddled with a large dependence on fossil fuels with only carbon intensive reserves remaining, as well as record atmospheric CO2 which all but guarantees rapid climate change for decades to come.

Of course the other issue which most geo-engineering solutions do nothing to address is ocean acidification caused by high levels of atmospheric CO2. Only sharp cuts in atmospheric CO2 concentrations from direct reductions in CO2 emitting fuels can help address these issues at the same time as climate change and the peak oil issues.

By investing in technologies which directly reduce fossil fuel usage now, we are not only cutting emissions today, but we are delaying peak oil and the inevitable transition to more carbon intensive fossil fuels. This gives the renewable energy industry time to mature and develop. We cannot gamble and bank on geo-engineering solutions, I urge you as a citizen of your country and temporary custodian of this fragile earth not to adopt a "they'll fix it" attitude and to actively do your bit in cutting fossil fuel usage.

You can make a big difference through the choices you make. Always choose the more energy efficient option and support initiatives which directly off-set the use of fossil fuels. Let's not use up the easy to get at oil and gas reserves for our future generation, as we would be leaving them in a world saturated with CO2 and a large dependence on non-renewable fuels with nothing but carbon intensive fossil fuels tomorrow.

Greg Grochola

Optex Solar Pty. Ltd., we promote and support only the most cost effective solutions which directly reduce fossil fuel usage.

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