The CO2 Bargaining Business

Coal power plant in NY. Photo credit: Matthew D. Wilson, Wikimedia Commons
Coal power plant in NY. Photo credit: Matthew D. Wilson, Wikimedia Commons

The Bargaining Table

Does anyone think this 2-degree goal is achievable? You know, that we can keep global temperatures from increasing 2°C? It’s time to admit that it cannot be. It’s time to set new goals. Goals not based on single-digit bargaining at the next climate convention. Some of the world’s nations agreed to limiting global warming to 2°C (3.6°F) over pre-industrial temperature levels four years ago; a voluntary goal. Our approach to tackling climate change has been to put, what seems to be, arbitrary limits on CO2 emissions while not seeking to take accountability for the issues causing those emissions. This goes for both the developed world and the emerging market economies. The industrial world must make amends with the top tier industrial economies assuming the responsibility to assist the 2nd and 3rd tier economies. Look at Beijing, China, the smog that engulfs that city. While pushing new boundaries to emerge on the global stage as an economic powerhouse is respectable and we can all argue that London, New York, Berlin did this when they were coming of age in the industrial revolution, the result of living in cities was grim then and it is grim for Beijing now in terms of the pollution that confronts citizens.
CO2 levels are rising, as a result of a global economy pushing forward, full steam ahead. Pieter Tans of The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has said CO2 levels increased by 2.67 parts per million (ppm) in 2012 to 395 ppm. This marks the second highest rise in carbon emissions since recordkeeping began back in 1959. Cleaning up the way business does business is the first order of business in tackling climate change. Returning to the bargaining table year after year is not getting us anywhere.
Tipping the Balance
Coal-burning power plants, particularly in the emerging economies are the main culprit behind the continuing rise of CO2 emissions. For more detailed information, see IEA Statistics report, CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion, Highlights, 2012 edition. In countries such as the U.S., Australia and Denmark, conservation and clean energy research and implementation have begun to show small declines in CO2 emissions. But again, it is that see-saw balancing act – fair play – in order for developing nations to get on the economical playing field, they should have an allowance to pollute as did the U.S. and the rest of the G-20. Instead of taking this “fair is fair” branch mentality can’t we take a smarter approach, using an elevated level of thinking? “We”, being the whole interconnected global network. We cannot keep doing business as usual in the face of increasing extreme weather patterns that threaten communities, infrastructure and economies. It’s not an Us vs. Them. Clean energy technologies must be adopted worldwide. Yes, there will be costs for retrofits, new technologies, figuring out who pays, and the timeline of phasing out the old ways. But if these policy questions are not addressed, these decisions are not made, and these actions are not implemented, then we should really just stop banging on about climate change and 2°C.
Science, Policy and the Economy

Science must lead the way. And the Chinese government understands this as they begin assessing the air quality and the economy. I think in the next 5 years we will see dramatic gains in clean technology from Asia’s rising “clean technology tigers” – China, Japan and South Korea. They have all passed the U.S. in production of clean energy technology and will out-invest the U.S. 3-1 in this sector. China has been investing in solar thermal energy and watch out for thorium. If you haven’t heard of thorium before, it’s kind of a chemical wallflower; it never really got its chance to shine here in the U.S. The Nixon administration shut it down in favor of a breeder reactor program. China is working on building a thorium reactor program. See NY Times article for more info.

I said earlier that it’s not Us vs. Them…except perhaps in the rush to solve the problem. Who doesn’t love a little competition and to take hold the bragging rights for finding a solution that will enhance the lives of citizens worldwide? Not that scientists would brag. Recently, progress in developing a technology in our global quest to reduce emissions has been made. Leave it to CSIRO scientists to test the limits and break boundaries. Dr. Matthew Hill and his research team have developed a smart material that captures carbon, presenting a new way to recycle CO2 emissions using renewable energy. Published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, in February, ‘Dynamic Photo-Switching in Metal Organic Frameworks as a Route to Low Energy Carbon Dioxide Capture and Release’, details how this “solar sponge” adsorbs carbon dioxide, but instantaneously releases it when exposed to sunlight. The sponge is a MOF, or metal organic framework. With the surface area of a football field, MOFs can absorb as much as a litre of nitrogen gas in just one gram of material, this process has the ability to consume as much as 30 percent of a power plant’s production capacity. The impact of a discovery such as this could be huge. But the challenge remains to how science, policy and the economy work together to move forward on R&D projects, prototypes and products that can bring about improved air quality and climates. This is the piece of the puzzle that we have to get right.

Cite this article:
Burnes K (2013-04-08 00:12:05). The CO2 Bargaining Business. Australian Science. Retrieved: Mar 28, 2020, from http://ozscience.com/news/the-co2-bargaining-business-2/

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