Following on from the COP21 we saw the commitment to limit global temperature rise by 1.5°C and 185 of the 195 have announced measures to tackle greenhouse gasses. The commitments if fulfilled, however, would still not see this rise prevented. The idea that we will eventually have to do without fossil fuels is a prospect that is very prominently in the minds of environmental campaigners. What I am going to demonstrate here is how the policies themselves are poorly constructed and how our attitude to what was once known as ‘Global Warming’ but now known as ‘Climate Change’ is also wrong.
The Guardian done a piece recently a few years ago which warned us about Government climate change policies and how they would lead to lack of investment. Now it cannot be denied that environmental degradation removes natural resources from a country and thus their economic power. A country has to use its natural resources to be guaranteed a high level of economic power and since most environmental policies seek to limit this in some way we already see a conflict. The move to limit a country’s use of its own natural resources would destroy its own material culture and it would come at the cost of the quality of life of its citizens.
An even bigger point, however, is the fact that renewables cannot wholly replace fossil fuels because they do not have the capacity to produce as much energy as fossil fuels as yet. The air and water pollution can also be negated by the very volume of energy that fossil fuels produce because this energy itself is used to clean air and water. Unless we are willing to revert to a thoroughly technology negative and medieval way of life then we must continue to use fossil fuels and as such this must be reflected by our environmental policies. Our current policies seem to lie in the realm of solar, wind, wave and tidal – all of which are completely unsustainable. With CO2 levels being the most important factor to environmental campaigners the actual construction and transport cost of renewables is very high.
The actual focus of environmental policies is so arbitrary it leaves businesses and consumers at a loss as to what they should do to ‘reduce their carbon footprint’. For example, if we are really so scared about rising CO2 levels that we are willing to throw up windfarms and request that people use public transport or bicycles then why have we not embarked on a massive reforestation project in the UK? If we look at the Amazon basin where large amounts of deforestation goes on because the country wants access to its own natural resources why we not considered a long term harvesting project which includes reforestation? With regards to public transport and bicycles, we need a nationalised fully integrated public transport system which spans the whole country and ensures that even those in most rural of areas have good public transport access before we can even consider it as an option – for which we will require more CO2 output.
Currently, all environmental policies really represent are ‘box ticking exercises’ designed to give people the impression that what they are buying or producing can be considered to be ‘guilt free’. The true question should be to ask – do you want your lifestyle to continue as it is, with access to all your technology, because if you do then you need to continue to use this energy source called ‘fossil fuel’?
Our environmental policies should focus on acquisition of these energy sources as responsibly and efficiently as possible with the aim always to replace where we can – i.e. reforestation, reclaiming used mines, recycling resources where possible. Green energy is expensive and the argument that it will help lift people out of poverty and is a strong enough industry to provide a stable base of jobs is defunct. What poor people need is simple – employment. To argue that they need to be in an industry with high investment, low return and high subsidisation is ridiculous because this will no doubt lead to the workers’ wages suffering in the long run. Of course, if workers do not have money to spend then consumption cannot take place and without consumption industry fails to function.
Our politicians seem to be pinning all their hopes on a 100% transfer to renewables but it just seems like it cannot and will not work. Instead, we must seek to improve the environment through the means we have which is the use of fossil fuels and access to technology. Without this mind set we will continue to stagnate and the likelihood of environment catastrophe will be even more likely.
Image credit: flickr.com/axelhartmann