There was an interesting juxtaposition of articles in the Observer this morning. The leader set the tone with a strong call for action in the face of the IPCC report.
Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its fifth assessment report on the physical science of global warming and made it clear that the continued burning of fossil fuels to run our cars, factories and electricity plants is now virtually certain to induce serious alterations to our climate.
Then there was the piece by David King and Richard Layard calling for a world sunpower programme:
The goal would be by 2025 to deliver solar electricity at scale to the grid at a cost below the cost of fossil fuel. All countries would be invited to participate. Those who did would commit, in their own countries, to major new programmes of research, internationally co-ordinated, and to share their findings for the benefit of the world.
In contrast, however, were two of the (very few) articles in the New York Times Observer supplement, presumably hand picked from the raft of stories which the NYT covers. The first focussed on the economic difficulties faced by Germany’s green energy policies.
German families are being hit by rapidly increasing electricity rates, to the point where growing numbers of them can no longer afford to pay the bill. Businesses are more and more worried that their energy costs will put them at a disadvantage to competitors in nations with lower energy costs, and some energy-intensive industries have begun to shun the country because they fear steeper costs ahead.
The second was a piece explaining the potential of unlocking frozen hydrates as a potential new (carbon) fuel source.
If they can be tapped safely and economically, they could be an abundant source of fuel, especially for countries like Japan that have few energy reserves of their own.
There in the Observer (and supplements) this morning the complexity of the climate change issue was laid out.
- We have a serious problem with CO2;
- We know that we have to reduce hydrocarbons in favour of renewables;
- But the infrastructure and economics of the oil and gas industries have the advantage and the momentum;
- Renewables are costly and going it alone is fraught with perils (see Germany);
- A “moonshot” is therefore required.
What are the chances of this happening? The Observer leader I started with sums it up:
What Britain urgently needs is an unambiguous statement from our government that it recognises very serious changes are now affecting our planet; that we have the will to tackle a growing global catastrophe; and that we are prepared to address difficult, unpopular truths. To date, we have heard nothing.