Saving the world from fossil fuels.
We have all heard of global warming. Most of us understand that the primary culprit for causing global warming is the burning of fossil fuels. The science is simple: whenever carbon based fossil fuels are burnt, carbon dioxide is produced. This is a greenhouse gas – that is, a gas which helps trap heat, in the atmosphere and prevent it leaving into space. Carbon dioxide acts as a kind of blanket on the Earth, warming it up.
Now, we live in challenging times. All around the world developing countries such as India and China, Indonesia and Brazil, are racing to “catch up” with the West, specifically America, in energy consumption and “lifestyle”. There seems to be the belief that the best way to live, the only way to live, is to somehow adopt the extraordinarily energetically wasteful lifestyle of the modern American. Everyone wants to be an “American”. They even style their cities after American ones (that is filling them with skyscrapers, “freeways” and shopping malls).
Yet, there is a problem with this. The Earth cannot support several new Americas. In fact, if the truth be known, the Earth cannot support even ONE America. The American way of life is a destructive one. It is a way of life which opposes and undermines life on Earth. To live like an American, is to destroy the world. If the world’s developing economies continue to attempt to emulate the American way of life, the world is headed for complete disaster, in a very short order. It is impossible for the billions of people, in the developing world, to start using the amounts of energy and resources that Americans do, without hastening an environmental disaster that threatens life on Earth. Quite simply: for the developing world to “catch up” with America, it would have to burn enormous quantities of fossil fuel: oil, coal and natural gas, to furnish the energies for this lifestyle. Or at least, that would be the most obvious way of doing it. The problem with this, is that the CO2 concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere would rise rapidly, pushing up global temperatures, changing weather patterns, causing desertification, crop loss, flooding and an untold number of changes, all of which would make life more challenging on this Earth, not only for humans, but for all life.
The developing world needs to learn a lesson that America, itself, has yet to learn: a wise use of energy and resources. The developing world needs to look at the American way of life and society and realize that America is one big mistake. The developing world needs to look at America and understand, by its example, how NOT to structure a society and an economy. These are the kinds of lessons that could save the world.
It is perfectly possible to have a very high standard of life, without using American sized energies. Typical Europeans, for instance, use about half the energy of Americans. As an example, the average UK citizen, uses 3,918 kilogrammes of oil equivalent, per annum. The average American uses 7,795 kilogrammes of oil equivalent, per annum. Now, the lifestyle of the typical UK citizen is more than adequate enough. It is needless to pursue an American path, with twice the energy, to attain a decent life. Presently, China is using 1138 kilogrammes of oil equivalent, per capita, per year. (All figures from 2003). Again, the Chinese lifestyle is pretty good and there seems no need to seek American sized energies, for its populace. It is both unnecessary, and would be too damaging for the Earth.
Instead of all the world’s economies racing to maximize development and become as alike the USA, as they can, by digging the world’s fossil fuels up, as fast as possible, there should, instead, be a different kind of race, underway: a race to leave the fossil fuels in the ground. That is right. A wise world would be racing AWAY from the use of fossil fuels – all of them – as fast as possible. In a wise world, governments would be racing to developing 100% renewable energy infrastructures, dependent on hydroelectricity, wind, solar, geothermal, primarily, along, perhaps with biomass and waste reprocessing. A 100% renewable energy infrastructure is one that is minimally polluting. It is also one that may be sustained indefinitely. Renewable energy infrastructures, will not only save the planet from global warming – but they will also save economies from collapse, when fossil fuels run out.
Thus, the world’s economies should now be competing to be as unlike the United States as possible. The world should be competing to be as free of fossil fuels as possible. That would be the wisest path. It is also the ONLY path that leads to a survivable Earth future.
To achieve this proposed alternative renewable economy, the world’s nations should be racing to implement a fully renewable alternative energy infrastructure as FAST as they can. This will protect them from rising fossil fuel prices and at the same time, will reduce the rate of global warming. The ultimate aim should be to wean the world’s economies off fossil fuels as early as possible and to end up LEAVING billions of tons of fossil fuels IN THE GROUND, NEVER TO BE USED.
Now, it is clear that the world’s oil companies will fight hard to persuade people to buy their oil – and so too the coal miners and the natural gas purveyors – however the world should resist. There should be no burning of fossil fuels. The only use of fossil fuels should be in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, pesticides, plastics, fertilizers and the like. It should no longer be used as fuel.
What is needed is a 100% renewable energy infrastructure around the world with electric cars, trains and buses for transport. In no part of this system, should fossil fuels be used for energy.
Some will object that this is too difficult an aim to achieve. However, it must be realized that fossil fuels are running out, so the proposed system will eventually be the ONLY real possibility, if we are to sustain a semblance of the present way of life. It is better to implement this system, now, whilst the fossil fuels remain and ensure that much of the remaining fossil fuels are never burnt. This will reduce global warming and make it more likely that humanity will survive the inevitable climate changes to come.
So: leave the fossil fuels in the ground – and ensure that all the energy used, in society, is from a renewable source. That is the simple recipe for saving the world from fossil fuels – and global warming.
Posted by Valentine Cawley
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