Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Climate Crisis & Sustainability Update: Green Economy? Yes. Bio-Fuels? No, Not Really.

Image: Variations of the Earth's surface temperature: year 1000 to year 2100, IPCC

"We're now on the threshold of another (transformation) -- the age of green economics," Ban said. Reuters, 2-7-08

Apart from used chip fat, there is no such thing as a sustainable biofuel.
All these convoluted solutions are designed to avoid a simpler one: reducing the consumption of transport fuel. But that requires the use of a different commodity. Global supplies of political courage appear, unfortunately, to have peaked some time ago.
George Monbiot, Guardian, 2-12-08

“Human rights - including the right to water, to health, the right to work, cultural rights and the right to be protected from ill-treatment and arbitrary arrest - are being denied in some communities. “If palm oil is to be produced sustainably, the damaging effects of unjust policies and practices in the Indonesian plantation sector must be addressed,” the report said. Guardian, 2-11-08

Climate Crisis & Sustainability Update: Green Economy? Yes. Bio-Fuels? No, Not Really

By Richard Power

Our greatest challenge is our greatest opportunity.

Yes, creating a "green economy" is a life or death imperative for this civilization, but it is also a chance to grow businesses and reap profit in dynamic, new ways.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said ... the world is on the cusp of "the age of green economics" and called on nations to cooperate to fight global warming and promote the transformation.
"With the right financial incentives and a global framework, we can steer economic growth in a low-carbon direction," Ban said in remarks prepared for delivery to a Chicago business group. ...
Ban said global investment in green energy is projected to hit $1.9 trillion by 2020, an indication of an economic shift that will rival the industrial revolution and the technology revolution of the past two centuries. ...
Reuters, 2-7-08

However, if you assume that "bio-fuels" will drive this new "green economy" than you are wasting time and actually making the situation worse. They should have only a limited role.

The widespread use of ethanol from corn could result in nearly twice the greenhouse gas emissions as the gasoline it would replace because of expected land-use changes, researchers concluded ... The study challenges the rush to biofuels as a response to global warming.
The researchers said that past studies showing the benefits of ethanol in combating climate change have not taken into account almost certain changes in land use worldwide if ethanol from corn — and in the future from other feedstocks such as switchgrass — become a prized commodity.
Associated Press, 2-7-08

Many people believe there’s a way of avoiding these problems: by making biofuels not from the crops themselves but from crop wastes - if transport fuel can be manufactured from straw or grass or wood chips, there are no implications for land use, and no danger of spreading hunger. Until recently I believed this myself.
Unfortunately most agricultural “waste” is nothing of the kind. It is the organic material that maintains the soil’s structure, nutrients and store of carbon. A paper commissioned by the US government proposes that, to help meet its biofuel targets, 75% of annual crop residues should be harvested. According to a letter published in Science last year, removing crop residues can increase the rate of soil erosion a hundredfold. Our addiction to the car, in other words, could lead to peak soil as well as peak oil.
George Monbiot, Guardian, 2-12-08

Not only does mismanaged bio-fuel production contribute to the very problems it is supposed to elevate, it also brings bad juju with it.

In the 21st Century, just as security and sustainability have become interdependent, sustainability and human rights have also become interdependent.

EU politicians should reject targets for expanding the use of biofuels because the demand for palm oil is leading to human rights abuses in Indonesia, a coalition of international environmental groups claimed ...
A new report, published by Friends of the Earth and indigenous rights groups LifeMosaic and Sawit Watch, said that increasing demands for palm oil for food and biofuels was causing millions of hectares of forests to be cleared for plantations and destroying the livelihoods of indigenous peoples.
The report, Losing Ground, said many of the 60-90 million people in Indonesia who depend on the forests are losing their land to the palm oil companies.
Pollution from pesticides, fertilisers and the pressing process is also leaving some villages without clean water.
“The unsustainable expansion of Indonesia’s palm oil industry is leaving many indigenous communities without land, water or adequate livelihoods. Previously self-sufficient communities find themselves in debt or struggling to afford education and food. Traditional customs and culture are being damaged alongside Indonesia’s forests and wildlife,” the report reads.
It claims that oil palm companies often use violent tactics as they move in to convert the land to plantations.
Guardian, 2-11-08

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available now! Click here for more information.

For the Words of Power Climate Crisis Updates Archive, click here.

Click here for access to great promotional tools available on The Eleventh Hour action page.

To sign the Live Earth Pledge, click here.

For analysis of the US mainstream news media's failure to treat global warming and climate change with accuracy or appropriae urgency, click here for Media Matters' compilation of "Myths and Falsehoods about Global Warming".

Want to participate in the effort to mitigate the impact of global warming? Download "Ten Things You Can Do"

Want to join hundreds of thousands of people on the Stop Global Warming Virtual March, and become part of the movement to demand our leaders freeze and reduce carbon dioxide emissions now? Click here.

Center for American Progress Action Fund's Mic Check Radio has released a witty and compelling compilation on the Top 100 Effects of Global Warming, organized into sections like "Global Warming Wrecks All the Fun" (e.g., "Goodbye to Pinot Noir," "Goodbye to Baseball," "Goodbye to Salmon Dinners," "Goodbye to Ski Vacations," etc.), "Global Warming Kills the Animals" (e.g., "Death March of the Penguins," "Dying Grey Whales," "Farewell to Frogs," etc.) and yes, "Global Warming Threatens Our National Security" (e.g., "Famine," "Drought," "Large-Scale Migrations," "The World's Checkbook," etc.) I urge you to utilize Top 100 Effects of Global Warming in your dialogues with friends, family and colleagues.

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