A scientific focus on USA

This video was held by Michael McCracken in 2007. He is Chief Scientist in the Climate Change Institute in Washington DC, and I think it gives an excellent overview on the USA’s situation regarding Kyoto protocol. Kyoto protocol was international agreement, with serious and planned action for different kind of countries, were developing countries wouldn’t be pressed. So, why did the US walk away? The reasons that the government pointed out were the following:

-Developing countries don’t take action.

Developing countries pollution involve a small fraction, and even more, that energy is used just to try to survive. It was agreed that when those countries got developed, they would take the sames steps the rich ones should take.

-Scientific uncertainty.

Even if scepticals do exist, 150 countries ratified the agreement, and there’s really something more than just “green” measures in the protocol. It would mean a united action against a real threat.

-Economy is growing too fast, need to much energy

So, we have too much money, and we also expect poor countries to do it? Where’s the point there?

During the negotiations, it came clear that USA would have to face some problems that other developed countries didn’t have to.

It would hard to implement KP compared to Europe, because even if Europe’s new investments are replacing old sources of power supply, american population is growing 1% per year, and so it is necessary to keep all energy sources to cover the demand for more people. If carbon power plants were turned off, it would cause of shortages.

This could’ve been a valid argument, to explain US population and developed countries the situation. Another argument that the president pointed out was that we couldn’t do anything. Indeed efficiency improving is possible, but emissions still going up, because the government’s policy after resigning the protocol was a non doing anything attitude.

Not really focusing on the scientific and expert arguments, and this turning into not well based argument, is really hurting the real issue of the challenge we face and the things should be made.


Environmentally Friendly and Safe for Humans above All

One of the most up to date issues is waste disposal. We consume a lot, we do recycle, but we don’t know where to dispose organic waste. We haven’t got enough places. Most landfills are full, they are starting to close, and provinces such as ‘Guipuzcoa’ have to pay other provinces for using their dumps.

A possible and currently household issue is waste incineration. Governments defend it, because it is the ‘best’ and quickest solution. It reduces waste volumen to 90-95%, in the case of compressed garbage. Otherwise, it will reduce to 70%. New developed incinerators are incorporated with energy recovery as the incineration process obtains heat. Although, might only be useful over a 20% of this recovered energy.

Incineration, emits flue gasses and hazardous substances such as dioxins and heavy metals, which are difficult to destroy. All of which, are serious trouble to mankind and also for the environment.  Living around of any,are thought to be harmful and increase risks of suffer from certain cancers. For the good of all, are being designed new incinerators capable of removing flue gasses from the emissions. Incinerators are also very expensive and do not support huge amounts of trash at a time. Moreover, there are different kinds of waste therefore different kind of incinerators are needed.

In San Sebastian there is a proyect for building up one. However, the idea is still in the air, because the new city council paralised the proyect. Even though a year ago it was asigned the company incharged of the proyect. The city is living a time of uncertainty. Many proyects are waiting for an approval. For sure, this one needs a quick but sensible answer. It must be environmentally friendly and safe for humans above all.

The enemy of our enemy is our friend

Along the last five years, the whole world has been beaten by a global economic crisis. This crisis has generated unemployment and the economic and industrial activity has decreased greatly. Ultimately, we are poorer. Every nation is struggling to get over the difficulties this situation brings. However, there’s something which has got advantage from this situation: the environment.

Explaining this phenomenon isn’t a big deal: the crisis makes the people poorer so we don’t buy things (the demand is reduced), industries don’t manufacture as much products as before, so the pollution generated by those manufacturing processes decreases. As a consequence, less energy is needed because the quantity of units to produce is less. This is very important as both activities joint together represent around 40% of the CO2 emissions of US which is the second most pollutant country (surpassed only by China).

To shed light, factual information is needed so that’s what we need to analyze. In 2009, the greenhouse gas emissions from the EU businesses fell a 12% regarding the ones in 2008. Respectively to the US, the CO2 emissions fell a 9% between 2007 and 2009. This was provoked by the fact that oil usage fell 5% (in turn caused by rising oil prices) and that the coal usage fell 1% (which is something consider as half of the US nation gets its power from it).

In conclusion, it is obvious that this crisis is something negative that we have to face and get over of, but along doing it we should see the positive part of it and think that it may be showing us a new path towards a new De-carbonized energetic policy.

What’s next?

After Canada’s resignation and Russia and Japan also in such mood, the second commitment of the “Kyoto Protocol” is in serious trouble. USA opposed to sign in 2001 due to China and India, two of the most polluting countries, were allowed not to reach the agreed terms, because they are taken as countries on ways of industrialisation. On the United States’ manifestations it is notoriously reflected an economic issue, because those two countries are a threat to the world’s strongest economy. On the other hand, Europe will only sign the second commitment if USA and China show they are serious on major cuts on the following years. Moreover, Canada left the ship due to the USA’s resignation and China’s allowance to make a lighter effort.

However, China who is ‘seriously’ involved on the treaty effusively asks for a second commitment. It is true, that if we leave this issue behind everyone will make whatever they want. We have reached a point where we can’t look back, otherwise, we will be condemnig ourselves to ‘suicide’. We need to continue fighting for a better world, a GREEN world. Perhaps we should make a NEW agreement as Canada said when leaving. One that should involve every developed country on the world, including India and China. Like this, everyone will be satisfied. Now that it seems “The Kyoto Protocol” to be a failure, who is making the move? We need more DRASTIC action. WHAT’S NEXT?

Who will save us?

Kyoto protocol’s attemps to stop pollution have been in vain, lets assume this fact. Moreover, the economic crisis the world is facing has moved this imminent disaster away from the collective conscience.

Even when economy seemed to be healthy, many countries refused to renounce to any benefit. Now that we struggle with speculation and the so called “markets”, polar bears, trees and so on have been definitely removed from the average citizen’s mind.

From my point of view, there’s little economists can do about this, because any attempt to cut emissions has led to a cut in the income of companies, and this would be really traumatic for them. For example, when Kyoto protocol established the emissions trading system in Europe, Japan, Australia and some other countries, they came out with a way of avoiding any loss, by buying cheap carbon “credits” to companies in Africa.

So, who will save us? Is there anything engineering could do? I really think that future and present engineers have the key to face climate change, for the following reasons.

Engineers discovered renewable energies, invented the electric car, made low consumption machines, and have the knowledge to create new ways of transport, industry and the capability to replace nowadays technology. Engineers should provide society with more tools to satisfy Kyoto protocol’s demands.

Canada left the ship

On the 11th of december of 2011 the United Nations gathered in Durban (South Africa) to discuss on the climate change. When the conference came to an end, Peter Kent, the Canadian environmental minister, announced that Canada was abandoning the Kyoto Protocol.

The official reason for taking this decision was that the Protocol wasn’t working, but the real reason is that since the Conservative Party government arrived in 2006, led by Stephen Harper, Canada has been increasingly explotting its oilfields located in the province of Alberta and if they remained being part of the Kyoto Protocol they wouldn’t be able to keep on this activity without being sanctioned. In addition, Kent affirmed that this agreement was part of the past. Indeed, if Canada wouldn’t have given up the Protocol, it would have to pay a 14,000 million dollar fine for not having reduced its emissions compared to the ones in the 90s. In fact, Canada has increased a 28.8% its emissions.

So it seems that the Kyoto Protocol has become more an economical factor for the development of a country rather than a fight against the pollution. Proof of this are Kent’s final words: “Canada won’t return to the Protocol unless every main emissors signs it”. These words bring us a moral conflict: is it right to enrich at any price? I think it’s obvious that the answer is “no” but it seems it isn’t that clear for everyone.