Monday, October 31, 2016

No Fracking, Drilling or Digging: It’s the Only Way to Save Life on Earth - Links and Commentary

Source: The Guardian

Published: September 27, 2016

Whenever talking on the point of environmental protection, it is always a good idea to consider any political agenda which may be behind it.  We have heard that there is some political agenda behind the narrative of global warming.  On the other side of the fence, we have those who are cla
iming that the anti-global warming narrative shows little or no concern for the environment. Though there may be some truth to both sides of this debate, there may be more to this debate than initial appearances reveal.

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Just as most "debates" in the United States seem to last forever without making any progress, the debate over climate change seems to be formulated to distract more than it is designed to actually help humanity and the planet progress.  The typical situation is that both sides hold a valuable component to the truth, but in order to keep the country divided, the media sells half of the truth to one side of the fence, and gives the other side of the truth to the other.

Then to fan the flame of disagreement, the corporate media continually twists the science, twists the appearances of corporate agenda so that both sides continue blaming one another for the problems in the world.  Meanwhile the true cause of the problemthat being elitist greed and corporate corruptioncontinue raking in billions by preventing technological progress from solving the issue entirely.  This is the typical method of the Hegelian dialect.

What is the Hegelian Dialectic?

The truth to the situation seems to be that both sides of the debate hold a valuable piece to the puzzle.  These are the facts that overuse of fossil fuels combined with elimination of the Earth's forests throw off the homeostasis of the biosphere.  Over-carbonation is very bad for the present state of life on Earth.  It is bad for humanity and destructive to both land and oceanic life.  However, this over-carbonation does not seem to be causing the majority of the heating issue. 

According to astronomers, global warming is not caused by over-carbonation of the Earth's biosphere alone.  It is likely that the warming of the entire solar system has been a large contributor to the heating of the Earth, and that fossil fuels only effect a portion of it. However, instead of presenting both data sets together, every news outlet seems to fan the flame of the pointless, age-old argumentattempting to portray to one side of the argument that the opposite side as worthless.

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Again, both sides of the debate seem to be missing the entire story, believing that only their own side holds any value.  Yet neither side of the conversation seems to have caught on the this very strong possibility.  Consequently, the debate has digressed from being a productive endeavor, and has instead, become little more than a squabble between two opposing cult followings.  This is not the way mature adults operate.  Nor is it the way any productive society progresses.

In order to solve these problems, it seems necessary to kick the corporate media narratives to the curb, and look at both sides of the situation with an objective eye.  This may be the only way to make actual progress toward solutions in our world instead of letting the greed of corporate media dictate our opinions to us.

No fracking, drilling or digging: it’s the only way to save life on Earth

Do they understand what they have signed? Plainly they do not. Governments such as ours, now ratifying the Paris agreement on climate change, haven’t the faintest idea what it means – either that or they have no intention of honouring it.

For the first time we can see the numbers on which the agreement depends, and their logic is inescapable. Governments can either meet their international commitments or allow the prospecting and development of new fossil fuel reserves. They cannot do both.

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The Paris agreement, struck by 200 nations in December, pledged to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels”, and aspired to limit it to 1.5C. So what does this mean? Thanks to a report by Oil Change International, we can now answer this question with a degree of precision.

Using the industry’s own figures, it shows that burning the oil, gas and coal in the fields and mines that is already either in production or being developed, is likely to take the global temperature rise beyond 2C. And even if all coal mining were to be shut down today, the oil and gas lined up so far would take it past 1.5C. The notion that we can open any new reserves, whether by fracking for gas, drilling for oil or digging for coal, without scuppering the Paris commitments is simply untenable.

"There are tax breaks for North Sea oil and gas companies, and fracking, but not of course for renewables." -

This is not an extreme precautionary case. Quite the opposite, in fact: the report uses the hazard assessment adopted by the United Nations. This means a 66% chance of preventing 2C of global warming and a 50% chance of preventing 1.5C – an assumption of risk that in any other field would be regarded as reckless.

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Even so, to prevent the odds from becoming any worse, a 2C target means that we can use only around 85% of the fossil fuel that’s currently good to go, while a 1.5C target means we can extract little more than a third (the figures are explained by the US environmentalist Bill McKibben in an article in New Republic). So what’s the point of developing new reserves if the Paris agreement precludes the full extraction of those already in production?

The only means of reconciling governments’ climate change commitments with the opening of new coal mines, oilfields and fracking sites is carbon capture and storage: extracting carbon dioxide from the exhaust gases of power stations and burying it in geological strata. But despite vast efforts to demonstrate the technology, it has not been proved at scale, and appears to be going nowhere. Our energy policies rely on vapourware.

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As for the belief among some governments that they can overshoot the climate targets, then at a later date suck carbon dioxide out of the air: this depends on scenarios that would be no less realistic if they involved sorcery. The most popular proposal is to combine the capture and storage phantasm with biofuel plantations covering an area between one and three times the size of India, then harvesting the material they grow, burning it in power stations and burying the emissions. The use of a mere few hundred million hectares of fertile land would have to compete with all the other problems the biofuel wand is meant to magic away, such as the use of petroleum in cars and kerosene in planes, as well as the minor issue of feeding the world’s people.

All this nonsense is a substitute for a simple proposition: stop digging. There is only one form of carbon capture and storage that is scientifically proven, and which can be deployed immediately: leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

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Not developing fossil fuel reserves is much easier than breaking them open then having to close them later. As the Oil Change report points out, shutting working mines and wellheads means confronting and compensating companies that have invested heavily in production, and retraining and re-employing the people who would lose work. Some of this will have to happen anyway, if governments are to honour their promise in Paris. But their effort should be to minimise pain, not to extend it.

Their choices are as follows. First: a gradual, managed decline of existing production and its replacement with renewable energy and low-carbon infrastructure, which offer great potential for employment. Second: allowing fossil fuel production to continue at current rates for a while longer, followed by a sudden and severe termination of the sector, with dire consequences for both jobs and economies. Third: continuing to produce fossil fuels as we do today, followed by climate breakdown. Why is this a hard choice to make?

Our governments seem determined to choose option three. Globally, some $14tr is being lined up for new fossil fuel extraction and freight over the next 20 years. Governments are intervening all right: to try to crush political opposition to these projects, while using public money to protect them from market forces.

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I started DTM because I feel that informing the people is the most positive and impactful thing I am able to do at this point. I work at my articles as though each one were my job, as I don't quite have the health to keep an actual job right now. Somehow, I get more energized when I know I'm having a positive impact in the lives of others. 

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