Smokin' Mirrors: An Inconvenient Truth
For those of you who have entered a P2P site (Peer to Peer), you
will know the difference between a "leecher" and a "seeder". The name
is what it suggests. A "leecher" downloads a file from another peer,
while a "seeder" will be uploading to file to another peer.
Most files connect leechers to anywhere between 2 and 30 seeders, in most cases.
Last week, Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth was being seeded
by no less than 1200 people. For those politicians who still believe
climate change is not the most pressing issue of our times, they need
to know this, because it seems the people are very, very interested.
I finally watched An Inconvenient Truth with my son last
weekend. The most important thing I learnt from the film is that it's
not too late to do something about Climate Change. I confess I walked
away empowered to change, rather than deflated and defeatist.
Gore quotes Winston Churchill: "The era of procrastination, of
half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is
coming to a close. In its place, we are entering a period of
The 10 hottest years on record have all been in the last 14 years:
the hottest being 2005. The scientific studies of the connection
between CO2 levels and raised temperatures are showing a very clear
connection to one another. Gore explains that in the last 650,000
years, the CO2 level in the earth's atmosphere has never gone over 300
parts per million. According to Columbia University's Earth Institute,
"The concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere
currently stands at roughly 380 parts per million (ppm), an increase of
more than 35 percent over pre-industrial levels, largely due to the
burning of fossil fuels. At the current rate of increase, the world
could reach 550 ppm well before the end of the century, with
potentially disastrous implications for human well-being and the
Earth's natural systems."
So, one has to wonder, why are politicians procrastinating on the
firmly predicted event that will have a disastrous effect on the
well-being of all living things on Earth? The main excuse used is
economics. Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, who was an
instrumental force in Australia becoming only one of two countries that
didn't ratify the Kyoto Protocol (the other being the United States),
said that: "I am never going to support something that will result in
Australian industry and Australian jobs being exported from Australia
to countries like China and Indonesia."
On closer inspection, however, his words are a maze of
contradiction. On the one hand, Australian-Chinese researcher,
Zhengrong Shi, has been pulled back to China with a lucrative
development deal for his innovative photovoltaic cells. Australia has
enough sunshine to power a large proportion of the country, if
harnessed adequately, but the nation's most innovative renewable
designs are heading offshore, to the dismay of many Australians. In
addition, the government is about to axe the subsidy for solar hot
water systems, a move that seems, at best, utter lunacy.
On the other side of the CO2 scale, the coal industry has received
large subsidies for research into CO2 sequestration - AUD20 million to
start off with, and the industry calling for more funds to be injected.
Despite these huge funds, Australia will probably not see any major CO2
sequestration projects up and running for at least 25 years. The
process in itself is also highly controversial, with some geographical
compositions turning out to be incompatible with sequestration. In one
project, the stored CO2 began eating away at the minerals that held it
in the ground, so the CO2 began to escape. By not being a signatory to
the Kyoto Protocol, Australia is missing out on some very important
investment through Joint Implementation projects. Japan, which is
finding it difficult to reduce its GHG levels, is looking farther
afield to mechanisms such as Joint Implementation (which allows for two
developed nations to undergo projects that reduce greenhouse gases, in
turn earning them carbon credits) and the Clean Development Mechanism
(between a developed and a developing nation, such as Japan and China).
One of the world's most
Powering up the political
debate on Climate Change
(Pic: Willhemina Wahlin)
their coal-to-liquid technology to China. Australia, bu not being part
of the protocol, runs areal risk of not only losing valuable investment
funds, but also of allowing its industry to fall dangerously behind
other competitors worldwide. While Howard is dealing the well worn
rhetoric of 'job losses', what he's not tellign people is that, in the
years to come, China could well secure the investment funds it needs
through the mechanisms to far surpass Australia.
Voters need to be asking a very important question to their
politicians right now: if the government can't create sustainable jobs,
why not? As more and more innovative technologies leave Australia's
shore, the Australian government seems to be doing nothing but shore up
unsustainable industries. Notorious logging company, Gunns, is going
through the approval process for a new pulp mill in Tasmania. Gunns is
widely considered to be one of the chief destroyers of native forests
in the tiny island state, known for its amazing old growth forests.
Tasmania is the only state left in Australia that allows the clear
felling of old growth forests. Already providing subsidies of over
AUD200 million for the destruction of Tasmania's forests, the
government has just committed AUD60 million to build roads for the
proposed Gunns'pulp mill. Incidently, the Commonwealth Banks of
Australia's CommSec, stated that the proposed pulp mill will not be
'cost competitive'. Not only does this fly in the face of all logic,
considering Tasmania could earn much more as a tourist destination than
it ever can a logger's backyard, it is also outrageously irresponsible
behavior for a government who backs the fossil fuel industry all the
way. Logic would suggest that they create more sinks if they are to
maintain a fossil fuel industry, but it seems they are hell bent on
releasing CO2 into the atmosphere any which way they can.
One thing is clear - there are many things that can and should be
done in Australia alone to ensure the CO2 footprint of the nation is
reduced dramatically. The fuel efficiency level of cars should be
brought up to European and Japanese standards. Old growth forests
should be protected, providing 'sinks' for CO2 absorption. Why should
loggers not be made to grow their own timber? Every other farmer has to
grow their own produce, after all. In Australia alone, the amount of
arid land due to the clearing of trees to raise cattle has not only
caused high salinity, but has also desecrated a large percentage of the
native forests: the "sinks". Foresters should be given subsidies by the
government to plant timber on the arid land, leaving old growth forests
alone. Not subsidies to build roads that wind down to an ill-conceived
And all the economic (ir)rationalism in the world cannot escape from
this simple, and yes, inconvenient truth: without suitable temperatures
on the planet, we cannot live. We will perish. It's not a prophecy of
some 15th Century doomsdayer: these are the number-crunching facts of
the scientific community. Simply put, we are all being taken for a
ride, powered by fossil fuels. We have the technology, we have the
know-how, to make a big difference today, say, to quote Gore "for
political will". There is a very dangerous game of hide the pony going
on, and the pony is our very ability to exist.
If every one of those 1200 "Seeders" decided to make their new
knowledge of climate change an issue to the next election, it would be.
To make any real change on the government's thinking concerning this
issue, their constituents need to be in their face about it.
Make some noise.
For more information on the Kyoto Protocol Mechanisms and Japan's take on things, click here.
Sony and WWF recently signed a new "Climate Savers" agreement. For more information, click here.
For more information on Japan's New National Energy Strategy, click here.
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