Mitigation of GHG Emissions.
“Unless we change the direction we are heading, we might end up where we are going.“ – Chinese Proverb.
Whereas Emissions Trading Schemes have assumed prominence in the public eye as evidence of our determination to confront the causes of climate change, the notion that there are many other available strategies for mitigating Green House Gas emissions tends to be overshadowed, and talk of adapting to an inevitable global warming is often considered to be nothing short of heresy. However, any rational consideration of the situation must take into account multiple mitigating strategies and should even face up to the possibility that mitigation may already be too late, or too difficult – even Ross Garnaut entertains only “a chance, just a chance, that humanity will act in time and in ways that reduce the risks of climate change to acceptable levels” (Time to Aim High on Climate Change – Ross Gittins / Sydney Morning Herald: September 10, 2008 ). In this context, the development of both mitigation and adaptation strategies certainly makes good sense.
This edition OF WWWTools for Education offers a range of resources selected to present a broad view of the issues involved and available courses of action, with special reference to the distinctions between mitigation and adaptation, but with an emphasis on strategies for mitigation. A fuller coverage of adaptation to global warming will follow in a subsequent edition of this newsletter.
From the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:
In Climate Change 2007 (Working Group II, Martin Parry et al / CUP 2008 ), the IPCC defines mitigation as: “An anthropogenic intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.”
- It defines adaptation as the “adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.” Appendix I of the report offers a comprehensive Glossary .
- The Summary for Policymakers includes a set of Endboxes clarifying definitions and language usage.
Useful treatments distinguishing mitigation from adaptation include:
Updates on Emissions and Climate Change.
Call for Urgent Action on Climate Change
(European Commission, Environment DG / Science for Environment
: November 12, 2008 )- a new report responds to critics of the Stern Review, calling for consideration of mitigation and adaptation strategies, risk and ethical issues in economic climate change models, and political agreement on GHG targets. These were addressed to some degree at the United Nations Climate Change Conference
in Poznan (December 01 – 12)
Global Climate Change: Resilience through Mitigation and Adaptation
(Joanne Stone Wyman / Logistics Spectrum
: Jan-Mar 2008 ) – overview of climate change issues, with examples of mitigation and adaptation measures. According to John Holdren, there are 3 possible responses to climate change – mitigate, adapt or suffer; or maybe all 3 at once?
It’s a common complaint that mitigation efforts are pointless without stronger Chinese, Indian and American commitment to abatement programs – see for example John Garnaut’s Light in the Fog (Sydney Morning Herald: July 19, 2008 ). Here are examples of positions around the world.
CHINA: Chinese responses demand a degree of perspective:
An American white paper from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
on State-level Economic Impacts of a National Climate Change Policy
(Martin Ross et al / April 2008 ) analyses Economic Implications of the Climate-Change Mitigation Policy
, concluding “that economic impacts of a policy that reduces GHG emissions to around the levels seen in the year 2000 are relatively small…”
The Climate Change and Energy
site covers new responses, including the Climate Change Act 2008
, the Committee on Climate Change
, and the establishment of the Department of Energy and Climate Change
- Australians will need to adapt
- good policy will be based on good information
- the Australian Climate Change Science Program needs adequate financial resources
- we need a new Australian climate change policy research institute.
– for additional resources, see also the Notes and References
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme: Australia’s Low Pollution Future (Department of Climate Change, Australia / White Paper: December 15, 2008 ) – the final design of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and decisions on climate change programs. See in particular Chapter 4: National Emissions Trajectory and Target, which commits to a long-term goal of reducing emissions to 60 per cent below 2000 levels by 2050; the medium-term aim is emission reductions of 5 – 15 percent below 2000 levels by 2020, the higher figure being contingent on a comprehensive global agreement. Though these figures are in line with the Garnaut recommendations, any policy decisions on this had to be controversial:
Mood Mixed As Climate Summit Ends
(Richard Black / BBC News
: December 13, 2008 ) – widely varying views on the degree of progress. On a positive note, Adaptation Fund money will become available in 2009.
The latest Copenhagen Consensus
delivered a ranked list of solutions to ten pressing challenges. See in particular its conclusions on Global Warming
(Copenhagen Consensus 2008 ).
The Global Warming Challenge Paper
(Gary Yohea et al / April 03, 2008 ) proposes a mixture of adaptation and mitigation approaches, and further research.
Readings in Emissions Reduction / Mitigation of Global Warming / Abatement.
Mitigation of Global Warming (Wikipedia) “involves taking actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to enhance sinks aimed at reducing the extent of global warming.”
Strategies for Mitigation.
Low-Carbon Energy: A Roadmap
(Chris Flavin / Worldwatch Institute
, 2008 ) – “technologies that are available today, or are projected to become available over the next two decades, will allow a rapid shift in the mix of energy sources.
” Good introduction to alternative energy technologies. Note Sidebar 1. What About Nuclear Power?
available for free download
SEQUESTRATION / CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE / CCS:
However, the Australian Government is determined to pursue the technology as a central plank of its mitigation policy:
Carbon Storage Gets the Green Light (Sydney Morning Herald: August 15, 2008 )- draft laws to allow companies to capture carbon dioxide emissions and bury them under the seabed.
Innovation In Carbon Capture
(CO2 Solution Inc) – a bio-technological platform for capturing carbon dioxide from power plants and other large stationary sources.
Australia has an abundant supply of uranium ore – see for example Uranium Leaps to the Rescue (Peter van Onselen / The Australian: November 22, 2008 ). Given the absence of GHG emissions in nuclear power plant operations, it’s no surprise that the option has been considered. Ziggy Switkowski puts the case in Australia ‘Must Consider’ Nuclear Power (Sydney Morning Herald: November 13, 2008 )
However, according to Daniel Botkin in The Limits of Nuclear Power (IHT: October 20, 2008 ) there’s a problem that takes the shine off the option.
– refers to sources of energy that are naturally replenished, i.e., using them does not decrease the amount available for future use; sources include sunlight, wind, waves, tides and currents, geothermal resources, and biofuels. Renewables will become more attractive as petroleum reserves dwindle – see for example, ‘Peak Oil’ Drives Urgent Energy Alternatives
(Ian Dunlop / ON LINE opinion
: September 01, 2008 )
Learning resources for children:
Examples from around the world:
Kevin Cox presents interesting ideas on financing wind farms in his Blog
(September 24, 2008 ). He recently expanded on these ideas in a Perspective
broadcast entitled Old Money, New Money, No Money
– listen to the audio, or read the Transcript
(Union of Concerned Scientists)
(Energy Kid’s Page
/ Energy Information Administration) – K-12 learning resource on Tidal Energy, Wave Energy, Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion.
Examples from around the world:
Solar Energy (Wikipedia)
– covers a large range of applications.
Solar Power (Alliant Energy Kids)
– learning resources for students, parents, teachers.
Research and Development:
Aussie Panel Could Halve Solar Cost
(Cathy Alexander / AAP
: September 23, 2008 ) – a solar panel at the Australian National University generates electricity and hot water simultaneously.
– covers main types and associated processes, uses and issues
Geothermal Power (Wikipedia) – “energy generated by heat stored in the earth, or the collection of absorbed heat derived from underground, in the atmosphere and oceans.”
– one of the most promising but most underexploited energy resources available.
- Hot Rock Power Set to Take Off in SA ( The Sydney Morning Herald: June 04, 2007) – South Australia may be first off the rank, with commercial geothermal power from the end of 2009.
- Hot Rocks Rock! (Kevin Cox / ON LINE opinion: July 23, 2008 ) –“Australia can have zero net greenhouse emissions within ten years. The technology is available, the renewable energy resources are available and the conversion to a low carbon emissions regime will bring an increase in wealth for the whole country.”
- Geothermal Energy May Supply 5% of Australia’s Power (Update1) (Angela Macdonald-Smith / Bloomberg: August 20, 2008 )- the government’s $50 million geothermal fund is launched.
: We have access to vast pools of water, a simple combination of hydrogen and oxygen, most easily separated be electrolysis. When burned together, these gases complete the loop by yielding energy and water – there’s something poetic about the simplicity and the closure involved here, yet we are only just beginning to grasp the possibilities. However, on reading through Wikipedia’s Hydrogen Economy
, maybe it’s not as simple as might appear at first blush.
Fuel Cell (Wikipedia)
– an electrochemical device which produces electricity from fuel (on the anode side) and an oxidant (on the cathode side), which react in the presence of an electrolyte.
– news and information about hydrogen fuel cell technology.
(Market Watch: December 11, 2008 ) – over 200 fuel cell powered lift trucks will operate at Central Grocers’ distribution center in Joliet, Illinois.
- release sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere to scatter incoming sunlight
- cloud seeding
- fertilise the ocean with iron and nitrogen to increase carbon sequestration
- change land use to increase the reflectivity of the earth’s surface
Among the disadvantages is the risk of unexpected and irreversible consequences of global interventions.
Prince Charles Presents Forest Plan
: November 03, 2008 ) – a scheme to determine how much funding rainforest countries need to reorientate economies toward preservation and reforestation.
Reading level: Ages 9-12