Archived News Item
Carbon: A life and death issueMarch 29, 2007
How can I or WE make a difference?
Imagine yourself contributing towards creating a healthy planet by affirming and visualising “I can make a difference” We can make a difference! Imagine yourself and then imagine all your friends and co-workers joining with you to make a difference. Take the opportunity to do this alone or with others, when Sydneysiders celebrate EARTH HOUR.
On Saturday March 31,
Carbon: A life and death issue
One of the most serious ways we are polluting the environment and affecting climate at present is through carbon (greenhouse) emissions. The most urgent response we need to make is to find viable energy alternatives for fossil fuel.
Carbon is one of the building blocks of life, but it is also death dealing if produced in quantities too great for the natural systems of the planet to handle. Over millions of years, carbon has been taken out of the atmosphere by trees and other decaying matter and stored safely as gas, coal, shale or petroleum in the bowels of the earth, to be used by growing plants. In less than two hundred years since the industrial revolution, much of that safely stored carbon has been released back into the atmosphere by the human’s insatiable need for fuel and energy.
Protecting the earth’s atmosphere is a very thin ozone layer, within which a “greenhouse” like environment moderates the temperature of earth, protects its creatures from harmful radiation, and creates conditions for life to flourish. Under normal circumstances this “greenhouse” atmosphere, which is capable of regulating itself up to a point, maintains a balance that is “just right” for the garden planet.
But the point has been reached when carbon emissions (carbon dioxide CO2, methane CH4 and water vapour H2O) far exceed other gases. In quantities that have tipped the balance in the direction of “danger” for the earth’s atmosphere and its thin, fragile, protective ozone layer, carbon emissions have created a “double doona” or enhanced greenhouse effect around the planet. This means that CO2, CH4 and H2O are prevented from escaping. Instead, they are deflected back to earth and cause temperature rise and climate change, which have serious environmental, social and economic impacts. Scientists argue about the critical time-frame and ultimate effects of global warming and climate change, but there does not seem to be serious disagreement in the scientific community about the fact that signs of global warming are everywhere.
What to do?
We are all urged to do what we can to cut back on carbon emissions. And we can indeed make a difference personally: e.g. by installing energy efficient shower heads and light bulbs; walking instead of driving; switching off our electrical appliances instead of leaving them on “standby”. But unless we can persuade government and industry to take this matter seriously, we are, so to speak, “whistling in the wind”. Democracies are ineffectual unless the people speak! There are political avenues available for ensuring that our voice is heard on this issue, and the political climate is right for our voice to make a difference.
The sun is the earth’s natural and original source of energy. Indeed, all energy sources have a direct connection with the energy of the sun. Solar heating is an obvious replacement for burning fossil fuels in a country like
Plant and protect trees
One of nature’s most effective strategies for removing unwanted carbon from the atmosphere is trees. Young trees absorb the carbon we exhale when we breathe, or that we emit in the course of meeting our fuel and energy needs. Older trees safely store carbon in the soil, where it is used to nourish new growth. But excessive land clearing for agriculture – especially for cash crops like cotton and rice in
This refers to the trade in “rights to pollute” be they in the form of pollution quotas set by governments or “credits” generated from offset projects. This strategy, introduced by industry and governments, particularly in the
Rather than stop the flow of oil, coal and gas, the “offset” industry tells us that we can continue as normal. It is a seductive argument, especially for a country like
These are projects that are designed supposedly to “absorb” carbon from the atmosphere or that assume savings in emissions that wouldn’t otherwise have been made. Greenfleet is such a project, whereby people who drive cars contribute $40pa for tree planting. These plantations are called “carbon sinks” and must be maintained beyond the planting stage. In
The carbon market
The Carbon Market refers to the market in “offsets” as well as pollution permit trading. There is an “official” carbon market set out under the rules of the Kyoto Protocol, which includes both “offset” projects and permit-trading for compliance purposes. And there is a “voluntary” market whereby individuals and companies volunteer to “offset” projects. A critical and complex part of the bargain is enforcement. Although commonly referred to as a “commodity” (e.g. oil and coffee) market by traders, the World Bank recently likened the global carbon trade to “currency”.
What’s happening in
The Australian Government refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol, in spite of a concession to increase our carbon emissions cap by 8%, rather than decrease it! The Australian Government established a Task Group in December 2006 comprising senior representatives from business and public service, to advise on (i) the design of a workable global emissions trading scheme, in which
Google www.google.com.au “Carbon Footprint
From: Specific Issues Committee, Eco-Justice (Sisters Margaret Abbott, Mary Dennett, Patricia Powell and Mary Tinney). The Committee warmly invites your response to the article or the issue. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org