By Andy Hix, Event Facilitator and Director of HixMedia
You might think that increasing renewable energy capacity and energy efficiency are good ways to tackle climate change. Not so, according to Duncan Clark, speaker at our third HUB Eco Series event. What we actually need to do is commit to leaving a large proportion of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground, and allow energy solutions to flow from that decision.
Clark’s talk was based on his recently published book, The Burning Question, which clearly and concisely explains why our current approach to climate change isn’t working, and what we should be doing instead.
On a warm, light, June evening, Duncan explained that despite everything that’s currently being done to tackle climate change, global carbon emissions are still growing at the same rate they have been for the last 150 years, that is to say, exponentially.
New renewable energy capacity is being dramatically out-stripped by new reserves of coal, oil and gas. Saving energy merely moves where that energy is burned from one part of the economy to another. The rate of population growth has fallen dramatically since the 1950s, but has had no discernable impact in slowing global emissions. So what can we do?
Clark suggests that we should turn the problem on its head. Instead of focusing on efficiency and clean energy in order to reduce fossil fuel use, we should constrain fossil fuel use in order to catalyse the development of alternatives. Ultimately this means agreeing something that has proved elusive for the last twenty years of negotiations: a global cap on how much carbon we are prepared to burn.
So given the failure of the nations of the world to agree on such a thing thus far, how does Clark suggest we achieve that? He believes that developing carbon capture and storage technology would persuade coal-rich nations and companies to become more cooperative in taking action. He floated the idea that oil companies should have to commit to sequestering an ever-increasing proportion of their emissions. He suggested the financial regulation of fossil fuels and trade laws to squeeze oil production. Developing ways of sucking carbon out of the atmosphere could also be an option.
How do we achieve all of the above? In his view it requires a dramatic increase in public concern for the issue of climate. Again, this is something that has been attempted for the last twenty years at least. The real Burning Question, it seems, is how to make tackling climate change a global priority. Perhaps a topic for a future HUB Eco Series event…
Read the post event blog of HUB Eco Series stalwart and climate change photographer Colin Cafferty here.
This was a joint HixMedia and HUB Eco Series event. HixMedia is a video production company specialising in social and environmental organisations. The HUB Eco Series is an event series hosted by HUB Islington in London, creating positive debate around the key national and international environmental issues of our time. For more info contact the event coordinators Anders Lorenzen and Kirstie Wielandt via [email protected], subscribe to our newsletter, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.