The Carbon Crunch: How We’re Getting Climate Change Wrong

Lisa Palmer at the New York Times interviewed Dieter Helm, a professor of energy policy and an advisor to Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change. They discussed Prof Helm’s book about the ‘carbon crunch’.

Prof Helm isn’t impressed with the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol which, he says, ‘has had no effect whatsoever. [It] is fatally flawed.’ Across the Pond, he says, ‘America has… got out of coal and into gas. As gas is half the emissions of coal, you see this really sharp fall in emissions… [but America can’t afford to go on doing nothing about energy policy because] gas is only a transitionary fuel.’ It’s looking good now, but it’s fossil fuel, so it won’t last forever.

Prof Helm then says, ‘Current renewables cannot [address climate change]. There isn’t enough land to do it. There isn’t enough land for biomass. There isn’t enough land for wind farms or for solar panels in their current form. They are just low-density power sources. You can’t run a modern economy on wind farms and rooftop solar. They have a role to play, but the only way to crack climate change is with new technologies.

‘There are only four ways of moving to low carbon: solar, geothermal, nuclear and gravity – that’s essentially hydro. There are remarkable changes taking place in all those areas and with electric cars, with batteries, etc. Now, what’s America’s strength? It’s the home of technology. It’s the home of the Internet.’

This story catches my attention because I’ve been thinking about biofuels. A few days ago Chris at Woodlands for Sale said that the woody material (biomass) produced by fast growing willow (Salix spp.) can be treated to make it into fuel. The Biomass Energy Centre tells us how it’s done.

Willow for fuel is a charming idea. It may have real potential. But Prof Helm said, ‘There isn’t enough land for biomass.’ He said that when talking in the States. Here in Britain, we really don’t have very much land.

We have brains, though. People are working to improve our energy supply. The UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) tells us what it’s doing in its blog The Current Event. The Energy Innovation Centre exists to ‘bring energy innovation and industry together in the UK as we move towards a low carbon future.’

I’m grateful to my fellow bloggers at the Raxa Collective for drawing attention to this story.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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2 Responses to The Carbon Crunch: How We’re Getting Climate Change Wrong

  1. Thanks for following sciencesprings.

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