Observations of an Expat: Climate Change Outliers

COP-26 in Glasgow has been organised because of the general recognition that international cooperation on an unprecedented scale is required to prevent the Earth which we all inhabit from alternately sinking beneath the waves or burning to a crisp.

Every country has to agree to concerted measures to reduce carbon emissions in order to keep global temperature rises down to 1.5 degree centigrade. It is a classic case of a chain being only as strong as its weakest link.

The need for action was highlighted this week by a report from the UN Environment Programme that commitments agreed so far would result in temperature rises of 2.7 degrees centigrade. This would spell disaster for almost every inhabitant of this planet.

Any country which fails in Glasgow to agree to go along with measures to combat climate change threatens the lives and livelihoods of everyone else. Especially if they are major economies. There are four such outliers—China, India, Australia and, despite the efforts of President Joe Biden, the US.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison initially refused to attend the Glasgow summit. His excuse? He didn’t want to self-isolate when he returned to Canberra. He has reluctantly agreed to make the trip but the pugnacious Australian has emphasied that he will be arguing that Australia is a special case.

Its economy is heavily dependent on coal mining and exports. Australia produces some of the world’s finest highest quality anthracite coal that commands premium prices on world markets. Coal represents ten percent of Australia’s GDP and 29 percent of its exports. Morrison refuses to stop mining and exporting coal.

China continues to burn it. With the result that it’s the world’s biggest carbon emitter—27 percent of the global total. China is also the world’s biggest producer of coal. Half of the world’s 7.7 billion tonnes of coal mined last year came from China which employs 4 million people in the industry. China continues to build coal-fired electricity plants—24 so far this year.

But at the same time, it is investing heavily in solar energy; is a world leader in tree planting and produces half of the world’s electric cars. None of which, according to climatologists, is enough if the world has any chance of reducing global temperature rises to 1.5 percent by the end of the century.

But there is a political problem. The government needs to deliver on its promise to lift all of the Chinese people out of poverty. It cannot do that without economic growth and industrialisation and that cannot be achieved without energy.

President Xi Jinping will be conspicuous by his absence in Glasgow.

The same poverty trap problem is faced by India which is nipping at Chinese economic heels. India is another major coal producer—600 million tonnes a year and 3.6 million coal-related jobs. The Indians have refused to set any targets for lowering carbon emissions. Instead, they have tied emission levels to economic growth. And as the economy is growing emission levels will inevitably.

The good news is that India, like China, is heavily into tree planting and investing in solar energy. But it needs to spend more on the solar front and, like the rest of the developing world, wants the money to come from the developed world which has so far consistently missed its pledges on climate change aid.

While India and China are trying to improve living standards, America is working hard to maintain them. The US economy is built on the back of fossil fuels—coal, gas and oil. Cars, heating, industries, air conditioning… they all produce vast quantities of energy and emit greenhouse gases.

The biggest emitters are cars—29 percent of the nation’s total. But post war America is built on super highways criss-crossing the continent to carry people and goods vast distances. Changing that will require a major change in lifestyle which will be difficult to sell to a public wedded to the benefits of the American dream.

Joe Biden—unlike his predecessor—is a supporter of climate change policies. But his core climate programme has been blocked by Republican senators and Democratic Senator Joe Mancin from the coal producing state of West Virginia. The result is that Biden will arrive in Glasgow with little more than good intentions and fine words. More is needed.

* Tom Arms is the Foreign Editor of Liberal Democratic Voice. His book “America Made in Britain” has recently been published by Amberley Books. He is also the author of “The Encyclopaedia of the Cold War.”

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

30 Comments

  • John Marriott 30th Oct '21 - 10:38am

    I have to say I have no great hopes for COP-26. I will be over the moon if I’m proved wrong. If not, how many more COPs will we need before we actually get everyone on board?

    Here’s a few ideas we could be developing, with or without agreement in Glasgow. How about substituting Green Hydrogen for natural gas to fire future domestic boilers? Indeed, how about developing an internal combustion engine to run on the same gas.? I believe that several manufacturers, including our own JCB, have already started research. How about tidal power, which our expert, ‘Jeff’, dismisses as “too expensive”? After all, when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, the tide still keeps ebbing and flowing. If countries like China, India, Australia and, to a lesser extent, the USA continue not to play ball, how about a bit more research into carbon capture technology or even so called ‘gasification’. There’s a lot that could be achieved.

  • There just had to be some good news from somewhere in the world where someone has been successful in changing, even just a little project, to the benefit of the environment to lift the all pervading gloom that greets us all on awakening each morning, even if Covid, the proliferation of nuclear arms, unnecessary battles with erstwhile allies over fish and of course Boris Johnson are not enough to contend with, at least the sun is shining here at the moment, Hurrah!!

  • Jenny Barnes 30th Oct '21 - 11:45am

    Hydrogen production will need to be concentrated on sectors where electrification is difficult to impossible. Aviation, shipping, steel, possibly HGVs. Home heating can be done with heatpumps (and insulation, where are the changes to building regs?) and we already have electric cars – but we will need to use less transport as well. Cycling and walking are good. So are electric trains, and maybe overhead power for HGVs on motorways.

    As for CCS – see this honest government ad (language warning)

  • Planting trees sounds a nice way to reduce carbon levels, however, they are only the first step in the carbon capture chain. We need to have mechanisms for those trees to be buried (old coal mines etc.) and new trees planted in their place so more carbon can be captured…

  • John Marriott 30th Oct '21 - 4:49pm

    @Jenny Barnes
    “Hydrogen production will need to be concentrated on sectors where electrification is difficult to impossible”. Why? Cycling and walking might be good. You try getting around in Lincolnshire without a car. “Overhead power for HGV on motorways”? You cannot be serious! You dismiss hydrogen at your peril, in my opinion. That ad is just a joke – literally.

    Of course the electric motor is part of the answer but not the complete answer when it comes to getting from A to B.

  • Nonconformistradical 30th Oct '21 - 5:03pm

    “Cycling and walking might be good. You try getting around in Lincolnshire without a car.”

    As a rural resident (not Lincolnshire but I’ve been there a number of times) I sympathise with John Marriott.

    I don’t know if John lives in a town there, but the norm for rural residents these days seems to be no bus services either.

  • Barry Lofty 30th Oct '21 - 5:37pm

    Every generation has witnessed great changes in the world and I have no doubt the same will happen in the future, if my parents were able to witness life today they would be amazed at our way of life and the technology that allows it, and that has happened in a relatively short time span, which gives me immense optimism for my children and grandchildren if you try to ignore all the other scenarios that could occur?

  • Brad Barrows 30th Oct '21 - 5:56pm

    @Barry Lofty
    You are correct that that recent generations have seen huge advances in living standards and increased emissions have been a consequence. Some of the younger generation may be particularly vocal in demanding reductions in emissions, but I doubt the majority will be willing to accept a reduction in living standards and lifestyles. So the challenge is to achieve as much of a reduction in emissions that is possible while maintaining living standards.

  • Barry Lofty 30th Oct '21 - 6:08pm

    Brad [email protected] I cannot argue with your assessment!!

  • Nonconformistradical 30th Oct '21 - 6:34pm

    To add to what Brad Barrows said about technological advances – as well as increased emissions there is the problem of environmental degradation. All those gadgets needing a variety of metals has led to a great deal of open-cast type mining – digging up very large areas of land to extract small quantities of useful/valuable metals and with a very large amount of waste. And given the water used in refining them plenty of opportunities for polluting the area with contaimated water.

  • Barry Lofty 30th Oct '21 - 6:58pm

    Just to add that these same or similar metals will be needed to feed the massive increase in battery production, there is always an environmental impact?

  • Jenny Barnes 30th Oct '21 - 9:32pm

    “why”
    because creating hydrogen and then using it in fuel cells or engines is much less efficient than using the electricity directly.
    Walking and cycling clearly aren’t a solution for relatively long distances, but up to 5 miles cycling is within most people’s capability. See Holland
    HGVs
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jul/27/uk-government-backs-scheme-for-motorway-cables-to-power-lorries

  • Barry Lofty 30th Oct ’21 – 6:58pm:
    Just to add that these same or similar metals will be needed to feed the massive increase in battery production, there is always an environmental impact?

    And an economic impact. The two principal metals required to manufacture lithium-ion batteries have rocketed in price this year…

    Cobalt:
    https://tradingeconomics.com/commodity/cobalt

    Cobalt increased 24,355 USD/MT or 75.66% since the beginning of 2021, according to trading on a contract for difference (CFD) that tracks the benchmark market for this commodity.

    Lithium:
    https://tradingeconomics.com/commodity/lithium

    Lithium carbonate prices in China rose to above 190,00 yuan per tonne, the highest on record due to growing demand and tight supply. Prices for the silvery-white metal, which is a key ingredient to power electric vehicles, skyrocketed over the past year, as automakers and battery manufacturers race to secure supplies amid a global push for less-polluting energy sources. According to a new research report from Bank of America’s global research department, the global electric vehicle industry faces an imminent threat that its battery supply could run out as early as 2025.

  • Paul Fisher 31st Oct '21 - 3:28am

    Start by reducing energy consumption. INSULATE BRITAIN

  • John Marriott 31st Oct '21 - 7:54am

    @Jenny Barnes
    Driving an electric vehicle is fine by me. I’m hoping to get a plug in hybrid next year when the lease on my current diesel runs out. Not a full electric – I’m hedging my bets, as I don’t want to be stuck looking for a suitable charging point on the occasional long journeys I make.

    Recharging will be an issue for many people, especially those living in flats and terrace houses. We used to have to heat our car engines over night and often during the day when I lived in Canada and all apartment blocks had multiple plug in points in their car parks. That’s yet to happen over here.

    Also, the heat pumps being promoted are ridiculously expensive and their installation may cause considerable disruption. We already have networks of gas pipes and I am led to believe that modern boilers can be converted to burning hydrogen rather like devices could be converted to burn natural rather than town gas in the 1960s.

    I don’t know whether you are a motorist; but I can foresee many problems if we rely completely on batteries powering our vehicles. ‘Jeff’ has quite rightly highlighted the rise in the cost of certain metals and guess who is cornering the market for these?

    No, of course we need to reduce our carbon footprint; but we need to keep an open mind. Hydrogen could still have a massive part to play in making this happen.

  • Christopher Moore 31st Oct '21 - 8:10am

    Let’s look on the bright side.

    We have already had one nuclear war. There’s a very significant chance of another in what’s left of the 21st century.

    A decent-sized nuclear war will not only reduce over-population, but also put a good supply of particulates into the atmosphere, reducing temperatures world-wide.

    This is an issue that has been forgotten. But I believe it’s more likely to do for humanity than the dire problem of climate change.

  • Nonconformistradical 31st Oct '21 - 8:17am

    @Jenny Barnes
    “Walking and cycling clearly aren’t a solution for relatively long distances, but up to 5 miles cycling is within most people’s capability. See Holland”

    Have you ever been to Holland?

    It’s a very flat country. It has a long history and culture of cycling and hence has created the infrastructure to accomodate safe cycling, sometimes but not always separating cyclists from other road traffic.

    It’s a while since I’ve been there – but as I recall rules of the road require drivers of motor vehicles to give way to cyclists in many situations. I’m struggling to see that happening here.

    Our country is one of very mixed terrain. There are parts of some towns and cities which are flat or flattish and amenable to cycling, but the same towns/cities may also have hillier areas which restrict where many people might be able to cycle any distance.

    Many other places have streets which may be too narrow to accomodate cyclists alongside vehicles. Likewise many rural roads – where also the behaviour of many car drivers makes it dangerous for cyclists.

    We have a road culture here which seems to favour the motor vehicle above all else.

    There are also issues around cyclists and pedestrians mixing – it’s the cyclist who has a potentially dangerous implement which, if it struck someone might severely injure or even kill them. On occasional visits to London I’ve been appalled at the behaviour of some cyclists – too fast in the vicinity of pedestrians. From the various news items about e-scooter riders being involved in crashes it should be obvious that there is a multitude of problems needing to be addressed before we could begin to make cycling safe even in flat parts of the country.

  • Jenny Barnes 31st Oct '21 - 8:47am

    “Have you ever been to Holland?”
    Yes. Spent a long weekend in Groningen, which is the top cycling city in Holland. Your point about it being a flat country is one of those myths about cycling. It’s the infrastructure that makes it possible, and it’s good infrastructure that would keep motorists, pedestrians & cyclists (etc -mobility scooters….runners with pushchairs….)safely separate, avoiding the risks of bad behaviour. Some cyclists do behave badly, but there are far more pedestrians KSI’d each year by cardrivers – even on pavements – than by cyclists. These days of course, if you are faced by a hill that’s too much, there are electric cycles. Where I live there are a few hills like that, but so far my legs have been up to the challenge. Groningen works by making everywhere accessible by car, but usually by longer routes than cycling or walking. As to narrow streets – round our way most of them are made considerably narrower by cars parked, sometimes on both sides. Take them away (awwww) and most of the problem goes.
    It’s my human right to store my car on the public highway!

    https://cyclingfallacies.com/en/ the first 2 are ones you mentioned.

  • Jenny Barnes 31st Oct '21 - 8:56am

    John Marriot ” I’m hoping to get a plug in hybrid next year when the lease on my current diesel runs out. Not a full electric – I’m hedging my bets, as I don’t want to be stuck looking for a suitable charging point on the occasional long journeys I make.”

    Congratulations. These days, the claimed range on a pure electric is 200 miles or more (VW id3) However, real life you could probably rely on 150 or so of that. And there are charge points at motorway service stations. And elsewhere, often slow ones at supermarkets. A big advantage of pure electric is that you’re not hauling a spare engine around with you. I own a first generation Nissan Leaf which has a real life range of about 70 miles. For long journeys I hire an ICE car, but most of the time charging at home is enough for what I need.

    2

  • Yeovil Yokel 31st Oct '21 - 9:08am

    John Marriott – I recommend going 100% electric. I’ve managed fine since 2014 and the UK charging network, though poorly-developed compared to many of our European neighbours, is much better than 7 years ago, as is the choice of vehicles. Real-world ranges are now typically 250-300 miles. Deals for new EV’s usually include home chargers, and you will pay zero road tax unless the vehicle is worth over approx. £40K (I can’t remember the precise figure).
    Delivery times for many brands of factory-supplied cars are now typically 6+ months, so, unless a dealer can obtain a car from stock within the UK (which might not be your first choice of specification, colour, etc.), I would start planning now. You won’t regret it!

  • Nonconformistradical 31st Oct '21 - 9:16am

    @Paul Fisher
    “Start by reducing energy consumption. INSULATE BRITAIN”

    I agree with you. Especially given the country’s poor record for insulating buildings properly and safely. And it might for many people be something they could start on and at least reduce (maybe without a very high cost) some heat lost from their properties even if it is just (perhaps improved) loft insulation.

    It’s a great pity that the ‘organisation’ which calls itself Insulate Britain appears to be so ham-fisted at politics.

  • Barry Lofty 31st Oct '21 - 9:33am

    I will stick with my very economical petrol Ford BMax for as long as I can, it will probably see us out, hopefully, as an electric model is more than I can afford at the moment, and I know my wife and I will not be cycling or walking to the Dr,s or Dentists any time soon, nearest bus stop 1 mile away and train station 2 miles away, but I expect the environmentalists will, like the Government during the pandemic, assume the old and the infirm are of less importance than the rest of society in their quest to change the world overnight?

  • Nonconformistradical 31st Oct '21 - 9:38am

    @Jenny Barnes
    “It’s the infrastructure that makes it possible, and it’s good infrastructure that would keep motorists, pedestrians & cyclists (etc -mobility scooters….runners with pushchairs….)safely separate, avoiding the risks of bad behaviour. ”

    I don’t dispute the importance of the infrastructure. I’m suggesting that it would be much more difficult to implement it in many places in our country than in mostly flat Holland. And we don’t yet have the culture to aid its implementation in places where it could be done. It’s much easier to restrict vehicle traffic in places where there is a long history of cycling to work etc. rather than the confrontation attittudes which seem to prevail here.

  • Steve Trevethan 31st Oct '21 - 9:54am

    Might it be relevant that provisions put into the Infrastructure Bill by Mr Manchin would benefit waste coal companies and that is a business in which Mr Manchin’s family specialises?
    https://readsludge.com/2021/10/09/four-waste-coal-provisions-manchin-put-in-the-infrastructure-bill/

  • It is interesting to observe that Biden’s agenda could be derailed by a single Democrat senator aiming to retain support from a community of 14,000 coalminers who will end up losing their jobs regardless of what Biden can or cannot do. And over here the whole COP26 summit could be derailed by a trivial dispute between France and the UK over fishing rights for 40 small French boats.

    Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote “All for the want of a horseshoe nail” comes to mind.

  • Peter Hirst 31st Oct '21 - 2:19pm

    The difference is that Jo Biden is doing what he can while China and Russia are not. We need more flexibility to accept that not all countries can introduce targets at the same rate. It is the West’s responsibility to reduce faster because we caused more of the emissions. Why can leases not be cancelled bilaterally on diesel cars, it is an emergency?

  • Jenny Barnes 1st Nov '21 - 9:08am

    “cycling infrastructure..It’s much easier to restrict vehicle traffic in places where there is a long history of cycling to work etc. rather than the confrontation attittudes which seem to prevail here.”

    When I was a child I used to watch the Portsmouth dockyard workers arriving and departing. They mostly lived in the Eastern and Northern parts of the town, the Old town and Southsea being more affluent, so a couple of miles away – and the cycles covered the road for hundreds of yards. We do have that history. Portsmouth is, of course, fairly flat, so far as your “Holland is flat” red herring goes. But flatness is not necessary. Infrastructure generally is.

    “the environmentalists will, like the Government during the pandemic, assume the old and the infirm are of less importance than the rest of society in their quest to change the world overnight?”
    I can’t speak for “the environmentalists” But I see no reason why the old and infirm would not benefit from a greener world, with less air pollution. Cars and vans would still be necessary – they can access everywhere they need to in Holland. When one is infirm enough to need a mobility scooter, cycle infrastructure would be perfect. As to your 1 mile to the bus stop, 2 miles to the station: An easy cycle, if one is fit enough, or if not, electric cycles would make it almost effort free.

  • Barry Lofty 1st Nov '21 - 9:45am

    Jenny [email protected] You make it all sound so simple which is why I framed my words the way I did, doing all these things you suggest is all well and good but not practical for many people. I love the countryside and was born and bred in that environment and had to cycle 5 miles to and from school and took the same journey when starting work but was mighty glad to eventually get a car and being able to arrive at my destination dry, warm and relatively fresh, I have just asked my 78 year old wife if she would be ok on an electric bike when she next visits the doctors, I will not repeat what she said!! By the way millions of people are struggling to put food on the table and receive enough money to live on let alone invest in this environmentally friendly lifestyle, I am all for protecting our planet but we have also got to use our common sense and take people’s concerns seriously!

  • @Jeff & Barry Lofty – There are other rare elements that are critical to the engines, for example: neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium which are used to create the very powerful magnets used in the motors of electric vehicles and in wind turbine generators, it is these or rather the lack of these that are likely to derail simple ‘green’ initiatives.

    As for BEVs (battery electric vehicles), the supply of minerals indicates there is going to be a substantial reduction in numbers of vehicles. IE. don’t expect a 1-to-1 replacement of existing ICE vehicles with BEV’s, there is just going to be fewer cars on the roads in the coming decades.

  • Roland 1st Nov ’21 – 10:05pm:
    There are other rare elements that are critical to the engines, for example: neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium which are used to create the very powerful magnets used in the motors of electric vehicles…

    Only those which use permanent magnet motors such as the Tesla Model 3 Long Range. The rest of Tesla’s models use induction motors.

    …the lack of these that are likely to derail simple ‘green’ initiatives.

    Electric vehicles are more virtue signalling than ‘green’ initiative. The batteries take a huge amount of energy to make and, in the UK, always charged by burning gas – that being the marginal supply (what you’d stand down first if electricity demand was lower).

    …there is just going to be fewer cars on the roads in the coming decades.

    The number of cars on the world’s roads is projected to almost double by 2050 with around 31% being electric…

    ‘International Energy Outlook 2021’ [October 2021]:
    https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/ieo/consumption/sub-topic-04.php

    Rapid GDP per capita growth in some regions causes their [Light-Duty Vehicle] fleet to grow more quickly than population. Non-OECD regions— particularly China, India, and Other non-OECD Asia—will account for most of the growth, and the non-OECD LDV fleet will surpass that of OECD in 2026. We project the non-OECD motorization rate to grow significantly from 92 vehicles per thousand people in 2020 to 173 vehicles per thousand people in 2050. We also expect ownership rates in the OECD regions to remain relatively flat, from 527 vehicles per thousand people to 533 vehicles per thousand people, over the same period. […]

    We project that electric vehicles will account for 31% of the global LDV fleet in 2050 and have fleet shares of 34% in OECD and 28% in non-OECD. Significant growth in electric vehicle sales and their share of sales throughout the projection period causes the ICE fleet to peak in 2023 for OECD regions and in 2038 globally.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • Rabi Martins
    Michael Big Thanks for the questions When I say BME Deficit what I refer to the make up of local Party Membership which do not reflect the racial profile ...
  • Malc
    Lib Dems are now odds on favourites to win....
  • Peter Martin
    Should be "MMTers generally don’t go along with the deregulation of the financial sector that we’ve seen in the last 30 years"...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Joe, I didn't mention that the Covid pandemic has also caused a reduction to supply so this has to be included as a factor. A combination of pent up demand...
  • Joe Bourke
    Paul Johnson of the IFS published an article on the self-employed It’s time we stopped tre...