Three Hundred And Fifty

Yes readers, 350 is the magic number so the majority of climatologists say.  That’s 350 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 equivalent that is the level we need to get back to so to have a chance to limit warming to just two degrees Celsius.

Do we have much of a change seeing that in parts of the globe we are already at 400ppm?  Well I hope so, or we better start thinking of climate adaptation and not climate change mitigation which is the less expensive of the two choices we have in front of us.

Personally, I don’t think all is lost.  Things have changed, at least in a few countries, but the overwhelming majority of the top polluting countries do not have any major plans to mitigate climate change and begin any meaningful action.

Can we make a difference?  Well, once again I hope so, but sometimes I just don’t know.  I would like to think that we are not complete idiots and will begin to lower global emissions, but looking around at the crazy political policies that even our own governments are making, I still think it is business as usual.

Let me highlight two extremely short-sighted political decisions that were made in the last few weeks.  In Victoria, our state government has reduced the state’s net solar feed-in tariff to 8 cents a kWh.  As the majority of residential properties are paying between 23 and 25 cents a kWh for every one they import, essentially they are getting ripped off royally.  It lets the electricity retailers buy it at 8 cents and lets them sell it instantly to your neighbour at the higher 25 cents, pocketing a profit of 17 cents a kWh for not even lifting a finger.  It makes justifying the capital outlay of solar PV difficult for the average bloke, and it certainly does not encourage the rapid uptake of renewable energy.  No sense of a fair go in this State.  I think other states in Australia have the same issue now as well.

The other crazy decision is the federal government’s back down from the negotiating table after their promise to buy and decommission a few large, heavy polluting coal fired power stations, and ramp up large scale renewables.  It was cowardice at the upper most level as far as I am concerned.  Reports are that they didn’t even put an offer on the table, just walked away.

Both decisions designed to line the pockets of the fossil fuel industry and keep things just as they are.  This stupidity does not give me much hope, and just makes me angry that our decision makers are so short sighted.

The founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben has it right you know.  He says we have a fight on our hands, and it is against the most profitable entities in the world which are the oil, gas and coal companies and their lackeys in the political system. (acknowledgement goes to Dawn for the link)


What do you think?  I do have lots of hope and believe that people will turn it around back to 350ppm, but my confidence often gets chipped away at. time and time again.  It is discouraging to say the least.

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Comments

  1. Kathy P. says

    Here’s one of the dimwitted morons we’re up against here in the States: http://www.democracynow.org/2011/12/9/lauding_collapse_of_global_warming_movement

    This year’s heat and fires do seem to be swinging public opinion back toward a belief in climate change, at least somewhat, but my fear is by the time it really becomes obvious, it’ll be too little, too late. Then again, there’s a lot going on at a grass-roots level that doesn’t address climate change directly, but is a positive step, nonetheless. Look at the local foods movement; I haven’t heard anyone say they’re eating locally to mitigate climate change, but getting most of your food from a 100 mile radius is certainly better than 1500 miles. So maybe we’ll head off disaster in spite of ourselves.

  2. says

    I believe it is going to take something HUGE to make people realise what has been under their noses the whole time. Hindsight grants 20/20 vision. When the Santa has nowhere left for his gift workshop and the shelf ice in Antarctica is gone and low lying countries and suburbs get water views they never dreamed of (oh look honey, there’s a beach in the kitchen) then people will wake up because they have to. Until then it can be hard to justify the change. I mean the Joneses have a new TV/V8 car/kitchen/etc and we work just as hard so why shouldn’t we? Or the 1 I was told by a family member – just buy nice cheap clothes and if they get worn once and ruined then just chuck them out and buy more. I mean they’re only a couple of dollars from XXX shop! Changing the habits of what has been for most of us a lifetime, or giving up the ease of buying a can of tomatoes from the kitchen over bottling your own is not easy.
    And then, as you’ve said, there are the governments who break their word. That’s a hard 1. How much can you trust that they will do what they say and how accountable can they really be held if they change their stance? Vote them out the next election? They only come back the term after and their replacement rarely seems any better (on the environmental front).
    Wow, this has turned into a sad and cynical spurt. I guess too I have my moments of low confidence in peoples ability and desire to save themselves and each other but we can only do our best to spread the word and share the knowledge and hope that it reaches people in time.

  3. says

    I hope we are wrong, but sadly it does seem like we only implement change when it is directly effecting us. In order for the government to join this movement, millions must speak up. Our governments must see that we are not just talking but really taking action. It’s sad that our world is so greedy that they only listen when they really must in order to keep the peace. I like Bill’s comment about us having to take a stand and even get arrested. We need more people like him encouraging us to make a difference. Even the message is delivered every day, throughout the day, then maybe people will start to listen. I believe small changes will eventually turn into big changes.

    I’m glad I came across this blog because you have opened my eyes on the things I need to change. I know it won’t be easy and definitely not an overnight change, but at least I’m aware of my actions now and will focus on the changes I need to make to help our world and our lives.

  4. Kathy P. says

    (Wow, I’m commenting twice in one day!)

    Here in the US, climate change (or as the deniers prefer to call it, “global warming”) has become such a polarizing issue (especially since the denier view is fully funded by Big Carbon) that I believe more headway can be made by not mentioning it at all. As I mentioned above, lots of people are doing lots of things that certainly are part of the climate change solution, but they also have other benefits as well.

    Here’s a really good example from a financial blog I follow called “Mr. Money Mustache”. The idea behind the blog is that if we all learn to live well below our means, save the excess and build wealth, we can retire really early and work on the stuff that really matters: friends, family, experiences instead of stuff, aka “the good life”. The following post is typical: about the mindset needed to reduce consumption and stop wanting stuff. (He seems to have a number of readers from Down Under, BTW.) No mention of climate change or anything like that, but the philosophy is clearly one that’s need to address this issue along with a number of others. So my point (finally!) is, don’t despair. There’s a lot going on even if it isn’t all – on the face of it – about climate change.

    The link to the post: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/09/18/is-it-convenient-would-i-enjoy-it-wrong-question/

  5. Andrew says

    The reduction of the feed-in tariff from the 1:1 “transitional” here in Victoria is unfortunately, typical of the Ted Failyou government, who are beholden to their mates in the coal industry and sadly, the Federal Government are not a whole lot better. While I tend to agree that the 66c Premium tariff was probably unsustainable budget-wise in the current economic climate, a 1:1 rate is a decent compromise.

    Unfortunately the Failyou government are hell-bent on preventing adoption of any new technology that helps to reduce our reliance on coal. At the same time, they’re reaping the savings that rooftop solar has allowed them to make by reducing demand during peak periods, meaning they have much less need to build new generation capacity.

    It is true that with current technology, solar and wind cannot provide reliable base-load power, however I’m at a loss to understand why things like distributed generation (small, efficient gas-powered generators, located close to where the power is used) are not more widely deployed. Using filthy brown coal to generate power hundreds of kilometers away, much of which is lost in the ageing distribution network seems the height of idiocy.

    While I get somewhat disheartened by the actions and attitudes of Big Ted and his Federal counterparts, all is not lost, even at the corporate level. We have recently moved into a new building and down in the basement is a gas-fired “trigen” plant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trigeneration). This provides sufficient electricity to run the building, while at the same time, providing heat and through an absorption chiller, cooling. The building also collects rainwater in 2 x 250,000 litre underground tanks, which is used to flush toilets as well as irrigate the (drought tolerant, indigenous) gardens. Excess runoff flows through a wetland down to the natural creek. We’re using efficient hot-aisle containment in our datacentre and the building is designed to maximise natural light in work areas and C-bus lighting throughout.

    Ths combination of hi-tech and simple is what we need to be thinking about across society if we’re to have any impact. Like it or not, the world has moved on and returning to the pre-industrial way of life just isn’t possible for most of us. Think globally, act locally works, but it needs people to drive development of building such as our new labs, or to install distributed generation capacity rather than build new monolithic power stations hundreds of kilometers away. We need to keep the pressure on governments to do the “right thing” rather than take the easy path of the old ways.

    Like you Gavin, I tend to get a little disheartened by the big picture, but when I see things at a more local level, I realise that all is not lost. However, I think our wins will be in spite of government, rather than because of it.

  6. says

    It’s easy to get disheartened, I think Bill McKibben is a little disheartened, frankly. But I’ve heard him say before that it’s important to keept trying to get people and governments on side withe the 350 message, despite the seeming hopelessness of success – better to try and fail, than not to try at all. I’m not very brave about talking about my opinions on climate change with those around me – it seems almost as taboo as talking about religion – I don’t know why. I suspect I’m not alone. I think those of us like that need to get braver. There are many many people making personal changes and causing change around them. Consider the Transition Town movement, which focusses very much on the positive, despite being about resilience in a post peak world. Bill’s right – it’s the fossil fuel industry that is the nub of all of this – they hold the strings that jerk all the puppets in the show. Gavin posted a video of a TED talk on his blog a month or so ago with a man (I totally forget his name, sorry, he’s probably very famous too)who talked about the fact that developed countries tend to make necessary drastic changes only in the face of actual crisis – like war. WWII forced several countries to introduce rationing of food staples, something no one would have done voluntarily, but grudgingly went along with when given no option. The point he made (what WAS his name) was that with climate change the crisis point is not evident to governments – despite the fact that many of us think it’s here, governments don’t. But when they do decide it’s a crisis, they’ll do what’s needed and we’ll all grudgingly comply. Will it be too late? No idea. I’d personally rather not find out. Which is why I think Bill McKibben has the right idea.

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