As climate scientists descended on Bali last week to discuss emissions targets and climate change mitigation strategies for the coming decades, the consulting firm McKinsey released a report titled “U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: How Much At What Cost?”
The document gives a solid play-by-play of what the U.S. will have to do to achieve a low-carbon economy by 2030 (a summary is here). If we keep to our current program, by 2030 our greenhouse gas emissions will rise 35 percent over 2005 levels. By adopting a few new technologies and approaches – including increasing fuel efficiency in vehicles, improving energy efficiency in buildings, expanding carbon sinks, and switching to renewable energy – the report says we can actually reduce emissions by 7 to 28 percent in the same period. That’s a total reduction of 3.0 to 4.5 gigatons. (It might be worth noting that the European Union has already committed to cuts of 20 percent below 1990 emissions levels.)
The price tag? While initial up-front costs could be high, McKinsey says “a concerted, nationwide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would almost certainly stimulate economic forces and create business opportunities that we cannot see today.”
There’s one caveat: “Achieving these reductions at the lowest cost to the economy, however, will require strong, coordinated, economy-wide action that begins in the near future.” That’s consultant-speak for act now.
It’s a very thorough -- and needed -- report. It also gets at one of the principles behind Worldchanging: that many of the solutions we need to fix the world are out there already. But I come to it from the perspective of a journalist based in China, which suffers from its own set of problems -- many of which might be remedied with similar technologies.
China and the U.S. are battling it out for greatest greenhouse gas emitter. Depending on whom you ask, China has already overtaken the U.S. in emissions – and as the country develops, it’s only up from here. Unlike the U.S., however, China lacks much of the technology it would need to implement the McKinsey recommendations.
On the sidelines of the Bali negotiations -- which could set the stage for climate policy for years to come -- the China delegates are saying they’d like to see discussion of a fund for technology transfer. Here’s Reuters:
"We want to see a substantial fund for technology transfers and development," said Zou Ji of the People's University of China in Beijing, a member of his country's delegation to Bali.
"There's been a lot of talk about developing and spreading clean coal-power and other emissions-cutting technology, but the results have been puny, and we want the new negotiations to show that developed countries are now serious about it."
That fund could come under a "new body to promote technology transfers," he said, adding that it would take some time for negotiations to settle on specifics.
The technology transfer issue shouldn’t become an excuse for inaction in China. The country clearly has to implement other measures as its emissions rise. But as Americans discuss the McKinsey report, it would be great to see this idea get on the table as well.
Hmmm, technology transfer? China is already catching up on wind, manufacturing at lower cost of course. I think China "transfers" technology all the time, helped out by companies operating factories there.
Forget clean coal, that is nothing but a fantasy hyped by the coal industry. The real way to clean up coal is to turn it into natural gas underground using anaroebic bacteria. Forget coal mining and leave the toxic coal mess underground where it is now.
Extract the natural gas and use it in solid oxide fuel cell/turbine distributed power plants. These operate at twice the efficiency of conventional coal power, cutting GHG in half. These smaller units also allow for the cogenerated waste heat to be used for heating hot water or buildings.
And they also operate on biogas from the waste stream, by tapping the waste stream manure and landfill run off is prevented from releasing methane (23 times worse GHG than cO2) into the atmosphere from biomass acting as a carbon sink in wetlands.
The huge consumer market here in the US fed by corps like Walmart is funding rapid dirty coal power plant expansion in China. A market for renewable energy devices and smart grid equipment here, as well as plugin vehicles and geo heat exchange heating/cooling systems will impell chinese companies to manufacture all of them.
And since they yield lower energy costs, along with GHG remediation, mass production cost efficiency and competition will dictate their use in the chinese energy economy. They will rush to beat the world in low cost production, as they have with most other consumer products in demand around the globe.
How much will this energy revolution cost the US and world economy? It won't take capital and growth away, it will make economic and opportunity expand.
On the contrary, it will take high energy costs, actually acting as a huge tax payed to multinational energy corporations, off the world economy. And as all good economists know, taxes kill growth. Cutting taxes impells growth.
Multinational energy corporations now direct these huge "taxes" towards oil wars over their favorite commodity and buying out governments like the US government to further their own monopoly interests. Then their military industrial cohorts drain 60% of the uS national budget for "defense".
Defense of foreign oil fields from the people of nations like Iran and Iraq that actually rightfully own these resources and ought to benefit from their exploitation. Their "royal" corporate partners like the saudi ruling class then keep the knife of tyranny at the throat of their own population to continue to steal the oil.
Encouraging terrorism along the way. All the 9/11 terrorists and most of the foreign fighters in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia.
GHG climate disaster is already collecting a huge new "tax" as well. Take the widespread ice storms across the uS lately, the resulting power outage curtails business and puts a huge dent in growth. Now multiply that effect by all the effects of climate change related hurricane, drought, fire, flood, and on and on.
This well worn talking point by the corporate right, that green energy revolution will be a huge cost to the economy is nonsense. it will be a huge power shift away from the war mongering, politically corrupting, climate destroying status quo. that will hurt the interests of big energy monopoly, but it will help create good jobs and growth that will benefit we the people of spaceship Earth.
Check out the link - there's a bundle of other energy sources good to go and being looked into.
Earth's ecology and the good science of climate change have been sidelined by the big-business interests of selfish elites who exert control of huge concentrations of financial wealth as well as people with political and militaristic power.
The “powers that be” are evidently in denial of reality and unwilling to openly and honorably express their understanding of what 2000 IPCC Nobel Laureate scientists are reporting with regard to the ominous, distinctly human-induced predicament that is looming before the human community. That many too many politicians and economic powerbrokers adamantly support the soon to become unsustainable global enterprise of endless big-business expansion, does not favor our children’s well-being or safety, I believe. These leaders appear to have pledged their primary allegiance and reverent devotion to the short-term ‘successes’ of unbridled economic globalization, regardless of the long-term potential for catastrophe that such a recklessly unrestrained and unrealistic pursuit portends. For leaders of the political economy to conspicuously ignore the carefully and skillfully obtained scientific evidence on climate change, and global warming in particular, is an incomprehensible failure with potentially profound implications for the future of our children.
Plainly, what is necessary now is clarity of vision, intellectual honesty and courage as well as a willingness among leaders to begin “centering” their attention on the probability of converging threats to humanity that could soon be posed by the gigantic scale and patently unsustainable growth rate of the over-consumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities of the human population worldwide in our time.
Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population