Sunday, 1 June 2008

Sins of emission: greenhouse gas sources

Click on chart to see it full-screen.
Some immediate conclusions:
1. deforestation (18.3%), the greatest source of GHG, needs to be countered by international programs and aid to Third World peasants, not megaproject replanting scams such as "greenwashed" GMO soy monoculture and oil palm plantation in South America, Malaysia and Indonesia.
2. buildings (15.3%) are the second largest source of emissions; retrofits and LEEDS would not only create millions of "green jobs" but slow climate change more than taking every SUV off the highway tomorrow. Why is there no political action?
3. transport (13.8%) needs to be systematically redesigned to reduce carbon footprint. A container ship carrying Walmart "cheap stuff" emits in one hour as much as 325000 cars. A modern fishing vessel uses 15 calories of fuel to catch 1 calorie of fish. Industrial farming too used more energy than it produces -- even before the biofuel boom. Freight by rail is preferable to diesel trucks. Jet engines, especially military, are hideously wasteful. So far, the transport sector responds only to oil prices, while throwing its gases and toxins into the biosphere -- including your body -- as externalities uncounted by traditional economists and rightwing lobbies. Perverse subsidies are also a major problem. The crisis of peak oil may make political action, previously unthinkable, possible.
4. Heavy industry (total 25.1%) can reduce its emissions, as George Montbiot showed in his study of the UK. This is one of the greatest engineering challenges of our time. In order of importance are: oil & gas 6.3%, chemicals 4.8%, cement 3.8%, iron & steel 3.2% [note -aluminum smelting uses 15x more energy than steel], all other industry 8%: James Hansen identifies coal-fired electricity plants as the "number one" source of GHG. Peak oil plus government action (the exact opposite of what the Bush administration has done in gutting the EPA) can make a difference.
5. It is not enough to achieve contraction and convergence in fossil fuels. Other forms of pollution must be reduced at the same time: agriculture runoff, garbage incineration, ocean dumping, unused methane from landfills; the 2500+ new industrial chemicals, biotech and pharmaceuticals introduced yearly without adequate testing, to name a few. To make these changes means restructuring our industrial, growth-obsessed, fuel-addicted civilization. This is, literally, a life or death choice . See Jared Diamond's book Collapse; Larry Gonick and Alice Outwater, The Cartoon Guide to the Environment.

No comments: