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Kings of the Coal Habit

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  • Tim Jones
    Two articles: Tim Kings of the Coal Habit http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2162457,00.html By Jeremy Leggett The Guardian UK Wednesday 05 September
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 6, 2007
      Two articles:
      Tim

      Kings of the Coal Habit
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2162457,00.html
      By Jeremy Leggett
      The Guardian UK
      Wednesday 05 September 2007

      The fate of our warming planet hinges on six nations, and five of
      them meet in Sydney this week.

      Through his long years of greenhouse denial, George Bush must
      have been particularly grateful to John Howard. The Australian prime
      minister was quick to join Bush in refusing to ratify the Kyoto
      protocol, and has batted for his country's coal interests as
      trenchantly as Bush has batted for US coal and oil interests.

      Now Bush has had to deal with the impact on American public
      opinion of Hurricane Katrina and Al Gore's movie, and can no longer
      afford to ignore climate change. Howard, contending with a killer
      drought, is similarly finding that greenhouse denial is out of
      bounds. The flow of Australian rivers has fallen by a staggering 70%
      in recent decades. All Australia's major cities are in drought. The
      "big dry" in the Murray-Darling basin threatens 40% of food
      production. Global warming has become an issue in the January
      elections.

      Howard hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit
      in Sydney this week. Bush will be one of the leaders attending.
      Everyone who cares about the greenhouse threat should train a
      microscope on their actions. The fate of human civilisation will
      probably hinge on the fossil-fuel decisions of just six nations, and
      five of them are members of Apec.

      If we are to avoid tipping the planet over a widely accepted
      danger threshold of 450 parts per million of atmospheric carbon
      dioxide, we can only afford to burn fossil fuels in a quantity
      measured in low hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon. Industry
      estimates suggest that remaining oil deposits alone exceed this
      figure, if we include unconventional sources such as Canada's tar
      sands.

      As for coal, the energy industry suggests several thousand
      billion tonnes remain to be burned. Even if we believe fossil-fuel
      proponents tend to exaggerate estimates of the size of deposits, it
      is clear that most of the remaining coal has to stay in the ground if
      we are to avoid climate catastrophe. Three-quarters of coal reserves
      are in five nations: the US, Russia, China, India and Australia.

      Add Canada, because of the scale of the oil deposits in the
      Athabasca tar sands, and there you have it: the fate of human
      civilisation will probably hinge on the resource decisions of just
      six nations. Those who place their hopes in bolt-on adjustments to
      the fossil-fuel status quo, notably carbon capture and storage
      technology, face the problem that mass production of the necessary
      technology is more than a decade off.

      What can we expect of Howard, Bush and their fellow coal leaders
      this week? Howard has said he will instigate a carbon-trading scheme
      if re-elected, but will not be drawn on the all-important issue of
      caps. Bush opposes an energy bill passed recently in the House of
      Representatives that would place an obligation on electric utilities
      to use more renewables and less coal. He is endeavouring to run his
      own international negotiations in competition with the UN's
      long-running Kyoto process. On this kind of running, it would be
      surprising if the Apec summit offered any hope of the world kicking
      the coal habit.

      Would different leaders in the Big Six make any difference? In
      Australia, Labor is ahead in the polls, but strong on defence of coal
      interests. In America, the Democratic challenger Barack Obama, from
      the coal state of Ohio, has co-sponsored a bill to boost technology
      that makes gasoline from coal via a process that would be ruinous for
      the climate.

      Meanwhile, those not in the coal big league and best placed to
      lead the way to a different energy future are not doing so. In the
      UK, coal use is rising, renewables investment is derisory, and even
      investment in carbon capture and storage would pave but a short
      stretch of motorway.


      Jeremy Leggett is author of "Half Gone: Oil, Gas, Hot Air and the
      Global Energy Crisis."



      Deadlock at APEC Summit Over Climate Change
      http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/world/view_article.php?article_id=87019
      Agence France-Presse
      Thursday 06 September 2007

      Sydney - Asia Pacific ministers are deadlocked over a common
      statement on climate change to be issued by their leaders at the end
      of a weekend summit, a Japanese official said.

      "The gap among the members is still wide," the foreign ministry
      official said on condition of anonymity.

      Foreign ministers of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
      forum, which groups 21 Pacific rim economies, met over breakfast
      hosted by Australian counterpart Alexander Downer.

      "The foreign ministers stuck to their own principles on details
      of a climate change statement," the Japanese official said.

      "One group in particular remained opposed to introducing a
      numerical target in the leaders' statement, although Foreign Minister
      Downer stressed that the target is not binding."

      Australia has put climate change high on the summit's agenda,
      proposing a new approach that would veer away from the Kyoto
      Protocol, the main international treaty on climate change.

      Backed by the United States, it argues that Kyoto was flawed as
      it did not commit developing nations - such as China and India - to
      the same targets on cutting greenhouse gas emissions as
      industrialized nations.

      Instead it wants a new framework calling on developing nations to do more.

      The Kyoto accord expires in 2012 and the APEC summit is one of a
      series of meetings at which plans for a post-Kyoto agreement on
      reducing the greenhouse gas emissions behind global warming are being
      discussed.

      However, developing nations here are blocking US and Australian
      pressure to agree a statement that would include targets for cuts in
      emissions.

      They say work on climate change should be led by the United
      Nations, which is hosting a key summit in Bali in December.
      -------
      see also:

      Global Warming: Too Hot to Handle for the BBC
      http://environment.independent.co.uk/climate_change/article2934318.ece
      --
      <http://groundtruthinvestigations.com/>
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