Sunday , November 17 2019
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Solving environmental problems

Summary:
The Extinction Rebellion protesters say the world is in crisis, and that emissions must be reduced to zero by 2025. To achieve that would mean we’d have to drive much less, eat much less meat, and use much less energy. We’d rise with the sun and go to bed at sunset. We wouldn’t heat our homes in winter or cool them in summer. We probably wouldn’t fly at all, and certainly not take cruises. We’d have to stop using fossil fuels almost straight away, since their target date is just over 5 years away. Most shipping and freight would have to stop. We’d be eating locally grown turnips instead of mangoes from afar. Most people would never travel abroad.Fundamentally it’s a programme to abandon the Industrial Revolution and the growth that has lifted most of humankind out of subsistence and

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The Extinction Rebellion protesters say the world is in crisis, and that emissions must be reduced to zero by 2025. To achieve that would mean we’d have to drive much less, eat much less meat, and use much less energy. We’d rise with the sun and go to bed at sunset. We wouldn’t heat our homes in winter or cool them in summer. We probably wouldn’t fly at all, and certainly not take cruises. We’d have to stop using fossil fuels almost straight away, since their target date is just over 5 years away. Most shipping and freight would have to stop. We’d be eating locally grown turnips instead of mangoes from afar. Most people would never travel abroad.

Fundamentally it’s a programme to abandon the Industrial Revolution and the growth that has lifted most of humankind out of subsistence and starvation. At heart it’s a rejection of the modern world, of its growth, its wealth, its aids to comfort and convenience as well as to survival, and above all to its progress, its science and technology. It is as foolish and misguided as it is unattainable.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), made up of thousands of scientists from across the world, had recommended that we reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) to net zero by 2050.  This would enable us to limit any warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius, rather than the billions of dead and the extinction of human life forecast by the current protesters.

There is every chance we can achieve the IPCC goal, and we are already taking steps to do so. We are rapidly phasing out coal for power generation, and replacing it with renewables, using natural gas as a bridge between the two in order to speed up the replacement of coal and oil by renewables. Last year UK electricity was one-third produced by renewables, and the proportion is climbing as solar and wind power become cheaper.

The proportion of electric vehicles increases each year, making it highly likely that petrol and diesel cars, trucks and buses will all be replaced by electric ones well before 2050. We are steadily reducing the energy demands of domestic appliances, and phasing out incandescent bulbs for LED ones.

New methods of carbon sequestration are being developed, and more and more trees are being planted as part of a process of active carbon extraction. Moves are under way to introduce a carbon tax based on emissions, as recommended by the IPCC, and the UK already has a fuel duty set above the recommended level.

Several genetically modified crops are already being grown, ones that increase yield per acre and require fewer pesticides and fertilizers to leach into the environment. New ones are being developed that can grow in otherwise infertile areas, ones currently unavailable because of excess salinity or drought. These developments reduce the pressure on rainforest land, as does the development of hydroponic ‘vertical’ farming that uses minimal land.

It is predicted that within months cultured ‘lab-grown’ meats will be as cheap as those from animals. Their taste and texture are now said to be very good, meaning that mass production can go ahead. Cultured meats do not emit methane, and do not require forests to be cleared to produce animal feed. The same is true of the non-meat alternatives that give vegetable products the taste and texture of animal products.

The plastic problem is being tackled by the increased use of recyclable plastics, and of biodegradable ones. And microorganisms are under development that can feed on the non-recyclable plastic that is already out there.

In short, there is no crisis of extinction. Instead there is a pollution problem, one that is well on the way to being solved. Science and technology have proved more effective than hysteria at achieving this. We do not need to turn our back on the modern world and its prosperity, but can instead continue to drive, to fly, to move humans and freight around, and to eat meat. We do not have to stop doing what we are doing, we just have to do it in different ways.

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