Breaking the stalemate on carbon emissions

May 26, 2010

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President
Illinois Renewable Energy Association

Howard Latin, a professor at Rutgers Law School, has been studying, speaking and writing on energy policies and global climate change for several years. He sees both developed and developing nations committed to an international stalemate that will make every country and all people worse off.

He is now writing a book titled Climate Change Policy Mistakes presenting his perspective that even if current proposed policy actions in the U.S. are fully implemented, they will not yield any tangible climate change progress or benefits. He sees all current U.S. proposals as too little, too late in reducing or stabilizing GHG concentrations in the atmosphere.

Professor Latin’s Energy Fair presentation will focus on the international stalemate as represented by India’s policies on carbon emissions, their justifications for their policies and the ironies involved in the likelihood that India will suffer some of the most severe impacts of any country as a result of global climate change.

His recent travel to India and conversations with energy scientists and policy experts involved in developing India’s position will add to the depth of his presentation. He  sees a focus on clean energy technology development as the only way out of the international stalemate. Funding renewable energy projects offers a solution which enables developing countries to continue their rapid development without further damaging the climate or destroying the wealth and living standards of the developed world.

According to the World Health Organization report of 1998, five of the world’s 10 worst-polluted cities are in India. Particulates and sulfur dioxide are two major air pollutants from the combustion of coal which adversely affect human health and produce environmentally-damaging acid rain. Mercury released in the combustion fumes finds its way into local soils, surface water and water tables, and eventually into humans from the fish they eat and the water they drink. The contaminated water is also used to irrigate fields, where food for human consumption is grown. India secures 50 percent of its total primary energy supply and 70 percent of its electric power from coal.

China and India have taken the position that they should be allowed to continue to increase their annual CO2 emissions since the developed world has already filled the atmosphere with carbon dioxide from their industrial development. Assuming carbon emissions must be reduced to prevent devastating global climate change, increasing global annual CO2 emissions from developing countries suggests that the developed world will need to dramatically reduce its carbon emissions to offset the increased releases from the developing world. However, it is estimated that as much as 30 percent of China’s carbon emissions comes from the production of export goods sold to developed countries such as the United States and England.

The developed world’s willingness to accept such an approach to reducing atmospheric concentrations of carbon has led some observers to doubt the seriousness of the quest to cut global carbon emissions. Accepting the premise that the developing world can increase its carbon emissions while the developed world must decrease theirs is seen as likely to result in the continued increase in global emissions.

Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair is Aug. 7-8, at Oregon, Ill.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. The Vogls and the IREA are members of the Environmental Hall of Fame. Dr. Robert Vogl is vice president of Freedom Field, and Dr. Sonia Vogl is a member of Freedom Field’s Executive Committee. The Vogls consult on energy efficiency, renewable energy and green building. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are active in preserving natural areas and are retired professors from Northern Illinois University. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the May 26-June 1, 2010 issue

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