The case for man-made global warming has been stuttering of late. The temperature rises predicted a decade ago have failed to materialise, despite man-made Co2 emissions continuing to rise.
According to International Energy Agency (IEA), 31.6 gigatonnes of Co2 were released globally last year, up 3.2 per cent on 2010. While I can buy the idea that a doubling of Co2 levels compared to the pre-industrial age would lead to an average 1degC rise in temperature – which would do more good than harm, especially for crop yields – I was never sure about the idea that this historically small change would lead to a runaway effect, driving temperatures ever higher.
But much of the multi-millions spent went into trying to prove that the runaway rise theory was a real risk. Of course, the widespread acceptance that dramatically reducing Co2 emissions has lead to fuel economy legislation that has had a profound effect on future vehicle engineering.
Ironically, the auto industry is now going through its most innovative period since the invention of the automobile. However, in the last few days, there’s been evidence that global warming is about to be put on the back burner by the United Nations and the aforementioned IEA.
The Guardian newspaper has just reported that the UN is about to release a major report on biodiversity, which will claim that preserving the environment and natural habitats will be of an economic benefit far higher than the Stern Report calculated for preventing ‘climate change’.
The Guardian says the report ‘will advocate massive changes to the way the global economy is run so that it factors in the value of the natural world. Setting up and running a comprehensive network of protected areas would cost $45bn a year globally, according to one estimate, but the benefits of preserving the species richness within these zones would be worth $4-5tn a year.’
While I wasn’t aware that we have a global government to manage this ambitious process, I’m sure the UN and various NGOs will step in. But cynicism aside, the Guardian also reports today that the European Union is about to ‘re-brand’ gas as ‘green’ fuel and could spend some of the 80bn Euro sustainability fund on working out how to extract the huge amount of shale gas that’s said to be under European soil.
And right on cue, the IEA has also declared that global gas production will triple between now and 2035. And it’s an economic no-brainer. According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Gas costs £81 per MWh to produce, hydro electricity from a reservoir £83, onshore wind (when it’s blowing) £94, nuclear £99 and off-shore wind £161.
All of which is good news. Gas reserves in Europe and North American could keep us going for another 100 years. It is a low-Co2 fuel and, most importantly, burns very cleanly, unlike diesel and coal. It looks as if the global scientific establishment is now going to turn its attentions back to saving the environment (which was the big issue in the 1960s) and has given a quiet nod to gas as the best fuel for the future.
I look forward to hearing more about the preservation of the Lesser Spotted Warbler and rather less about climate change, especially as the waning of the Sun’s activity will make it colder. I also wonder whether the Mk2 Chevy Volt will have a large compressed gas tank instead of battery packs.