What follows, is the gist of an argument DrummerBoy put forward during a University debate on the feasibility of sustainable energy and the cause of carbon footprints. His is the serious bit. The jury is out on whether I agree with him.
Fossil fuels are the remains of plant and animal life that are used to provide energy by combustion; coal, oil, natural gas. Almost everything is derived from fossil fuels. The shirt that you're wearing, the paper you have in your bag, the bag that’s holding the paper, the plastic that wrapped the bag, that holds the paper, which was also probably once wrapped in a petroleum based product. The car that you drive, the train you ride, or shoes that you wear. Not to mention the computer in your back room, the food you eat, the movies you watch, the milk you drink - all have been created, processed, pasteurised or affected by fossil fuel utilisation. Whether it’s the transport powered by oil products, coal used to provide your electricity, or gas used in your kitchen, fossil fuels have infused the very fabric of society.
Some renewable energies may be a cleaner alternative but what is renewable energy. Where do we get it and is it the panacea to our ills are they really renewable?
Hydro: Not enough rivers to supply current population levels
Nuclear: still relies on a natural resource (Uranium) and brings a huge disposal problem
Wind: Limited in it’s application and effectiveness
Solar: dependent on the sun, fine weather and improvements in solar technology to make it more affordable and compact
Ethanol/Recycled Oils: Not enough production capability to supply heavy users of petroleum.
Fossil fuels are needed to provide the heat required to smelt and manufacture components of renewable energy plants. Plastic and metal componentry used in systems such as hydro-electrical plants, solar panels, hydrogen cells or hydrogen power units.
Model predictions claiming fossil fuels or more directly their carbon emissions are the precursor of global temperature rise, have been used as weapons of proof of causal effects on climate change. However, reviews by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) agreed that in several sections of reports written on the last 100 years of climate change, there are still huge uncertainties associated with claims that fossil fuelled carbon emissions are causing climate change. They agree that one model on its own can be quite convincing but when other factors are considered, the evidence becomes unclear. Trends overlap, making it impossible to draw on one certain conclusion. Even the IPCC cannot PROVE that climate change is caused via fossil fuel emissions.
Despite all of the current models, an article by De Freitas in 2002 has shown in fact that temperature changes PRECEDE CO2 changes, bringing even more uncertainty with the current models.
So do fossil fuels create the pollution that’s driving climate change? It is unequivocal that climate change is occurring.
From 1910 to 1940, the global temperature rise was at 0.4 degrees, and fossil fuel usage produced 2 billion metric tonnes of carbon. From 1940 to 1970, global temperature declined by 0.2 degrees. It’s fair to assume (based today’s models and evidence) that fossil fuel usage would have increased exponentially with population and industry . . It did, to 4 billion metric tonnes of carbon.
From 1970 to 2000, the temperature rise was the same as 1910-1940, however the carbon output rose to a staggering 9 billion metric tonnes. Leading me to believe that the two figures (temperature rise and carbon output) are not correlated. If they were, we could safely assume that carbon output would reach 9 billion metric tonnes and a temperature rise of 2 degrees..
Ice core carbon testing has provided us with much historical truth. 13,000 years ago temperature increase rates of 10 degrees per 50 years were recorded, many times more than today’s figures.
This is a statement from the IPCC:
“It can only be concluded that there is no demonstrated evidence that links fossil fuel use to global temperature increase, and that the dominant effects of natural factors are still in play.”
OK that's the serious stuff . . . my own experience of climate change is as follows:
The Day the Tarmac Burned My Thong
New Year's day, 2006. We knew it was going to be hot. Sydney in January is usually around the 30 - 35 mark, high humidity and a cooling thunderstorm after a couple of days or a southerly buster vapours through after dark to bring things down to a temperature where sleeping with out being draped in a wet sarong is possible - I don't have aircon, just standard fans so the best way to get a good night's sleep in the heat is to wet a sarong, lie stark bollocky naked prone on the bed and cover you're entire body with the wet sarong - crank up the fan and enjoy the cool.
The day started like many other with hangover breakfast of fried bacon and eggs, the verandah protecting the house from direct sunlight but already the crickets were chirping, cicadas making their deafening buzz and birds had already retreated to the shade . . . always a sign that it's gonna be a stinker. ClareBear was at Muwullimba on the Sunshine Coast with friends so only DrummerBoy and I remained at home with BabyBro and Stressany next door. They have the luxury of ducted air conditioning and I could dull hum of the aircon fan blowing already.
The temperature was rising significantly. Hot Tip: never have a thermometer on your verandah post, the temptation to watch the mercury rise is overwhelming and you psych yourself ito physical exhaustion long before the temperature justifies it.
So, curtains were drawn, doors were shut, we hunkered down with Monty Python and a couple of Sci Fi DVD’s and switched on the fan. It was tolerable until the temperature reached about 39 at midday. We started to sweat, BabyBro invited us next door for lunch and to bask in the aircon but we were mid-movie and motionless so we declined.
By about 2.00pm, the mercury had risen another few degrees and by 2.00 it hit 45 . . .we have daylight saving in the summer so this was just about the middle and hottest part of the day. Birds were perched in the plant pots, their beak’s agape. Dog were comatose, hugging the toilet bowls to keep cool. We dipped in the pool, dried by the fan, dipped in the pool, dried by the fan. Direct sunlight on the pool meant that it was impossible to stay outside for any length of time without burning to a crisp and being no fan of melanoma, we just wanted to get ‘wet’.
Suddenly we were overwhelmed with a need for icy watermelon Of course, it’s New Years Day. Nothing is open except the servos and no watermelon satisfaction there. Even the ice has run out. So who doesn’t celebrate New Years? The Chinese bless ‘em so about 40 minutes in an icy Corolla and feeling cool as cucumbers we pull up face the oppressive heat. The breath of satan hit my face and the tarmac was melting onto my thongs. I mosey through the wilting bok choy and cabbage, glancing at mine host and say something lame like “Hot isn’t it?” Talk about stating the bleedin’ obvious. Yeay, watermelon a plenty! Make the purchase along with a couple of chocolate Paddle Pops and back in the car.
By the time we returned, the mercury had stabilised at 46, in the shade on the verandah. The aircon next door had packed it in and Stressany is submerged up to her chin in the pool. The giant liquid amber had nicely shaded the pool by now and BabyBro was in the throes of making Mango Daquiries. That’s pretty much how the rest of the afternoon went. We submerged like albino hippopotamussess. Drank daquiries and literally turned into prunes.
The Chinese factor came good at about 7:00pm when we all decided we were very hungry and staying in the water a moment longer would constitute a health hazard. DrummerBoy was sent up to collect the order, no delivery on NYD. We ate outside and as dark encroached were blown away by a stirling southerly buster. Windows and doors were once again opened to receive the cool and the wind swept through the houses bringing relief. Within about an hour, the indoor temperature had dropped to 'comfortable' and the mercury to 25!This might be a sweet anecdote but it is unusual to see temperatures over 39 in Sydney and that's considered bloody hot! Last summer, we had 3 days over 40 and this year, our Winter was cold but much shorter than usual, Spring is already unseasonably hot. We are in our 11th year of drought and NSW is under permanent water restrictions. No longer can we blame it on El Ninio or his contrary sister.
It is a fact that the planet is warming, temperatures and sea levels are rising, humidity is declining. Whatever the cause, it's vital that we unite, recognise the problem and do everything in our power to reduce it's impact. So peeps. Think about your level of consumption, your carbon footprint, your habits, your needs and wants . . . whether natural or man made, we are in an environmental crisis and the footprint we need to reduce . . . is ours!
And if you read all that . . .well done, give yourself a gold star!