Feb 6, 2012

Beyond the carbon price, a Faustian bargain

Decarbonising the economy quickly is absolutely necessary, writes David Spratt, an author and researcher in climate change.

The carbon tax starts on July 1 this year, so there’s some tidying up to do around the edges — appointments, financing, regulations — and then a big tick next to the climate policy box on the cabinet whiteboard. Minister Greg Combet has already taken on the additional portfolios of industry and innovation.


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7 thoughts on “Beyond the carbon price, a Faustian bargain

  1. Coaltopia

    As I recall, Hansen in “Storms of My Grandchildren” advocates simple, direct geo-engineering, but not now – more likely as it becomes necessary (and perhaps safer/better understood) in the future?

    And especially not to geo-engineer to allow continued pollution: as acidifying oceans and other likely undesirable side-effects of a carbonated atmosphere remain.

    Deep cuts are necessary, but the tragedy of the commons continues.

  2. LisaCrago

    “some form of geo-engineering, that provides temporary cooling”

    you lot and starting to sound more dangerous than the End Timers

  3. Mike Flanagan

    Yes we are being led into a human and ecologiical disaster by our
    industry and commercial leaders with collusion from their
    conservative political partners.
    Recent reports of massive geysers of methane appearing in the
    artic ocean after the depletion of ice cover is an ominous reminder of
    our scientists identification of tipping points in our interference to the ecological and atmospheric
    These reports are studiously ignored by our press.
    Climate scientists attribute the current European freeze as the results of the depletion of artic ice and its’ impact on air currents over the Baring Sea.
    The USA EP Authority advises us that we are actually increasing our
    human generated CO2 and hothouse gases
    Meanwhile Mr Abbott and his frontbench argue that we shouldn’t be
    doing anything until China commits itself to address the problem.
    Well Mr Abbott, China committed itself to the reduction of their
    emission by thirty percent(30%) by the year 2015. Once again studiously ignored by our mainstream press and media.
    As the imperative for urgent action to both reduce emissions and
    develop carbon sinks becomes more and more apparent it is time for our
    political leaders to stop the political arguments and set about being
    honest with the electorate and the people they represent, as to the
    enormity of the task that confronts us.


  4. David Spratt

    Geoengineering — the conscious alteration of the planetary system, and this case the atmosphere — only makes sense in conjunction with reducing our human greenhouse emissions to zero, as we must, if the planet is not going to keep on getting hotter… and hotter… and hotter. There is no point burning coal on one hand and doing large-scale reafforestation on the other, if they simply balance each other out. Carbon drawdown is necessary by itself, because the greenhouse gas levels are already too high. As a UCLA researcher said recently: ” “The last time carbon dioxide levels were apparently as high as they are today – and were sustained at those levels – global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than they are today, the sea level was approximately 75 to 120 feet higher than today, there was no permanent sea ice cap in the Arctic and very little ice on Antarctica and Greenland.” (http://www.newsroom.ucla.edu/
    portal/ucla/last-time-carbon-dioxide-levels-111074.aspx, on release of
    “Coupling of CO2 and Ice Sheet Stability Over Major Climate Transitions of
    the Last 20 Million Years”, Tripadi, Roberts et al., Science 326: 1394-1397)

  5. AR

    As large as human emissions are, there is no way to avoid the release of methane (the most pernicious of GHG) once the permafrost areas of taiga & tundra begin to melt.
    That will be tip-over point when Bjorn Lomborg’s most optimistic suggestions of amelioration, and James Lovelock’s most dire predictions of inescapable consequences become straws in the tumultuous wind of changed global climate.

  6. Douglas Evan

    I remember that you have blogged about this particular wicked problem before. Hansen et al’s report has drawn attention to it again but just as there didn’t seem to be any good answer then, neither does there now. To hope that as yet unspecified large scale geo-engineering will come along to save our bacon feels to me like no hope at all. ‘Emissions need to fall off a cliff’ but they won’t and I can’t imagine a way out of this conundrum. I guess I’ll be ready to die about the time the kettle comes to the boil but I weep for those who come after.

  7. Bellistner

    Delayed action over the past three decades has created a Faustian bargain, or bureaucratic terms, a “super wicked problem”.I put it to you that what we have is not a problem, but a predicament. Problems have solutions, while predicaments have a bunch of bad options, none of which fully address the issue at hand.

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