In Tim Flannery’s books “The Future Eaters;” and “The Weather Makers,” he describes a situation in which our planet’s population’s has grown in size almost exponentially – for one reason or another – and at the time time decisions have been made to interact with the Earth and its atmosphere in such an extreme and profound way — especially in the last several decades — that we are now actually ‘making our own weather.’ This is something that very few observers of human nature could have predicted, and in light of what inadvertently may have been destroyed, our response to this situation in the near term must be especially creative. It is a huge challenge, and the stakes are high.
In his newest book, “Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis,” Flannery points out that even if we planted trees to ‘pull out’ the equivalent of 1/10 of the carbon-dioxide emissions on the planet, it would require a forest the size of the continent of Australia, and while it would be beneficial to drastically reduce the carbon dioxide, this would also have the net effect of warming the atmosphere, to an even greater extent.
In the last 30 to 40 years, there has been so much carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere that even if there were to be a complete halt of emissions on a planet-wide basis, there would still be sufficient CO2 to increase the planet’s temperature by 1 1/2 degrees Celsius in the next 34 years, and such a condition, very sadly, would entail the loss of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia’s Great Natural Wonder of breathtaking beauty. Many other significant losses would be likely to take place around the world. Gwen Ifil, of the PBS News Hour interviewed several guests who explained the significance of this warming of the planet.
A presentation on this subject has meant the departure from charts and graphs to the sharing of actual photograph; and investment in wind and solar forms of energy has overtaken the investment in fossil fuels.
As Tim Flannery points out the extraordinary contribution made by President Obama, who had great confidence that the nations of the world could work together to address this challenge:
“Paris, in my mind, is very much part of a process; and that process began in 1990, really, with attempts to set a baseline year for the Kyoto protocol. At the Copenhagen meeting, the world wasn’t ready yet to broker a deal on climate change. There was a lot of goodwill but we lacked experience and we lacked tools — and I saw that very close-up as Chair of the Copenhagen Climate Council.
What really saved Copenhagen was the political bravery of one person: President Obama. He walked into a meeting of heads of government of China, India, Mexico and Brazil and South Africa and came in with essentially a one-page piece of paper with some bullet points on it and said. ‘Why don’t we proceed this way. Why don’t we set out own targets as nations, add them up cumulatively and see if we can do about this huge problem? Those nations agreed. …”
The Copenhagen Accord was then in place, and although it is not legally binding, it is believed that there is a significant degree of pride involved in each nation’s ambition not to fail the standards they, themselves, have set.
Even the International Atomic Energy Agency acknowledges the prospect of nuclear energy to mitigate some of the worldwide effects of climate change.
IAEA Deputy Director General Mikhail Chudakov points out in this article that nuclear energy has ‘low life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions and has the potential, with innovative technologies, to serve humanity and bolster development effectively for a very long time.”
David Shropshire, Head of the Planning and Economic Studies Section of the IAEA, noted at the side event to the Conference that the IAEA is “looking at developing tools, training courses and expert and review missions to help Member States analyze these macro-economic benefits.”
Finally, IAEA Energy Economist Loreta Stankeviciute makes a related observation:
“In weighing the energy options for mitigating climate change, nuclear energy should be considered on equal footing with other low-carbon energy sources for its broader potential for contributions to sustainable development.”
Additional information is available in the joint publication of the NEA and IAEA, “Macroeconomc Impacts of Nuclear Power,” and for a discussion of the Paris agreements of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change,in the 21st Conference of Parties, and options for the mitigation of the climate crisis, relative to nuclear energy report, where responsible observers invite others to “Consider Nuclear Energy on Par in Climate Change Mitigation: IAEA at COP21:”