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Monday, 28 October, 2002, 14:33 GMT
Is clean technology a viable option?
With the Kyoto Protocol expected to come into effect in early next year, the member states of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are due to meet in Delhi next week.
One of their main tasks will be to broaden the range of measures available to help combat global warming.
Yet ten years on from the Rio Earth Summit, when the world's attention first focussed on the issue, it appears little progress in terms of technological solutions has been made.
Such solutions will be paramount if the signatories to the protocol are to meet the targets set for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in ten years time.
Why is it taking us so long to act when climate change has been high on the international agenda for so long? Are governments investing enough in the research and development of "clean technology"?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Alex C, Australia
It's absurd that people actually using renewable fuel (cooking oil) in their cars are facing seven year prison sentences, and special police 'frying squads' are stopping the use of this renewable fuel! The government clearly favours tax revenue over the future of the environment.
I don't think that governments are guilty for our environmental problems. It seems that people don't pay enough attention to nature. Looking at the election campaign in Austria today you can see it very clearly. The most important issues are how to cut social contributions or how to keep budgets balanced. No one speaks about environmental policy or even the Kyoto Protocol.
I have often wondered whether a certain amount of global warming, except for the chemical pollution injurious to health, is not a good thing, if only to delay the delay the onset of the next glacial period. The main problem on a global scale seems to be the excess pollution caused by certain countries such as USA, China and their refusal to go along with the Kyoto protocols. It is such a pity as it goes against long term human survival on this planet. It is also clear that traditional non-renewable sources of energy will be the mainstay of power generation for many more years but this need not delay pollution mitigation measures for which the will of governments are lacking. Likewise, there can be solid gains if the proportion of power generation using renewable resources increases steadily over the years together with far more resources being pumped into R&D using cleaner technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells for vehicles, which causes much pollution.
Annelies Mertens, Retie, Belgium
No genuine, long-lasting progress will be made in the field of ecology until man fully realizes he does not stand separate from nature but is himself part of nature. To place commercial again above nature's preservation is to jeopardize our own long-term survival. We do not live on earth, we live with the earth.
Local doctors estimated that 7 people per month die in Hong Kong due to chronic effects of pollution. The time to act has long past, to delay will continue to cause loss of life. We have the technology, we need the will to implement it.
Roman Lajciak, Bratislava, Slovakia
Any new technological development should be environmentally
friendly. We have already done irreparable damage to the environment.
Enough is enough.
During the 70s oil crisis, many companies generated wonderful new ways to minimise fossil fuel consumption. When the crisis passed, they shelved the ideas and pushed more profitable fossil fuel burning ones instead! I just watched a documentary from the time period about a Volvo diesel car that ran on vegetable oil and still had normal specs (top speed, acceleration). Where did that project go, and the others from that time span?
Modern society demands large and 100% reliable supplies of energy. No existing renewable source can provide that. Until such a source exists, there will be little point in proceeding further. Better to spend our limited funds on energy source research than building dozens of windmills which can never actually replace coal stations anyway.
Who's to say that in 50 years we won't discover that sucking all that energy out of the wind doesn't cause some catastrophic change in the weather? There's no such thing as a free lunch.
Pollution free environmentally friendly technologies are available today that can start making immediate difference. The problem is that the governments of the wealthiest industrialised nations and world organisations are not promoting these technologies within their own countries.
Absolutely. All the damage to climate we see today is done only in last one hundred years. Our planet has survived millions of years and now it is our responsibility to see that it stays green and healthy for future generation for next several hundred years.
David Le Croy, Atlanta, USA
There are plenty of alternative, clean, energy sources available, and I'm sure plenty more would be developed if there was the funding and the political will was there. However, in this oil-addicted world, I think it's unlikely we will move seriously away from oil until it starts running out. Peak discovery of oil was a few years ago, and peak production is expected to be around 2010. After that we will simply have less and less of the stuff and the ensuing price rises will force alternatives to be found.
Whatever we try and do to soften our impact on the environment unless there are economic grounds to do so, unfortunately large businesses will continue to do whatever keeps them profitable. If we look at how we've tackled CFC emissions, this wasn't achieved by businesses being sympathetic to environmental campaigners it was achieved by governments forcing businesses to look at alternatives and the switch to non-CFC based aerosols and fridges was made when a cheaper alternative was found. Through government pressure, intelligent use of technology and tackling the major areas of pollution we can repeat this success.
For most countries, this is an international issue resulting in a "not in my backyard" attitude. Once, there is realisation that climate change is hurting more than what we are gaining by damaging the environment, then there will be a common conscious to work for the Kyoto Protocol.
Although it saddens me to say so, the problems with implementation of the Kyoto Protocol are all down to money. Just taking power production as an example, the pollution figures are staggering. To give readers an idea of the scale of our problems there are several coal fired power stations around the world which have such dreadful emissions, even under current pollution policy they would only be able to operate in the UK for 4 DAYS every year - they are running 24/7 currently. Our efforts (and therefore finances) really should be focussed on what will help the most.
Even if global warming is not happening, and even if it is not man-made, reducing potentially harmful emissions has to be a good idea. Likewise, reducing our dependency on limited natural resources has to be a good thing. The more we can move to using free, clean sources such as wind, wave, solar, bio fuel, etc. the better, regardless of any 'environmentalist' considerations.
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