Irish Presidency of the EU and Climate Change

As is pointed out by Frank mc Donald in an article in today’s Irish Times, carbon dioxide concentration in the Earth’s atmosphere is at its highest for 3 million years.  They stand at 400 parts per million by volume (PPMv)
I have seen no research on what atmospheric conditions are needed for the human species to emerge and prosper.  We do know that homo sapiens emerged in the last 100,000 years, when carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere were steady at 270 PPMv.  Is this a coincidence, or is this condition of 270 PPMv a necessary pre-condition for our ascension to dominance of the evolutionary tree.  It would seem wise to apply a cautionary principle.
Ireland occupies the presidency of the EU now.  We read of much progress being made on trade agreements with the US, along with reform of the Common Agriculture Policy, but sadly not an awful lot about climate change, and a long term vision for decarbonising European Electricity.
A pity this, given that Ireland is where John Tyndell came from.  He is the man who did much of the experimentation in the 1860s which proved how CO2 influenced the energy content of our atmosphere.  The energy content regulates atmospheric temperature, the amount of water vapour present in the atmosphere, the internal energy in clouds, the average wind speed etc.
Extreme weather events, including droughts, tornados, hurricanes, typhoons, inundations, are escalating causing flooding, forest fires, food shortages, and human suffering on scales previously unknown to the species.  One particular instance of climate change is the disappearance of the polar ice caps.  Mainstream will be drawing attention to the great reductions observed in the Arctic ice, by sponsoring a team of rowers who will row across the North West passage this summer.
The need to move away from fossil fuels has been recognised for some time now.  Lord Nicholas Stern wrote a report which showed that we could contain the rise in temperature to 2 degrees centigrade, if annually one percent of global GDP were to be spent on combating climate change. He also pointed out that it would be much more expensive to try and correct the situation at higher concentrations of CO2.  Similar proposals are being made by the Potsdam Institute in Germany currently.
Politics, moreover enlightened political leadership, will deliver on this imperative.  I would have thought that Ireland, which has recently signed an MOU with the UK Government to sell Irish renewable energy to them, would take the initiative and propose the one percent scheme for the EU.  It would make sense to incorporate these changes into an overall package which set binding targets for renewables penetration by 2030.  I note the EU Parliament has voted for definite renewable energy targets by 2030, so such a move by Ireland would not involve much of a departure from current thinking.

One Response to Irish Presidency of the EU and Climate Change

  1. Roger Faulkner May 24, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

    I agree with your points made here, but I want to point out the importance of targeted technology development as well. The future of offshore wind would not look as bright as it does for example, if not for the tremendous technology progress made on the turbines and on the power collection systems, the offshore construction technologies, HVDC technologies, etc. I sure hope a fair share of that 1% you mention will go into technology development and demonstration.

    There is always a raging debate here in the US on how to get new technology that we need; the debate generally splits between those favoring direct investment, as with Government research funding (generally favored by Democrats over here); and those profit incentives, including targeted tax breaks (as with the Wind Energy Production Tax Credit) or profit incentives in different ways, such as our regrettable ethanol mandate for gasoline, or the more effective incentives to give regulated utilities higher rates of return for transmission upgrades (the sorts of things generally favored more by Republicans). I think both are needed, but above all, we need a carbon tax!

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