Monday, December 8, 2008

The Death of an Issue

With the global economic crisis, climate change is completely off of the table as an important issue.

Even in Canada, where the crisis is actually not a horror show, no one is talking about climate change.

The price of oil has fallen significantly, it is trading only marginally above $40 a barrel at the moment. The costs of using fossil fuels has fallen far enough that there are no economic signals out there making businesses want to use other cleaner but higher priced fuels.

In BC we have the odd situation of the pro-business Liberals being much more proactive on climate change issues than the NDP which likes to call itself a pro-environment party. The NDP are opposed to both the carbon tax and new green power production. Politically this will likely mean the end of new action on climate change in BC.

On the federal level there is no agreement from anyone on a way forward on climate change, but everyone has stopped talking about it since Stephane Dion did so badly with his Green Plan.

In the US there is no talk of Obama taking any action on the issue.

The global downturn will slow greenhouse gas emissions, but nothing will be in place to deal with the spike that will come in 2010. As the downturn ends in the US and Europe, there will be increased demand for fossil fuels as the economy expands. This means that in 2012, global greenhouse gas emissions will be higher than ever and higher than predicted.

The reality is that governments are going to have to move towards large scale carbon capture and storage in the 2010s. A new Kyoto will focus on not on reducing emissions, but on how much CO2 countries will capture and store. One of the goals will be to get countries to remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than they emit.

Carbon capture and storage will require governments to have carbon taxes to raise the money to be able to remove the CO2 from the air. Governments will have to figure out what it costs to capture and store and then pass on the costs.