Ideas & Debate

Why the world is losing the global warming war

firms-climate
george wachira_img

Summary

  • Global leaders will be attending climate meeting (COP26) in Scotland at the end of October to review and renew commitments to reduce carbon emissions to rein in global warming.
  • Although much progress has been made, it is evidently insufficient to effectively stop global warming impacts (floods, droughts, heat waves among others ) which are already here with us.
  • And unless the game plan changes, limiting global temperature rise is likely to remain an elusive target.

Global leaders will be attending climate meeting (COP26) in Scotland at the end of October to review and renew commitments to reduce carbon emissions to rein in global warming.

Although much progress has been made, it is evidently insufficient to effectively stop global warming impacts (floods, droughts, heat waves among others ) which are already here with us.

And unless the game plan changes, limiting global temperature rise is likely to remain an elusive target.

A few months ago, the International Energy Agency implied that the “red line” for global warming may have already been irreversibly crossed, and that we need to immediately start reducing production and use of oil to limit further damage.

A tall order indeed for a world that continues to produce and use even more oil. Indeed, energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is not fast enough to significantly slow down climate change.

Whereas renewable energy technologies are advancing quite fast, it will be much longer before we achieve a critical mass of green energy production and use at prices that are reasonably affordable.

Already, serious challenges exist in global supply chains for critical minerals needed for production and applications of renewable energy (solar, wind, electric vehicles) with China said to be hogging supplies.

Whereas climate impacts are universal across the world, mitigation actions are entrusted to individual countries. In the absence of a globally synchronised “enforcement” of energy transition, each country appears to be managing its energy systems in whichever manner that is economically and politically convenient.

Systems to enforce carbon action by individual nations remain key missing links in global climate war.

For example, China, the largest global carbon emitter, is still expanding its fossil fuels capacity while simultaneously multiplying manufacture and export of renewable energy technology.

This duality fits China’s economic model and interests, but its net carbon reduction remains in doubt.

Traditional oil producing countries and companies continue to maximise oil production to supply global demands which continue to grow. They are maximising supplies to benefit from high oil prices while they last.

Not supplying enough oil in a world of growing demands will create deficits and push up prices and inflation. By the time global oil demands peak and commence to drop, it may already be too late to arrest global warming and its impacts.

It sounded contradictory recently for US White House to plead with the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries to produce more oil to reign in prices and inflation, while the country is simultaneously enforcing green policies.

Balancing individual countries economic and political interests with green agenda is the challenge slowing down war on global warming.

Eventually, it is renewable energy technologies and development capital that will sufficiently reduce fossil fuels use. However, the pace of renewable energy technology deployment is not fast enough to create a critical mass that significantly prompts affordability and large-scale uptake.

How to substantially multiply supply and use of renewable energy should be a key point of attention for COP 26 forum.

The ongoing energy crisis in Europe is happening at the wrong time when the continent is hosting COP 26. Insufficient supply of lower carbon natural gas is forcing Europe to revert to higher carbon coal and oil.

And European wind speeds have been too low in the last few months, reducing wind power generation and confirming concerns raised about wind supply interminency.

The Kenyan delegation to COP26 should be guided by national green/economic interests. Future incremental electricity demand should be met mostly from green sources (geothermal, solar, and wind) while rapidly disengaging high carbon fuel oil generators.

Kenya should not rush into imported low carbon natural gas from Tanzania without first exhausting local opportunities.

Electrification of transportation, especially public transportation should be accelerated. We should not accept condemnation of our local fossil resources (Turkana oil and Kitui coal ) for these are needed to replace imported high carbon oil and coal especially for heating in heavy industries.

In the meantime, plant millions of trees for commercial forestry because it makes plenty of economic and environmental sense while absorbing many molecules of carbon dioxide. Seek carbon credits and funds where Kenya qualifies. The above is indeed a simple, honest, and pragmatic climate agenda for Kenya.