This is an abridged version of an editorial written by Chris Darmon (reproduced by permission), editor & publisher of the Geological magazine "Down to Earth", Aug 2009.
There seems little doubt that we are on the countdown to the next general election. Some argue that Gordon Brown will go to the country this Autumn in the hope that we are all beginning to see some signs of recovery and will somehow thank our Government for getting us through the worst of the recession whilst at the same time remembering those stories of second homes and duck islands from the ranks of the opposition.It's always interesting to listen to the subjects being tossed around: the war in Afghanistan, the economy, pensions, climate change, etc. But ask yourself what isn't on the agenda - population control. Make no mistake, it is the ongoing rise in world population that is still the biggest challenge to the future of the planet and it is inextricably linked to climate change. No major party is going to go to the country on the Chinese 'one child per family' ticket, so let's get to more serious issues like climate change.
None of the major parties has a consistent and deliverable approach. Even the greens seem to be living in cloud cuckoo land in the vain belief that so far largely untried technologies can deliver big time, on time and at an affordable cost. Some hope on that one!
What are our real options if we are to meet the emissions targets that we have set for ourselves and which we are signed up to on the world stage? Firstly any newly elected UK government must act decisively and quickly. It has got to use known techology that can grab hold of major power installations that currently generate 'dirty' electricity. Wind, wave, solar and tidal power come in the realms of tinkering at the edges and untried technology. They are fine if we have the time, but we don't.
So what are the real alternatives? One, we embark on a major nuclear programme. Two, we gather together all we know about clean burn coal generation, sulphur scrubbing and carbon dioxide capture. With a bit of luck some of the existing coal-fired stations can be adapted. Three, we embark on technological solutions that can deliver real reductions in the demand for power, focusing on big users such as street lighting. We also need to take a close look at housing - insulation, energy saving, solar.
This will have to be done in a way that has least impact on hard pressed families. Perhaps the population would be easier to control after all!
ND comment - I don't agree with pursuing 'carbon dioxide capture' since carbon dioxide is a very minor greenhouse gas, and the technology is unproven. The other suggestions are extremely sensible.
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