Wednesday, October 24, 2007

First Environmental Accords

The so-called Grenelle of the Environment has produced its first results: an accord on higher building insulation standards and a promise to freeze new road and airport construction.

7 comments:

Alain Q. said...

First l'an mil, then the population explosion ( remember the Club de Rome ? )the nuclear holocaust, the ozone layer, the year 2000 doomsday bug..

Now with this man-induced global warming apocalyptic theory we seem to have found ( created ? ) a new peg to hang our inner fears on.

Alain Q. said...

Director of IATA : number of passengers will increase 5 % a year . Europe will receive 150 million more passengers in 2011. Present infrastructures are insufficient and causing delays costing 12 % extra fuel consumption and 73 million tons of CO2.

Borloo : let's freeze airport construction.

Maybe someone should tell him that planes produce CO2,and specially planes in waiting orbit, not airports.

Anonymous said...

Alain - if you seriously look at the science, you will know that climate change is real.

CO2 has been recognized as a greenhouse gas by atmospheric scientists since the 19th century. There are others, but it is one of them. In fact we need CO2 in the atmosphere to keep the planet habitable. The point is that since the industrial revolution - but especially since a certain degree of industrial takeoff (very heavily carbon intensive, lots of coal being used) in China and India and other places, there is simply too much CO2 to be quickly absorbed back into the earth after it is emitted.

Now, I think what is debatable is the degree to which a planet wide increase of 2 to 4 celsius over the next 90 years will be truly catastrophic to the kind of life we are accustomed to. I don't really know if it will be or not. But neither do you. What I do know is that right now we can take concrete and relatively unobtrusive steps to prevent potentially very dangerous consequences that could truly end "progress" and affluence because they would make our current standard of living impossible. By implementing relatively simple and unobtrusive steps like carbon trading, a carbon tax, etc. - that definetly will not significantly effect our current standard of living, we can guard against a result that truly would cause catastrophic challenges to global affluence. Indeed, one could argue that they could be a great spur to technological innovation - indeed, this is the very argument Thomas Friedman makes (probably the most important newspaper journalist/editorialist in American - and someone who could no means be considered "anti-progress" - a more fervent champion of economic globalization would be hard to find).

Alain Q. said...

Climate change is real indeed. What is also real is that the planet has already experienced a lot of climate changes during its long life . What is debatable, and still debated, is the impact of human activities on this change.

I totally agree that this issue should be used as a great spur to scientific and technical innovation. But what we see developing now in France is an anti-scientific bias. Science is regarded as responsible for the sorry state of the planet, not as a solution. Our brand of ecologists are against CO2 emissions AND against nuclear power, against the use of pesticides AND against GMO crops etc.. I heard nothing during the Grenelle on CO2 trapping. Fighting the emission will not be sufficient by any means and fighting them in France only is a joke. We could save 1,000,000 ton of emissions by curbing even more automobile traffic.. A Chinese coal fired power plant emits 9,000,000 million ton per year and they open a new power plant each week. Are the Chinese prepared to go along with a carbon tax ?

I am all for reform and progress, I reject any form of ideological punitive ecology.

éloi laurent said...

Dear alain q.,
I think you should read the conclusions of Part 2 (http://www.legrenelle-environnement.fr/grenelle-environnement/IMG/pdf/Fiche_3.pdf) and Part 3 (http://www.legrenelle-environnement.fr/grenelle-environnement/IMG/pdf/Fiche2.pdf) of the "Table ronde finale 1" of the "Grenelle". In my view, the debate you describe is no longer accurate : the participants have made significant progress forward. You might argue it is not enough (I am myself waiting for the final cut on ecotaxation), but you have to give the "Grenelle" credit for a susbtantial public debate, far from business as usual and caricatures.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

I agree with anonymous and Éloi on the substance, and I also agree with Éloi on the seriousness of the debates in this "Grenelle," which I confess surprised me. I think France is demonstrating real leadership on this issue and translating talk into action.

It's worth noting as well that, while the "anti-science" attitude noted by Alain Q. is real, the "pro-science" reaction in France too often takes the form of anti-green politics, whereas in the US it is the anti-green politicians who attack science, to put the point crudely. But crudeness is in the nature of these debates. Often I think that the reaction in both directions is provoked by a certain stridency in the statement of positions, and what has impressed me about the Grenelle process is the willingness of participants to get down to brass tacks, avoiding inflammatory rhetoric and accepting that certain steps can be taken, that they will have some cost, and that honest negotiation requires assessment of the tradeoffs.

Anonymous said...

Alain,

Granted I was writing from American perspective. I think the nature of the debate and its context is very different in the two countries. Things like GM foods are not even on the radar in the US. Arthur gets at this point well.

Also, I do think it is quite clear that human activity is responsible for the increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. It is also unarguable that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. It is also clear that the tempature of the earth has risen substantially over the last 100 plus years, with a serious intensification in the last 30 years (again, not coincidentally mirrroing China's industrial take-off, which has been an extremely carbon intensive process - more so than the more energy efficient economies of the developed world).

But don't take my word for it. Take the word of the scientific establishment of every country in the world, as well as that of many multinational corporations - including oil/gas companies like BP and Shell. Thats a pretty damn big conspiracy/hoax.