The Global View

‘Creative math tricks’ won’t solve energy, climate problems

Attention, world leaders: it’s time to stop playing creative accounting tricks with carbon emissions and energy and time to start dealing with the cold, hard facts.

Creative accounting tricks, after all, are what nearly brought the global economy to its knees two years ago. While banks and financial firms were brought back from the brink with hundreds of billions in emergency funds from governments, the looming climate and energy crises won’t be so easily medicated. Nature, as many have observed, doesn’t do bailouts. And nature’s limits are being reached.

Unfortunately, the people in charge are still acting as if reality is negotiable.

Consider, for example, something that George Monbiot pointed out in his latest column in The Guardian: while both of the UK’s leading political parties claim their policies lead to significant reductions in the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, there are several glaring omissions in their assertions. The figures they use don’t include greenhouse gases generated by imported goods or overseas travel by Britons. Nor do they account for non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases emitted by domestic aviation. Add those factors in, and the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are more than 50 per cent higher than politicians claim, Monbiot writes.

And then there’s the jolly little graph that accompanies this article. Look at it closely, if you will. Taken from a report presented at a US Energy Information Administration conference (pdf) last year, the graph illustrates an ever-growing gap between the world’s known liquid fuel supplies and the extra resources we’ll supposedly get between now and 2030 from “unidentified projects.”

While we have yet to hear the words “peak oil” drop from the lips of any elected (at the national level, anyway) official in the US, politicians in the UK have begun finding the concept a bit harder to ignore. Being handed two reports in two years on the subject by the UK Industry Task-Force on Peak Oil and Energy Security — a group that includes such luminaries as Sir Richard Branson — British officials finally agreed to discuss future energy concerns during a behind-closed-doors summit earlier this year.

Rob Hopkins of the Transition Network was one of those at the meeting, and expressed some satisfaction that officials were finally starting to sit up and take notice. However, he also noted that leaders are still unwilling to face some other inconvenient realities: one, that techno-fixes alone will be hard-pressed to eliminate energy worries completely (especially given the limited time in which we might have to implement them), and two, that no one’s quite ready to talk yet about how to pay for such a massive energy transition.

“Facts,” as the late US President Ronald Reagan once said, “are stubborn things.”

So too, apparently, are politicians.

3 thoughts on “‘Creative math tricks’ won’t solve energy, climate problems”

  1. Yes it will, just make the economy crash and all those power and pollutions problems are a thing of the past.
    +1

  2. Actually, John Adams said that “facts are stubborn things.” Reagan famously misquoted Adams, saying that “facts are stupid things.”

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