Carbon crazy

In a tongue-in-cheek examination of carbon reduction I offer a fourth law of thermodynamics. ‘The rate of change of energy forms is directly proportional to the rate of change of economic growth.’ Changes in energy forms creates byproducts, CO2 being of particular interest.

If I had large sums of money and was concerned about carbon emissions I could leave the money on deposit and live a frugal life. However, the bank would loan the money to others and could help fund coal-fired power stations in China.

I could establish a wind turbine company. Then I would need staff who would need salaries to enjoy holidays, buy cars and computers and heat their homes. The offices would need computers, heating, cooling and lighting. Staff would need cars to visit customers. And that is before a carbon audit could be carried out on manufacturing and installation. Studies suggest wind turbines have outputs far below their predicted figures: their uptake is dependent on subsidies.

I could plant forests but they are not clean engineering systems with quantifiable inputs and outputs. Would large forests upset the ecosystem in unexpected ways? What happens to a tree at the end of its life? When leaves and timber rot they create methane, a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more virulent than CO2. If I funded large forests in Indonesia how could I be sure they would be planted, or would not be burnt down in the future?

I could buy a year’s output of Range Rovers and lock them in a warehouse. But for how long? Building a car generates more CO2 than its lifetime of burning fuel.

The only way to reduce carbon emissions is to destroy money. Even that is not problem-free — burning or landfill? No government is likely to pursue negative growth so carbon emissions are unlikely to decrease.

Because the climate change debate is so complex, it is unlikely any workable energy strategy will emerge that would remain valid, even for a few years. The best we can do is bumble on. Something will come along and save us — with a bit of luck. I hope I will be around to see it.

Martin Francis, Porthmadog, North Wales