• Combatting Global Warming

    Climate change and global warming are now undeniably with us. The evidence for them is overwhelming and even former “deniers” now concede that something significant (and unwelcome) is happening.

    The real question now is “what do we do about it?” Some response is clearly needed. The biggest obstacle to effective action is the widespread belief, particularly on the part of those who maintain that the market must never be second-guessed, that combatting global warming will be bad for the economy.

    We see this particularly when it comes to energy sources. The reliance on fossil fuels – coal, gas and oil – is correctly recognised as the principal factor in creating climate change; not only is the process of getting them out of the ground damaging to the environment, both at sea and on land, but burning them to produce electricity spews vast quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

    But doing without fossil fuels is widely seen as a recipe for economic slowdown. The government’s decision to stop the prospecting for gas and oil reserves at sea, for example, has been lamented as a step backwards in economic terms.

    At first sight, this reliance on fossil fuels – and the belief that we cannot do without them – seems surprising. We live on a planet that is bursting with energy sources. We can see energy sources wherever we look – in the wind, the tides and rivers, in geothermal steam, and most of all in the sunshine.

    All that we need is a little effort and investment so as to turn these natural energy supplies to account. The technology is rapidly developing to make this possible.

    Nowhere is this more apparent than in the eastern Bay of Plenty where I live and which is blessed with abundant sunshine. Day after day, the sun shines on our roof and large quantities of potential (and free) energy go to waste.

    My neighbours and I have decided to do something about it. A number of us have decided to install solar panels on our roofs and to harvest the energy they will produce. We are satisfied that the benefits we gain will outweigh the installation cost and that we will enjoy a future in which the cost of electricity will cease to be a major burden on our budgets.

    More importantly than the boost to our finances, we believe that our investment points the way to
    a solution to the climate change issue. If ending our dependence on fossil fuels can be shown to be economically as well as environmentally the way to go, the major obstacle to effective action will have been removed and replaced by an incentive to greater efficiency in every sense.

    We have a plan to replace our current car, when the time comes, with an electric one (which we should be able to charge from solar power), so that we will further reduce our demand on fossil fuels. And quite apart from all these material gains, we hope to enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that, rather than exhausting the earth’s natural (but finite) resources by digging them up and burning them, we will be working with the planet to use the resources that it provides to us for nothing and in abundance.

    We owe it ourselves, to future generations, and our planet, to use our human ingenuity to preserve what we have and can pass on. Best of all, we don’t need to wait for someone else – such as the government – to do something about climate change; we can take action ourselves.

    There is of course a capital cost but it will be repaid by the savings we make; it might well make economic sense, in some circumstances, to extend a mortgage so as to make an investment that produces such obvious benefits.

    That is not to say that there isn’t a role for a far-sighted government. Tax or other incentives could well help to stimulate the uptake of solar power (or other renewable sources such as wind power). But the real message is that we need not sit helplessly by, wringing our hands, while our planet fries. We have at least part of the solution in our own hands.

    Bryan Gould
    5 March 2019