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By Robert Rapier on Jul 9, 2007 with no responses

What It Takes to Be Carbon Neutral

A popular newspaper in Scotland, The Scotsman, has detailed what it will take for Britain to be carbon neutral within 20 years. I have said before that despite Al Gore’s pleas, despite the awareness and scientific consensus on Global Warming, I do not see the world becoming carbon neutral as long as there are fossil fuels left to burn. Some highlights from the article drive that point home:

Green Future Demands a Radical Shift in Lifestyles for British

Meat-free menus, battery-operated cars and an end to affordable flights.

These are among the radical visions outlined in a report which says Britain could be carbon neutral within 20 years – but only if major steps are taken to change our lifestyles.

Tumble-dryers would disappear and an “armada” of wind turbines would need to be built around the coast to achieve the goal, says the research by scientists from the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT).

But there is scepticism as to whether any of the scenarios suggested in the report are achievable.

CAT says achieving such a drastic cut in emissions is possible and may be the only way to tackle climate change.

Paul Allen, CAT’s development director, said: “What we are saying is that we need a huge programme, a bit like the US space project in the Sixties.

Now, for some details:

Among the major effects would be that electric, battery-operated cars would quickly overtake use of the internal combustion engine. Households would be forced to invest in ways to make their homes energy efficient, and switch from gas to biofuels or renewable electricity.

But there would also be “negative” effects in terms of the lifestyle that people enjoy. Air travel would become far too expensive unless the industry “pulls something out of the hat” and finds a green fuel.

And the diet of the country would have to change to include much more organically-grown, locally-produced vegetables, and less meat.

The result of the new “carbon economics” would be to cut energy use by half, and this new demand would then be met entirely by a green supply.

Tens of thousands of wind turbines would be built, mainly around Britain’s shores, to provide 50 per cent of the country’s new energy needs. The rest would come from a combination of biofuel “combined heat and power” stations, wave power, hydroelectricity and tidal schemes.

Is that realistic? Tens of thousands of wind turbines. An end to air travel. Fewer steaks. Is it achievable? It may be achievable in a dictatorship, but not realistic in a democracy. People are not going to accept those consequences unless they are forced to.

Also note that this is only for Great Britain, whose 60 million population is 1/5th that of the U.S. Furthermore, consider that UK citizens already only use half the per capita energy usage of the average U.S. citizen, and it soon becomes clear that carbon neutrality for the U.S., or the world, is a pipe dream. All of the Live Earth concerts in the world aren’t going to change that. Carbon dioxide concentrations will continue to climb, and the outcome of this atmospheric experiment is uncertain.

Incidentally, there are a number of reader comments following the original article. If you think there is any possibility of realizing such a scheme, a quick review of the comments should put that notion to rest. I think it is a good plan, but I don’t think it has a chance of being implemented.