False Solutions to Global Warming
Nuclear power, liquid coal and carbon offsets are some of the solutions put forward to help abate global warming. However, upon closer inspection, these "simple" solutions actually take longer and are more harmful to the environment overall.
Under the guise of fighting global warming, the nuclear power industry and its allies in Congress are pushing a plan to construct the first new nuclear power plants in the U.S. in decades, and this plan's lynchpin is to pass federal legislation making taxpayers the unwilling financial underwriters of new plants, through federal loan guarantees.
Did you know that experts estimate that we would need to triple our number of nuclear reactors to make a serious dent in global warming? With just over a hundred reactors currently online in the U.S.A., and at a cost of around $5 billion per reactor, that would require at least $1 trillion (assuming we didn't replace aging plants). Given that cost, and the fact that it takes up to ten years to build a new plant, it would take decades to start meeting the threats of planetary climate change with nuclear power. And that's not even taking into consideration the risk taken by the public with triple the threat of nuclear disaster.
Global warming emissions double with liquid coal. Although liquid coal is sulfur-free, it is not "clean." Coal contains twice the amount of carbon per unit of energy compared to natural gas and 20 percent more than petroleum. The greenhouse gas emissions from liquid coal plants are greater than those from crude oil refineries, but even if the carbon released in liquid coal production were sequestered, liquid coal would still result in almost 10 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline.
Carbon offsets: the story of Planktos
Carbon offsets can represent insidious false solutions. Offsets are when a company or an individual pays another company to make up for carbon emissions with some type of carbon capture. The problem is that there is no way to ensure that the offsets are environmentally safe -- or that they even exist.
Planktos – which described itself as a "for-profit company that generates carbon offsets"– planned to dump iron particles off the Galapagos Islands to stimulate phytoplankton growth, which in turn would increase the ocean’s carbon absorption. Experts riduculed the idea as any kind of genuine offset and pointed out that there could be disatrous environmental ramifications as a result. Friends of the Earth and its activists lobbied the International Maritime Organization to weigh in, which it did, expressing concerns and moving to regulate such activity. Friends of the Earth also kept the pressure up in the media and in Congress in an effort to sink the Planktos effort before the Galapagos Islands were put at risk.
The public scrutiny paid off, and the Planktos' scheme never set sail. In fact, the business begain to fail and as of March 3, 2008, the CEO and all staff have resigned, effectively ending the existence of Planktos.
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