The carbon lock-in crisis

This week’s quote is by the American writer and political activist Eldridge Cleaver. It also serves as a good starting point for this week’s editorial, returning to the climate crisis and why the carbon lock-in is undermining any efforts to resolve the crisis. He wrote:

‘There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.”

There are two categories of individuals in our society – those that act on the threat, and those that, either due to ignorance or willingly, endanger mankind’s future. Climate change is already the defining question of generations to come. The threat is real and considerable, yet solutions are few and far between. At DARROW, our very purpose is to provide a platform for alternative thinking. This is desperately needed in relation to the climate crisis.

Carbon, once coal, now oil and gas, is king. This dominance of carbon must be challenged if we are to have a chance of effectively addressing climate change. The establishment is doing what it can to preserve it, with striking success. Any challenges to this dogma will either be shouted down as futuristic, misguided or outright useless. The solutions that are offered usually depend on carbon-based systems as backup, such as renewables. This is all symptomatic of what Gregory Unruh in a paper in the journal Energy Policy in 2000 described as the “carbon lock-in“.

Defined as ‘self-perpetuating inertia created by large fossil fuel-based energy systems that inhibits public and private efforts to introduce alternative energy technologies’ the carbon lock-in presents a little-known issue, yet with tremendous impact. Escaping this inertia should be our number 1 priority, but requires long-term thinking and vision, something last week’s editorial focused on. We need to allow for trial and errors, thus empowering the alternatives we desperately need. Political courage is needed to not only allow, but support, radical thinking and new approaches, be that advanced nuclear concepts or a hydrogen economy. The status quo is broken, carbon, whilst having accelerated mankind into the industrial revolution, must go. Soon.

This week, like the week before, has seen more warnings about the state of our planet. We are constantly reminded of the stakes, and the need to move away from carbon-based systems. This time, the warning came from one of the natural wonders of planet Earth – the Great Barrier Reef. The report was clear in its message – the reef is dying, and faster than expected. This watery, subsurface Amazonian forest is truly one of a kind, and mankind is on the brink of irreversibly destroying it.

Last year John Lindberg wrote for DARROW on the dangers of climate change’s ‘Evil Twin’ – ocean acidification – a phenomenon where human CO2 emissions gradually turn the oceans more acidic. Whilst it is too early to say with 100% certainty that they are directly linked, the outcome is the same. But it isn’t just the Great Barrier Reef. All across the world the biodiversity hotspots are increasingly in mortal danger. This is largely the result of human arrogance and carbon addiction.

To paraphrase from Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar – we never expected that our home, this Earth, would turn against us. Mankind, by and large, is treating our planet as if we are above Mother Nature herself. The trouble is that we are not. Most of us operate with the mentality that there will always be a solution, someone will surely come up with a clever solution to the problem, just like always? This would require radical thinking, something that the carbon lock-in effectively has killed. Yes, exploration and invention still takes place, but will a future breakthrough take centre stage? This would require the carbon-based system to allow this technology to flourish, whilst at the same time destroying itself by making carbon dated.

Planet Earth will, of course, survive the rule of humans, but will we survive our own arrogance and our belief that we can do whatever we want to this planet?

Share Darrow

We believe in the free flow of information. We use an Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, so you can republish our articles for free, online and in print.

Creative Commons Licence

Republish

You are free to republish this article both online and in print. We ask that you follow some simple guidelines.

Please do not edit the piece, ensure that you attribute the author, their institute, and mention that the article was originally published on Darrow.

By copying the HTML below, you will be adhering to all our guidelines.


John Lindberg 32 Articles
John Lindberg is a former policy adviser to Sir Jamie McGrigor MSP and a self-declared science geek. His main interests are energy and environmental issues, with a burning passion for nuclear power. He recently graduated with a First from the University of Glasgow, MA (Hons) in Politics.

Be the first to comment

What do you think?