The debates regarding renewable energy and global warming are very tightly connected and create an array of passionate arguments. While there is no doubt that sea levels around the world are rising there is also no doubt that the current situation could be just one of many cyclical peaks and troughs seen over hundreds of years. What is intriguing about the argument about renewable energy and global warming is the fact that both sides are able to pull data which supports their argument.
Rising sea levels
There is some excellent information on the NASA website relating to rising sea levels which are predominantly impacted by two elements, the melting glaciers and the expansion of sea water as the temperature increases. As if to perfectly reflect the idea that all sides can bring supporting data to the table, the NASA website shows that sea levels have increased by around 80 mm since 1993. However, just recently the increase in sea levels seems to have levelled off having peaked in 2016.
There is also a graph going back to 1870 which monitors the rise in sea levels. This shows that the recent trend is not out of sync with the long-term trend over the last circa 150 years. It may be the fact that we are able to more closely monitor rising sea levels, consumers and businesses have become more aware of climate change and the potential cost savings from renewable energy which have made this subject more current.
Green technology/renewable energy seem to go hand-in-hand with the requirement for the government to reduce harmful emissions by 80% before 2050 (based upon 1990 levels). As we use less fossil fuel, this reduces emissions and the long-term impact upon climate change.
Some experts believe climate change has gone too far and there will be major problems going forward. However, sceptics point towards the cyclical nature of the Earth’s temperature which has varied dramatically over the centuries. As we stand today there is a need to reduce harmful emissions and make greater use of renewable energy.
The cost of green technology
One of the main arguments used by those fighting the onset of green technology/renewable energy is the perceived cost of harvesting renewable energy sources. It would be foolish to suggest there is not a significant cost and investment by the taxpayer but eventually this will be repaid. At this moment in time the government appears determined to protect green tariffs on household energy bills. It is estimated that this equates to around £150 per annum for the average household which comes at a time of great austerity and limited increases household income. However, many people seem to forget that fossil fuels such as oil and gas receive billions of pounds of direct and indirect subsidies.
Think of the cost of wars which revolved around the supply of oil and gas, the cost to protect vital oil and gas supply lines and then take into account recent tax subsidies offered to the oil and gas industry by the UK government. Only a couple of years ago experts were estimating the UK Treasury would be receiving billions of pounds in oil and gas taxes only for the oil price to collapse. As a consequence, tax rebates given to companies operating in the sector have effectively brought this year’s tax income from oil and gas down to zero. So those who suggest that it is only green technology which has been subsidised by the taxpayer need to think again.
When it comes to the rising sea levels and the temperature variations across the centuries, there does seem to be a general move towards renewable technology. The Earth has been prone to major temperature changes over the years with some suggesting that an ice age may have led to the demise of the dinosaurs. The fact is that we don’t know whether the earth is currently heading towards a cyclical peak in temperature and rising sea levels or whether this is indeed a whole new era. However, even if this is the peak of a cyclical trend it can do no harm to reduce harmful emissions and make greater use of renewable energy sources?
Many taxpayers around the world have expressed concern at the way in which renewable energy subsidies are handed out and the number of scams which have emerged. Perhaps if the politicians were able to extract greater transparency from those involved in the renewable energy industry and ensure a “decent return on investment” then maybe taxpayers would be a little more forthcoming. It is also worth remembering that the renewable energy sector continues to grow in size, offers significant employment opportunities and will eventually create a sizeable tax revenue stream for many governments.
It is unfortunate that climate change appears to overshadow developments in the renewable energy sector and the potential going forward. Concerns about taxpayer funded investment in the renewable energy sector are perhaps overdone especially when you bear in mind the direct and indirect subsidies which the mature markets of oil and gas still demand today. The fact is that sea levels are rising, temperatures are creeping higher, weather trends are changing and there is a need to make more use of renewable energy sources.
Whether the mass media is offering a balanced approach is debatable and whether politicians are the right people to carry forward the green movement is an even larger bone of contention. In recent times governments and politicians have promised change, reduced emissions and more transparency but what have they actually delivered so far?