Typhoon Haiyan was a strident overture to the Warsaw Climate Change Conference that made limited progress on the issues. Two of them have been around for much of the 19 year long process; the control of carbon emissions and aid to poor countries in order that they can control their emissions. And a new one, a demand by countries like the Philippines for restitution from the developed nations for the “loss and damage” they suffer from climate change.
The Philippines lead negotiator Yeb Saño opened COP 19 by announcing he would fast until a loss and damage mechanism, which is now called the “Warsaw Mechanism”, was obtained.
With respect to carbon emissions, China and India which now rank 1st and 4th amongst the world’s leading emitters, with the United States and European Union coming 2nd and 3rd, have refused to announce any specific reduction targets. Fundamental to their position is they are industrial newcomers. The bulk of CO2 in the atmosphere is the result of the developed world’s massive use of fossil fuels to grow their economies and they see no reason why their growth should be constrained in the absence of a realistic energy substitute.
China and India have recruited other emerging nations to their position which places the United States and Europe in the untenable position of having to cut their emissions, pay poor countries to do the same and now potentially pay restitution without any guarantee any of it will make a difference to the global pool of CO2.
Such a stalemate suits the agenda of the fossil fuel exporting nations to a tee.
The key to this Gordian Knot is a realistic energy substitute that prevents most of the loss and damage from climate change, that forecloses the need for restitution, and fulfills the energy needs of the developed and emerging nations alike.
Typhoons, like Haiyan, are Nature’s response to overheating ocean surfaces, and are indicators of prime locations for ocean thermal energy conversion operations.
The following cyclone map shows how ocean surface heat as a source of energy is the most abundant and closest source of power to both China and India. It is a source of energy that is accumulating at a barrel of oil equivalent of about 43,000/second.
As Jeff Rubin points out in his book, Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller, “The world isn’t about to run out of oil—it’s just running out of oil that we can afford to burn. And whether we move goods by air, ship, truck or rail, the global economy runs on oil.
Replace cheap oil with tomorrow’s triple-digit prices and all of a sudden the wheels of globalization get thrown into reverse. Distance will soon cost money, radically redefining both economic geography and global trade patterns.
Soaring transport costs suddenly change the entire economics of importing everything from cheap labour markets half way around the world.”
It is in China’s and India’s economic interest therefore to find themselves a realistic energy substitute that ideally is also close at hand and is ever increaing as opposed to declining and thus becoming more expensive.
OTEC operations in the Pacific could have prevented or at least moderated Haiyan just as they could have provided much needed power to the region.
Atlantic operations would moderate storms like Katrina and Sandy.
Small island nations are seeking damages as some of them are expected to disappear due to sea level rise.
OTEC would mitigate this problem as well by converting heat that causes thermal expansion to work, diminishing the power of storms that move heat to the poles, moving heat to regions of diminished coefficient of expansion and converting ocean volume to gas to move the power produced to shore.
The latest study by Rutgers researchers points out, “we may have underestimated the efficiency of the oceans as a storehouse for heat and energy. It may buy us some time.”
It will do so only if we see the energy/environmental issue in its entirety.
In the long run it will be far more productive for the developed countries to provide emerging nations with energy that mitigates the climate problem than to pay them reparations that will have limited future remedial impact.