(Editorial comment: This is an edited, for brevity, exchange of emails from CACOR-CLIMATE@GoogleGroups.com between CACOR members on “Life Cycle Green House Gas Emissions from automobiles”. The authors are Art Hunter, John Hollins, Ian Whyte, and Rick Carpenter)
Art Hunter wrote:
This has been an ongoing debate with a lot of “noise” in the results.
I have attached the two page document so it is easier to read and understand.
The original is Attached… and is from:
Behalf Of John Hollins
“not feasible to supply enough low-carbon biofuels”
Here’s a paragraph from their “white paper”:
This study also analyzed the development of the average blend of biofuels and biogas in fossil diesel, gasoline, and natural gas based on current policies and projected supply. Across the four regions and all fuel types, the impact of future changes in the biofuel blends driven by current policies range from a negligible influence to a reduction of the life-cycle GHG emissions of gasoline, diesel, or natural gas vehicles by a maximum of 9%, even over the lifetime of cars registered in 2030. Due to a number of factors, including competing demand from other sectors and high cost of production, it is not feasible to supply enough low-carbon biofuels such as residues- and waste-based biodiesel, ethanol, or biomethane to substantially displace fossil fuels in combustion engine cars. Additionally, the very high production cost of e-fuels means they are not likely to contribute substantially to decarbonization of the fuel mix within the lifetimes of 2021 or 2030 cars.
Behalf Of Ian Whyte
Again, we must reflect that business as usual, or BAU with tweeks will not lead to climate salvation. Each single tweak, that is one taken more or less in isolation from the vast overall system, leads downward. Taking energy from biomass results in the destruction of the biosphere, a destruction every bit as threatening to life, and therefore to us too, as is climate breakdown. All indicators show that life’s destruction is proceeding at a pace at least paralleling that of climate’s destruction, if it’s not faster.
When will people realize, will this list realize (we claim to be thinkers and leaders remember), that the usually thought about paths forward lead only to a continuation of the death spiral in which we’re already swirling? Cars, but electric, planes but somehow green, 8 to 10 billion people but magically less impactful, crops without insects, food from oceans without fish?
Really, you know, it’s been shown that fossil fuel use must stop by 2030 if there is to be a chance of avoiding the worst of climate breakdown. That will mean the end of industrial civilization. Why do we not say so? Why are we snipping a tiny bit at the edges with such things as biofuels? Especially as biofuels are stealing the possibilities of life from the animal people (bad in itself, but we are utterly dependent on them too). Why are we not publicly and loudly stating that to survive aviation must stop, cruise ships must stop, international shipping must stop, fossil fuels be rationed to zero by 2030. No sustainable world will include automobiles or any of the items listed here, along, of course, with lots more.
I’ve often heard the old saw, that if we tell it like we see it no one will support us; but guess what, if we tell it like we do, we, and most of the rest of life, have a very short future. Why not try something that could work if implemented rather than something that is easier, but we know will not work? It’s like the old phrase that being half pregnant is impossible. We do it, or we fail; there is no in between.
Behalf Of FREDERIC Rick CARPENTER
The conclusion of the group of scientists warning in “Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future” (Front. Conserv. Sci., 13 January 2021 https://doi.org/10.3389/fcosc.2020.615419) buttresses Ian’s counsel and may add further weight to your intervention with your MP.
“Given the existence of a human “optimism bias” that triggers some to underestimate the severity of a crisis and ignore expert warnings, a good communication strategy must ideally undercut this bias without inducing disproportionate feelings of fear and despair (Pyke, 2017; Van Bavel et al., 2020). It is therefore incumbent on experts in any discipline that deals with the future of the biosphere and human well-being to eschew reticence, avoid sugar-coating the overwhelming challenges ahead and “tell it like it is.” Anything else is misleading at best, or negligent and potentially lethal for the human enterprise at worst.”
The prospect of societal breakdown as a consequence of having to severely pull in our belts in ways Ian calls for can be alarming to say the least. This is interestingly dealt with in and article titled: “An Analysis of the Potential for the Formation of ‘Nodes of Persisting Complexity”, a recently published study by Nick King and Aled Jones (Sustainability 2021, 13(15), 8161; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13158161). It concludes with an assessment of countries offering the best possibilities for “persisting complexity” as our societies begin to fail due to stresses, some of which are alluded to by Ian (limits, diminishment of returns, ecological destruction, and ‘risk multipliers’). Northern Canada gets an honourable mention as a “lifeboat” in the case of rapid global societal breakdown. But the big winners (if one can see it as such) are primarily islands with temperate climates which may also offer “nodes of persisting complexity” such as New Zealand, Iceland, the UK, Tasmania and Ireland in a slower societal collapse scenario.
I wish you every success with your mission while recognizing the inherent hesitation of politicians heading into an election to associate themselves with burdensome accommodations for a future that has no vote. But as the pandemic has shown us, and Art has advised elsewhere, “one should prepare for a disaster in advance of the disaster.” As he points out (you can hear the sigh): “most people prefer to prepare after the disaster is well developed and causing chaos.”