The Copenhagen Conundrum
By ROBERT BRYCE
December 16, 2009
Danish academic Bjorn Lomborg has made famous the phrase “Copenhagen Consensus” which posits that money aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions would be better spent addressing other health and welfare challenges, like preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS.
Well, now that thousands of politicians and environmentalists are meeting in Copenhagen to discuss ways to achieve drastic cuts in global carbon dioxide emissions, it’s time to recognize a new term: the Copenhagen Conundrum. The conundrum is obvious: given that billions of people are still living in dire energy poverty, how can world leaders expect any significant reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions, particularly when there are no viable substitutes for hydrocarbons, which now provide 88% of the world’s primary energy?
The Copenhagen Conundrum can easily be understood by considering these two facts: 22% of the world’s population doesn’t have electricity, and nearly 40% still relies on traditional biomass – straw, wood, or dung – for their cooking needs.
The issues of energy poverty and population are closely intertwined. And that connection can be seen by looking at the world’s six most populous countries. They are, in descending order of population: China, India, the US, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan. The energy disparity among the residents of these countries is stark. The US, with about 300 million residents, consumes almost as much energy as the other five most-populous countries – let’s call them the Big Five — combined. The total population of the Big Five – Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Pakistan – is about 3 billion, or about 10 times that of the US. And yet the average resident of the Big Five lives in energy poverty. The 3 billion residents of the Big Five consume, on average, about 0.66 gallons of oil equivalent per day, or about one-tenth as much energy as the average American.
Per-Capita Energy Use In the Six Most-Populous Countries,
In Gallons of Oil Equivalent Per Day
Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2009.
A glance at those numbers shows why the leaders of developing countries are so reluctant to agree to any kind of cap on their carbon dioxide emissions. The simple truth is that as energy consumption increases, so does wealth. While various promoters of “green” energy discuss the potential breakthroughs in alternatives sources like wind and solar, the reality is that 88% of the world’s commercial primary energy is provided by coal, oil, and natural gas. And as much as politicians and environmentalists might like to change that percentage, there are no other sources of energy that can match hydrocarbons when it comes to the Four Imperatives: power density, energy density, cost and scale. Furthermore, barring some miraculous technological breakthrough, there won’t be a significant change in the world’s need for hydrocarbons over the next two to five decades.
But just for grins, let’s assume a technological breakthrough occurs that can displace hydrocarbons. And while it may be a miraculous technology, it must be ultra-cheap and it must be dispersed around the world. It will also have to be implemented on a massive scale – a scale big enough to supplant the world’s hunger for hydrocarbons, which now averages nearly 200 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. Put another way, that’s approximately equal to the total daily oil output of more than 23 Saudi Arabias.
The world’s two most-populous countries, China and India, have made it abundantly clear that they will not accept any hard limits on their ability to emit carbon dioxide. And other developing countries are doing the same. The reasons are obvious: too many of their people live in energy poverty, and in particular, they lack electricity.
The IEA recently declared that “electricity is, in practice, indispensable for certain basic activities, such as lighting, refrigeration and the running of household appliances, and cannot easily be replaced by other forms of energy. Individuals’ access to electricity is one of the most clear and un-distorted indication of a country’s energy poverty status.”
The leaders of developing countries recognize the essentiality of electricity and what that means with regard to any emissions caps. You may recall that in June, just a few days after the House of Representatives passed its cap and trade bill, Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said that India “will not accept any emission-reduction target – period. This is a non-negotiable stand.” The Indian leader went on, saying that “there is no way India is going to accept any emission reduction target, period, between now and the Copenhagen meeting and thereafter.”
Or consider the words of Rajendra Pachauri, the Indian academic who chairs the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In July, Pachauri told reporters that nearly 40% of his fellow Indians do not have access to electricity. “Can you imagine 400 million people who do not have a light bulb in their homes?” he asked. He went on to make it clear that India will be burning plenty of its own coal in order to produce electricity. “You cannot, in a democracy, ignore some of these realities and as it happens with the resources of coal that India has, we really don’t have any choice but to use coal.”
Like India, China is relying heavily on its domestic coal resources. And while both China and India have recently agreed to set targets on reducing the carbon intensity of their economies, those targets will not actually cut their carbon dioxide emissions.
The simple truth is that the brouhaha over Climategate doesn’t matter. In fact, the entire battle over climate science – and in particular, the arguments over what concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide should be seen as ideal – is largely a waste of time. Given that global policymakers are convinced that carbon dioxide is bad, the most important question they must address is: then what? Put another way, what’s the policy response going to be?
With no ready substitute for hydrocarbons, the answer to those two questions — then what? and what’s the right policy? – should be obvious: nothing. That is, despite all the hew and cry over the need for some dramatic political agreement at Copenhagen, nothing of substance will happen because too many people around the world are still living in energy poverty. And energy poverty brings with it all of the ills that come with poverty: disease, hunger, lack of potable water, lack of education, and other societal ills.
In short, the Copenhagen Consensus and the Copenhagen Conundrum are two sides of the same coin. Global leaders should give up their fixation on cutting carbon dioxide emissions. Significant cuts will not happen. Instead, they should be focusing their efforts on making energy cheap, abundant, and as clean as possible.
Robert Bryce’s latest book, Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of “Energy Independence”recently came out in paperback.
No comments yet.
or go to
From the Archives
In a recent interview with the Jewish Journal, unfunny comedian Bill Maher has once again praised Israel for its restraint in only committing rampant war crimes in Gaza rather than a full-scale nuclear genocide of a civilian population. … continue
Aletho News Exclusive Content
This article will examine some of the connections between the US and UK National Security apparatus and the appearance of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory beginning after the accident at Three Mile Island. … continue
Also by Aletho News:
September 19, 2011
March 8, 2011
January 2, 2011
October 10, 2010
July 5, 2010
February 25, 2010
February 7, 2010
January 5, 2010
December 26, 2009
December 19, 2009
December 4, 2009
May 9, 2009
- Clinton and Trump: Nuclearized or Lobotomized? May 17, 2016
TagsAfghanistan Africa AIPAC Al-Manar al-Qaeda American Civil Liberties Union Argentina Bashar al-Assad Benjamin Netanyahu Brazil Canada Central Intelligence Agency China CIA Colombia Cuba Da’esh Egypt EU European Union FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation France Gaza Germany Hamas Hebron Hezbollah Hillary Clinton Honduras Human rights India International Atomic Energy Agency International Solidarity Movement Iran Iraq Iraq War ISIL ISIS Israel Israeli settlement Japan Jerusalem John Kerry Latin America Lebanon Libya Mexico Middle East Military National Security Agency NATO New York Times NSA Obama Pakistan Palestine Police Press TV Qatar Russia Sanctions against Iran Saudi Arabia Syria Turkey UK Ukraine United Nations United States USA Venezuela Washington Post West Bank Yemen Zionism
Visits Since December 2009
- 2,589,343 hits
Contact:atheonews (at) gmail.com
- How the World Ends May 24, 2016
- Why Obama Accused Russia of Showing No Interest in Nuke Reduction May 24, 2016
- Pentagon-Linked Analysts Push Preemptive Strike on Russia, Missile Defense May 23, 2016
- Israeli Plainclothes Officers Slammed for Brutal Beating of Arab Man May 23, 2016
- Close calls: We were closer to nuclear destruction than we knew May 23, 2016
- Gaza Despair, Israeli Culpability, Unfit to Print in The NY Times May 23, 2016
- AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): A week in photos 12-18 May 2016 May 23, 2016
- Another Antarctic Sea Level Rise False Alarm May 23, 2016
- Top 12 reasons the Good War was Bad – Hiroshima in context May 23, 2016
- Academics call for boycott of genocide conference in Israel May 23, 2016
- ‘UK trains armies on its own human rights blacklist’ May 23, 2016
- Obama Won’t Apologize for US Genocide on Visit to Vietnam May 23, 2016
- Being A Goy In The Jewish State May 22, 2016
- Pakistan slams US drone strike reportedly killing Taliban chief May 22, 2016
- Prominent British professor turns down Israeli prize May 22, 2016
- Trump’s Five Questions on US Foreign Policy May 22, 2016
- Labour to open re-education camps? May 22, 2016
- Saudi offers to change stance on Israel: Report May 22, 2016
Looking for something?
Categories"Hope and Change" Aletho News Civil Liberties Corruption Deception Economics Environmentalism Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism False Flag Terrorism Full Spectrum Dominance Illegal Occupation Islamophobia Mainstream Media, Warmongering Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity Militarism Nuclear Power Science and Pseudo-Science Solidarity and Activism Subjugation - Torture Supremacism, Social Darwinism Timeless or most popular Video War Crimes Wars for Israel
This site is provided as a research and reference tool. Although we make every reasonable effort to ensure that the information and data provided at this site are useful, accurate, and current, we cannot guarantee that the information and data provided here will be error-free. By using this site, you assume all responsibility for and risk arising from your use of and reliance upon the contents of this site.
This site and the information available through it do not, and are not intended to constitute legal advice. Should you require legal advice, you should consult your own attorney.
Nothing within this site or linked to by this site constitutes investment advice or medical advice.
Materials accessible from or added to this site by third parties, such as comments posted, are strictly the responsibility of the third party who added such materials or made them accessible and we neither endorse nor undertake to control, monitor, edit or assume responsibility for any such third-party material.
The posting of stories, commentaries, reports, documents and links (embedded or otherwise) on this site does not in any way, shape or form, implied or otherwise, necessarily express or suggest endorsement or support of any of such posted material or parts therein.
The word "alleged" is deemed to occur before the word "fraud." Since the rule of law still applies. To peasants, at least.
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more info go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
This is information for anyone that wishes to challenge our “fair use” of copyrighted material.
If you are a legal copyright holder or a designated agent for such and you believe that content residing on or accessible through our website infringes a copyright and falls outside the boundaries of “Fair Use”, please send a notice of infringement by contacting email@example.com.
We will respond and take necessary action immediately.
If notice is given of an alleged copyright violation we will act expeditiously to remove or disable access to the material(s) in question.
All 3rd party material posted on this website is copyright the respective owners / authors. Aletho News makes no claim of copyright on such material.