For an introduction to the basic issue, go here, or alternatively, watch this lovely animation:
I know this may not sound like much of an environmentalist issue. However the two problems resulting from the burning of fossil fuels are obviously linked, and only add weight to the arguments of each other. Believe me, I am concerned about nothing more than I am global warming, but the concept of modern civilisation imploding completely at the same time.. fills me with grief.
Here's an article by the admin of Powerswitch UK that explains the connection better than I can.
The Twin Terrors
Contributed by James Howard
Wednesday, 10 November 2004
Oil depletion and global warming are twin terrors, intertwined problems that share several facets. Both have been caused by humankind, both are a threat to humankind’s future and both continue to be in dispute even in the face of ever stronger evidence. A further feature, arguably, is that not enough is being done about either – in part due to ignorance but also because solutions to both involve rapid reductions in the burning of fossil fuels and the need for investment in cleaner, renewable alternative energy that currently is just not seen as economical.
It is true to say that to reduce global warming does not necessarily require us to find alternative energy sources. Strictly speaking, those that want to tackle global warming need not demand clean and renewable energy – simply the sharp reduction of carbon emissions. Equally, oil depletion poses a challenge in terms of energy and culture but the solution does not need to be clean. In theory, coal, as dirty as it is, could provide an alternative to oil, to an extent.
So it seems that solving one does not necessarily solve the other. In reality it would be difficult to find someone who thinks global warming is a problem but doesn’t see a need for alternative energy and, equally, anyone concerned about oil depletion would tend to prefer clean renewable energy rather than coal or nuclear. This is because, ultimately, if you solve the energy problem with - for example - coal, humanity cooks itself to death, and if you solve the global warming problem without addressing the energy problem, humans are left in a world devoid of all the progress it has made over history. The aim, ideally, is to have both the energy and, at the same time, not destroying the one and only planet that we have to live on.
There is one very good reason, however, that we should focus on tackling the energy crisis head on (always with an eye on global warming) rather than global warming (with an eye on the energy crisis). As an individual nation, or maybe even as part of the EU, we can – and must - do something about the energy challenge. As long as America, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, keeps out of the Kyoto Protocol, and until nations exceed the Kyoto protocol’s targets, there is little that one country can do to make a significant dent on reducing global warming.
What one country can do is make sure it can meet its own energy demands in a clean and sustainable way. This will involve reducing its energy demands and increasing its clean, renewable energy production. Once that has been met it will be a model for other countries to follow. That is the path I believe the UK (and the EU) must take.
I cannot see the energy transition happening soon enough – at least not voluntarily. The difficulty lies in the attitude that ‘If we do not use it someone else will, and they will get the economic benefits of cheap energy, so why should we give it up before we have to?’ The culture remains, worldwide: economy first, environment second.
The change in attitude and culture that we must make to be ready for the future simply cannot be overstated. It would even be possible to say it would require something as monumental, but hopefully not as disastrous, as China’s cultural revolution. However, just because something seems too large, too difficult to tackle, does not mean it cannot be done – it simply means we have to try harder.
The most important thing to do is make the most of every advantage that we have, and right now that is time and awareness. That strength will need conversion as quickly as possible into cultural acceptance and action, desire and cooperation in dealing with the combined energy and environmental crisis. Quite simply, there needs to be big changes ahead. The future must not be the past.