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Climate change: carbon atom claustrophobia

by Dave Riley

The tragic irony of climate change is that it isn't really that. It's more a carbon atom crisis -- where to put it so it does the least harm. The fact that we have choices in this matter is perhaps the greatest promise and the possible worse tragedy that could befall humanity.

It's as George Monbiot has pointed out -- a Faustian bargain.

While you try hard to get a handle on that so that its import sinks in it's not so easy to plot the way it is going to pan out. Worldwide rising oil prices are biting deep into the ways and means of capitalist commodity production. There are protests and blockades and any number of fix it quick schemes -- all of which dance around the edges of the fossily fueled energy fire.

It's clear what the market is now promising us: rising oil and food prices such that they are set to work in synergy with one another because, we're told, the market is god. That this crisis in fuel and food supply and price has kicked in so quickly suggests that it may indeed be very easy to lose any ability to trade our individual way out of the consumption spiral --and if there is an opening that surely is something only the rich can afford to navigate through.

Tack onto this the 'water market' in Australia during a epoch of increasing drought and all those smart statistics about emissions targets have substantial meaning in everyday life -- a more potent meaning because it impacts on such basic elements of survival.

We are no longer just talking about whether you can run the air conditioner 24 hours per day or how you plan to heat your bath water but how are you going to afford to live given that food and petrol and water and accommodation are all going up in price.

I have just walked back from my local railway station which like so many suburban stations has a car park attached. But today all the streets nearby are chock full of parked cars as commuters have decided to use the rail rather than drive it to work because of the rising cost of such an expedition.

I've not seen so many cars within the rail environs.

This is a good thing perhaps -- but that's not supposedly part of the fix-it schemes we're being served up because if there is a massive and sharp move to public transport there is neither the will nor the infrastructure to bear it up.

It's not part of the plan because there isn't one. There's greenwashing inasmuch as the market will allow some verdancy but what drives the market is profit not climate change concerns or social need. And any rise in usage of one economic sector and the cost of another behooves a shift in market capital investment in search of a larger profit margin.

This is why -- given the free form nature of the market mechanism -- any aspect of the equation that may concern us such as water, electricity and transport supply is going to be formatted by strong moves to privatize these utilities where that has not already occurred. This is the nub of the dispute in New South Wales in regard to electricity.

We are supposed to trade our way out of the carbon crisis like it or not as that's the only option we'll be offered.

Given that oil is a commodity whose price is in effect becoming more reflective of its cost there is really no other option than to move to a public transport solution or get energy for transportation from somewhere else -- such as turning nutritional calories into biofuel or harvesting natural gas for running internal combustion engines rather than heating. It's a take from Peter to pay Paul situation.

Makes it all rather claustrophobic doesn't it? as the world economy closes in on you.

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