I always believed that good environmental policies are crucial to the future of this planet, but for every year that goes by my faith in humanity’s ability to enact useful ones diminish. Partly because I think the main environmental issue is human overpopulation and unfortunately faith based organizations have sabotaged every UN attempt at pushing for some global policies and debates on that.
The other thing is that politicians seems unable to react in an intelligent way when faced with new data. And I am not just talking about the American right holding their hands over their ears screaming lalala for many years instead of facing the facts that global warming was real. Or arguments that science will be able to overcome any problems eventually so there is no need for hard hitting policies, the last argument strikes me as the same as encouraging unprotected sex with HIV positive people since science will probably come up with a cure before you die from Aids. While I am a strong believer in what science can accomplish you have to make your plans on what is currently available, not on what you hope is going to happen.
One of my favourite examples of political stupidity from Norway is milk carton recycling. You see, for many years the government did huge campaigns to try to get people to send in their milk cartons for recycling, most of these campaigns especially targeted towards children. Then some years ago a researcher pointed out that recycling these cartons was actually less environmentally friendly than just burning them. The pollution caused by transporting them in for recycling combined with the chemicals they had to use to dissolve the wax protection on the cardboard was a bigger environmental hazard than actually just burning the cartons at the local garbage treatment plants. So what did the government representative say when faced with this? Did the representative say that with this new information the recycling project would be stopped? No, instead the representative managed to say that since stopping the recycling project might undermine the faith in the environmental policies and due to the great symbol value of the project for environmental protection it would continue…… Yep, nothing strengthens policy support and provides greater symbol value than doing something stupid.
These days we are faced we what has turned out to be a similar stupidity on a global scale. Biofuels.
Biofuels has been hailed as a white knight for both energy problems and environmental policies, but recent research has shown that it actually might be a environmental disaster, not to mention its contribution to the rising prices of food will also make it a participant in a humanitarian disaster.
The problem with biofuels is that while the plants involved do photosynthesis like any other plant they do less than a similarly sized field of wild plants and trees. And since current biofuel policies are causing a lot more forest and wild fields to be turned into farmland for biofuels, the amount of CO2 converted to Oxygen lessen. And voila, the push for biofuels manage to accelerate global warming instead of slowing it. Question if how many years it will take for politicians to catch on to this and for instance the EU biofuel goal to get scrapped.