Dr Gideon Polya, 19.06.13
Dr Gideon Polya wrote this letter to the Great Artesian Basin Protection Group outlining his concerns over gas replacing renewable energy sources. Dr Polya has been teaching science students at a major Australian university for four decades. He published some 130 works in a five-decade scientific career.
The Australian Climate Commission has estimated that at present rates of pollution the world has only 15 years before it exceeds the remaining terminal pollution budget of 600 billion tonnes of CO2 that must not be exceeded if we are to have a 75% probability of avoiding a catastrophic 2C temperature rise (see The Climate Commission, ”The Critical Decade”: http://climatecommission.gov.au/report/the-critical-decade-2013/). Using revised NASA, World Bank and US Energy Information Administration data, I have estimated that we have only 5 years left at current rates of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution before this remaining terminal budget of 600 billion tonnes CO2-e is exceeded (see Gideon Polya, “Dohar climate change inaction. Only 5 years left to act”, MWC News, 9 December 2012: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/23373-gideonpolya-climate-change.html). We should be urgently ceasing GHG pollution. We should be urgently installing renewable energy systems and not building new fossil fuel power plants that will pollute for the next 40 years.
I have been involved as a much-published, 5-decade career biological chemist acting as an Expert Witness (free of charge of course) for concerned citizens in giving carefully researched evidence in court against the imposition on rural town residents of hugely polluting gas-fired power generation. I have published a detailed, documented account of science-based arguments that can be used either by environmental activists lobbying politicians or by Expert Witnesses giving evidence in relevant Courts or Inquiries against the imposition of gas-fired power stations or fossil fuel-based power generation in general. The article is Gideon Polya, “Expert Witness Testimony To Stop Gas-Fired Power Plant Installation”, Countercurrents 14 June 2013: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya140613.htm, the summary of which is given below.
1. The fundamental reason why gas-fired power plants (GFPPs) should not be built is that in view of the worsening climate crisis the world should be decreasing and not increasing fossil fuel burning and other greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. Building a GFPP with a lifetime of 40 years simply locks society into more fossil fuel burning and correspondingly blocks the uptake of renewable energy. Further, methane (CH4) has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) 105 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2) on a 20 year time frame and considering aerosol impacts, this meaning that, depending upon the degree of gas leakage, burning gas for power can be dirtier GHG-wise than burning coal.
2. A GFPP located near a town will impact (A) human health, (B) human amenity and (C) the environment in the many ways outlined in the article for the benefit of environmental activists, legal counsel and Expert Witnesses involved in GFPP-related legal proceedings. Critically, while gas-fired power plants produce a huge amount of toxic pollutants, notably carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM), there is an extraordinary deficiency of hard empirical data about ground-level concentrations of such pollutants in the locality of GFPPs. Science says that pollutant dispersion modelling is no substitute for hard data. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) “no threshold for PM has been identified below which no damage to health is observed”.
3. It must be appreciated that the political and legal debate about fossil fuel burning is conducted with a background of extraordinary, anti-science Mainstream media misinformation in the Western Murdochracies, Lobbyocracies and Corporatocracies.
4. The bottom line of any analysis of public policy is avoidable death as described in detail in my book “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” that is now available for free perusal on the web: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/body-count-global-avoidable-mortality_05.html. It is estimated that already about 5 million people die annually worldwide from climate change (0.5 million) and from carbon burning pollutants (4.5 million) with this carnage set to total 100 million by 2030 in the absence of climate change action, and that 10 billion people will perish this century if climate change is not addressed (see “Are we doomed?”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/are-we-doomed).
5. Ultimately for societal safety we must seriously consider the expert views of scientists. Thus in relation to climate change action, a 2010 Open Letter from 255 eminent scientists of the prestigious US National Academy of Sciences (including 11 Nobel Prize winners) concluded: “Delay is not an option” and the Synthesis Report of the 2,500-delegate 2009 scientific Copenhagen Climate Change Conference concluded: “Inaction is inexcusable”. Investing huge amounts of scarce resources into burning more fossil fuels like gas flies in the face of expert scientific evidence that we should be urgently engaged in cessation of fossil fuel burning in the interests of Humanity and the Biosphere. Indeed atmospheric CO2 recently reached 400 ppm and is increasing at about 2.5 ppm per year, yet top climate scientists and biologists demand that we should reduce atmospheric CO2 back to about 300 ppm CO2 for a safe planet for all peoples and all species, noting that before the current Industrial Era (or Anthropocene Era) atmospheric CO2 had not exceeded 300 ppm for about 1 million years (see “300.org – return atmospheric CO2 to 300 ppm”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/300-org—return-atmosphere-co2-to-300-ppm )
Professor David Shearman (emeritus professor of Medicine at the University of Adelaide, Adelaide , South Australia ) has succinctly stated: “The International Energy Agency has expressed concern about gas replacing renewable energy sources. This would delay any chance of early curtailment of greenhouse emissions. Climate change is accepted as a huge threat to health world wide”.
Dr Gideon Polya, Melbourne