The future truly does bode ill for us all. As though to mock our disregard for climate change, fate this week delivered us – the paintings of George W Bush.
Most ex-world leaders cash in on their status by donning a tuxedo and smoking fat cigars in the company of similar, well-heeled, and usually well-oiled, members of the upper set.
Not for Bush the endless rounds of after-dinner speeches at $100,000 a go. No fat-salaried adviser position to a benevolent corporation for him. Instead, Bush sat comfortably at home, flicking the pages of Wikipedia for ‘official’ images he could copy onto canvas. It truly was a masterstroke, even if the maestro’s brush strokes lacked a certain…well, artistry?
Jonathan Jones, the Guardian’s art critic, recently described Bush’s work as:
…empty headed daubs [that] look the work of someone you wouldn’t trust to mow a lawn without cutting someone’s foot off.”
No doubt, in time, they’ll sell for a fortune. After all, who wouldn’t buy a painting by an ex-president of the United States? Well, apart from me, that is. Or, possibly you. Rest assured, the art world will drag out their fat wallets and checkbooks en masse for the privilege, even while quietly vomiting on the Isfahan rug at the prospect of hanging a ‘Bush’ on their wall.
Back on the subject of climate change, a leaked United Nations report is suggesting that if we’re unable to cut CO2 emissions sufficiently over the next thirty years, we could move to burning wood, rather than coal, capture the greenhouse gases emitted, and store them underground.
It’s not so much daft, as desperate. The science is simple. Trees capture CO2 from the atmosphere. If we burn trees for energy, presumably from ‘sustainable forests’, and hang onto the CO2 given off, we actually produce ‘clean energy’. It’s been advocated for years by the ‘clean coal’ brigade – otherwise known as the coal industry. Of course, the CO2 in coal was captured millions of years ago, so it’s not much help today, but in the minds of coal industry bosses it seemed like a good marketing strategy at the time.
There’s a minor problem with the whole issue. No-one has ever successfully ‘stored’ CO2 from emissions. The coal industry’s tried and failed dismally. The technology just isn’t there. And, even if we could, there has to be a limit to the amount of space available to store it in. After all, we emit three gigatons (that’s three billion tons!) of CO2 each year. Where on earth (literally) do you put it?
This whole report smacks of hopelessness, a grasping of the proverbial straw. And that’s a feeling shared by many other countries (though, admittedly, they’ve failed to come up with any better suggestions):
Some comments on the draft text of the forthcoming UN report:
Russia: “There are no CDR (Carbon Dioxide Removal) technologies by now. In the best case, they are pilot projects and small-scale experiments. [The idea] looks unrealistic.
UK: “[The] technologies [are] not proven and may not be available. There is a significant risk that the [summary document] misleads policy-makers into thinking that mitigation action (cutting emissions) could be delayed with little increased climate risk.
Germany: “Please indicate that CDR technologies are not currently available and would be associated with high risks and adverse side-effects.”
It may not yet be hopeless. Scientists at Yale are presently working on artificial trees…
…that could each ‘mop up’ a ton of CO2 a day. (The image above is merely an artist’s impression). A mere eighty million or so of these would deal with all the CO2 humans produce yearly. I think they’re rather lovely. I’d just love a forest of these in my backyard. Perhaps planted in copses together with a couple of hundred of those bloody windmills!
And, guess what? The gas they catch still has to be stored somewhere.
Scientists really need to find a way to burn wood without producing CO2. Then our problems would be solved.
We could even begin by saving a few trees. We could burn those ghastly artworks by George W Bush.
 “George Bush’s paintings: this is the art of Forrest Gump” Guardian, April 4th 2014
 “World ‘needs Plan B’ on climate – IPCC report” BBC, April 8th 2014
 “‘Artificial Trees’ as a Carbon Capture Alternative to Geoengineering” Yale Climate Change Forum, February 13th 2013