As the nations meet to hammer out a new global warming deal we learn that many new coal-fired power stations are under construction or being planned around the world. I read that China is building 368 plants and planning a further 803. India is building 297 and planning 149. Rich countries are also planning new coal plants. The nuclear disaster at Fukushima has prompted Japan to turn back to coal, with 40 plants in the pipeline and five under construction. The UK is committed to phasing out coal based electricity capacity under EU directives, but this aversion to a readily plentiful and cheap fossil fuel is far from universal.
The UK needs to press on with alternative sources of energy to meet both industrial and consumer requirements at affordable prices. It neither helps us nor the world if we overprice energy here, driving more industry abroad to countries that will burn more cheaper fossil fuels.
The Climate Change conference seeks to work from what the countries offer, rather than seeking a top down set of targets and controls. This is a more realistic approach. Previous approaches have resulted in major countries refusing to be party to the world agreement at all, or failing to hit the targets set as they have proved difficult.
The conference is also talking about measures to allow adaptation. If there are changes to the patterns of weather which have an impact on communities then it makes sense as these arise to take action to prevent damage. London built a barrier to deal with tidal surges and high river levels some years ago. Some places may need better flood defences where the danger is too much water. Others may need better reserves of water and new source of supply where the danger is too little rainfall.
We can be sure our planet is never going to run out of water, given the magnitude of the oceans, but the natural water movements and rainfall patterns may not always suit current settlements without further engineering adaptation. The UK government is embarking on major programmes to tackle flooding, and the water industry needs to review the adequacy of its future supplies.
Worldwide there are changing patterns to agriculture. Some countries have damaged their soils, others can face prolonged periods without rain. There are ways to combat soil erosion, to nurture better soils, and to irrigate lands that are subject to a shortage of rain. The Dutch have long kept their country dry despite much of it being below sea level by excellence in water engineering. I hope the world conference turns to these practical measures that can ensure dry homes and a decent supply of water. One of the worst features of our world is the continued absence of proper shelter and water supply for too many people in the poor countries of the globe.