Rhein on Energy and Climate

By a large majority, the 175 contracting parties of CITES (“Convention on the international Trade in endangered Species”; have rejected a request by Monaco, backed by the USA and the EU, to put a temporary ban on the fishing of blue-fin Atlantic tuna. The stock of this increasingly expensive fish has declined by 75 percent since the 1980`s and is threatened with extinction unless fishing is severely curbed and even temporarily stopped.

The “International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna” (ICCAT) is in charge of monitoring the fishing of blue-fin tuna in the Atlantic. To that end, it fixes annual fishing quotas; these have been reduced by one third from 2009 to 2010, from 22.000 to only 13.500 tons. But they are not well respected. At a tuna price of $ 700/kg (!) the temptation to fish illegally is simply too great.

The repeated efforts to cope with over fishing of blue-fin tuna have a bearing on Humanity’s vain efforts to control green house gas emissions:

In both cases powerful interests –Japanese Sushi and Sashimi traders on the one hand and fossil power producers (China, USA) on the other – resist the necessary changes and are able to assemble blocking majorities.

In both cases the phenomena, stock depletion or climate change, proceed very slowly and are easily disputed by vested interests.

In both cases the market mechanism will progressively lead to an adjustment of supply and demand: at some stage, the stocks will become so scarce that it no longer pays to fish, while the prices for sushi will become prohibitive. For fossil energies it will at some stage no longer be profitable to extract oil from very deep wells, while rising prices will accelerate the use of alternatives.

But there is one huge difference: only Japanese Suchi/Sachimi connoisseurs will regret the quasi-disappearance of blue-fin tuna. But when oil and gas will become so expensive to keep the industry and consumers from producing /burning fossil fuels, we may have reached a tipping point beyond which global climate change can no longer be contained.

Conclusion: It is always better to act before it is too late!

Brussels 23.03.10 Eberhard Rhein

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