Rebalancing the Greenhouse Gas Account



By Own Podger

Bali, Indonesia


In my younger days I had a love-affair with a number of cities that lie close to sea-level. I called them “cities in swamps”. Modern planning theory and practice have failed to address the problems of their development and management. Planning has ridden rough-shod over the cultures of canal-based peoples, and the houses of their poor flood regularly during the wet on each tide. This is before Climate Change. And it is not the rising sea that still brings an immense sense of sorrow for the people of these cities, it is extreme weather, the larger floods and higher storm surges.

Average global temperatures are a balance between the heat coming in from the sun during the day and going out at night when the sun doesn’t shine. This balance is controlled by the properties of the so-called greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, with carbon dioxide and methane being gases that help most to retain heat. We are in the process of changing that balance.

While the roots of modern climate change date from the industrial revolution, the massive increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere started in World War II, caused by warfare’s massive production and destruction.

Human activity produced more and more of these gases with increasing population and economic development, as we took carbon out of the ground that had been trapped there for millions of years, and burnt it so the carbon from millions of years ago went back into the atmosphere in the form of more carbon dioxide.

In the 1980s people started listening to the climate change scientists and the modern anti-climate change movement began. Deniers and connivers also began to resist appeals for climate action, pitting oil barons and politicians and those greedy for material gain against nature and the future.

In 2021, it is no longer the long-term consequence we are concerned with. For us all, it is medium term at best and for some it is their already-present crisis.

Joel Werner, an ABC Science journalist writes:[1]

Climate change is a long, heavy, slow moving train crawling across decades. Even if we pull the emergency brake right now, we’re not stopping for a while yet…. — the train has a hell of a distance to travel before it grinds to a halt.

Addressing climate change needs two directions of change in human activity, mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation is activity to bring equilibrium to average global temperatures. Governments of the world have declared we should target this equilibrium at 1.5 degrees warmer than a century ago. Nobody believes we can achieve this now. Even 2 degrees is ambitious.

Adaption is coping with the climate as it changes. Coping with more floods, more draughts, more forest fires, more violent storms.

This is a global crisis. All countries have to change. And urgently. This paper does not address how countries can meet agreements on what to do or how to do it. It presents ideas that I hope some might take up anyway.

Ideally each country needs to contribute its fair share to mitigation, and as that will be hard for many countries, some countries would do well by doing more than their fair share, compensating for other nations that cannot reach their targets. Countries that take up the challenge will become global leaders of mitigation.


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How to cite this paper: Podger, O. (2021). Rebalancing the Greenhouse Gas Account PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue III, March 2021.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/pmwj103-Mar2021-Podger-rebalancing-the-greenhouse-gas-account.pdf

About the Author

Owen Podger

Bali, Indonesia


Owen Podger began his career as an architect at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, studied urban design at UCLA and construction management at UNSW. After a career in urban development in Australia and Indonesia, and in academia in Singapore and Papua New Guinea, he has advised the Indonesian government on reforms since the downfall of Soeharto. He was planning adviser to the Aceh and Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR), and supported the Aceh Government in establishing its special autonomy. More recently he has advised the Indonesian Senate on drafting laws on local government, the office of the Vice President of Indonesia on effectiveness of government, and Indonesia’s national planning agency on urban development policy and programs. Owen is now assisting a small USA-Indonesia firm to develop capability in advising on public governance and accountability, and currently is living in Badung, Bali, Indonesia.

He can be contacted at micah68@centrin.net.id and owenpodger@gmail.com.

[1] Joel Werner. Mitigation or adaptation? When it comes to climate change, it’s not a case of either/or. ABC Science report posted 17 January 2020 at https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2020-01-17/climate-change-mitigation-or-adaptation-not-a-case-of-either-or/11874202?sf228333416=1&fbclid=IwAR3duoUihBIHiAFVelsfLp-ewyHxHnmS3IxpTMPufkryZ_ALwQw531hrlLs