Cancún: hydrogen and a lot of hot air

15 December 2010


Two events symbolise the blind leading the blind in addressing climate change: London celebrating the introduction of hydrogen-fuelled buses (report, Dec 7) and the Cancún conference. 

Nearly all the world's commercially sold hydrogen is currently manufactured from hydrocarbons. Every tonne of hydrogen made from natural gas, for example, puts between five and eleven tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, depending on the process. 

Few of the thousands of delegates in Cancún will be aware of this basic fact, or the many others that would help quantify the challenge in a coherent way. Even if they do, posturing and vested interests will take priority over evidence-based information. 

If political decision-makers within one of the world's leading cities fall for this, we need to ask what hope there is for clarity at a global level. 

Eighty per cent of the world's energy still comes from fossil fuels, and that will not decline until hot air ceases to rise above governmental and international gatherings. 

Dr Richard Pike Chief Executive Royal Society of Chemistry

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