Other aspects of the global warming discussion
The solution to global warming…it’s really not all that difficult.
A thoughtful reader asked a few questions about a previous global warming post. They are interesting questions, and more on point, they lead into some aspects of global warming that I haven’t talked about. So in the spirit of broadening the discussion, here we go:
OK… I am a skeptic, it is because there are many points of this I do not understand. I will not take up to much time let me ask a couple of questions, where real speak will be appreciated and not scientific lingo. How is Global Warming different then the receding of the icebergs way back after the ice age?
It’s different in several ways. For one thing we aren’t in an ice age, so the starting point is different. We don’t really know what triggers the end of ice ages, but were almost certain it’s not CO2, so that’s different. Most importantly though, both the speed and the extent of the current warming and CO2 rise is unprecedented in the last 400-600,000 years. This is what is alarming, we are heading into completely uncharted territory.
If China has signed and ratified Kyoto, why are they choosing to (apparently) ignore it? In 2004 the total greenhouse gas emissions from the People’s Republic of China were about 54% of the USA emissions. However, China is now building on average one coal-fired power plant every week, and plans to continue doing so for years. Various predictions see China overtaking the US in total greenhouse emissions between late 2007 and 2010. (Taken from Wikipedia) Is China going to be reprimanded by the UN for this?
Why is India (who signed and ratified the agreement) exempt from the agreement? (Again from Wikipedia) India signed and ratified the Protocol in August, 2002. Since India is exempted from the framework of the treaty, it is expected to gain from the protocol in terms of transfer of technology and related foreign investments.
Well, this gets into the politics of it all. Not sure I’m qualified to comment on the details of Kyoto, so just two general observations. The first would be, that if your town is on fire you fight the fire, you don’t stand around debating whose fault the fire is or argue about how effective your neighbour’s fire fighting methods are. Or if you do, you do so while fighting the fire. Usually when I see these sorts of arguments, it is assumed or even stated that the US needn’t do anything about global warming because these other countries aren’t “playing fair.” Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, but that doesn’t stop the US from acting unilaterally.
The second point that should be made here is that total emissions aren’t really a fair comparison. What matters is emissions per capita. And by that token, the USA leaves everyone in the dust. Well, there’s a couple of tiny gulf states that do worse, but as far as major countries, no one holds a candle to the USA. So it’s a bit disingenuous for Americans to point the fingers at other countries, when by reasonable standards of comparison the USA is by far the worst culprit when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions.
Which leads to the question, should the USA cut back, or should other countries be allowed to catch up to the USA? Since the later is a catastrophic course of action, it seems clear that the USA should cut back. In fact some fair level of per capita greenhouse gas emissions should be agreed upon and enforced, but I’m not holding my breath. As for the UN, it pretty much does what the US tells it to do. At least when it comes to resolutions with real teeth. China has a veto too, so they could simply veto sanctions if the UN did try to apply them.
One final question… if the US goes to ethanol gas. I understand the emissions level will go down to nil. But I understand what we will save on emissions will be lst on the making of the fuel. Will that do anything (positive or negative) to global warming?
I don’t think ethanol is going to do much one way or the other. Which gets to the meat of it, what could be done to reduce American’s emissions of greenhouse gases? And the ugly truth is there’s an easy and simple way to dramatically reduce our greenhouse emissions. Conservation, the word that the energy industry has worked so hard to make a dirty word. If every family in American replaced one light bulb with a low wattage fluorescent bulb, that alone would make a huge difference. In other words, fuel economy standards for cars, power consumption standards for appliance, and retrofit standards for home sales would pretty much solve the problem. More to the point, the only difference most people would see is smaller bills for power and gas, and thus more money in their pockets.
Gee, seems like a good idea to me? However, there’s a fly in the ointment. The oil and gas industry is controlled by a tiny number of exceedingly rich people, and they lose money if people conserve power. And since in the US industry gets what it wants far more so than in the rest of the west, here we are pissing away energy and contributing to global warming like it’s nobody’s business. Remember, the energy industry is the largest industry on the planet, and their profits are dependent on how much energy people use. The more the merrier.
It’s also sad because if we did cut back, it’s not like the American economy world suffer. People would still spend the money they saved, so the energy industry would shrink but other industries would benefit. And even if people saved more money, that would help the banking industry and the economy as well. Sigh, but the energy and weapons industry basically run the USA government, especially the current administration. Once one understands that, American foreign and energy policy are a lot easier to understand.
(The above modified image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, has been modified extensively from the original, and is central to illustrating the post.)