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Couldn’t we do more? February 7, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Environment, Science.
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I almost never agree with what Robert J. Samuelson writes. But his latest column on the reality of what’s being done concerning climate change actually hits some right notes. The cap and trade systems that are proposed by the believers in the First Church of Free Market aren’t going to cut it. No current technology would help enough even if it could be deployed in the next couple of years, which of course they can’t be. The proposals by the Bush administration are beginning to head in the right direction but they just don’t push hard enough. The research money should be doubled at least.

But why should we be surprised at our current President says the right things but doesn’t give this issue as much attention as it deserves? While they’re not getting the coverage that the Scooter Libby trial is getting the Congressional hearings on Bush administration interference in science are still going on. On other blogs I read it’s pretty much impossible to avoid conservatives defending the Bush administration on this issue, claiming that all of the climatologists who say that there is Anthropogenic Global Warming (human caused global warming) are wrong, or that they’re lying and that their motivation is grant money (Which is completely equivalent to the billions of dollars of profits the oil companies make and the millions that the power companies save by not updating their outdated power plants.) and that it really all comes down to natural cycles.

But when others look at it it doesn’t really stand up. Just check out Other Hypotheses and Solar Variation here. Realclimate.org has articles that deal with sun-earth connections, claims about previous climate cycles and other climate science issues. I’ve seen it referred to by those who criticize the concept of AGW as being an “alarmist” site but I’ve always found them to be very reasonable.

Given all the positives that the United States would gain by both conserving energy and utilizing alternative sources of energy I find the “wait and see” attitude to be puzzling. And I also fail to understand how they can fail to comprehend one very basic thing. If you wait until the climate matches what the models are currently predicting or even come close to them it will be too late to do anything. Even now by the time we can really get things done there are consequences that will be unavoidable.

What can we do? The best we can, which is not even being approached by any current proposal. As I said earlier in this post, the money provided directly for research should be doubled at least.  As I said in a previous post I’d like to see the government fund multiple versions of the X-Prize, only aimed towards energy issues, though I certainly wouldn’t argue with some aimed towards space travel. In fact some of what these prizes should encourage would affect both. As an example set goals for materials that would have certain characteristics of weight, tensile strength and cost. Don’t make them absolute. If someone comes close why not have a lesser prize but still reserve the original amount for someone who achieves the complete goal? Every appliance should have an energy reduction goal that would earn someone a prize if they met it with a product that was affordable so it would actually be adopted by the public. There should also be massive rewards for discovering methods to deal with existing CO2 levels and other things we do to contribute to warming. Does anyone really think that all those nice black roads and dark rooftops help? Issues of how we generate and transmit energy would also have to come into it, of course. In other words there is no one answer or even one segment of energy consumption or generation that we can limit ourselves to, everything must be on the table and addressed if we really want to do what is necessary.

Everyone who criticizes the idea of the United States striving for these kinds of goals while developing countries  do nothing miss a very important fact. Do you really think they want to have the kinds of pollution problems their current approach is causing? If we invent the technology to solve these problems we just might have a world wide market for a wide range of American products and intellectual property. Solving the problems that cause global warming hurt our economy? I honestly don’t think so if we just honestly try to do it instead of using rhetoric. Hot air just won’t help.

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