Skip to comments.The heat is on
Posted on 09/10/2006 12:35:39 AM PDT by Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit
The uncertainty surrounding climate change argues for action, not inaction. America should lead the way
FOR most of the Earth's history, the planet has been either very cold, by our standards, or very hot. Fifty million years ago there was no ice on the poles and crocodiles lived in Wyoming. Eighteen thousand years ago there was ice two miles thick in Scotland and, because of the size of the ice sheets, the sea level was 130m lower. Ice-core studies show that in some places dramatic changes happened remarkably swiftly: temperatures rose by as much as 20°C in a decade. Then, 10,000 years ago, the wild fluctuations stopped, and the climate settled down to the balmy, stable state that the world has enjoyed since then. At about that time, perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, mankind started to progress.
Man-made greenhouse gases now threaten this stability. Climate change is complicated and uncertain, but, as our survey this week explains, the underlying calculation is fairly straightforward. The global average temperature is expected to increase by between 1.4°C and 5.8°C this century. The bottom end of the range would make life a little more comfortable for northern areas and a little less pleasant for southern ones. Anything much higher than that could lead to catastrophic rises in sea levels, increases in extreme weather events such as hurricanes, flooding and drought, falling agricultural production and, perhaps, famine and mass population movement.
Nobody knows which is likelier, for the climate is a system of almost infinite complexity. Predicting how much hotter a particular level of carbon dioxide will make the world is impossible. It's not just that the precise effect of greenhouse gases on temperature is unclear. It's also that warming has countless indirect effects. It may set off mechanisms that tend to cool things down (clouds which block out sunlight, for instance) or ones that heat the world further (by melting soils in which greenhouse gases are frozen, for instance). The system could right itself or spin out of human control.
This uncertainty is central to the difficulty of tackling the problem. Since the costs of climate change are unknown, the benefits of trying to do anything to prevent it are, by definition, unclear. What's more, if they accrue at all, they will do so at some point in the future. So is it really worth using public resources now to avert an uncertain, distant risk, especially when the cash could be spent instead on goods and services that would have a measurable near-term benefit?
If the risk is big enough, yes. Governments do it all the time. They spend a small slice of tax revenue on keeping standing armies not because they think their countries are in imminent danger of invasion but because, if it happened, the consequences would be catastrophic. Individuals do so too. They spend a little of their incomes on household insurance not because they think their homes are likely to be torched next week but because, if it happened, the results would be disastrous. Similarly, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that the risk of a climatic catastrophe is high enough for the world to spend a small proportion of its income trying to prevent one from happening.
And the slice of global output that would have to be spent to control emissions is probably not huge. The cost differential between fossil-fuel-generated energy and some alternatives is already small, and is likely to come down. Economists trying to guess the ultimate cost of limiting carbon dioxide concentrations to 550 parts per million or below (the current level is 380ppm, 450ppm is reckoned to be ambitious and 550ppm liveable with) struggle with uncertainties too. Some models suggest there would be no cost; others that global output could be as much as 5% lower by the end of the century than if there were no attempt to control emissions. But most estimates are at the low endbelow 1%.
What Kyoto did The Kyoto protocol, which tried to get the world's big polluters to commit themselves to cutting emissions to 1990 levels or below, was not a complete failure. European Union countries and Japan will probably hit their targets, even if Canada does not. Kyoto has also created a global market in carbon reduction, which allows emissions to be cut relatively efficiently. But it will not have much impact on emissions, and therefore on the speed of climate change, because it does not require developing countries to cut their emissions, and because America did not ratify it.
The United States is the world's biggest producer of greenhouse gases, though not for long. Every year China is building power-generating capacity almost equivalent to Britain's entire stock, almost all of it burning coalthe dirtiest fuel. It will shortly overtake America, and India is not far behind. Developing countries argue, quite reasonably, that, since the rich world created the problem, it must take the lead in solving it. So, if America continues to refuse to do anything to control its emissions, developing countries won't do anything about theirs. If America takes action, they just might.
Two measures are needed. One is an economic tool which puts a price on emitting greenhouse gases. That could be a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system, such as Europe's Emissions-Trading Scheme, which limits how much producers can emit, and lets them buy and sell emissions credits. Ideally, politicians would choose the more efficient carbon tax, which implies a relatively stable price that producers can build into their investment plans. The more volatile cap-and-trade system, however, is easier to sell to producers, who can get free allowances when the scheme is introduced.
Either of these schemes should decrease the use of fossil fuels and increase the use of alternatives. In doing so, they are bound to raise energy prices. To keep down price rises, and thus ease the political process, governments should employ a second tool: spending to help promising new technologies get to market. Carbon sequestration, which offers the possibility of capturing carbon produced by dirty power stations and storing it underground, is a prime candidate.
Although George Bush now argues that America needs to wean itself off its dependency on oil, his administration still refuses to take serious action. But other Americans are moving. California's state assembly has just passed tough Kyoto-style targets. Many businesses, fearing that they will end up having to deal with a patchwork of state-level measures, now want federal controls. And conservative America, once solidly sceptical, is now split over the issue, as Christians concerned about mankind's stewardship of the Earth, neo-cons keen to reduce America's dependency on the Middle East and farmers who see alternative energy as a new potential source of energy come round to the idea of cutting down on carbon.
Mr Bush has got two years left in the job. He would like to be remembered as a straightshooter who did the right thing. Tackling climate change would be one way to do that.
You didn't read the article did you?
Dio you know what Pascal's wager is?
I didn't expect to convince you. At the end of the day, powerful, level headed people are convinced and are taking action. Again and again I have written that we need a Republican solution to this problem that will be focused on solving it with the lowest cost and disruption.
Otherwise the left is going to implement a solution that maximizes their power.
The right is dropping the ball on an issue that will come to haunt it. Of that I am convinced.
Even if you don't buy the science the momentum is such that action is not going to be avoided. Regardless, at least using less oil is good for security.
Global warming is a Political Discussion, not a Scientific, for legitimate weather scientists there is no connection of man to global warming. It is the socialist and fascist that are trying to convince people to give up their rights and money so that it can be redistributed. Watch UN get involved in exchanging carbon credits. They have been looking for a money source for ages. Remember that all Global Warming is based on computer models, so its junk in, junk out.
I read the whole thing. What is certanly clear is that there is a socialist bias in the whole thing. After reading your bio, I conclude that you are also a socialist.
I don't buy what your selling. The sky is falling and it's all Bush's fault. What a load of bull.
Would you please point out the language you consider a "socialist bias". Also could you convincingly argue that there aren't a limited number of natural resources on our finite planet.
"...Then, 10,000 years ago, the wild fluctuations stopped, and the climate settled down to the balmy, stable state that the world has enjoyed since then. At about that time, perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, mankind started to progress."
How does the author, who purports to understand the science and mathematics behind the global warming argument, justify his claim that a 10,000 year plateau constitutes a "lull" when the climactic temperature fluctuation periods he cites are millions of years long?
In other words, the Jurassic Period was millions of years long, and the Earth was hot the whole time through. If, during the Jurassic Period, a couple thousand years occurred here and there that were cooler than Jurassic average (i.e. equivalent to a modern-day climate), it would not move the Jurassic thermal average even slightly, nor would there be much paleontological evidence of such a comparatively brief cold spell.
So, he has no basis by which to assert that the 10,000 years we've been enjoying in this "midway" state are the result of some kind of delicate balance that's being shattered by human activity. Quite the contrary, it appears that he's stating that this temperate spell is more or less unnatural, or at the very least highly unusual, and we would be fools to assume that the Earth will remain in this state regardless of human activity. Rather, according to his argument, the natural state of Earth is to be either "very hot" or "very cold", and sooner or later it's going to revert to one of those two extremes. So we'd better be ready for it, because it's going to happen regardless of how many SUVs you take off the streets or how many cows you put diapers on.
That's a bad assumption. The Earth's system is an ongoing fluctuation. This is a stupid article. Here's why:
"Then, 10,000 years ago, the wild fluctuations stopped, and the climate settled down to the balmy, stable state that the world has enjoyed since then. At about that time, perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, mankind started to progress."
Total crap. The flucuations didn't stop 10,000 years ago. Ever hear of the Little Ice Age? The Medieval Warm Period? Two major fluctuations in just the last 1,000 years. There are others during the history of civilization. Do some reading.
Did you read the world "wild" in the statment you then countereed with the "little" ice age and "minor" warming.
Reading comprehension my FRiend.
That is the point I take issue with as well.
In fact, the real point is the speed with which the current climate change is taking place, not that it is, in fact, taking place. If we were experiencing a very, very slow change than there would be no reason to suspect human interference. The fact that it is happening about 100 times faster than naturally and coincides with an exponential increase in CO2 in the atmosphere which just so happened to coincide with an exponential increase in human burning of fossil fuels is what leads me to believe that humans are affecting the change to some degree.
Leaving 'science' aside, your reasoning on the politics of the issue sounds uncomfortably close to acknowledging that 'we' have already lost and that 'our' only recourse is to accept defeat, but that maybe by jumping on the bandwagon we can mitigate some of the worst effects of that loss. That was the reaction of many to the supposedly unstoppable growth of worldwide Socialism and Communism, to the immigration issue, to the rise in Islamist extremism, to Democrat control of Congress, and so forth. Luckily, others have not accepted that those causes are or were lost, and this one shouldn't be surrendered easily either.
But I am going to surrender to exhaustion and get some sleep...
I gotta go too. But using more efficient cars, and alternative energy grown in-country and developing exportable technologies doesnt quite seem like the equivalent of surrendering to global communism. At least in my way of looking at things. Of course, if you are an Exxon executive, it could look different.
I am disappointed that you would print The heat is on - Sep 7th 2006.
So called Global Warming is a part of a socialist agenda. As stated by Canadian Environment Minister Christine Stewart. 'No matter if the science is all phony there are collateral environmental benefits.' . Whether global warming actually exists is irrelevant. It is, in the hands of government and environmental activists, a convenient front for the introduction of programs and economic policies that Canadians - and most citizens of the world - would not otherwise accept.
As reported in technology review the prime piece of evidence linking human activity to climate change turns out to be an artifact of poor mathematics.
In more memorable words it the old junk in junk out computer model.
I can not believe that the Economist is not aware of this. So one has to ask why do you continue to ruin your reputation by continuing this myth, unless you too have a socialist agenda.
If you lie about this, what else do you lie about? As they say, once you find a cockroach in your salad, you dont continue to look for more. You send the salad back.
I suggest you no longer publish garbage opinion pieces that push the socialist global warming lies. And start publishing TRUTHFUL articles.
All this talk about carbon is to make a market in world carbon credits, that will be controlled by the UN. They have been looking for a source of income, and this may be a start. Then they will have funding to destroy democracies and push the world toward a one world socialist government. As Lennon indicated, you have become a useful idiot.
San Francisco, CA USA
To believe in global warming you have to believe the following:
1. That the earths temperatures regions were stable, and never changed due to natural causes.
2. That an ice age 16,000 years ago, was not natural, so that warming since then is not natural.
3. That over 20 glacial advances and retreats have occurred during the last 2 million years, were not naturally caused.
4. That the earth is dead. The oceans, rain forest, volcanoes, plant growth, or clouds have no effect on the environment.
5. Mankind in all omnipotent. Only we effect the environment. A few of us with aerosol cans will create Ozone holes, and global warming. An exploding volcano that spews more chemical is the air in one belch than mankind has done in its total existence has no affect on the atmosphere.
6. Only western cultures have any effect on the environment. Anything out of China, or a third world country is natural or has no effect.
7. That people have no memories about all the doom and gloom predictions that NEVER even came close to being a fact.
8. That raising the average temperature of the worlds artic Poles from, -60 to -40 will melt ice.
9. That raising temperatures is a bad thing, and has no benefit to any animal or plant. If temperatures rise and we use less oil to heat our home, or that Florida organs will never be ruined do to frost bite, are all bad things.
10. That mankind has more power over global temperatures than the Sun does.
11. That if you take all of the worlds green house gases and represent them by a column 1 mile high, mankinds contribution is 3/8 of an inch. This contribution will raise global temperatures like urinating in the Ocean will raise the water level.
Those who proclaim Man Made Global warming are FRAUDS, SNAKE OIL SALESMEN. .
Reading comprehension my FRiend.
If those fluctuations were "minor," then any current fluctuation is nothing to worry about because the fluctuations you dismiss were bigger than anything that's allegedly happening now. You aren't my friend, you're itching for a pseudo-environmental dictatorship.
Try a dose of scientific comprehension.
the risk of a climatic catastrophe is high enough for the world to spend a small proportion of its income trying to prevent one from happening.
The Kyoto protocol
Developing countries argue, quite reasonably, that, since the rich world created the problem, it must take the lead in solving it
That could be a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system, such as Europe's Emissions-Trading Scheme
California's state assembly has just passed tough Kyoto-style targets.
The human economy has never been large enough to affect the global climate so there aren't past examples. Now it is.
Good attempt to use a Rush /Exxon talking point though
Roughly 300 years after this "industrial revolution" he has managed to build a civilization that spans the globe and is capable of exploiting all available resources."
I don't buy what you are selling. It's all scare tactics to blame the United States. Scientists want grant money, politicians want tax money, and socialtists and communists want power. Global warming is a man made scheme to accomplish just that.
We know the earth's climate has changed substantially many times in the past. It is pure folly (and a bit arrogant too) to think we have any meaningful control over it and that we can prevent these changes from happening again.
There's another "green house" gas that traps far more heat than CO2. There is also far, far more of it...
It's called water vapor.
Though rarely mentioned...
We'll simply have to adapt. And ultimately we need to get off this rock.
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