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Climate Change 

January 3, 2008

Taking Stock

Happy New Year to everyone (even if this is not your particular New Year), and I hope that you all had something nice for the holidays! I thought that at this time we could take stock of some of the major happenings of the past year. From my perspective, it was a mixed year.

Some of the highs included the release of the long-awaited IPCC report, the awarding of the Nobel Prize to both the IPCC and tireless campaigner Al Gore, and the growing awareness of global warming by both the global population, and the people here in the United States. Depending on which poll you believe, anywhere from 60% to 80% of persons questioned in the United States now accept the reality of global warming, and a majority of those believe that human activities are the main drivers. Less clear to me is what fraction of those believers think that something positive can be done about the problem, and the extent to which they are willing to modify their own lifestyles to accomplish change. Another high would be the convening of the Bali conference in Indonesia, which brought together most of the world’s governments to discuss the problem, and to seek solutions.

Some of the lows: The Bali conference. In spite of great hopes going into the conference, most concerned citizens were disappointed by the almost complete lack of any firm commitments by almost every governing body. The United States continues to refuse to set mandatory cut-backs on emissions within an effective timeframe, and this simply reinforces the resolve of China and India to do likewise. An associated low-point would be the almost complete lack of effective action here in the United States. A well-meaning Congress accomplished almost nothing. Representatives of coal-producing states (including Democrat legislators), and primarily Midwestern states, effectively killed an effort that would allow the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to strengthen limits on greenhouse gas emissions if warming predictions exceed a certain level. Likewise, perhaps partly as a consequence, California’s efforts to do the same have now been blocked by the EPA! And to complete this negative note, many of us in the public, while growing in our awareness and acceptance of the problem, are still unwilling to take any measures that might affect the pocketbook (taxes, changes in purchasing habits, etc.), and are unwilling to recognize that the United States leads the world in per capita harmful emissions.

Where do we go in 2008? A friend recently expressed, over dinner, great pessimism about us doing anything positive at all. She also expressed surprise at my seeming optimism. I wouldn’t say that I am necessarily optimistic; I’m stubborn. I refuse to accept any worst-case scenarios, perhaps until they are actually upon me. There’s still time, and there’s a lot of work to be done. I hope that many, maybe all, of you out there feel the same way.

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Filed under: Climate Change — Peter @ 9:58 am

2 Comments »

  1. I am pleased that you refuse to accept any worst-case scenarios; me too. All those scenarios are based on weak science. The Peace Prize is a political not a science award. Because of all the press I suspect it is true that the majority believes that human activities drive global warming. You say global warming is a problem. How so? It is interesting that the conference was in Bali. Having a conference in the Tropics is much more desirable than holding it in the Arctic. Warmer, after all, is much better than colder. Of course there is a lack of commitment. Of course we are unwilling to take measures that might affect our pocketbook. It makes no sense to make sacrifices to the global warming Gods for no clear benefit.

    Comment by Don — September 3, 2008 @ 12:07 pm

  2. Don, please do NOT misinterpret me. I refuse to accept worst-case scenarios because I believe that they are defeatist, not because I doubt the science behind them. Those scenarios are definitely in the realm of possibility. You doubt that global warming is a problem? How so? Why is warmer better? Is this a scientific opinion? Doubtful. The idea that avoiding mitigation is better for your pocketbook is, I’m afraid, a very short-sighted one. It flies in the face of the very investment-based economic theory that underlies free markets and capitalism. So that is not a very good position to argue from.

    Comment by peter — September 7, 2008 @ 12:09 pm

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