Monday :: Jan 1, 2007

Resolution for the New Year


by Mary

What was the biggest story for 2006? I'd agree with Jeff Alworth that the story of the year was about global warming and our evolving understanding of it. Jeff noted that during this year we had a marked reduction in articles that gave "equal time" to the global warming debunkers because finally for all but a dwindling number of naysayers, global warming is understood to be a real phenomenom to which humans have contributed. Certainly Al Gore's beautiful documentary had something to do with this, but I also think that another reason global warming is being dealt with more realistically is that this year a number of studies have been published where the science clearly shows the climate is changing. The evidence is so compelling that even a majority of conservatives admit the problem.

(My favorite new believers are Frank Luntz and Pat Robertson. And even bendito admits it's happening, it's just that he thinks it won't make much difference to his life.)

Now that we are finally having a much needed discussion about global warming, the next question is what should we be doing to address the problem? Al Gore certainly is no alarmist in his prescriptions. He believes there has been a great deal of groundwork laid that will allow us to change our habits to live more lightly on the earth. What he felt we were lacking was the sense of urgency needed to make the dramatic changes required to cut back our greenhouse gas emissions.

Even the old grey lady is using the business pages to write about how individuals can change what they are doing to reduce greenhouse emissions. What's weird about the piece is they show that simple little things like picking an SUV that gets 16 mpg rather than one that gets 14 mpg would have gone a ways to helping achieve the targets that were set by the Kyoto agreement. Yet, the modest adjustments required for Kyoto aren't enough to really address the issue.

Even the most significant energy savings mentioned here are modest when compared with what it would take to limit global warming. Joseph J. Romm, an analyst at the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions and a head of the Energy Department’s efficiency and renewable energy program during the Clinton administration, said American carbon dioxide emissions come to about 44,000 pounds per person per year. Stabilizing the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide would require cutting that by 26,000 pounds to 35,000 pounds.

But the more modest goal set by the Kyoto Protocol, which would have required the United States to cut emissions by about 3,100 pounds per person annually, are well within reach.

Mr. Romm, the author of a new book about energy and climate change, “Hell and High Water,” said that eventually the world’s industries would have to switch to lower-carbon fuels, but before that time individuals and industries could take plenty of action. “You use efficiency to stop demand growth,” he said.

Just reaching the Kyoto agreement targets will be too little too late. After all, the biggest story about global warming this year was about how effective and powerful the feedback mechanisms are proving to be. Even the Oregonian's latest piece about global warming and it's potential effects on the Pacific Northwest ends with the following thought:

"Things are happening now almost faster than we can predict them," says Richard Gammon, a UW chemistry and oceanography professor. "Right now, the scientists are more alarmed than the general public."

If 2006 was the year that we finally admitted global warming was a serious problem, let's make 2007 the year we actually resolve to do something about it, including making our government take steps that reduce our dependence on carbon.

Update: here's another business page article from the Toronto Star discussing Joseph Romm's new book. (Thx GB!)

"One key goal of this book is to provide a fuller answer to the puzzle of why this country has failed to act on global warming," he writes, adding that the change required today will only come with public outrage. "My hair is on fire. And yours should be, too."

It sounds like a sobering book, yet one that could give our country a needed kick in the butt in getting some real action on this front.

Mary :: 1:31 PM :: Comments (8) :: Digg It!