Feature

Global warming: Do ‘green’ initiatives matter?

George W. Bush has blown his final chance on climate change, said The Washington Post in an editorial. With only nine months left in office, the president still had time to correct his “terrible legacy of inaction” on global

George W. Bush has blown his final chance on climate change, said The Washington Post in an editorial. With only nine months left in office, the president still had time to correct his “terrible legacy of inaction” on global warming. But last week, in what the White House hyped as a major Earth Day speech, Bush proposed some meager fuel-economy standards and a “low-ball goal” of halting the growth in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 17 years from now—in 2025. These minor measures served only “to inflame his critics,” said Zachary Coile in the San Francisco Chronicle. Bush’s proposals fell far short of the 50 percent reduction that leading climatologists say is needed to curb mounting temperatures, rising seas, and extreme weather throughout the globe. Nor did the president offer any enforcement mechanisms. “By the time President Bush’s plan finally starts to cut global warming emissions,” said Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), “the planet will already be cooked.”

Says who? asked Patrick Michaels in The Wall Street Journal. In the past 30 years, climatologists claim, the earth has warmed by only a “paltry” 0.31 degrees Fahrenheit. “And even that 0.31 degree figure is suspect.” Though surface thermometers have detected a warming trend, “temperatures sensed by satellites and weather balloons displayed no concurrent warming.” But since the myth of global warming has now been embraced by the scientific establishment and the alarmist media as an established fact, any contrary evidence or opinion is ignored. Meanwhile, any piece of melting polar ice or uptick in temperature is proclaimed proof of the coming apocalypse. Even if things are as bad as Al Gore’s acolytes insist, said Roy Spencer in National Review Online, our current “green” initiatives—“buying compact fluorescent light bulbs and hybrid cars, turning off the light when we leave the room”—are producing minuscule reductions in greenhouse gases. “There is simply nothing we can do, short of shutting down the global economy, that will substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions.”

That’s just not true, said Bryan Walsh in Time. Halting climate change will require an even bigger effort than the Manhattan Project to develop the atom bomb, but it’s feasible. The challenge is to create “a new energy system, one that doesn’t depend on carbon.” Fortunately, opportunities are everywhere. Within a decade, photovoltaic solar panels will be economically competitive with fossil fuels. “Tidal power, geothermal energy, and even nuclear fusion could take off with enough luck and money.” That’s the catch—the money, said Steven Mufson in The Washington Post. Harvard energy expert Henry Lee guesses that “a sustained battle against climate change” would cost the U.S. up to 3 percent of its annual gross domestic product for the foreseeable future. Will Americans be willing to spend hundreds of billions to address a problem some people still deny exists?

Perhaps they will, said Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times, but only if we approach this realistically. Priuses and more efficient light bulbs would enable the U.S. to shave a mere few percentage points off our output of carbon; meanwhile, the galloping economies of China and India are burning so much coal and gasoline that global warming would continue apace. Only a major breakthrough in some alternative form of energy will halt the warming of the planet—perhaps coupled with “geo-engineering,” by which we soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or reflect away sunlight to cool the planet. Meanwhile, time for action is growing short. Weaning ourselves from fossil fuels “will be one of humanity’s greatest tests in the coming decades—and so far we’re failing.”

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