Fareed Zakaria had an interesting piece in the Washington Post this week (also Newsweek apparently): Global Warming: Get Used To It.
No one likes to talk about adapting to global warming because it seems defeatist. But the result is that, as we debate the meta-theories about global warming, we’re increasingly unprepared to deal with its consequences. Whether or not CO2 emissions are triggering certain reactions in the atmosphere, we can see that sea levels are rising. What are we going to do about it?
I get so frustrated when people propose that they are making a difference by driving a Prius… it’s still fueled 100% by gasoline — until it starts charging from the electric-grid or starts giving >100% better fuel economy, it’s really just an expensive plastic car that grants the driver an air of environmental superiority. Meh.
Or as Robert Samuelson writes in We Have No Global Warming Solution:
Don’t be fooled. The dirty secret about global warming is this: We have no solution. About 80 percent of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), the main sources of man-made greenhouse gases. Energy use sustains economic growth, which — in all modern societies — buttresses political and social stability. Until we can replace fossil fuels, or find practical ways to capture their emissions, governments will not sanction the deep energy cuts that would truly affect global warming.
Considering this reality, you should treat the pious exhortations to “do something” with skepticism, disbelief or contempt. These pronouncements are (take your pick) naive, self-interested, misinformed, stupid or dishonest. Politicians mainly want to be seen as reducing global warming when they’re not. Companies want to polish their images and exploit markets created by new environmental regulations.
Word. It seems like nothing private business does is good enough unless it is approved by the government and endorsed by the Sierra Club, despite the fact that our cars and power plants have never been cleaner. You want to see a dirty coal plant — look at China (who will be building 2200 in the next 10 years — that’s probably 2199 more than will be built in the US in the same timeframe). Of course, China isn’t bound by Kyoto (which the US Senate, including John Kerry, voted against preemptively). Why didn’t the Democrats include a Kyoto resolution in their first 100 hours? Because it wouldn’t pass, and they’d be exposed for the hypocrites that they are (see Byrd-Hagel).
I recently read a proposal that could reduce the global temperature by 1.0 degree Celcius by spreading some particulate in the upper atmosphere, reflecting a tiny bit more solar energy each year. That would make up for the last 100 years of global warming (0.7 degrees) and provide a bit of a buffer for the next decade. It would cost somewhere in the range of 10’s of millions of dollars, versus 100’s of billions to implement all the traditional initiatives to stop global warming. ExxonMobil could fund this effort with one fiscal quarter’s profits; it wouldn’t require billions of people to change their everyday habits and standards of living.
If such a plan had a high probability of working, shouldn’t we consider it? Thoughts?