Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Global Warming: A Crisis Without a Solution

When it comes to global warming, I'm somewhere in the middle of the road. I don't buy that the whole thing is a politically-motivated scam; at the same time, though, I don't believe for a minute that restricting energy use through caps (a la Kyoto) would work, even if China, India, and the US were all on board (which will never happen). It's simply impossible to make the kind of cuts that would be required while maintaining anywhere near the current standard of living worldwide (though, given the belief of many prominent environmentalists that humanity is a plague upon the earth that must be substantially reduced, if not eliminated altogether, this could well be an intended "unintentional" consequence).

It's my opinion that since we can't go back, the only way out of this mess is forward--that is to say, new technology is our only hope. The voice in the media that most closely coincides with my views on the environment is, ironically, Robert Samuelson. (I say ironically because I disagree with him on almost everything else.)

In the wake of the recent international report on global warming, Samuelson has taken the opportunity to once again inject some much-needed sanity into the debate:

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.

Read the whole thing.



Travis Wiebe said...

What's nice about Samuelson on this issue is that he fully understand the nature of the problem. By emphasing the economics without downplaying maintream scientific opinion he gets to the root of the issue.

OK, this is optimistic, but if we took the resources we are spending in Iraq and put them into R&D of alternative energies could we figure a way out of the conundrum?

I'm afraid this isn't going to happen without a city under-water.

Shack said...

More resources for R&D certainly couldn't hurt, but that's only effective to a degree--at some point, it becomes less a matter of money being thrown at the problem and more a matter of the right researchers stumbling onto the right questions to find an answer. And that takes time.

I think time is the most important commodity here--the question is whether there's enough time left to reach that critical breakthrough before it's too late.

Dad29 said...

By the way, it's not clear what the 'normal' variance in temperature really is.

A couple of decades ago, it was "cooling," which was virtually un-noticeable for the man on the street.

So are we "warming" to the same extent? Greater? Lesser?

Nuclear power!!