Happy Birthday, Kyoto

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:34 AM GMT on February 20, 2006

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Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol, which went into effect on February 16, 2005. The world's industrialized countries that signed the Protocol are legally obligated to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 by a total of 5.2% (compared to 1990 emissions) by 2012. The U.S. and Australia did not participate, and developing countries were not asked to. About 50% of world's emissions of greenhouse gases come from Kyoto nations, so if the treaty were successful, global emissions would fall by about 2.6%.

How are the signatory nations doing so far?
Not very well, according to both critics and supporters. It seems unlikely that Kyoto's goal will be met by 2012. For example, the European Environment Agency warned in November that the European Union was likely to cut its emission by only 2.5% by 2012, not the 8% they promised under the Kyoto Protocol. It now appears that the only EU members that might meet their targeted reductions are Sweden and the UK.

Below I've tablulated recent estimates (usually from 2003 or 2004) of how the various countries are doing, percentagewise, in terms of slashing their emissions compared to the 1990 benchmark.

Greenhouse gas emission increases, by nation, since 1990

EU countries (15% of world's total emissions)
------------------------------------------------- -----------
Germany -18%
Britain -13%
Luxembourg -11%
Sweden -2%
France -2%
Belgium +1%
Netherlands +1%
Denmark +6%
Italy +12%
Austria +17%
Finland +21%
Greece +23%
Ireland +25%
Portugal +37%
Spain +41%

Other Kyoto protocol countries:
-----------------------------------------
Russia -35% (6% of world's total emissions)
Japan +19% (5% of world's total emissions)
Canada +24% (2% of world's total emissions)
Czech Republic -23%
Estonia -51%
Hungary -31%
Latvia -58%
Lithuania -66%
Poland -32%
Slovakia -28%
Slovenia -3%

Non-signatory countries
---------------------------------
U.S. +16% (25% of world's total emissions)
India +80% (5% of world's total emissions)
China +46% (15% of world's total emissions)
Australia +31% (2% of world's total emissions)

Britain, Germany, and the former Soviet bloc countries have made big reductions. However, their cuts have had litte to do with Kyoto. Germany and some Soviet bloc countries got big one-time savings by closing inefficient coal-fired plants in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Economic hard times have also contributed to the emissions reductions in some of these countries. In the UK, electric utilities in the 1990s shifted from burning coal, which has high CO2 emissions, to cleaner-burning natural gas. Now that the price of natural gas has risen relative to coal, more UK utilities are burning coal. CO2 emissions are increasing once more, and were up over 1% in 2004 compared to 2003. The UK was slated to make a 12% cut in emissions under the Kyoto pact, and the government announced last week that this was unlikely to happen.

What can countries who are failing to meet Kyoto targets do?
Under the U.N.'s "clean development mechanism," developed countries are allowed to exceed their emissions allowance by investing in emissions projects in less-developed nations, trading the emission reduction abroad for emissions output at home. It is likely that many nations will resort to this trick in the coming years in order to meet the Kyoto requirements.

What happens if a country misses its Kyoto Protocol target in 2012?
Then they have to pay back at a penalty rate (130%) in the years after 2012, when there will presumably be a new agreement for the 2013-2018 period. Negotiations to hammer out a successor agreement are set to begin in May 2006 in Bonn, Germany. It is possible that countries that are failing to meet their Kyoto Protocol targets for 2012 will choose not to sign successor agreement, to avoid the penalty. Also, any nation that signed the Kyoto Protocol is allowed to drop out after three years--on February 16, 2008. Some nations may take this route to avoid the penalty.

Is Kyoto having a significant impact?
The Kyoto Protocol's target of a 5.2% reduction in emissions is tiny compared to what is needed in order to prevent substantial warming. Critics say this proves the worthlessness of the treaty, while supporters say it is a neccesary first step. In order to achieve a maximum 2�C temperature rise, some studies project global CO2 cuts of 50% by 2050 are required. Industrialized countries would have to cut their CO2 emissions by 80%. Considering that the world's nations that are trying to reduce emissions via the Kyoto Protocol are unlikely to meet even a 5% reduction, it looks pretty likely that we'll be seeing a much warmer world by the end of the century.

Is there hope for avoiding a major warming this century?
There is a large amount of uncertainty in both the social and scientific aspects of climate change that leave some hope that we will avoid warming the Earth by 2�C this century. I've composed a list of five possible scenarios that might cause this, and ordered them from most likely to least likely:

Dr. Jeff Masters' top five list of 21st Century scenarios that might keep us from warming 2�C this century:

1) A dramatic climate change disaster or potential disaster will suddenly unfold, spurring the nations of the world to cut emissions drastically (similar to what the emergence of the Antarctic Ozone Hole did for regulating CFCs).

2) We luck out, and climate change turns out to be at the cool end of the scientific uncertainty estimates.

3) The global economy will crash due to war, natural disaster, climate change, or other causes, bringing drastically reduced emissions.

4) A revolutionary low-cost energy technology will emerge to replace fossil fuels.

5) Aliens will land and give us their non-polluting, limitless energy technology.

I'm hoping for scenario #4 or #5, but I think there is a significant chance scenario #1 will happen in the period 15 to 50 years from now. We may well be pushing the climate system too hard and in too many ways to avoid triggering a climate shift that will cause big trouble for a lot of people. I'll expand on the possibilities in future blogs this month.

Next blog (probably on Wednesday): A possible candidate for scenario #1: the bad news from Greenland reported last Friday in Science magazine.

Jeff Masters

Cloud or flying saucer (Grim)
Cloud or flying saucer
Incoming Aliens (Lemurian)
Incoming Aliens

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138. Skyepony (Mod)
1:17 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Researchers Find Evidence of Human-Produced Warming in Oceans~
A new study has found a compelling agreement between observed changes in ocean temperatures since 1960 and the changes simulated by two climate models under rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. In all of the worlds ocean basins, the warming predicted by the models for the upper 700 meters (2,300 feet) of the ocean corresponded to actual measurements obtained at sea, with confidence exceeding 95 percent.

The immediate conclusion is that human influences are largely responsible for the warming signal, the authors write. The statistical significance of these results is far too strong to be merely dismissed, and should wipe out much of the uncertainty about the reality of global warming, said lead author Tim Barnett of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Barnett and his colleagues used one of the models to explore whether the climates own natural variability could account for the warming oceans, or whether the warming could be explained by other natural factors such as solar variability and volcanic eruptions. In neither case could the model replicate the warming that has been observed in the real world. The changes were simply too strong to be explained by natural causes.

The authors argue that since these two climate models have been shown to simulate past changes accurately, their predictions for future changes, at least out to the next 20-30 years, are apt to be reasonably good. The study was published in the June 2, 2005 online version of the journal Science.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 223 Comments: 39361
137. TPaul
12:18 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
hurricanechaser, this is a funny game you are playing. I read every post in here and you were the first person to bring up the the issue of Gay Marriage, That is FACT. So for you to say you were responding to someone else is in correct. And now when people start to pick up on this you go and say
"I am done discussing these issues if you are done directing comments to me or about me.
". Which is of course is a dead setup, and which you have done several times before. And in a day or two you will be back in here pulling the same stunts and taking up more space with your posts then everyone elses posts combined, which half the time are copy and pastes of one of your previous posts with maybe some minor modifications, but I think I read one of your post that was nearly an exact duplicate of another. And what is funny is that I don't think I have seen this user "stansimms72" before, certainly not in this whole long set of posts but suddenly they up and decide to call me a hippocriet because of a simple comment I make. I am just getting tired of having to weed through your all your non relavent posts to carry on a simple discussion with everyone else on the relavent topics that Dr. Master's puts forth. Now I am sure you will take this as a personal attack, because you seem to think that anybody saying anything to you that doesn't support you is a personal attack, but as one Christian to another my oppinion of you is the same as your oppinion of your homosexual friends, I can love you as a person, but I find actions unacceptable.

Now I will appologize to everyone else on here because obviously I have given hurricanechaser the execuse to go on for another couple of hundred post because he can now use the execuse that he feels he has been wronged by me, yadayada....
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136. hurricanechaser
1:08 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
St.simons,

I agree, but I am not the one bringing up other topics first, but will reply to questions off topic especially when its about my Faith.

Thanks,
Tony
132. snowboy
12:52 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Chaser the rudeness as I see rests with the one who unsolicited pushes his faith on others who are not interested, and who in fact may be offended by some of the mean-spirited nonsense about "sin" which is being posted.
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131. hurricanechaser
12:52 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Snowboy,

Just for the record, they can't be unsolicited if I am asked about them first.

Thanks,
Tony
129. hurricanechaser
12:46 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Snowboy,

Why is it that you cannot be respectful and rather choose to be so rude with the personal attacks accompanied wit unnecessary name calling.

Your posts are no more beneficial than any others and I would appreciate you letting the issue drop which I had until your unnecessary post.

Posted By: snowboy at 12:37 AM GMT on February 22, 2006.

Chaser, you have become the equivalent of a troll with your frequent objectionable and unsolicited monologues on your "faith". Please keep this stuff off the blog. There is so much of this cluttering up the blog that it's hard for any reasonable weather or climate-related discussion to get going.

I asked that no one bring up the questions and I will not discuss it, but if questioned about my FAITH as has always been the case, I will respond whether you like it or not.:)

My posts aren't monologues but well intenioned and not mean spirited unlike yours and many others.

Thanks,
Tony


128. hurricanechaser
12:35 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Geoman,

That was an excellent and clearly objective post on Global warming and that's pretty much how I see it myself, which some can't seem to comprehend and incorrectly assume I neither believe there is a warming trend in some cases and misunderstand that I believe there is simply no conclusive data suggesting that this warming has been the direct result of GHG emmisions.

Furthermore, I've consistently stated that I personally believe Natural clmate variabilty is most likely the DIRECT cause with some minimal effect caused by human activities.

How much either way, no one truly knows, because our understanding of climate change is still very much in its infancy, which is why I don't blinding accept the dooms day scenarios as fact much less likely.

Consequently, this debate will continue for decades to come in my personal opinion.

Thanks for an excellent post.:)

Thanks,
Tony


127. snowboy
12:26 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Chaser, you have become the equivalent of a troll with your frequent objectionable and unsolicited monologues on your "faith". Please keep this stuff off the blog. There is so much of this cluttering up the blog that it's hard for any reasonable weather or climate-related discussion to get going.
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126. sayhuh
11:52 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
Ay carumba! It amazes me to watch the topics stray when there is not enough definitive proof on a given topic to prove out. It almost seems with lack of something substantial or tangible, the conversations always drift. Granted everyone is entitled to an opinion, and to defend where there is a feeling of being attacked, but certainly there must be come compromise between thought and expression?
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122. Geoman
8:40 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
One thing that has always bothered me about the global warming debate is the lack of long term data that is reliable--for example, when we talk about a record hurricane season in 2005, we need to make it clear that this is for as long as accurate records were kept in the Atlantic basin; to be honest, maybe back 120 or so years. In geological terms, this is a split second--even accurate temperature readings cannot be relied upon 100% beyond 100 years. This is not enough data to conclusively prove that this or that is a cause of global warming--this is not good science. The geologic record records many periods of hot and cold climate, clearly with causes other than human intervention. Is human intervention a factor in the current warming trend? I'm sure there is a connection, but how much of connection is anyone's guess at the moment--there is not enough data and too much contradictory evidence to support this hypothesis one way or the other. As we have seen, anyone can doctor the data to support almost any position at this point.
Does that mean we should do nothing? By no means--we should do what we can to lessen impact on the earth: no easy task with 6 billion of us roaming around. However, part of the problem may be solved for us--as has been mentioned, the oil supply will not last forever. According to a USGS study, among others, we are fast approaching the point where our demand for oil exceeds the existing supply; many of these "production cuts" in many oil-producing nations may just be a cover for a dwindling reserve. The question is, what is the alternative? Considering how much we depend upon oil--not just for transportation, but for plastics, medicines, and so forth--a major change in our life styles and opinions will be in order. For example, what substitute do we have for air travel with not avgas available? Will we be flying dirigibles powered with natural gas-powered internal combustion engines? Nuclear energy is a clean option for electrical, but it is currently politically incorrect--and the disposal of radioactive waste is a valid concern.
I would love to do my bit by using mass transit--I did for a while when gas in Southern California maxxed out near $3 per gallon--but then LACoMTA cut the line that I used, forcing me back into my car. Alternatives? None now, but something has to be done soon.

PS Again, here is an interesting essay on climate and sun spots from 1992 that throws another variable into the climate mix.
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120. F5
11:12 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
Inyo,

Neither government nor corporations are in charge of things. The people are in charge. Corporations only exist because they produce goods and services that people/corporations are willing to accept in exchange for other goods or services. One of the government's functions is to prevent the situation from getting one-sided vis-a-vis monopolies. However, how many government funded research discoveries have there been compared to private equity research discoveries. Heck, government funding is a relatively recent phenomenon, apart from military research. How did we ever discover/invent anything prior to government funded research.

That said, I am not advocating a total shutdown of government funded research, where appropriate. But it needs to be a lot more strict that it has been in the past.

Remember, altruism in a capitalistic society just doesn't exist. By that, I mean that people/organizations are motivated to make discoveries by potential profit, or by another name, greed. They do it because they feel they can entice people to give up money in exchange for the goods their research has produced.

Now, if government is funding the research, it is likely that any patents will be available to use by anyone willing to pay the licensing fees, which makes the output a commodity to be produced by the lowest cost mfr and reduces the profit motive, thus making companies less likely to engage in producing that product, especially if they feel their money can be better invested somewhere else making a greater return.

Of course, nothing is absolute in the world except death and taxes, take all this with a grain of salt.
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118. Inyo
11:03 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
I don't agree that corporations will provide us with all the scientific research we need on this topic. It's hard for most of these corporations to think long-term, and really, i think this is why the government should step in and fund research. Yeah, no one likes a government that is too big but to me a huge corporation in control of things is even worse. And, yes i realize that both corporations and the government are entities that everyone can participate in, etc. However, the government is supposed to represent all of us while corporations only represent a few wealthy stockowners.
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117. TPaul
10:33 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
stansimms72, Not sure what your game is, and not sure what you have to do with CBs tunnels, but certainly I was not referring to his tunnels in my post. I don't think that he has put enough thought into his idea but certainly it is a topic of relavance in regards to the weather.
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116. Skyepony (Mod)
9:09 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
A govt article summary, from Dec 6th~ U.S. Official Addresses First Plenary Climate Change Meeting. It states the President & govt's take on Kyoto & their plans for reducing emmisions, change of energy source & allies in energy.

Just their side~ perhaps I'll have time to comment later...
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 223 Comments: 39361
115. medicpetite
8:32 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
My personal opinion on alternative energy is to use more nuclear power generation. The risk/benefit ratio is more than acceptable and we have had years of experience to learn how to do it right.
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114. DenverMark
8:02 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
F5 and TPaul - That was a poor choice of words on my part. The rate of warming appears to be greater in the past 20 years or so, but that is based on the observed data which can be questioned based on location and exposure of instruments, urban heat islands, etc. I actually lean more toward the conservative side and was a complete skeptic about global warming until about 10 years ago. Also, I would agree that it is best for the market to work things out which will happen when the price of oil rises high enough. I was trying to give the President a little benefit of the doubt, but don't have much faith in government to solve the energy situation or the other serious problems mentioned. That much said, I appreciate the diversity of opinion on this blog and do value what everyone has to say whether I agree or not :-)
Member Since: February 11, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 6988
113. Denverite
8:01 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
This is all well and good, but if we don't solve the global population problem, global warming will be a light hearted subject...

more people = more resources = more pollution

Remember Barry Commoner's 4 laws of Ecology...
1) Everything is interconnected
2) Matter is neither created nor destroyed
3) Natural systems know best
4) There is no such thing as a free lunch...

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112. stansimms72
2:20 PM EST on February 21, 2006
tpaul wrote::


"I think things here have gotten totally out of hand and wonder if it is possible to take up a petition to ban some members when they go on and on at nausea for the sake of I don't know what. I hate having to scroll multiple pages to get through one post that is totally irravelent to the topic at hand. I am one that believes when an individual creates a blog on a specific topic that that individual has the right to limit it to that topic. Whether people want to believe it or not, blogs are not covered by the First Amendment unless they are payed for by the Government."

for example, your post above which has no relevance to the subject? hypocritical isn't it? very interesting.

my tunnels will make everyone stick to the subject.
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111. TPaul
6:49 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
DenverMark, I also can't agree with your notion that the earth is warming rapidly. Yes, I think it is warming and based on everything I have seen my best guess would be we would see a 3 degree rise this century of which 1 to 1.5 degrees could be attributed to human activitity of the previous 150 years.
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110. TPaul
6:28 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
I second ForecasterColby's comment below,

"Hey Dr. Masters - perhaps it would be best to not allow comments on some of these controversial blog entries"

I think things here have gotten totally out of hand and wonder if it is possible to take up a petition to ban some members when they go on and on at nausea for the sake of I don't know what. I hate having to scroll multiple pages to get through one post that is totally irravelent to the topic at hand. I am one that believes when an individual creates a blog on a specific topic that that individual has the right to limit it to that topic. Whether people want to believe it or not, blogs are not covered by the First Amendment unless they are payed for by the Government.
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109. F5
6:12 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
DenverMark,

I don't think we all agree the earth is warming "rapidly". I think we all agree it is warming. The extent is in question, both current and future.

As for the POTUS getting serious about alternative energy, there are two issues. First, the POTUS can set an agenda and could direct an amount of money into research, but every dollar spent there is one less dollar spent somewhere else, or you have to raise taxes. I think we have more pressing concerns, like disease, famine, hunger, housing, that should be priorities. Of course, this assumes that you think it is the role of government to be caretaker. You can argue that disease is a matter of national health/security and thus in its purview. The social issues regarding housing, hunger, famine, etc., should be outside the scope of what the US government is allowed to do, unless it directly relates to national security. I know, I'm exposing my conservative/libertarian side here. Taking care of people is what people should be doing, not governments. Governments create big, ineffectual bureaucracies, that end up doing more harm than good in many circumstances, especially when they become self-sustaining instead of short-term assistance.

Diatribe aside, with the pot only so big, every dollar spent on alterntive energy sources is one less dollar for things that are more important, given the current state of things. On a related note, anytime a national politician does something for "election" purposes, you can be assured that it is unlikely to be good for the nation as a hole.

The second issue I have is that it's easy to say "The government" should do research and resolve the issue. But that ignores both economics and reality. If anything is to ween us of our dependence on foreign energy sources, it will be economics. The price of oil will simply have to rise to a level at which alternative energy sources become more attractive as investments to companies. There's little if any impetus for a company to invest money in those kinds of technologies without some driving factor, such as high energy prices. For now, the prices have not reached a level that has really affected them a great deal. They simply pass that cost on to the consumer and the consumer pays it. However, when the cost passes a certain point, the consumer is less willing to part with their money, less product is sold, and companies begin to look for alternatives. Whoever said necessity is the mother of all invention was spot on. In addition, unless a company sees a big payoff for their investment, they still will be unwilling to put out a lot of money. If government research leads to solutions, no one will own the academics will own the patents and all who license the rights will simply be producing a commodity at that point.

Hydrogen fuel-cells are a good example. Companies are investing in R&D, and they are making progress. Yet there are considerable challenges to overcome. There is no national infrastructure, mileage rates are not great, it still takes using fossil fuels to produce hydrogen for fuel cells, and they still emit CO2, albeit about 63% less than gasoline powered vehicles. So while companies are investing in new technologies, they are only going to go so far until many of these issues are resolved. And as far as climate goes, even if the US was able to convert over entirely to hydrogen and reduce emissions by a huge amount, developing nations such as China and India will continue to increase the amount of CO2 and other GHG in the atmosphere at a rate that eventually will surpass any reduction achieved by the US and other countries.

None of this is to say that we should not be researching and investing in alternatives, only that there's no "Man to the Moon" directive that will resolve this issue.
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108. Inyo
6:10 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
actually, this is pretty typical of most blogs/message boards i've been on. and i do apologize for 'feeding the troll' and responding to these gay marriage posts... it's kind of a 'knee jerk' reaction and i should just try to ignore them.
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107. dcw
5:45 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
I'll bet there is...it's certainly an amazing study in group dynamics.

By the way Tony, I fixed the longitude on Fantasy Cane Adrian, so you can go make a forecast now.
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106. tornadoty
5:15 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
There has GOT to be some university out there that uses the discussions on this blog as part of some human relations course.
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105. Inyo
4:55 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
i think your interpretations of the bible's view of homosexuality are just wrong and indicate that you are simply being fed what certain parties (groups, not political parties) want you to hear rather than actually reading the book and drawing your own conclusions. There are as many arguments for mixing fabric types and breeding cattle with each other being a sin as there are for homosexuality being a sin. Remember, a generation ago, people were judged the same way by the color of their skin, or their country of origin, and people found ways of reading the Bible to imply that these people were inferior too. some of hte right wingers are just choosing a group of people to oppress beacuse they need someone to hate and you should see it as such. Also, you should not be trying to 'legislate morality', even Jesus said that. the idea of 'everyone becoming gay' is a joke. and the whole 'std spread' thing is also a fraud.. stds are spread faster when people have a large number of sexual partners and don't use protective devices. these traits arent inherently 'gay'.

okay, i dont want to spend a lot of time on here talking to it but when hurricanechaser is posting his ridiculous hate propaganda on here i feel the need to respond.

can we please get back to greenhouse warming? hurricanechaser, when i see this stuff coming out of your 'fingers', i start to doubt your intelligence, which i otherwise believed was high, and this if anything is an argument FOR antropomorphic warming.
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104. jeffB
4:54 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
F5, thanks for the link! It appears to predate the paper from Science that I mention in the other blog. If I get a chance, I'll go back and see whether the study in your link is one of the ones that the Science paper refuted.
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103. DenverMark
3:56 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
Now,back on topic. I think almost all of us agree that the Earth is warming rapidly, even though we are all over the spectrum as to how much of it is natural vs. being due to GHG emissions. But even if global warming is all natural and our attempts to reduce GHG emissions wouldn't make any difference,it makes sense for so many other reasons to begin weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels. We reduce the risk of a terrible economic shock or a major war being fought over oil, as well as reducing pollution. I hope President Bush is finally getting serious about developing alternative energy sources. It's good politics,too. If we have a huge oil price shock and a deep recession, that would result in a landslide for the Democrats.
Member Since: February 11, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 6988

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