Friday, March 23, 2007

On Global Warming, Rauch Nails It

Jonathan Rauch hits the nail on the head on global warming: the rhetoric is overheated (oh sure - like I'm the first one to make that pun), and the proposed 'solutions' are unrealistic and excessively costly:

The IPCC says that the world would continue to warm for decades even if all human greenhouse-gas emissions were to magically stop tomorrow, which of course they won't. In testimony last month before a House of Representatives panel, Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research said, "The 2007 IPCC report makes clear that even aggressive mitigation would yield benefits many decades in the future, and that no amount of mitigation can avoid significant climate change."

Carbon dioxide both accumulates and dissipates in the atmosphere very slowly. Because the stock of greenhouse gases already present in the atmosphere dwarfs any one year's emissions, and because any one year's emissions can be changed only slightly, stabilizing greenhouse gases is like turning an aircraft carrier, only much slower. Annual emissions might be stabilized toward midcentury, and atmospheric concentrations at some point after that; but sharp turns are impossible and short-term effects minuscule...

"What we do now makes a difference for the future," says Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "The longer we wait, the worse the problem gets." On the other hand, the more precipitously we act, the more we disrupt the economy. A coal-fired electric plant lasts 40 to 60 years; gradually replacing dirty old plants with clean new ones is much more efficient than abruptly decommissioning old plants and replacing them with -- well, with nothing, because electric plants take years to build. Besides, the best carbon-cutting technologies are still in development. "We know from experience the length of time it takes to develop and implement new technologies in the electricity sector," says Revis James of the Electric Power Research Institute. "That's about 20 to 25 years."

This argues not for passivity, and not for delay, but for _gradualism_: setting up policies that will tighten the screws on greenhouse-gas emissions over the next few decades. The convenient truth about global warming, then, is that radicalism is as pointless as it is impractical. Slow-but-steady is not only the easiest approach; it is also the most effective.

Read the whole thing.

Hat Tip: Hit & Run

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

a long line of, "it is too hard to deal with approach".
the debate on this blog reminds me of the AIDS debate of the early 80s. so many people did not want it to be true that they ignored what the scientists were telling them, heck reagan would not even say the word. I predict the progression over the next 5 yrs will be the same now that even bush has admitted that global warming exists.

Peddler's Brother said...

Yeah.... now that the NY Times is telling Gore he's overblown the issue and Martian Global Warming is in the news I'm sure the situation will be just like the AIDs debate.


Like a tonka truck is like cheese.

SO what you're saying is you'd like the US to go to an economy like the Dark Ages, politicians will continue to by Carbon Indulgences and China, India,the 3rd world can pollute all they want!

Anonymous said...

"the debate on this blog reminds me of the AIDS debate of the early 80s. so many people did not want it to be true that they ignored what the scientists were telling them,"

You're right... if the AIDs advocates were traveling to Haiti and indulging themselves with dozens of prostitutes then sharing needles with as many people as possible while donating blood at every opportunity!

Skeeter said...

"a long line of, "it is too hard to deal with approach".
the debate on this blog reminds me of the AIDS debate of the early 80s."

What about the global cooling debate of the 1970s-does it remind you of that?!?

Anonymous said...

come on people--there is basketball on, stop being so angry and enjoy march...

Ahh editorials, I love it when folks cite them as evidence…
What I am saying is that you are not up to date on the issue; the debate is no longer if the world is warming, or that humans contribute to it, now the debate is how bad it will be.

I believe the AIDS analogy is just. We are now at the point with global warming that we were with AIDS in 88 when Reagan finally acknowledged its existence. Earlier action by Reagan would have saved countless American lives, but because the Administration wanted the situation to be untrue, they failed to act. You can see this kind of activity even more easily in the current administration. Not to go on a complete tangent, but this is why I feel it is dangerous to have someone in the White House who feels instinct trumps data analysis. It is an intellectually laziness that endangers America.
Ultimately, time will prove one of us correct, and by one of us I mean me. Just because you don’t want the Hoyas to lose, does not mean they are going to win. Just because you don’t want to die doesn’t mean that is not your ultimate fate. Just because double negative are poor grammar does not mean I will not use them to make my ramblings sound more literary. At some point you have to look at the evidence, and listen to those who understand what it means—that is not Gore, that is the scientific community.

Grrrrrrrr said...

So like if we implement what Gore wants-doesn't that mean other nations will simply pick up the industrial slack... producing what we fail to produce .... and get richer-with dirtier industries?

Other said...

"We are now at the point with global warming that we were with AIDS in 88 when Reagan finally acknowledged its existence. "

Or maybe we're right their when the FDA announced that Agent Orange was A-Okay!

Or right there when they said that DDT is bad for you!

Or that Pluto was a planet!

Or when Global Cooling was imminent!

Don't rip on politicians, science waffles more often then they do. I am wondering how long it will be before someone argues that transfats are an important part of the diet or that the Equivalence Principal is wrong.

Come on- even the NYTimes thinks Gore is hyping things.

The Editor at IP said...

Go UCLA Bruins!

The Editor at IP said...

Actually, that was flip, but let me pick up on a point made by Rauch:

just because you want human activity to compose a large enough portion of the global carbon sink for our actions to make a significant difference, does not make it so.