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