After the failure in Poznan, it’s time to be honest: the world is not going to be cutting greenhouse gases anytime soon
The world’s environmental leaders have spent the past two weeks meeting in Poznan, Poland, pretending that they’re carrying on the fight against global warming first addressed by the Kyoto Protocol.
You recall the Kyoto Protocol. It was never ratified by the United States – defeated 95-0 in the US Senate in 1997, in fact – and has proven just as ineffective elsewhere around the world. It was supposed to be first step in the world’s cutback of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that are warming our atmosphere.
The hard truth be told, essentially none of those who signed onto the treaty have been able to cutback their greenhouse gas emissions.
People – surprise, surprise – demand to be warm at the cheapest prices. Developing countries like China and India have ignored it completely, with their emission rising at 6% to 8% a year. China now emits more greenhouse gases than even the United States.
Carbon dioxide emissions, which were increasing about 1% a year in the 1990s, are increasing about 3% percent a year in this decade. Leaders all across the world, including Barack Obama, continue to look straight into the camera and proclaim that they are going to solve the global warming crisis – by 2020, or 2050, or 2100 or … sometime soon.
The world desperately needs to get serious, including President-elect Obama, Europe’s leaders and every UN bureaucrat who dined handsomely in the evenings in Poznan. The truth is, the world is not going to be cutting greenhouse gases anytime soon. If ever.
There are simply no reasonable alternatives. Wind power is too scant. Nuclear power is too controversial. Solar power is stuck in a dream world. It gets a little better every year, but it will never be good enough. Nuclear fusion is hopeless, perpetually 25 years in the future.
Not one of us – you, me, Obama or the greenest activist anywhere in the world – is willing to live without the comforts fossil fuels provide us – heat, light, instant hot food, convenient transportation, modern agriculture and airplane travel.
There are too many factors pointing strongly in the wrong direction: the demonstrated refusal of western countries to sacrifice in the face of the climate problem they created; the insistence of developing countries that they be able to live at least as well as the US and Europe and their unwillingness to cut back greenhouse gas emissions as long as first world countries – who largely created this mess – refuse to do so. The lack of any reasonable alternatives, and our lack of interest in developing them, further hinders the ability to find a solution.
We are never going to live as cheaply as we possibly can, especially here in the US, and we simply do not have the wisdom to sacrifice for the sake of those who will live decades ahead of us. From the time we landed on the Atlantic coast and pushed westward, it is simply not bred in the American bone.
Obama will not change this. Americans will not accept large increases in what we pay for gasoline and electricity. President-elect Obama says he is going to solve the financial crisis, the healthcare crisis, the infrastructure crisis, the energy crisis, the climate crisis and perhaps even the intolerable shortage of magic pixie dust.
The man is quite the optimist. But let’s not be completely stupid.
Our problems, especially the climate crisis, are not going away anytime soon. The alternative technologies we need to reduce our carbon emissions to essentially zero – what scientists are now telling us is necessary – simply aren’t there, and won’t be anytime soon.
Nor is the sense of crisis really there. Those claiming we are near some kind of catastrophic tipping point simply have no science to back up their claims.
Those expecting that we are going to reduce our atmosphere’s carbon dioxide content to 350 parts per million are naïve activists perhaps living off the donations to their organisations. In any case, they are dreaming in la-la land.
There is no crisis that will change our minds – not heat waves in France, not Katrina, not the disappearance of Arctic ice up north. We want what we want, and our species is lousy at planning for the future.
Even the world’s climate organisers do not hesitate to fly thousands of miles to Poland and live high on the hog.
Given this, what can we do? Be realistic, first of all. Let’s fund geo-engineering research to the hilt, exploring how we can someday modify our planet’s natural systems to produce a slight atmospheric cooling. It is our destiny.
But most of all, let’s open our eyes and begin to be honest. You will fly to Jamaica this winter instead of cutting your greenhouse gases. Fine. Can we please accept this and begin to move on?