Friday, September 01, 2006

Terminating global warming

Once again, California is out front on the environment with an impressive effort to curb global warming. From the L.A. Times:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders agreed Wednesday on a plan to cut by 25% the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from California electric power plants, refineries and other sources by the year 2020.

A 25 percent reduction wouldn't be nearly enough. Some experts have argued that carbon emissions must be cut worldwide by as much as 70 percent over the next several decades for the trend towards global warming (and possibly massive and largely unpredictable climate change) to be reversed. (This in parallel with a rapid expansion of renewable, non-carbon energy supplies.)

President Bush clearly isn't serious about tackling the problem in any serious way, and nor is Prime Minister Harper here in Canada. For them, Kyoto, as inadequate (and obsolete) as is, seems to be a nuisance, a burden on their oil-friendly short-sightedness. Europe, however, is taking the lead. In Britain, for example, Prime Minister Blair, who recently linked up with California after getting nowhere with Bush, has committed to reduce emissions by 60 percent by 2050. Similar or even more progressive commitments have been made in France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Still, the California plan is a significant step in the right direction. In the absence of federal leadership from Republicans in Congress and the White House, states will have to pursue emissions cuts on their own or in regional partnerships (as is the case in Northeast), and California's leadership may prompt others to take action. Ultimately, however, leadership must come from Washington, which is in a position to coordinate nation-wide action and to negotiate international agreements.

I applaud efforts in California and elsewhere to try to deal with global warming, but the urgency of the problem, a problem that could profoundly alter our world as we know it, demands even more far-reaching and aggressive initiatives. Our planet requires nothing less.

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