The Straight Dope on Global Warming


Cecil Adams speaks on climate change to millions of readers of alternative weeklies.

Fact is, there's little that can be done to reduce CO2 emissions regardless of their impact on the environment. CO2 isn't just an incidental result of human activity that you can get rid of with smokestack scrubbers. Rather, it's an inherent product of the combustion of carbon-based fuels such as coal and oil. The only practical way to produce less in the short term is to use less organic fuel….

Kyoto calls for drastic cuts in emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases–5.2 percent below 1990 levels, or 29 percent below projected 2010 levels. These numbers alone suggest the implausibility of the goal. To brutally oversimplify, greenhouse-gas emissions = energy use = economic activity. (Again, I'm speaking short-term–long-term we'll switch to nukes and other inorganic energy sources.) To produce fewer emissions now your one choice is to shrink your economy, i.e., become poorer. (Russia, to cite a grim example, is among the few industrialized nations that can meet its Kyoto target due to its economic collapse since 1990.) No nation is going to voluntarily impoverish itself, however noble the cause….

A more realistic approach is to say, OK, we're going to burn this fuel and cope with whatever dire result, but let's put the stuff to good use while we've got it. That means distributing improved technology to use energy more efficiently and pollute less. Amazingly, just such an approach was agreed to last year when the U.S., Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea formed the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which may go down as Dubya's saving grace after having screwed the pooch in Iraq.

Whole thing here.

My take on the Asia-Pacific Partnership here.

Many thanks for Sean Higgins for the heads up.