At least that’s what I take away from the article in this morning’s Washington Post:
The task of cutting greenhouse gas emissions enough to avert a dangerous rise in global temperatures may be far more difficult than previous research suggested, say scientists who have just published studies indicating that it would require the world to cease carbon emissions altogether within a matter of decades.
Their findings, published in separate journals over the past few weeks, suggest that both industrialized and developing nations must wean themselves off fossil fuels by as early as mid-century in order to prevent warming that could change precipitation patterns and dry up sources of water worldwide.
Using advanced computer models to factor in deep-sea warming and other aspects of the carbon cycle that naturally creates and removes carbon dioxide (CO2), the scientists, from countries including the United States, Canada and Germany, are delivering a simple message: The world must bring carbon emissions down to near zero to keep temperatures from rising further.
A few random observations. First, it’s unclear to me how we can achieve the stated goal with China, now the world’s largest emitter of carbon into the atmosphere, increasing its output at the rate of more than 8% per year. China’s hydroelectric dams like the enormous Three Gorges Dam project won’t help. Hydroelectric dams have carbon outputs, too, in the form of methane.
Are there any plans on the table that would solve the problem quickly enough? Europe’s experience with cap and trade has been somewhat mixed. Is Germany’s claimed 18%+ reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases since 1990 due to greater efficiencies, due to shutting down the East German industries, or due to their exporting their manufacturing to China? How do you disaggregate these factors?
I don’t think that nuclear power will provide a solution in the time required. It took 25 years to build the last nuclear power plant to come online in the U. S. I believe that a crash program to build nuclear power plants would meet with opposition so overwhelming it would make the reaction to our invasion of Iraq look miniscule, only with Bechtel playing the part of Halliburton in the anti-nuke protests.
I don’t think that alternative fuels will provide a solution in the time required. Nothing that’s being produced currently in the U. S. has the necessary efficiency and it takes 20 years to turn over the total vehicle fleet in the U. S.
Rather than debate whether there’s a problem, what do you say that we talk about solving the stated problem in the timeframe required? Please put some numbers behind your plan and relate means to ends.
I’ve put a few additional thoughts at The Glittering Eye.