Democrats & Liberals Archives

We Need a Bali Success

The Kyoto Protocol was a failure primarily because U.S. did not lead or even participate. The CO2 emitted by Earth keeps increasing, the average temperature on Earth keeps increasing and ice sheets and icebergs keep melting, raising the seal level and inundating islands and shorelines on all continents. Our renewed hopes are on the Bali conference.

It is fitting that the conference on climate change is in Indonesia, which consists of thousands of islands, many close to disappearing because of the rising sea level caused by the rising heat. Perhaps American delegates will learn something from this and urge the Bush Administration to change course and proceed full throttle to lead the world in reducing CO2 emissions.

We are close to a climate-change tipping point, after which changing course will have little or no effect on the coming climate change catastrophe:

The two-year study, issued by the U.N. Foundation, says the risk of tipping over that climate threshold rises sharply if Earth's temperature increases 3.6 to 4.5 degrees above what it was in 1750 (it is 1.2 degrees above that point now)..... The scientists say a climate turnaround will take a huge effort. They call for the world's carbon emissions to level off by 2015-2020, then to be reduced by another one-third by the end of the century. Without action, they say, temperatures could rise 11 degrees by 2100.

All nations on Earth need to reduce CO2 emissions. Developing nations claim they cannot do it on their own. They need help from developed nations, such as the U.S. And they do. This is a fact. Either developed nations help developing nations, or CO2 emission from Earth will not be reduced.

We talk a lot about helping poor nations and we have set up the IMF and the World Bank to do it. Up to now, these banks have offered poor nations huge CO2-spouting projects and tied them to conditions that helped companies in industrialized nations. The banks need to change course and recommend renewable energy projects so that these nations grow economically without contributing more CO2.

Our businesses and our government can help too by providing information, advice and mutually beneficial deals.

The problem before us is global. That is another way of saying all nations are in this together. The solution must be global too. We need a Bali success, and U.S. must follow this success by having a conference of its own to decide how best to not only reduce its own CO2 emissions but how to help developing nations reduce theirs.

Posted by Paul Siegel at December 5, 2007 9:45 PM
Comment #240094

U.S. CO2 emissions declined by 1.9% in 2006 - the most recent year for which we have figures.

If Bush had talked the talk re climate, there would have been no change in the air. A lot of this talk about climate is just hot air. The bottom line is that since Bush took office, U.S. CO2 emissions have grown slower than those in Europe or those during the Clinton Administration.

Since you are loath to give Bush credit (and I agree, BTW) you have to consider the situation where doing nothing, or not much, produces better results than the vigorous efforts at climate negotiations. Perhaps that is because the Kyoto path is a blind alley that will get us nowhere.

The simple fact is that is we want to emit less CO2 we have to … emit less CO2. This means we must burn less carbon based fuel. The best way, in fact the only consistent way, to get people to use less is through price based incentives.

Much of the climate lobbby dislikes this solution. It bothers them because it limits government intervention. They like to stay at nice hotels in places like Bali and discuss the issue. Their phoney-baloney jobs depend on grants and rule making. If something as simple as price does the job, there is no job left for them.

The carbon tax will make it more expensive to use carbon based fuels. That automatically makes alternative fuels relatively less expensive. At $20 a barrel oil, it makes little practical sense to install solar on your house. At $90 a barrel, you get your payback from the solar investment in a short time.

The solution is carbon tax and prices. Everything else is a species of self indulgence. Some of this is of little value and much of it is acually harmful.

Posted by: Jack at December 6, 2007 1:08 AM
Comment #240095

I am glad to see you calling attention to the Bali meeting and the petition being put forth by climatologists, which calls for immediate and even radical action.

But I am profoundly pessimistic about the chances for success.

A number of factors work against us. First, the Fourth IPCC Report was too cautious, too careful, too conservative. That could not be helped. The price for international cooperation was approval of the Report by politicians, and certain countries were notorious for insisting the results be downplayed.

Worse, the Report used scientific language. Even the Summaries for Policymakers went far beyond the scientific literacy of most Americans.

Let’s face it. If we must depend upon the American public’s understanding of science for our survival, then we are well and truly doomed.

But if Americans could come together with sufficient awareness to act in concert, regardless of scientific literacy, would that be enough? Probably not.

By its nature, Global Warming is a slow, long-term problem. Anything involving a long perspective spells trouble for this country. It means a short term expense in exchange for a long term benefit. Too many have vested interests, such as the most profitable corporation in the history of the world, Exxon, and they benefit from the status quo. These economic interests don’t have to disprove Global Warming; they just have to sow enough confusion and uncertainty to prevent meaningful change. America has no certainty anymore, no self-confidence, and even if the liberals win, it will be too little, too late. The US has just spent six years shivering in its booties, paralyzed by fear of terrorism and islamofascism, as much as I would like to see it, I find it hard to believe that Democrats will be able to restore American confidence enough to deal with Global Warming. The spirit of this country has suffered tremendous damage. And because liberals, Democrats, Greens, and other environmentalists have been at the forefront of recognizing Global Warming & the need for action, they have met an almost reflexive denial from some conservatives, Republicans, and followers of people like Rush Limbaugh & Sean Hannity.

Finally, the first and the largest effects of Global Warming will show up at far northern latitudes. Out of sight, out of mind. But like I said, I’m profoundly pessimistic about this, because the high temperatures at the northern latitudes will melt a LOT of permafrost, releasing large amounts of methane, causing even more heating, and thus creating a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

This will probably occur fairly soon, I think this is the tipping point scientists refer to, and the process will be far gone long before anyone notices significant rises in sea level.

It is encouraging to see 150 major global business leaders getting on board with the call for immediate, radical action. But I suspect the rest of the world will have to do it without the US. We’re too damaged, and it will take too long for us to recover enough to act with unity and confidence.

Ok, I’m scaring the children, so I’ll give it a rest. But again, Paul, thanks for calling attention to this.

Posted by: phx8 at December 6, 2007 1:19 AM
Comment #240102

Jack’s carbon tax makes sense - and not a single candidate dares mention such a thing.

With oil at $90 a barrel, it’s a perfect time to enact legislation that says if it ever falls below $60 a barrel, it will be taxed up to that level. This should provide a foundation for alternative sources.

Posted by: Schwamp at December 6, 2007 7:47 AM
Comment #240107

There is both bad and good news here. First the bad news. Paul is probably right. One of my favorite charts on global climate comes from a web page called Plant Fossils of West Virginia: Climate and the Carboniferous Period. On the left of the chart one can see the CO2 levels in the ancient atmosphere with a line progressing to modern levels as it moves rightward. By ancient I mean 600 million years, so we’re essentially charting the entire lifetime of multi-cellular life on Earth.

On the right of the chart is a scale representing worldwide average temperature as it can be determined by a study of fossil remnants. By thzt scale one can see the NORMAL worldwide average temperature for the whole history of multi-cellular life on Earth has been substantially warmer than it is today and today’s levels have been achieved in part through a remarkable conversion of atmospheric CO2 to coal and other fossil carbon sinks.

The good news? There appears to be an atmospheric pressure release at about 22 degrees average temperature. So at least we only simmer, but never go all the way to “bake”.

We disagree on solutions, but my fellow conservatives get it wrong when they say we have no effect on climate.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at December 6, 2007 10:41 AM
Comment #240112

Conservatives are unstandably leary of “world consensus” and liberal-speak considering the blather from the U.N. and downright hostility from liberals we have endured over many years. You have offered us vinegar, not honey. I hear your concerns and apocalyptic warnings regarding man-made global warming but I don’t think you truly believe what you are asking us to swallow. Why? Because not one of you would advocate building new nuclear power plants. You don’t want wind generation off our coasts for fear of harming birds and blocking the view of the rich who live there. Every feasible alternative source of energy has some group that decries it clamoring instead for higher taxes and more government control over our lives. You will get little oooperation from conservatives who see you as fruit-cakes desperately trying to be politically correct.

Posted by: Jim at December 6, 2007 11:30 AM
Comment #240114

I have held my tongue long enough.

Bali? You mean the island that all the delegates are flying their personal jets to?

Bali? You mean the island that doesn’t have enough airport space to park all their personal jets…meaning that their personal jets will have to be deadheaded (fly without passengers) to other islands in the area?

God forbid that the delegates would hold a conference near a major airport. God forbid that the delegates would have to fly via a common carrier and have to mingle with “common” people.

Yes, let’s all follow the example of the Bali delegates.

Let’s always put our personal comfort ahead of global warming.

Posted by: Jim T at December 6, 2007 12:04 PM
Comment #240115

Thank you. This should not be a right/left issue at all. That it has become one is a testament to the power of the rightwing propaganda mill to represent corporate clients that could be adversly effected by any real solutions.One must almost feel sorry for some of our contrbuters. Their confused parroting ,beyond all logic,proves how difficult it is likely to be to effect positive changes.

Posted by: BillS at December 6, 2007 12:06 PM
Comment #240133

I hear too much pessimism and too much cynicism. Reducing CO2 emissions is not a liberal issue, nor is it a conservative issue. It is a survival issue.

Everybody must face the facts. Jack, at least, does this. However, his remedy of a carbon tax is not enough. So people will buy less gas. Will utilities stop using coal? Will China stop building a new coal-fired plant each week? Will the world corporate community suddenly change its bias towards carbon-based fuels?

Most other skeptics have nothing to offer. Don’t they believe what they see? Many conservatives have begun to agree that global warming is happening and man is the culprit.

Cooperation, rather than the usual competition, will get all nations to work together to reduce CO2.

Posted by: Paul Siegel at December 6, 2007 2:36 PM
Comment #240136

Sometimes realism is cause for pessimism.

Right now Congress is trying to pass an energy bill. Bush has threatened to veto it. Why? Because the bill will take away oil subsidies.

We cannot even stop subsidizing oil with tax dollars. Unless Repubicans loss the presidency and Democrats take supermajorities in the House & the Senate, the chances of passing a carbon tax are approximately zero.

Meanwhile, nationalism will continue to trump international cooperation until something happens. Just my opinion, but I think it will take something catastrophic to spur enough international cooperation to make a difference, a catastrophe unmistakeably caused by Global Warming… And that is what it will take just to start making appreciable dents in the rate of increase of greenhouse gases.

There is no doubt in my mind that Global Warming is the greatest threat faced by the world. I think we all have a moral obligation to try. So that is something, I suppose, which is fundamentally optimistic, even if it’s sort of an existential optimism. :-)

Posted by: phx8 at December 6, 2007 4:33 PM
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