Wednesday, November 25, 2009

You Can't Say We Weren't Warned

The road to Hell is indeed paved with good intentions.

The New York Times is reporting that Barack Obama will make a firm pledge at next month's UN climate change summit in Copenhagen that would see the United States effect a 17% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 from a 2005 baseline.

There kids are your good intentions. There too is your road to Hell.

What's wrong with a 17% cut in GHG emissions? If leading climate scientists are right, a 17% cut calculated on a 2005 threshhold is far too little, far too late. Proposing this also doesn't mean that Obama or his successors will be able to deliver. Somebody is going to have to overcome a Bought & Paid For Congress. And then there's going to be the fudging and won't that be fun to watch. It'll be all cap'n trade with an awful lot more emphasis on trade than cap. Let the games begin.

But getting back to that awful road, the one that leads to that burning place. The solution isn't cutting emissions by some percentage based on some year's baseline emissions through one guise or another. The solution is much simpler than that. It's cutting emissions enough before the planet itself really shows us a thing or two about emissions. You see, we're sort of like the match to the fuze. Nothing much happens when you burn the fuze. It's only when the burning fuze reaches that black powder in the keg that you have a really serious problem. By then you won't even be thinking about the match, will you?

When you cut too little or cut too late (or both), you're assuming you have more time than you may actually have before the problem gets beyond your control. Rampant industrialization isn't going to kill your grandkids. The earth is going to do that. The planet is a powder keg just full of stored carbon and methane waiting to be released into the atmosphere. That's why it's called runaway global warming.

So if Obama's 17%/2005 cuts aren't enough, if they lull us into a false sense of security, it'd probably be better if he didn't bother. Oh well.


LMA said...

But M of S, Obama's firm commitment to these targets does in fact "begin the games" of fighting climate change for the US, and hopefully Canada. Of course, the targets aren't good enough, but as the effects of climate change become more and more devastating, these targets can be adjusted. We have to start somewhere, and take the first step no matter how small.

The Mound of Sound said...

I understand your point LMA but I don't believe this is a threat that lends itself to incremental measures. It's like a mission to the moon. There's no point in committing yourself to going halfway.

Obama's approach validates political compromise as a response to climate change. That almost ensures a "too little, too late" effort that's bogged down in political agendas rather than scientific imperatives.

I don't want a climate change initiative that lets the US Congress determine the severity of the problem and the degree of response because that subordinates science to politics.

Jingles said...

Australia's PM Rudd has said just recently, Australia is looking at 25% reduction by 2020. If they can do it, we in North America can darn well do it. After all, the Western World is responsible for Climate Change more than any other area of the world. This morning on CBC's Q program, Al Gore is absolutely correct about Canada dragging its feet and down playing Climate Change.

Anonymous said...

According to a reliable authority (James Lovelock), we are so far past the point of no return, we are simply deciding whether it will take 200 or 500 years (or like never) to recover from our insane level of consumption.

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon, given Lovelock's track record over the past 30+ years it's hard to argue with his take. Somehow he remains astonishingly cheerful although that may have something to do with being 90 and knowing you won't have to endure what's coming.

I think there's real wisdom in his argument that we can't simply focus on remediation (emissions cutting) and that we need to place as much emphasis on adaptation to prepare ourselves to meet what's coming no matter what.

Unfortunately we're as unlikely to get an honest picture of what's coming environmentally from the Harper government as we are to get accurate disclosure of detainee torture.

The Harper Tories are deliberately and seriously betraying this country and our people by keeping us in the dark about the facts, preventing us from getting on with the analysis, planning and implementation of strategies to meet everything from drought and floods to sea level rise, species migration and freshwater challenges. On that score they're genuine bastards.