Sunday, May 06, 2007

Only About Three Thousand Days Left to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirms that time is quickly running out to take effective action against global warming. According to the Guardian, “The report said global emissions must peak by 2015 for the world to have any chance of limiting the expected temperature rise to 2 C, which would still leave billions of people short of water by 2050.” That’s eight years or about 100 months or approximately 3000 days. The consequences of global warming are expected to be catastrophic if the 2 C limit is exceeded. Not much time to go from annual global increases of greenhouse gas emissions to annual reductions. Perhaps naming a specific year by which the U turn must occur will help. Nothing like a tight deadline to get people’s attention. Nevertheless, most factors point to continued increases of greenhouse gas emissions globally for decades to come: increasing populations; spreading affluence in the developing world; reluctance of the US, China, and India to agree to any mandatory cap on emissions; the abundance of coal as a cheap source of energy; the ability of large oil and coal companies to protect their profits regardless of the environmental consequences; the energy inefficiency that has been built into the way of life in the US; etc. It may still be too early to throw in the towel. The political dynamics could be changed by next US election in November of 2008. Perhaps when the election results become clear it will be time to head for the linen closet.

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