Wednesday, July 09, 2008

G8 Countries Fight Climate Change with Vagueness

As the effects of global warming become more and more evident with fires from extreme dryness raging on the US West Coast, 500-year storms hitting the Midwest two straight decades, prediction from scientists that the North Pole may be free of ice this summer, and so forth, the Group of 8 wealthy nations meeting in Japan agreed on a global warming statement that was short on adequate commitment and long on ambiguity. They did agree to reduce carbon emissions 50% by 2050, however, this was far short of the 80% to 90% reductions called for by leading climate scientists and the usual baseline year of 1990 was not mentioned. They also did not set any short term goals, such as a specific target to reach by 2020. As reported in The New York Times, emerging economic powers such as China and India supported the 50% reduction target, which is the first time these countries have committed to any reduction target, but they refused to take action until wealthy countries took aggressive action. Given the urgency of the global warming problem and what would be required to take effective steps, the G8 did little more than put their toe in the water.

One way to comprehend the feebleness of the G8 global warming statement is to compare it with The 2030 Challenge from the nonprofit organization Architecture 2030. This challenge calls for the global architecture and building community to immediately reduce the fossil fuel greenhouse emissions of all new buildings, developments, and major renovations by 50% and then by increments of 10% every five years beginning with 2010 so that by all 2030 all new buildings and major renovations are carbon neutral. This would permit an immediate moratorium on new coal-fired power plants and a phase out of such plants by 2030. It wouldn’t completely solve the problem but it would be a very significant step. The action could begin at once and no new technology is needed. Of course the coal industry would take a big hit and that is not something the G8 leaders are eager to confront. Maybe we need new G8 leaders. Perhaps the only hope is that we will be getting a new leader of the United States very soon.

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