Up to: Progress and its Sustainability

Avoiding Global Warming

It may not be necessary to make large efforts to avoid global warming. First of all, it may not happen, and, secondly, it may not be harmful if it does. The warming observed to date, which may or may not be partly due to human activity, seems to have been beneficial in lengthening growing seasons in temperate and northern climates. Since serious efforts to reduce CO2 emissions or to increase CO2 sinks are likely to be extremely expensive, for the present it is best to wait.

On this point it is necessary to be blunt. The strongest advocates of reducing CO2 think we use too much energy quite apart from questions of supply and possible side-effects. Therefore, they look for reasons to solve the global warming problem by reducing civilization. Not all think that way, but such ideas are providing a lot of the force behind the campaign, e.g. as proposed in former Vice-President Gore's book, Earth in Balance and his recent movie An inconvenient truth.

The Kyoto agreement involves the developed countries undertaking to reduce their CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by 2010. (I think I remember it correctly.) The backward countries do not agree to do anything, and China and others will increase their emissions enormously. Fortunately, the US Senate has not ratified the agreement.

Here's a somewhat revealing quotation from early in the "energy crisis".

``We can and should seize upon the energy crisis as a good excuse and great opportunity for making some very fundamental changes that we should be making anyhow for other reasons.'' - Russell Train, Science 184 p. 1050, 7 June 1974.

Train was EPA Administrator at the time, and after that became head of the World Wildlife Fund.

Nevertheless, it still may turn out that CO2 emissions are giving rise to substantial global warming and that is harmful. I think nothing very costly will be done unless and until actual harm is experienced. In that case, what can be done?