Saturday, April 07, 2007

UN Signs Off on Global Warming Threat

A UN panel has issued a warning that global warming is probably being caused by human activity and that we may have to do something about it. Okay, that's a somewhat watered down warning but here's the story from Beth Daley of The Boston Globe:
In a report released by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientists for the first time linked changes being observed in nature on every continent and in most oceans to rising temperatures from greenhouse gases, chiefly carbon dioxide, emitted by power plants, factories, and cars.

If emissions are not reduced, the panel warned, 20 percent to 30 percent of plant and animal species could face increased risk of extinction, and rising temperatures could cause widespread human suffering from more frequent droughts, floods, and outbreaks of disease.


The report's release in Brussels was delayed for several hours in part because officials of several governments, including the United States, Saudi Arabia, and China, debated wording with scientists, including how the report characterized scientists' certainty that global warming is already influencing physical and biological systems. According to IPCC rules, all governments had to sign off on the document; its release was preceded by four days of intense negotiations with officials from more than 100 countries. The wording was ultimately changed to reflect less certainty, over the objections of the panel's scientists. The final report says it is "likely" that manmade warming has had a discernible influence on many physical and biological systems.

...the United States, Saudi Arabia, and China. Let's put that in context. The United States is the biggest consumer of oil and probably has the world's largest deposit of coal. China is increasingly a big consumer of oil and also has one of the largest deposits of coal in the world. Saudi Arabia is the biggest producer of oil. The United States and now China are the two biggest polluters in the world. It's not hard to notice a major conflict of interest. All three countries are going to have to deal with reality sooner than they would like. It's time to adapt.

Of the three, the United States is the most capable of innovation and in fact it is probably still the leading innovator in the world though one can argue that Europe as a whole is pretty much even with the US. Nevertheless, it's time for the United States to show leadership again instead of simply protecting the investments of the wealthy. Innovation has always meant jobs. Finding new ways to clean the environment and produce energy will create jobs. It's in our interest then to lead.

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