Arguing that limiting carbon dioxide emissions
from power plants during an energy crisis would only make matters
worse, the President last March wisely rejected the Kyoto treaty.
By dismissing the controversial environmental treaty, President Bush
protected the United States from a drastic return to 1990 carbon dioxide
emission levels by the year 2012. This would have required a seven
percent reduction from current emission levels and as much as a 30
percent reduction in energy use.
Unfortunately, the decision to pull out of the
Kyoto treaty kindled a firestorm of criticism from European nations
as well as from several environmental groups in the United States.
An alternative to the Kyoto Treaty
This negative reaction led President Bush to work
on a replacement plan for the Kyoto Treaty. The Presidentís goal may
very well be achieved by a proposal offered by Treasury Secretary
Paul OíNeill, which would do more than limit carbon dioxide emissions.
It would ban them.
Developed and developing nations would have to
cap and then eliminate emissions of carbon dioxide according to the
plan. The following timetable has been proposed.
- CO2 emissions in developed nations
would be capped at then-current levels by 2012.
- CO2 emissions would be eliminated
by developed nations by 2025.
- Developing nations would cap CO2
emissions at then current levels by 2035, and
- CO2 emissions would be eliminated
by developing nations by 2050.
According to the Bush administration, these goals
can be met through a combination of carbon dioxide control technologies
such as drawing carbon dioxide from power plant air emissions and
mixing it with calcium chloride to form lime and carbon dioxide sequestration
strategies; to remove carbon from the atmosphere by planting trees
The plan introduced by Secretary OíNeill was the
creation Joe Edmonds, a scientist from the Pacific Northwest National
Laboratory who convinced Secretary OíNeill, a longtime believer of
global warming, that the technology to meet these targets either exists
or can be soon developed.
Also, adding further fuel to OíNeillís plan was
a report on global warming recently issued by the National Research
Council which began with these words: "Greenhouse gases are accumulating
in [the] earthís atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing
surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise.
Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed are most likely
due to human activitiesÖ" (The report was requested after the
President rejected the Kyoto treaty.)
Secretary OíNeillís plan represents a good compromise
to supporters which include Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
administrator Christie Todd Whitman, and possibly Secretary of State
Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.
The plan seems a winner to both sides since it
implicitly acknowledges that it is human-induced and provides a timetable
for tackling the problem, it appeases global warming believers. However,
since no immediate action is required, the plan also appeases opponents
of steps to limit energy use.
The Feasibility of Secretary OíNeillís Plan
Although the plan seems to solve the problems
of carbon dioxide emissions, the reality of pleasing both sides may
be harder than the planís argument suggests. On the one hand, President
Bush is committed to producing more energy at reasonable cost. On
the other hand, his commitment to the nationís energy resources is
threatened by Secretary OíNeillís plan to cap and then eliminate carbon
dioxide production by 2012 and 2025, respectively.
For example, the construction of 1300 new power
plants over the next two decades is called for by the Bush energy
plan. However, it is difficult to conceive that so many plants can
be built without emitting more carbon dioxide at this point.
Eliminating carbon dioxide emission from power
plants may be technologically possible. However, creating technology
that is economically feasible is quite different.
In search of a reason to exist ever since the
Cold War ended, the Department of Energyís national laboratories,
were previously tasked with the job of developing the nationís nuclear
arsenal. If Congress signs onto Edmondís recommendations for fighting
the "Warming War," their budgets stand to increase dramatically.
Is Global Warming Really a Threat?
Along with the doubts of the feasibility of Secretary
OíNeillís plan, the legitimacy of the threat of global warming is
still under debate.
President Bush requested the report by a committee
of the National Academiesí National Research Council (NRC) summing
up scienceís current understanding of global climate change over the
last century by characterizing the global warming trend. It revealed
a significant uncertainty about the surface temperature record to
the theory of man-made global warming. The report also examined the
extent to which warming may be attributed to human activity and what
may be in store for the 21st century. Itís response to
the Presidentís questions about global warming were recorded in a
40-page report entitled "Climate Change Science: An Analysis
of Some Key Questions."
Inexplicably not demonstrating warming was the
recent temperature record compiled from balloon and satellite measurements.
Also, "Because of large and still uncertain
levels of natural variability in the climate record and the uncertainties
[relating to manmade greenhouse gases] a casual linkage between the
buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the observed climate
changes during the 20th century cannot be unequivocally
established," acknowledged the NRC.
Committee Chair Ralph Cicerone, chancellor of
the University of California at Irvine said, "We know that greenhouse
gases are accumulating in [the] Earthís atmosphere, causing surface
temperature to rise. We donít know precisely how much of this rise
to date is from human activities, but based on physical principles
and highly sophisticated computer models, we expect the warming to
continue because of greenhouse gas emissions.
The scientists from the Committee on the Science
of Global Climate Change emphasized the uncertainties in the science
and the need for further research although none of the information
is new, according to a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) statement.
Also, during the 20th century, measurements
demonstrated that temperatures at the Earthís surface increased by
about 1 degree Fahrenheit or about 0.6 degrees Celsius. Additionally,
the last 50 years of global warming is likely the result of increases
in greenhouse gases that include the atmospheric carbon dioxide and
methane according to the scientific community. Furthermore, computer
models suggest that average global surface temperatures will increase
between 2.5 and 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit (1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius)
by the end of the 21st century which was previously reported
by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). And, the
NAS indicates that more abundant in the atmosphere now than at any
time during the 400,000 year ice record are both carbon dioxide and
methane-gases that occur both naturally and as a result of human activities.
However, the ability to determine the estimates
of future warming remain uncertain due to the level of natural variability
inherent in the climate, the questionable ability of models to simulate
natural variability on centuries Ė long-time scales, and the degree
of confidence that can be placed on estimates of temperatures going
back thousands of years.
(Steven Milby, "Bush Push for Son of Kyoto
Is Misguided," FoxNews.com, June 8, 2001; "Leading Climate
Scientists Advise White House on Global Warming," Press Release,
June 6, 2001)
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