Sunday, May 08, 2005

Global Warming

Since I haven't posted anything since (gasp!) Thursday, (for which I apologize, but it's been a crazy couple of days, starting with the filibuster support on Friday and continuing through Saturday) I am going to try to kill two birds with one stone here and post about global warming in an attempt to get my mind going on this GEO 339 paper.

First, on global warming in general. I would almost say I come down somewhere in the "middle" of the spectrum on this. There are people that call global warming a "hoax," while some call it the most important crisis that we face and say we must deal with it immediately by drastically reducing emissions of CO2.

I don't think you can honestly call it a hoax. The global temperature has already gone up. While it does oscillate without anthropogenic interference, if we assume that the increase is a result of the fact that the concentration of CO2, we can absolutely say that this temperature increase is a result of humans, which is not a huge leap of faith. We also know that, ceteris paribus, increasing the CO2 levels in the atmosphere will lead to warming. That's a fact.

Uncertainty comes into play on just how much warming it will cause and the consequences of that warming. Some people dispute some of the above facts or will twist them around, and if you do that, it's game over for you in my book. You can, however, talk about this uncertainty, as well as debate about what, given the basic facts, we should do about it. There are legitimate arguments on both "sides" of the issue here, the two simplified "sides" being the "this is a huge problem; do something now!" side and the "don't worry, be happy, it's not that big of a deal" side.

The way I see it, the countries who are in the developed world, like the US, don't have that much to fear from global warming. Even the possibility of more extreme weather would not have a great impact on these countries. The undeveloped world has the most to fear from changes in climate. So for me, it seems like a more important priority to alleviate some of these afflictions and bring the developing world up to a decent standard of living. If there are 6.2 billion people, or even more in the future, who all have enough disposable income that they are willing to pay a little extra if their electricity and other energy comes from clean, low-emissions sources, the incentive will be huge to develop technologies to assist in this.

There is an interesting tangent to this idea, though. There is reason to think that an overall warmer world would be a better thing. The most basic human function is to preserve this "animal heat" as Thoreau puts it, and it is much easier to do this when it's warmer outside, so this would seem to lead to the conclusion that it would be easier to maintain this heat if the world is warmer, and people would generally need less "maintenance energy" if the world were warmer. But the interesting thing about this is that in places where it already is warmer, like the US South, people use more energy than they do in comparable places where the climate is cooler, like the US Northeast, because of the huge energy demands of air conditioning. We've come pretty far from being pushed around by that whole "evolution" thing.

Coming back to the paper I'm supposed to be writing, the assignment is to talk about the Kyoto Protocol and the objection that have been raised to it by the non-signing nations, and to rewrite the Protocol in such a way that would provide a better chance of ratification by primarily the US and Australia. Some of the documents I am using for this paper include the Protocol iself, of course, and the resolution passed 95-0 in the Senate which essentially said, "don't sign Kyoto," and by the way, anything you sign, we want to see it first.

One of the primary objections that are brought up in the resolution (passed in 1997) is the fact that developing countries are exempted from emissions cuts. This is going to be a big focus of my paper, since the current Kyoto Protocol does have a Clean Development Mechanism, Article 12, which could be construed as meeting the Senate's "requirements." The Byrd-Hagel Resolution called the exemption "environmentally flawed." The resolution also brings up the Berlin Mandate, but almost for the sole purpose of railing against it for not including developing nations in the requirements.

One interesting thing is that the final (current) text of the Kyoto Protocol was finalized in December of 1997, while the US Senate Resolution was passed in July of 1997. So the resolution may be moot, or at least I might be able to show that it doesn't apply to Kyoto if I can say that the Protocol makes adequate provisions for developing countries.

2 comments:

  1. laura2:43 PM

    "While it does oscillate without anthropogenic interference, if we assume that the increase is a result of the fact that the concentration of CO2, we can absolutely say that this temperature increase is a result of humans, which is not a huge leap of faith. We also know that, ceteris paribus, increasing the CO2 levels in the atmosphere will lead to warming."

    Hahahaha. I had to start paying closer attention when you used "oscillate," you started losing me with "anthropogenic interference," and by "ceteris paribus" I was long gone.

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  2. "Ceteris paribus" is a Latin phrase meaning "all other things being equal." Sorry about that. It's cool and easier to type.

    "Anthropogenic interference" you should be able to figure out. Anthropo is like anthropology so it's humans, genic is like genesis and means coming from/starting with, so "anthropogenic interference" is human-caused changes.

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