GLOBAL ECONOMIC VIEWPOINT
FOUR MORE YEARS OF GEORGE BUSH WILL FURTHER DAMAGE GLOBAL CLIMATE
Douglas Osheroff, a professor of physics at Stanford University, won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1996.
By Douglas Osheroff
WASHINGTON ? I am concerned about the attitudes and policies of the Bush administration on science and energy, amongst other things, and feel that another four years of these policies will have serious consequences, both for the United States and the world as a whole. We must begin to address climate change now. To do so, we must have an administration that listens to the scientific community, not one that manipulates and minimizes scientific input on key national and international issues.
The Bush administration's energy plan relies heavily on subsidizing conventional methods of producing fossil fuels, waiving environmental rules in Alaska and other regions to produce comparatively small amounts of energy. Bushhas proposed dramatic cuts in funding for the most cost-effective solution for U.S. energy problems: investment in energy efficiency and conservation.
The administration has consistently ignored the advice of the science community on climate change (brought about by greenhouse gases), including the report that the administration itself commissioned from the National Academy of Sciences as well as a report from the Department of Defense warning that climate changes could lead to serious world problems in the coming decade. The administration forced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to drop references to the DOD study in its 2003 environment report.
Most critically, the administration has blocked ratification of any international agreement to constrain worldwide production of greenhouse gases. This is an absolutely essential role for the United Statesto play, and a task for all of us in the world to undertake. There may be reasons to object to the Kyoto Protocol, but the administration has made no counterproposal of any kind to take itsplace and, in fact, has relinquished America's role as a leader in this area.
The Bush climate plan appears to rest on voluntary actions by industry ? a plan unlikely to bring about significant change. By contrast, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. presidency, John Kerry, has detailed a program to combine reinvigorated basic and applied research with incentives that encourage U.S. businesses to produce efficient new products that would allow consumersto get more out of the energy we use, as well as the development of alternative energy sources.
Amongst other things, Kerryfs plan would create a $20 billion program with incentives that support the development and production of highly efficient automobiles and trucks as well as clean-burning fuels from such sources as coal for the sequestration of evolved carbon dioxide, along with much more vigorous development of renewable energy sources,such as wind, solar, geological, geothermal and biological.
I should add that I was one of the first 500 people in the United Statesto purchase one of the new Honda Civic hybrids. It has cut my consumption of gasoline by a factor of 2. If America as a whole can get on this kind of track, there is still hope to forestall the worst effects of climate change.
(c) Scientists and Engineers for Change/Nobel Laureates Plus
CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL
John Holdren is a professor of environmental policy at Harvard Universityfs John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is chair of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control of the National Academy of Sciences and was a member of President Clinton's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology.
By John Holdren
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. ? Climate change is one of the most dangerous and difficult challenges facing us today. It is dangerous because climate is the envelopewithin which all other environmental conditions and processes operate. It is difficult because the dominant cause of the disruption ? emission of CO2 from fossil-fuel combustion ? arises from the process that currently supplies nearly 80 percent of civilizationfs energy. The technologies involved cannot be quickly or inexpensively changed or replaced in ways that would eliminate the problem.
Temperatures are rising. Nineteen of the 20 warmest years since 1860 have all occurred since 1980, with the 12 warmest all since 1990.1998 was the warmest year in the instrumental record and probably the warmest in 1,000 years, judging by tree ring and ice coresamples; 2002 was the second warmest; 2003 the third warmest; and the last 50 years appear to have been the warmest half-centuryin 6,000 years. The oceans have warmed noticeably between the mid-1950s and the mid-1990s.
Evidence that climate is changing is widespread: Evaporation andrainfall are increasing. More rainfall is occurring in downpours. Permafrost is melting. Corals are bleaching. Glaciers are retreating. Sea ice is shrinking while sea levels are rising. Wildfires are increasing. Storm and flood damages are soaring.
Essentially all of these observed climate-change phenomena are consistent with the predictions of climate science for warming induced by greenhouse gases (GHGs).
No alternative culprit has been identified so far. No potential cause of climate change other than GHGs yields this fingerprint match.
A credible skeptic would need to explain both what the alternative cause of the observed changes is and how it could be that GHGs are NOT having the effects that all current scientific understanding says they should have. (No skeptic has done either thing.)
If we continue going on with business asusual, the scientific-consensus best estimates are that:
GHG emissions will lead to increases of 0.2-0.4 degrees Celsiusper decade in global-average surface temperature, or 2-4 degrees Celsius warmer than now by 2100.Mid-continent warming will be two to three times greater. The earth will then be warmer than at any time in the last 160,000 years. Sea level will be 20-100 cm higher than today (best estimate is 50 cm). This global-average warming will entail major changes in climatic patterns: storm tracks, distribution of precipitation of soil moisture and extremes of hot and cold.
According to studies by the United Nationsf Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the negatives outweigh the positives of such a change. There will be:
? a general reduction in potential crop yields in most tropical and subtropical regions for most projected increases in temperature.
? a general reduction, with some variation, in potential crop yields in most regions in mid-latitudes for increases in average annual temperature of more than a few degrees Celsius.
? decreased water availability for populations in many water-scarce regions, particularly in the subtropics.
? an increase in the number of people exposed to vector-borne diseases (for example, malaria) and water-borne diseases (for example, cholera) and an increase in heat-stress mortality.
? a widespread increase in the risk of flooding for many human settlements (tens of millions of inhabitants in settlements studied) from both increased heavy precipitation events and sea-level rise.
? increased energy demand for space cooling due to higher summer temperatures.
The projected beneficial impacts of climate change include:
? increased potential crop yields in some regions at mid-latitudes for increases in temperature of less than a few degrees Celsius.
? a potential increase in global timber supply from appropriately managed forests.
? increased water availability for populations in some water-scarce regions (for example, in parts of SoutheastAsia).
? reduced winter mortality in mid-latitudesand high latitudes.
? reduced energy demand for space heating due to higher winter temperatures.
There are also possible surprises:
? large increases in the frequency of highly destructive storms. (Data and analysis since 2001 suggest this is real and under way.)
? Drastic shifts in ocean current systems that control regional climates (for example, the Gulf Streamfs effect on Western Europe).(Recent measurements suggest that this, too, is already under way.)
? Multi-meter sea-level rise, over a period of centuries, from melting of Greenland ice or disintegration of West Antarctic ice sheet. (Recent measurements show Greenland ice melting much faster than previously thought.)
? Runaway greenhouse effect from decomposition of methane clathrates, drastically increasing the severity of all expected impacts. (The good news is that there is no evidence of this yet.)
Of course, there are uncertainties. But the argument among the knowledgeable is no longer about whether climate is changing or whether human GHG emissions are responsible, but about the precise magnitude of the climatic changes to be expected by 2030, 2050 or 2100 if civilization does not change course.
(c) Scientists and Engineers for Change/Nobel Laureates Plus