Sunday, January 28, 2007

Big businesses on the global warming bandwagon

In my previous post (entitled "Why is big business suddenly hopping aboard the global warming bandwagon?") I neglected to reference an article in The New York Times by Felicity Barringer on Friday, January 19, 2007 entitled "A Coalition For Firm Limit On Emissions" which tells us that the "coalition, including industry giants like General Electric, DuPont and Alcoa, aims to reduce emission by 10 to 30 percent over next 15 years." The Times web site also had a correction on Friday, January 26, 2007 pointing out that a chart should have indicated that "The group wants to cut greenhouse emissions to 20 to 40 percent of current levels by 2050." The original chart had indicated "60 to 80 percent of current levels."

I would note that although these seem like wonderful goals, they don't tell us what the atmospheric loading of carbon dioxide will be compared to 1960, 1945, 1890, or before the industrial revolution. There are three distinct numbers that need to be examined: base, loading, and rate (of emissions). The base is the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere before human activity supposedly started changing it. The loading is how much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere at any given moment. The rate is about emissions or any attempts to actually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Even if emissions were reduced by 90% or even 95%, we would still be increasing the loading. And even if we removed huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it would take a huge amount of effort and energy just to get back to the loading of say 1980.

Although there are plenty of climate change activists who will applaud any reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (rate of addition to the existing atmospheric loading of carbon dioxide), it is not clear whether even the lofty goals of the coalition will make much of a dent at all in the actual environmental impact compare to simply letting technology and economic factors evolve on their own natural path over the next fifty years.

-- Jack Krupansky

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