Pollution Wealth

One would like to think, as we enter the new millennium, that our thinking would have advanced since 1905; that industrialists and politicians had moved beyond this. It is incredible to find, then, in March 2001, President George W. Bush making the following statement: "We'll be working with our allies to reduce greenhouse gases, but I will not accept a plan that will harm our economy and hurt American workers." A similar statement could have fallen from the mouth of Josiah Bounderby, the power behind Coketown: self-interest before global good. Not content to leave matters ambiguous, however, we can turn to the White House Web site for a clearer statement in 2005:1

I've asked my advisors to consider approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including those that tap the power of markets, help realize the promise of technology and ensure the widest possible global participation ... . Our actions should be measured as we learn more from science and build on it. Our approach must be flexible to adjust to new information and take advantage of new technology. We must always act to ensure continued economic growth and prosperity for our citizens and for citizens throughout the world.

It is notable that the (future) actions are for economic growth and prosperity, and not to protect the global environment of our planet! And how little attitudes have changed (for a more detailed and eloquent suite of arguments, see Ref. 2). The United States, with 5% of the world's population, emits nearly one-third of the world's carbon dioxide. It promised to cut emissions by 7% over 1990 levels by 2012 at the latest, but its emissions in fact rose by more than 10% between 1990 and 2000 (see Figure 5.2).3 While the Kyoto Protocol4 is a deeply flawed document (and do read it, not the distorted accounts in the press), it was the best that we had.

From the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)5 in 2000, we note that:

Fossil fuels burned to run cars and trucks, heat homes and businesses, and power factories are responsible for about 98% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, 24% of methane emissions, and 18% of nitrous oxide emissions. Increased agriculture,

C02 EMISSIONS (1,000 MILLION TONNES)

USA EU China Russia Japan India

C02 EMISSIONS (1,000 MILLION TONNES)

■ 1990 ■2002 1994 only

3 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000

*1999,***2001 (both China figures include Hong Kong)

SOURCES: UNFCCC (China figures from IEA)

3 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000

*1999,***2001 (both China figures include Hong Kong)

SOURCES: UNFCCC (China figures from IEA)

Figure 5.2 Data on carbon dioxide emissions.

deforestation, landfills, industrial production, and mining also contribute a significant share of emissions. In 1997, the United States emitted about one-fifth of total global greenhouse gases. Estimating future emissions is difficult, because it depends on demographic, economic, technological, policy, and institutional developments. Several emissions scenarios have been developed based on differing projections of these underlying factors. For example, by 2100, in the absence of emissions control policies, carbon dioxide concentrations are projected to be 30-150% higher than today's levels.

From the same source:5

Global mean surface temperatures have increased 0.5-1.0°F since the late 19th Century [see Figure 5.3]. The 20th Century's 10 warmest years all occurred in the last 15 years of the century. Of these, 1998 was the warmest year on record. The snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere and floating ice in the Arctic Ocean have decreased. Globally, sea level has risen 4-8 inches over the past century. Worldwide precipitation over land has increased by about one percent. The frequency of extreme rainfall events has increased throughout much of the United States. Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases are likely to accelerate the rate of climate change. Scientists expect that the average global surface temperature could rise 1-4.5°F (0.6-2.5°C) in the next fifty years, and 2.2-10°F (1.4-5.8°C) in the next century, with significant regional variation. Evaporation will increase as the climate warms, which will increase average global precipitation. Soil moisture is likely to decline in many regions, and intense rainstorms are likely to become more frequent. Sea level is likely to rise two feet along most of the U.S. coast [emphasis added].

This last sentence is especially poignant and prophetic when we remember the recent disaster in New Orleans.

Global Temperature Changes (1880-2000)

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