The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

why waste time?

After losing the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore began touring the world giving speeches on Global Warming. I hope it's not too late; I do not want to be trudging around in the snow like Jake Gylenhaal in The Day After Tomorrow.

"I have said consistently that global warming is a serious problem. There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused. We ought to get beyond that debate and start implementing the technologies necessary … to be good stewards of the environment, become less dependent on foreign sources of oil…".- George W. Bush

President Bush is absolutely correct; we need to get beyond the debate over global warming and begin to implement methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We need to begin now. Bush also had this to say in 2000:
"I think it's an issue that we need to take very seriously. But I don't think we know the solution to global warming yet. And I don't think we've got all the facts before we make decisions. I tell you one thing I'm not going to do is I'm not going to let the United States carry the burden for cleaning up the world's air."-George W. Bush

That quote was made in 2000 and to be frank, not much in terms of policy has been done. If something has been done, I haven't heard about it. What I have heard about is the Bush administration's terrible environmental record. Even Field and Stream magazine was pulling out their hair about their environmental policy.

This is a graph created by Robert A. Rohde that shows our carbon emissions. I think it's pretty obvious that this is not normal and has a lot to do with humans (cows did not burp that into the atmosphere). Carbon emissions are at record levels and the last decade has been the hottest years experienced to date. How many more Katrinas must we experience, how many more hurricane seasons when we run out of letters and have to use the greek alphabet must we go through before we acknowledge that there is a problem?

As I have pointed out many times in the past, Bush runs the country the only way he knows how, like an MBA student (and not a very good one, look how Arbusto and Spectrum 7 turned out). For climate change, we cannot rely on companies to self-regulate themselves, hope market conditions give incentive to be cleaner, to loosen environmental regulations so that companies make more money and can retroactively be cleaner. Competition is not going to reduce energy consumption or cause a switch to alternative energy; what is needed is sound political policy and public pressure.

Bush is wrong on many points, we know what is causing global warming, it is not a natural phenomena. It is ridiculous that global warming was raised in the 2000 election by Bush and has been ignored to date. To deal with global warming we need to wake up and accept that global industry is responsible, with a large part of the blame lying with the US. We need to move forward with any and all technology that we have at our disposal.

While I was studying at Columbia University I went to university wide lecture given by Klaus Lackner as he described the research he has been doing on carbon sequestration, which involves collecting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and putting it somewhere else; this is a method often touted by Bush but there is more to it. Bush has been primarily focusing on the technological aspect, and it’s particularly hard to admit as an engineer, technology will only take us so far and we require sound policy changes to make technology effective in the long run.

Carbon sequestration is a quick fix (an expensive one). Global warming is not a one-time phenomenon that we can fix by readjusting CO2 levels to previous averages. Carbon emissions will continue to increase at an exponential rate as the United States continues to skirt sound environmental policies and increase energy consumption; at the same time, industrializing countries like China will require huge amounts of energy. Digging a whole and putting the carbon into it isn’t going to work well if we have to put more and more carbon into the atmosphere every year, the earth can only absorb so much carbon. We are not solving a problem, we are ameliorating the symptoms. We can use carbon sequestering, but in conjunction with demanding increased fuel efficiency from car manufacturers, planting more trees, and implementing a plan to reduce emissions through the next decade.

As the most powerful country is the world it is our responsibility to take the lead on global warming. Kyoto was a flawed step in the right direction, but although we did not join we can still lead the way. Bush declared that he would not make the United States carry the burden of climate change, but we have to. It doesn’t matter that we are the largest contributor to the problem; we must take on the problem because we have the means to do so. For six years we have had no legitimate plan for approaching global warming; in the process of stagnation, oil companies have reached record profit and the atmosphere has not improved. There is no debate over the origin of global warming, we need to begin action now.


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