The only way to stop the rise in global temperatures is to stop the increasing consumption of fossil fuels. The current increasing rate of consumption is unsustainable and will wreak havoc on the human order. In order to achieve this end, nations must vow to cooperate both internationally and domestically to promote a reduction in the use of fossil fuels and the increasing use of green technologies. In President Obama’s State of the Union Address, he declared that this generation must seize its next “Sputnik moment” by investing additional resources in green technologies and by creating future goals for the reduction of fossil fuel consumption.
Investing heavily in green technologies is an economic, moral, and necessary solution.
Currently, the United States’ economy is at the mercy of oil prices. Just this last week stocks tanked as a result of the rise in oil prices due to the Libyan conflict. A rise in gas prices leads to higher transportation costs, which in turn increases the price of just about everything. The lack of stability in the price of oil puts our entire economy at risk. Thus, the United States must vow to increase investment in all types of green technologies because doing so will greatly increase the stability of our economy by diversifying our energy consumption.
Moreover, reducing consumption of oil is a moral issue. Each year, the United States sends billions of dollars to OPEC nations. Many of these nations are led by dictators, are enemies of the United States, and have ties to terrorist groups. By relying heavily on oil, the United States is funding the same causes that we fight against. Additionally, as my previous post noted, the nations that are going to be most affected by global warming are those who have contributed the least. Therefore, by consuming oil the United States may be furthering poverty, starvation, and dehydration in Third World nations. These are the same causes that the United Nations Millennium Goals vowed to eradicate.
Finally, an increased investment in additional green technologies is a necessary solution. A recent IEA report estimated that the world will reach its peak oil production by 2020. Thereafter, production will not be able to keep up with demand. In addition, by 2050 the US Census estimates that the world population will reach nine billion people, an increase of nearly three billion over the next forty years. Simply put, there is not enough oil in the world to maintain and keep up with the demand that our current way of life entails. In the coming decades, the world as a whole will either be forced to come up with additional energy from other sources or take a step back as a society.
The United States must begin to invest in alternative energy technologies now before it is too late.
Still, this is a global problem and therefore can only be solved through a global solution. However, the recent failures at Copenhagen and earlier at Kyoto demonstrate that there are significant hurdles that prevent an international agreement from being reached.
The most convincing appeal for a solution to global warming that I have heard came from Detlef Sprinz, a world-renowned researcher on the impact of climate change. He says that an international agreement alone cannot be reached due to time inconsistencies and domestic policy disagreements. In addition, domestic solutions have very little effect on a global scale in the absence of an international agreement. Therefore, he argues for a “Sandwich Solution”, a two pronged approach that looks to “squeeze” carbon emissions. On the top of the “Sandwich Solution” are international treaties built on a spirit of international cooperation. These treaties would look to maximize the nation’s GDP with imposed environmental constraints and the nations would be accountable for their emissions through monitoring, reporting, and verification. On the other hand, the bottom is built on government stimulated grass roots movements. The government would offer incentives to promote entrepreneurship in the field of green technologies through “X Prize” type competitions and other infusions of capital that harness innovation. While the “Sandwich Solution” is far from hard government policy, it provides a good framework for the type of solution that may effect real change in the world’s consumption of fossil fuels.
In short, the concept for the solution of global warming is as simple as the science behind it. Whereas more carbon leads to a higher temperature, reducing carbon output will work to prevent further increases in global mean temperatures. Still, enacting a real solution is remarkably complex. It starts with people recognizing that global warming poses a serious threat to humanity and works from there. However, this will not happen if people allow the misinformation and lies to spread. Accordingly, it is the duty of the government, scientists, news sources, and individuals to properly educate the public about the science behind anthropogenic global warming and its potential dire consequences. Only then will world be able to achieve a substantial change from the status quo and thereby prevent the disaster that looms on the horizon.