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Presenting Solution Number One to the Global Warming Problem

Is global warming real? Should we all be investing in sunscreen and Bermuda shorts? Will telemarketers soon be calling trying to sell us "vacation properties" in the middle of the Arctic? Or is global warming a sham cooked up by environmentalists who are afraid the warmer temperatures will wreak havoc on their Frozen Tofu Smoothie operations?

In the last Eco-Logical, we presented government data that clearly demonstrates a significant warming pattern and outlined some of the scary potential consequences of this extended warming trend, including lower food production, more damage from storms and floods, and increases in pest-born diseases.

Humanity has built up a large housing, industrial, and agricultural infrastructure in its currently inhabited areas. If the climate does destabilize to make those areas less useable for their current purposes—with the particularly devastating picture of coal plant effect that crops would no longer grow well where they once did—we will start to see a world of trouble.

What should we do about it? The answer is relatively simple, in theory: Reduce the amount of man-made greenhouse gases—mostly methane, nitrous oxide, halogenated carbons, and carbon dioxide—that we release into the atmosphere. Of these, carbon dioxide is the one that gets the most press since it is the most abundantly released by human processes, particularly the burning of fossil fuels.

In practice, of course, reducing greenhouse gases is not so easy because our industrial economies and our personal activities and comfort have become highly reliant on energy generated by fossil-fuel power plants and petroleum-powered cars, trucks, and SUVs. We obviously can't achieve a 100% solution overnight without causing an unacceptable decline in our way of life.

Some advise delaying implementation of even small changes, claiming that we need more data on global warming and its effects before we should risk any economic harm. But the overwhelming consensus of scientific opinion is that global warming is real, it is man-caused, and it will have troublesome impacts in the future. The longer we delay implementing changes, the deeper we dig the hole.

Because there are a variety of greenhouse gases, there are a variety of solutions that will help reduce global warming. But because carbon dioxide is the most abundant man-made greenhouse gas, the most effective single step we can take is to accelerate our move away from fossil fuels and their impacts. Here are a few ways to encourage this:

  • Increase funding for research into ways to cost-effectively use renewable, non-polluting energy sources such as wind, wave, and solar. picture of solar panels
  • Increase the financial incentives for the development and use of renewable energy and eliminate the tax breaks for fossil-fuel-related activities like oil exploration.
  • Increase funding for research into carbon-sequestration schemes and ultimately require them on all remaining power plants using coal, oil, or natural gas.
  • Move more quickly to develop a hydrogen-powered vehicle fleet and refueling infrastructure.

The models predict that increases in global average temperatures and the rise in sea level will continue for hundreds of years after stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations (even if we could immediately freeze concentrations at present levels). But don't fall into the trap of thinking that it's too late to do anything about it, that we're already sunk. It's now more a matter of how MUCH impact global warming will have in the future.

Our action—or inaction—will determine whether we minimize the impact of climate change on the world of our grandchildren and their many generations of children after that, or whether we continue heedlessly on our present course and let the chips fall where they may. Hey, we certainly don't want the climate to change to the point where it's too hot for our tiny loved ones to wear their cute little footy pajamas, do we?!?


The Kyoto Protocol, which was designed to be a first step in addressing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, has been ratified by 119 countries. The US did not ratify it, arguing that the impact on the US economy would be too great and that developing countries were getting too much of a break in the rules. To some extent, it's fair enough to argue the latter point—scientists point out the modest reductions of greenhouse gases imposed by Kyoto, even if achieved, would fall far short of the reductions needed to achieve a reversal of global warming. Still, the Kyoto Protocol was a first step, without which we will continue to exacerbate global warming while we keep our collective heads buried in the cool sand.

Publish date: 29-JAN-2004

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  book cover for The Discovery of Global Warming - Spencer R. Weart

How did we arrive at this important action point on global warming and what do we do about it? Weart explains the history of climate change investigations in detective-story format.
(by Spencer R. Weart, Sep-2003)

  book cover for The Carbon War: Global Warming and the End of the Oil Era - Jeremy K. Leggett

Global Warming and the End of the Oil Era

Written by a former petroleum geologist; explains global warming and its impacts; recounts efforts by the fossil-fuel industries to stall and dilute government action on climate change. (by Jeremy K. Leggett, Jan-2001)

  book cover for Climate Change Policy: A Survey - Schneider, Niles, and Rosencranz

Explores the economic and political implications of fixing the global warming/climate change problem; includes an analysis of uncertainties in climate science. (edited by Schneider, Niles, & Rosencranz, Sep-2002)


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"In a way, global climate change is for the birds. On one side of the aviary, we have Chicken Little, telling us the sky is falling; on the other side, the ostrich, his head deep in the sand. Scientists have concluded that the ostrich is in denial: Significant climate change is occurring..."

— Consumer Reports [September 2003]


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