Some Convenient Truths
: Short piece by Gregg Easterbrook that explains the optimism I feel on the technology of global warming. "Most progress against air pollution has been cheaper than expected. Smog controls on automobiles, for example, were predicted to cost thousands of dollars for each vehicle. Today’s new cars emit less than 2 percent as much smog-forming pollution as the cars of 1970, and the cars are still as affordable today as they were then. Acid-rain control has cost about 10 percent of what was predicted in 1990, when Congress enacted new rules. At that time, opponents said the regulations would cause a “clean-air recession”; instead, the economy boomed. ..
Emissions of CFCs have been nearly eliminated, and studies
suggest that ozone-layer replenishment is beginning. ..
[Why the pessimism on cutting GHG?] the success of previous antipollution efforts remains something of a secret. Polls show that Americans think the air is getting dirtier, not cleaner .. Democrats have found they can bash Republicans by falsely accusing them of destroying the environment. .. to acknowledge that air pollution has declined would require Republicans to say the words, “The regulations worked.” ..
Americans love challenges, and preventing artificial climate change is just the sort of technological and economic challenge at which this nation excels. It only remains for the right politician to recast the challenge in practical, optimistic tones... Cheap and fast improvement is not a pipe dream; it is the pattern of previous efforts against air pollution. The only reason runaway global warming seems unstoppable is that we have not yet tried to stop it."
I recognize that unlike previous air pollution, CO2 is the key product of combustion, rather than an irrelevant byproduct as most pollution is, so it will be harder to reduce. On the other hand, CO2 is directly related to fuel costs, which provide more economic push for reduction; America's efficiency is far behind comparable countries, and there is a large body of off-the-shelf efficiency technologies available; and are many non-fossil fuel alternatives already on the market, which drop in price with every year. Combining these factors, an 80% reduction in GHG from US levels seems to me feasible, especially over a 20-year period or longer. If I get the time, I'll write up the details behind these numbers in a future blog entry. 10:34:27 AM