Hmm – well I haven’t read the study and certainly wouldn’t understand it if I did but the tone of its author is at least non-hysterical and she offers some interesting approaches to dealing with the problem. In fact, with more people like this, we could actually have an intelligent discussion, one not marred by conga drums, whistles and rabid denunciations of capitalism. That would cool things off all by itself.
The study was done by Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature, an organization of about a dozen scientists that I co-founded with my father, Richard Muller, in 2010 to investigate serious concerns raised by climate skeptics. These conclusions are stronger than those of theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.N.-sponsored consensus group, which merely concluded that “most” of the warming of the past 50 years was human-caused.
If the greenhouse gases continue to be emitted at the recent rates, we could expect another 1.5 degree rise over the next 70 years – or over a much shorter time, if the growth in China’s emissions continues on its current course.
While all the increase to date can be attributed to human greenhouse gas emissions, mostly in developed countries, what is to come will be caused by increased emissions in developing countries. China’s emissions overtook U.S. emissions in 2006. China now is expected to have twice our emissions by the end of 2012. Other developing countries are also emitting more greenhouse gases as their economies grow.
We can’t stand in the way of development. These countries must tackle urgent challenges in education and health. To combat global warming, we need solutions that are low cost. One of the first steps should be to encourage a switch to natural gas from coal in developing countries. In parallel, we need to increase energy efficiency worldwide.
Coal is one of the dirtiest sources of energy, producing more than twice as much carbon dioxide as natural gas. Many developing countries still use coal as a primary source of energy. China has been adding a new gigawatt of coal energy every week. But China and other large developing countries also have big reserves of natural gas.
Though some environmentalists still oppose fracking, this technology has helped to lower greenhouse gas emissions in the United States as we decommission coal plants and use more natural gas. As suggested by Richard Muller in “Energy for Future Presidents,” the same can happen in developing countries. By shifting to natural gas from coal, they could reduce emissions by 50 percent or more.
Investing in energy conservation can yield 20 percent per year or more – tax free. But people don’t always make choices that are the most economical. We put off installing insulation; we leave our appliances on. According to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the United States wastes 58 percent of its energy.
Many people wrongly regard conservation as demanding sacrifices and a lower cost of living. Not true: In the United States, almost without trying, we have reduced the energy it takes to produce $1 of economic activity (GDP) by about 1 percent per year over the past 100 years. There have been times, such as the 1970s oil crisis, when energy efficiency has improved by as much as 4 percent per year. We can do more than 1 percent.
The climate debate has suffered greatly from exaggerators – people who believe they are helping spur action by distorting facts. We need to be properly skeptical of all solutions proposed for global warming.