War on Warming
Peter G Cohen
The latest science tells us that if we do not act quickly and effectively to cut our greenhouse gasses in the next two years, we are promised a slew of problems that will have a much greater cost to our economy and the stability of the world. At a minimum we can anticipate droughts, heat waves, intensified storms, spreading disease and crop failures, water shortages, and the flooding of millions of homes and fields.
NASA’s chief climatologist, James Hansen, has issued the Pearl Harbor of global warming - we must act quickly or change will be irreversible.
How did we respond to the challenge of the Pearl Harbor attack? After we were attacked the nation was mobilized. Government agencies were created to pursue the war and to increase our production of guns, tanks and planes. That mobilization worked because everyone was determined to win and because the impact of the required sacrifices was fairly distributed.
Now we can create the structures to mobilize and coordinate our efforts to control global climate change, or we ignore the threat and leave the burden of these disasters to our children! We could be the generation that faces global warming and brings it under control, but voluntary efforts are not enough. Those who go out of their way to restrict their energy use are made to feel foolish when they see others continuing to waste.
The first step is a national program to educate all of our people on the latest science of global warming, its causes and dangers so that they fully understand the urgency of the challenge we face. At the same time, we need to establish the agencies necessary to plan and carry out step by step greenhouse gas reductions as fairly as possible. All of the sectors that create these gasses must be coordinated in their efforts. Difficult questions arise: What should be done first? Where are the easy fixes? Which taxes and subsidies should be changed? How are we going to encourage the necessary investment? Short and long-term planning are necessary in order to achieve the best results with the minimum disruption of our economy.
We cannot expect the Congress to have the depth of knowledge necessary for success. We need to establish a national organization of scientists, systems people, economists and others to integrate our efforts and provide the Congress with a detailed and logical plan for short- and long-term legislation to benefit the whole nation.
For example, solar panels are operating at their optimum just when most people want air conditioning. Why can’t we legislate nationally that all new AC installations must be served by solar panels? This would reduce the summer stress on our electrical supply and reduce CO2 emissions at the same time.
There is another benefit to be had from cutting back on our greenhouse gasses. We have passed peak oil and can expect gradually declining quality, supplies and rising prices. As we encourage clean energy technologies to be implemented quickly, we will create a major new industry making much needed wind generators, solar panels and other equipment for ourselves and the less-developed world. As with the mobilization of W.W.II, the War on Warming is likely to stimulate rather than to hurt the national economy.
The United States uses almost twice as much energy as Germany to produce the same product. Much of our industrial equipment is outdated and wasteful. By installing more efficient motors, machines and procedures we can increase efficiency while reducing energy consumption and global warming.
Of course, some industries will be restricted as we cut back on greenhouse gasses. Coal is an example. That industry has spent millions of dollars telling us that global warming doesn’t exist. But cutting back on carbon emissions over the next forty years is a gradual way to phase out an industry that has filled the air and water with toxins, maimed and killed thousands of miners, and is now destroying the natural environment of areas where coal is strip mined.
America need not fear a national mobilization to reduce our greenhouse gasses. What we should fear is a halfhearted effort that is weakly administered and plagued with political appointments and favoritism. Let us demand an energetic and determined attack on global warming to achieve the UN goals for the U.S. by 2050.
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Peter G Cohen, veteran of W.W.II, artist and activist, has been involved with environmental issues since the eighties. He now lives in Santa Barbara
where he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org