Posted by: Randy Allgaier | July 7, 2007

07.07.07 – Take a moment to think about our legacy for planet Earth


Is it cheesy for me to jump on the “Live Earth” bandwagon today by writing a piece about gloabal warming? Hell no. It is critical, it is essential, it is vital, it is life and death for our planet. Did my redundancy get your attention yet?

We know that the earth has become warmer over the last century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), reports that the average surface temperature of the earth has increased during the twentieth century by about 0.6° ± 0.2°C. (The ± 0.2°C means that the increase might be as small as 0.4°C or as great as 0.8°C.)

This may seem like a small shift, but although regional and short-term temperatures do fluctuate over a wide range, global temperatures are generally quite stable. In fact, the difference between today’s average global temperature and the average global temperature during the last Ice Age is only about 5 degrees C. Indeed, it’s warmer today around the world than at any time during the past 1000 years, and the warmest years of the previous century have occurred within the past decade.

We also know that human activities—primarily the burning of fossil fuels—have increased the greenhouse gas content of the earth’s atmosphere significantly over the same period. Carbon dioxide is one of the most important greenhouse gases, which trap heat near the planet’s surface.

The vast majority of climate researchers agree with these overall findings. The scientific disagreements that do still exist primarily concern detailed aspects of the processes that make up these largely accepted general themes.

Climate change is one of the most complex issues that the world will face in this century.  Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have already reached unprecedented levels, causing changes in global temperature and observable impacts throughout the world, and these changes are happening more quickly than expected.  Stabilizing greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations will require a fundamental shift in our energy system, but this transition will have other benefits as well, including improved competitiveness, security, air quality, public health, and job creation. This transition will not be easy, but it is crucial to begin now.

In February 2006 The Pew Center on Climate Change issued an “Agenda for Climate Action”. The Pew Center on Global Climate Change was established by the Pew Charitable Trusts to bring a new cooperative approach and critical scientific, economic, and technological expertise to the global climate change debate. We intend to inform this debate through wide-ranging analyses that will add new facts and perspectives in four areas: policy (domestic and international), economics, environment, and solutions.

This Pew Center’s Agenda attempts to articulate a responsible course of action for addressing climate change. It identifies 15 actions that should be started now, including U.S. domestic reductions and engagement in the international negotiation process. While reductions across sectors and sources of emissions is key, the steps listed here are not likely to happen simultaneously, nor without costs. However, these recommendations have been designed to be both cost-effective and comprehensive.

I big caveat here- I am not a scientist and I have never done a lot of research on global climate change outside of news articles and visiting some of the websites on both sides of this debate and of course I saw “An Unconveniant Truth. Thanks to the internet to we all have amazing access to research and information on every side of this issue- although I really don’t think that there are many sides to this issue anymore –on one side you have science and on the other side you have— I don’t know what to call them—- NUTS?

I have done a little investigating and find that the Pew Agenda is probably the most thoughtful and sound report I could find without spending months, if not years, reading every report posted on the web with an agenda for climate change. I have Pew for other research for pieces on this blog and have found their information to be nonpartisan, based in science and most importantly upheld by many other sources.

Here is a synopsis of the Pew Report’s 15 reccomendations in its Agenda for Climate Action.

Invest in science and technology research.

1. Ensure a robust research program through the Climate Change Science Program.

2. Offer long-term, stable funds—in the form of a reverse auction—to GHG-related technology research and development.

Establish mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions and harness market mechanisms for economy-wide reductions

3. Create a mandatory GHG reporting system as a basis for an economy-wide emissions trading program.

4. Implement a large-source, economy-wide cap-and trade program for greenhouse gases.

Stimulate innovation across key economic sectors.

5. Transportation: Convert the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program into strengthened, tradable corporate average emissions standards. Support biofuels, hydrogen, and other low-GHG fuel alternatives.

6. Manufacturing: Provide outreach and incentives to manufacturers for improvements in industrial efficiency and low-GHG technologies, and support the production of low-GHG products.

7. Agriculture: Raise the priority and funding levels for Farm Bill programs and other federal initiatives on carbon sequestration.

Drive the energy system toward greater efficiency, lower-carbon fuels and carbon capture technologies.

8. Coal and Carbon Sequestration: Provide funding for tests of geologic carbon sequestration and for research, development and demonstration (RD&D) projects on separation and capture technologies, in combination with advanced generation coal plants. Establish an appropriate regulatory framework for carbon storage.

9. Natural Gas: Expand natural gas transportation infrastructure and production.

10. Renewables: Significantly “ramp up” renewables for electricity and fuels, including an extension/expansion of the production tax credit, a uniform system for tracking renewable energy credits, and increased emphasis on biomass.

11. Nuclear Power: Provide opportunities for nuclear power to play a continuing role in a future low carbon electricity sector.

12. Efficient Energy Production and Distribution: Support the development and use of combined heat and power installations, distributed generation technologies, and test beds for an upgraded electricity grid.

13. Efficient Energy Usage: Reduce energy consumption through policies that spur efficiency, including appliance/equipment standards, building R&D and codes, and consumer education.

Begin now to adapt to the inevitable consequences of climate change.

14. Develop a national adaptation strategy through the Climate Change Science Program and Climate Change Technology Program, and fund development of early-warning systems for related threats.

Engage in negotiations to strengthen the international climate effort.

15. Review options for a new or modified agreement to ensure fair and timely action by all major emitting countries, and participate in negotiations to establish binding climate commitments consistent with domestic interests.

While these fifteen recommendations are not the only means of achieving a lower carbon future, but taken together, they chart a climate-friendly path for the United States. Putting the Agenda into practice will take political will and policy action. All recommendations require government leadership and private sector commitment and time. Nonetheless, the details of specific recommendations in this Agenda are less critical than the compelling need to get started. Further delay will only make the challenge before us more daunting and costly.

If you want to know what you can do- and to make a commitment and take a pledge to do what you can do personally go to www.liveearth.org  


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