Uh, So What?
I've been reading a lot of reaction to the recent report that says that the International Panel on Climate Change was overly optimistic, and that we need to shovel money into new technology to beat the devil on this one.
The conclusion, for some folks, appears to be: "Since we can't make a significant dent in greenhouse gases using current technology and reducing consumption, shouldn't we just give up and give all the researchers a bunch of money to see if they can find an easy way to fix the problem while we go on our merry way."
Wrong, wrong, and wrong the hell again.
For one simple reason: If we don't have the tech to solve the problem now, then the first step we must take is to reduce emissions at the source. The paper's authors appear to have taken as read that our energy demands are going to climb. There are ways to prevent that, or at least slow it down.
We need to put into play every possible trick to cap emissions at the smokestack and tailpipe. In North America, imagine how much could be reduced if we started adding an environmental levy (of the kind charged on your tires and batteries) on vehicles. It would be a sliding scale, with zero-emissions vehicles at, of course, zero. The lowest rates could be charged for hybrids, with SUVs and the like paying the highest rates.
At the other end, why not issue tighter madatory fuel economy standards? California did, (and that's where I'm going with this in a minute).
Because the environment is a globally shared resource. Canadians, particularly, have had their resources at far, far, below the actual cost of consuming them. What if every pound of coal we burned had to carry a charge to reflect the health effects of burning it?
And this is where California comes in: California had a smog problem. It was a health and economy-poisoning disaster. What did those crazy hippie-types who ran the government in the sixties and seventies do? My god! They implemented fuel-economy standards and tailpipe tests that made driving a blue-spewing clunker a pain in the pocketbook. They made industry clean up its act.
Of course, all of that came to an end when the economy imploded and the state slid into the sea as a result of failing to burn sufficient oil ...
Of course not. They made people stop spewing poison into the air, and guess what? The air got cleaner! Holy crap!
Europe mandates tough emissions controls and fuel economy standards on cars, including savage money for engines bigger than two litres; and oddly enough, most of Europe seems to be doing okay. And as a bonus, finding parking is easier when your stall neighbours aren't driving Hummers.
Hell, London has a congestion charge, but people still drive there. Although as I understand it, most cars carry two people in any case because one has to circle the block while the other goes shopping, given the parking situation.
So the Avid Fan should probably conclude that it doesn't matter why we do it. Pollution is bad news in any case. It is simply an urgent and necessary thing that we take measures to reduce it as soon as possible and that such measures carry a stiff economic penalty for those who will not change their behaviour to adapt to the century we live in, whether those people are individual citizens or corporate ones.
Furthermore--if we expect developing nations to do their part, we in the industrialized countries must do ours. And that means we must reduce. Why should a Chinese citizen be entitled to pollute only a quarter as much as a North American? Instead, we need to look to reduce our individual energy use.
Next time some cretin is holding forth in the pub about how you can have his SUV when you pry it from his cold, dead fingers, look him in the eye and ask:
"So ... why exactly are you in favour of increasing pollution?"
Helpful household hint: Drop your thermostat two degrees in winter and raise it two degrees in summer. You'll barely notice. Or are you simply unprepared to face the possibility of having to wear a sweater in order to save money and carbon wastes?