The consensus among scientists worldwide is: to stave off the most extreme effects of climate change, which is expected to occur near the 21st century’s end if the worst-case scenario plays out, the rise in global mean temperature cannot exceed 2 degrees Celsius. This is my understanding of the situation, at least. I mean, isn’t this the basis for all of the previous climate change conferences held at different times and in various parts of the world and the upcoming United Nations Climate Conference to be held in December this year in Paris, France?
When any effort is undertaken to reduce or slow atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions rise, aren’t we talking about inhibiting growth in the amount of pollutant emissions in our air – I mean, isn’t what this is really all about?
Well, think about it. The increase of carbon dioxide in the air for example since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution circa 1760 is chiefly coupled to the burning of fossil fuels which, is itself an air-polluting process. It would be difficult to have one without having the other, in other words. So the question on the table then should be: If this is the case and if according to the World Health Organization this very same pollution is estimated to cause the early deaths of 8 million people per year worldwide, should not the primary focus of mitigating, controlling efforts be two-pronged, that is to say reducing the amount of destructive and unhealthful pollution in the air as well as slow global mean temperature rise and maybe even work toward reversing it? At this point I would expect to get a reaction or perhaps rebuttal from the climate change denier crowd. I’d be surprised if I didn’t.
Now where was I, oh yeah, the reason I am asking should be pretty obvious. In California, state mandate requires atmospheric GHG to be lowered to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80 percent below that threshold by 2050. Part of the way this is being achieved is through the state’s cap-and-trade program. The way cap-and-trade works is polluting operations like oil and gas production could for instance obtain through purchase, emissions credits from concerns that pollute less that, let’s say, are most efficient or successful at reducing harmful emissions. Meanwhile, the proceeds generated from the sale of those credits would be, for example, directed to programs that, in fact, cut GHG, such as in money being provided for rebates for state residents to put toward the purchase of more fuel-efficient, cleaner-burning, higher-mileage motor vehicles and high-speed rail, to name two.
Maybe I’m just behind the times and maybe all the energy expended to stop global temperature rise, reverse it and get GHG in check really is dual purpose.
If it is not, shouldn’t it be? I think so.