It's the Environment, Stupid.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Beyond emission reductions

Funny how whenever there's a drought, or heat wave or severe thunderstorm, or hurricane, or flooding the talk of climate change makes it back to the front page.

This time the talk is happening in Australia (the other country that hasn't ratified the Kyoto Protocol - but then, they don't have nearly the same consumption/population/emissions as the Americans...)

The talk is about financial relief for farmers, it's about the uranium supply in the country and nuclear power, it's about the Kyoto Protocol.

But I wonder how long we're going to be able to keep extending financial (short-term) relief to those whose livelihoods are wiped out by weather related incidents - not just in Australia, but around the world - especially if changing conditions continue and we maintain our reluctance to adapt to them.

Signing on to the Kyoto Protocol at this point will not help solve the water issues in Australia, nor will it help protect the southeastern seaboard of the U.S. against hurricanes. Nor will trading carbon emissions, setting new target levels, or bringing hundreds of new nuclear power plants online.

The international policy process is long, and while we're waiting for the next round of Kyoto, the carbon concentration in the atmosphere will continue rising right along with the global temperature and our energy consumption. All these one-off weather anomalies will become more frequent, and the numbers of people suffering hardships will grow.

The global 'we' must take actions beyond Kyoto and begin to incorporate other policies that go above climate mitigation efforts, such as better planning and development practices, and green building and energy efficient solutions. We've gotten sidetracked by our end goal to reduce carbon emissions to the extent where anything goes as long as the CO2 is kept out of the skies and our light bulbs remain on.

We can't afford to wait until after we've gotten the CO2 level down to deal with the externalities we're causing - we must deal with them now. Haven't we learned by now that cleaning up after the fact is a lot more expensive than tidying up as we go?

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