The Challenge of Climate Change(A)
I definitely am not rooting for those who think that that global warming, through a change in ocean currents, will hasten the onset of a new ice age. Yesterday I succumbed (involuntarily) to a massive traffic jam in the Boston area– all due to about ¼” of snow and ice. After three hours of gridlock that took me about 8 miles – not even to the subway station – I turned around and headed home. One theory of climate change is called global warming and has weather in the Northeast approximating weather in Georgia. After yesterday, the specter of Georgia weather has its appeal.
Some sort of weather change is now seen as inevitable. And whereas there are multiple theories about the precise weather future in New England, there is a growing conviction among scientists that weather is already changing. On November 21, I attended an impressive “Institutional Summit on Climate Risk” convened by many treasurers and high level investment decision makers, CERES and United Nations Environmental Programme. Presentations about climate change were sobering and indisputable, the most comprehensive coming from Professor John P. Holdren of the Kennedy School at Harvard. The assembled eight State Treasurers and two major labor pension fund leaders issued a 10-point “call for action” demanding tough new steps by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), corporate boards and Wall Street firms to increase corporate disclosure of the risks posed by climate change to investors.
Optimism, however, was muted by the knowledge that many important policy decisions in the U.S., totally ignore climate change as a threat. Larry Craig, one of the Idaho senators who helped defeat the McCain Lieberman bill to cut carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to 2000 levels by 2010, said there was no need for a “massive new regulatory process” for industrial carbon dioxide. A position piece on Senator Craig’s web site declares “….while fossil fuel use contributes to carbon dioxide emissions, the answer is not as some insist, to abolish fossil fuel use, returning to a rustic life of washing our clothes in streams, trading automobiles for horses, and burning candles for light.” The League of Conservation Voters gave Larry Craig an astoundingly low 4 and 6 for the two years of the 107th Congress.
While the powerful Larry Craig spouts atrocious fabrications, sophisticated companies are preparing to eat the lunches of American industrialists who cling to wishful thinking and fear tactics. In March of 2003, Royal Dutch Shell’s Chief joined Lord John Brown of British Petroleum in calling for action to solve the problem of global warming “before it is too late”. Honda Motors’ FCX is the first fuel-cell car to be certified for everyday use. Toyota’s Prius hybrid boasts a 55mpg combined fuel efficiency record and is the vehicle to drive in Beverly Hills. A handful of U.S. companies continue to invest in research and development on emissions-saving transportation technology in spite of retrograde policies. General Motors is delivering 235 hybrid buses to the King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit that the company estimates will save 750,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually
Sitting in traffic in the freezing cold yesterday with thousands of other residents, I was struck by how amazing it was that thousands of people all over greater Boston could be simultaneously sitting in idling motor vehicles, bumper to bumper, for all that time. We’re not as smart as we think we are. How we deal with climate change could be the ultimate test.
For further information about Climate Change, here’s a link to a good piece in The Guardian and one from Union of Concerned Scientists. CERES’ web site carries a summary of the Summit on Climate change. Professor Holdren’s work on climate change can be found at the Kennedy School web site. See the League of Conservation Voters’ site for data on political voting records.