The Economist asks George W. to step up to the plate

by Franke James

The Economist’s Sept.7th issue has some very good coverage on the global warming problem. Their message to George W. Bush is to wake up to the political opportunity in going the ‘green way’ (as California’s Gov. Schwarzenegger has) and make America ‘the’ leader in solving climate change. I think it’s a worthwhile read. Below are a few snippets that caught my attention:

Excerpt from from Sept.7/06 Economist Article: The Heat is On

“The technological and economic aspects of the problem are, thus, not quite as challenging as many imagine. The real difficulty is political. Climate change is one of the hardest policy problems the world has ever faced. Because it is global, it is in every country’s interests to get every other country to bear the burden of tackling it. Because it is long term, it is in every generation’s interests to shirk the responsibility and shift it onto the next one. And that way, nothing will be done.”

Excerpt from from Sept.7/06 Economist Article: Where to Start

“The widely held notion that gas-guzzling cars are the core of the problem is wrong. Transport (including planes and ships as well as cars) produces only 13.5% of emissions. The biggest contributor is power generation (24.5%); and the biggest contributor among sources of power is coal. Coal is cheap. Coal is dirty. America has lots of coal and China has vast reserves to fuel its economic boom. And rocketing natural-gas prices have led to a boom in the building of coal-fired power plants in recent years. “

Excerpt from Sept.7/06 Economist Article: A Coat of Green

“Business is becoming more environment-minded, but only because government is pushing… Business seems to be buzzing with green activity. Newspapers are full of advertisements from companies parading their environmental credentials. Some of this is driven by consumers. Greenness has become a moral issue, and companies such as Wal-Mart, which are seen by some as oppressing their workers and destroying communities, can improve their image by looking good environmentally.”

Excerpt from Aug.17/06 Economist Article: Greenery in California

“ARE the pressures of industry and a growing population conspiring to spoil the Californian dream? According to the state-sponsored California Climate Change Centre, California’s 36m car-addicted residents already breathe America’s worst air, with 90% of them living in areas that violate the state’s air-quality standards. The rich fields of the San Joaquin Valley sit under a cloud of pollution so thick that the surrounding mountains can barely be seen; the brown layer of air over Los Angeles, which produces spectacular sunsets, also contributes to a statewide count of some 8,800 deaths and $71 billion in health-care costs a year.”

“Moreover, worse is supposedly to come.. By mid-century, extreme heat events in urban centres such as Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Bernardino could cause two or three times more heat-related deaths than occur today,” says the Centre’s latest report. With less snow likely on the Sierra Nevada, there will be less water for both agriculture (a $30 billion industry employing 1m workers) and cities. By the end of the century, California’s already frequent wildfires could increase by anywhere from 30% to 90%. Rising sea levels could erode those magnificent beaches and lead to coastal flooding.”

The Economist articles reaffirm the relevance of the recent survey that predicted that private industry and government need to work together to have any hope of solving global warming.

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