What to Do about Global Warming

Global warming is one of the most partisan issues in America. Conservatives and liberals have fought bitterly over it: The Right expresses outrage at any international climate treaty, such as the Kyoto Protocols, that it sees as imposing limits on U.S. sovereignty and economic growth. The Left blames Big Business for being greedy and neglecting a problem that threatens the world.

When President Bush took office, he rather peremptorily dismissed the Kyoto Protocols, which mandate caps on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in Europe and the U.S. Europe, which approves the caps, was enraged. To his credit, Bush did order up a new National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on climate change. The full report acknowledges that global mean temperature is up from a century ago, atmospheric levels of CO2 have risen over the past 100 years, and CO2 is a greenhouse gas that warms the earth. It says CO2 probably plays a key role in warming but states that given uncertainties surrounding the level of natural variability in climate temperature and other factors, "a causal linkage between the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the observed climate changes during the 20th century cannot be unequivocally established." The data "is suggestive of such a linkage, but it does not constitute proof of one..."

Given these scientific facts and conclusions, both liberals and conservatives, can reasonably conclude that while it may not be time to panic, it would be prudent to begin curbing CO2 emissions. That can be done with a policy that relies heavily on incentives backed by some punishment for severe polluters. We now have hybrid-car technology that doubles gas mileage. We have ways of increasing the energy efficiency of commercial buildings, which use half of all electricity in the U.S. Emissions trading is a proven mechanism. The energy efficiency of air conditioners can be improved.

President Bush has accepted the scientific findings of the NAS report. It is not enough to simply be critical of the Kyoto Protocols. If they are deficient, Bush must end the politicization of the global warming issue and actively move to common ground in solving the problem.

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