Global Warming: Solutions

Global warming may or may not be a problem.  Man may or may not be driving it.  Given the uncertainties, a significant amount of global regret may apply if we divert too much of our global wealth to solving what may be a non-existent or trivial problem, especially if that diversion mires billions in poverty.  On the other hand, we may also regret not doing anything if man-made global warming does turn out to be a problem.  It is therefore prudent to examine what steps we can take that would prove beneficial whether or not anthropogenic global warming turns out to be a problem.  These steps can be termed “no regrets” policies.

What makes a No Regrets Global Warming Policy?  A global warming policy can be termed “no regrets” as long as it:

  • Reduces the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere, or
  • Mitigates, prevents or reduces a harm associated with global warming, or
  • Provides greater capacity for dealing with problems associated with global warming
  • Without imposing significant cost or diverting economic activity.

Top Five “No Regrets” Policies

1.)  Eliminate all subsidies to fuel use.
Subsidies to energy R&D cost taxpayers millions of dollars while producing minimal benefits. While these programs may be relatively small given the size of domestic energy markets, they serve little, if any, useful purpose while subsidizing large corporations at taxpayer expense. The potential threat of global warming, whether it is real or not, is simply one more reason to eliminate these subsidy programs. An international agreement aimed at ending energy subsidy with binding targets would be a significant victory for emissions reduction.  Unlike Kyoto, which forces an energy starvation diet on its participants, such a treaty would be a move to combat energy obesity.

2.)  Repeal the Federal Flood Insurance Program.
Much of the concern over global warming’s potential for harm in the US relates to sea level rise and the flooding that will result.  However, much of the investment in potentially vulnerable areas is a result of the Federal flood Insurance Program.  This program encourages building in vulnerable areas by acting as a moral hazard: people take greater risks because the government has said it will help bear that risk. Reform would reduce the moral hazard connected with building on vulnerable land, transferring the risk from the taxpayer to the private sector, which is likely to take a more realistic view of the issue.

3.)  Reform Air Traffic Control Systems.
Greater demand for air travel means more flights, which means greater fuel use and increased emissions. Yet, the current government-operated system of air traffic control, based on a 1920s-era system of beacons, may hinder innovations that could reduce fuel use and emissions. As a general rule, the shorter the flight, the less fuel will be consumed. Yet neither airlines nor pilots have the freedom to choose the most direct and economical route. Giving pilots freedom to map their own course is an attractive and desirable change in the eyes of the industry, and the impact on the environment would be tremendous. As well as saving considerable amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, the policy will deliver significant benefits in terms of time and expense to the US economy.  By obviating significant reductions in service levels associated with more routine applications of emissions reduction policy, it is to be preferred to that approach.

4.)  Facilitate Electricity Competition.
By rejecting the model of central regulation and allowing suppliers to meet their customers’ needs more exactly while relying on distributed generation, energy waste and the associated emissions will reduce considerably.  This reduction in waste will prove economically beneficial even if emissions themselves do not cause problems.


Source :

By : William Yeatman

Greenhouse effect

The “greenhouse effect” is the warming that happens when certain gases in Earth’s atmosphere trap heat. These gases let in light but keep heat from escaping, like the glass walls of a greenhouse.

First, sunlight shines onto the Earth’s surface, where it is absorbed and then radiates back into the atmosphere as heat. In the atmosphere, “greenhouse” gases trap some of this heat, and the rest escapes into space. The more greenhouse gases are in the atmosphere, the more heat gets trapped.

Scientists have known about the greenhouse effect since 1824, when Joseph Fourier calculated that the Earth would be much colder if it had no atmosphere. This greenhouse effect is what keeps the Earth’s climate livable. Without it, the Earth’s surface would be an average of about 60 degrees Fahrenheit cooler. In 1895, the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius discovered that humans could enhance the greenhouse effect by making carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. He kicked off 100 years of climate research that has given us a sophisticated understanding of global warming.

Levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) have gone up and down over the Earth’s history, but they have been fairly constant for the past few thousand years. Global average temperatures have stayed fairly constant over that time as well, until recently. Through the burning of fossil fuels and other GHG emissions, humans are enhancing the greenhouse effect and warming Earth.

Scientists often use the term “climate change” instead of global warming. This is because as the Earth’s average temperature climbs, winds and ocean currents move heat around the globe in ways that can cool some areas, warm others, and change the amount of rain and snow falling. As a result, the climate changes differently in different areas.

Global Warming : Is It Happening?

Yes. Earth is already showing many signs of worldwide climate change.

• Average temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) around the world since 1880, much of this in recent decades, according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

• The rate of warming is increasing. The 20th century’s last two decades were the hottest in 400 years and possibly the warmest for several millennia, according to a number of climate studies. And the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that 11 of the past 12 years are among the dozen warmest since 1850.

• The Arctic is feeling the effects the most. Average temperatures in Alaska, western Canada, and eastern Russia have risen at twice the global average, according to the multinational Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report compiled between 2000 and 2004.

• Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing, and the region may have its first completely ice-free summer by 2040 or earlier. Polar bears and indigenous cultures are already suffering from the sea-ice loss.

• Glaciers and mountain snows are rapidly melting—for example, Montana’s Glacier National Park now has only 27 glaciers, versus 150 in 1910. In the Northern Hemisphere, thaws also come a week earlier in spring and freezes begin a week later.

• Coral reefs, which are highly sensitive to small changes in water temperature, suffered the worst bleaching—or die-off in response to stress—ever recorded in 1998, with some areas seeing bleach rates of 70 percent. Experts expect these sorts of events to increase in frequency and intensity in the next 50 years as sea temperatures rise.

• An upsurge in the amount of extreme weather events, such as wildfires, heat waves, and strong tropical storms, is also attributed in part to climate change by some experts.