Friday, June 01, 2007

The Unreasonable Man...Curbs CO2 Emissions?


I robbed this from the title of a chapter in The Warren Buffet Way (more on Mr. Buffet later). The opening of the chapter quoted George Bernard Shaw,
The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him... The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself... All progress depends on the unreasonable man.
Are the people that protest about the unsustainable growth of our capitalist economies the unreasonable men? Was the United States the Unreasonable Man on the global stage by staying away from the Kyoto Protocol, due in some part to the fact that emerging economies like China and India were left out of that global agreement? I am not well versed in Mr. Shaw's thinking, but I tend to believe that Mr. Shaw's comment can apply to a nation acting singularly in a community of nations. I am also not an expert on the intricacies and vagaries of the Kyoto Protocol, and the US's reasons for not ratifying it back in 1997 and completely pulling out of it in 2001.

Despite a 10-year waiting period for our concerted action, are we now at least moving in the right direction? George Bush announced a plan today to gather the world's leading economies together to establish global CO2 emissions reduction targets. This is big news, covered in headlines in the NYTimes, Reuter's Interactive Carbon Market, Greenbiz, The Economist, MSNBC & many more.

Under pressure from domestic and international leaders, Mr. Bush has proposed some action, (from the NYTimes)
Mr. Bush pledged to convene a series of meetings, beginning in the fall, with 10 to 15 countries that produce the most greenhouse gas emissions, including China and India. Each country would establish midterm national targets for reducing emissions over the next 10 to 20 years, while working together to set a longer-term goal.
The talks also would bring together industry leaders, Mr. Bush said, so that the countries could work together to pool their knowledge and promote investment in energy-efficient technologies, including solar and wind energy, clean-coal technologies and nuclear power. But each country would be free to set its own national goals, and there would be no binding international framework for enforcement.
The last sentence is the killer. There's an out. What's the point? If there is no concerted and binding agreement it's all a cornucopia of feel good conversations to make political leaders look like their taking action. In fact, with climate change quickly becoming a hot topic for the 2008 election cycle it is clear that President Bush is making these statements for the benefit of the Republican Party. After all, they cannot let the Dems have all the environmental attention. As with any good political party, they pay attention to data from polls that may indicate there are enough voters that care about "climate change" for them to take a stand on it.
Despite my skepticism about this effort, I am happy to see that something has been said on the federal level. The current state and regional patchwork of regulations addressing GHG emissions and renewable energy portfolios will not spur the kind of clean energy technology investment that we need to attach our excessive CO2 emissions.
The EPA will regulate CO2 emissions as the FDA regulates prescription drugs. The agency will also help establish a global carbon footprint label for every product manufactured. When consumers and businesses are paying something more closely resembling true costs for energy, they'll want to know how much CO2 is in the product they are buying; it will affect the price they pay.

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