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Now THIS is thinking "outside the box"
Myopic conservatives and the media still don't get global warming. But if anybody can preserve a livable climate, Obama's amazing energy team can.
By Joseph Romm
Jan. 26, 2009 |
The greatest task of the Obama administration -- and the next 10 presidents -- is to avoid catastrophic global warming. The latest science warns that the unstable West Antarctic ice sheet has been warming significantly since the 1950s, the rate of Greenland summer ice loss tripled last year, and the planet as a whole lost 2 trillion tons of ice in the last five years. The best mid-range estimate for sea level rise by the year 2100 is 5 feet, much higher than U.N. scientists projected just two years ago.
Fortunately, Obama clearly gets it. He devoted more of his inaugural address to clean energy and global warming than even the strongest advocate could have imagined, asserting, "We will work tirelessly to ... roll back the specter of a warming planet." More important, he has assembled a team with unmatched knowledge and commitment to solve the climate problem.
But the path toward a carbon-reduced future will not be an easy one. President Obama will be challenged by a lack of awareness by the media and major opinion makers, who still don't grasp the scope of the problem, and by the majority of GOP politicians who refuse to accept the dire facts of climate science. If Obama is going to lead this country and the world in the fight to preserve a livable climate, he will be forced to do so in a partisan fashion. That task can't be underestimated. But it's a huge relief to see the energy team that Obama has assembled for the battle.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and Obama himself all campaigned on putting in place a cap and trading system that would cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. This is the same target New Jersey adopted under the prodding of New Jersey environmental chief Lisa Jackson, named by Obama to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Science advisor designee John Holdren co-authored a major report for the United Nations in 2007, setting a target for global warming this century of no more than 2°C to 2.5°C, which requires global emissions to peak within a decade, and necessitates a U.S. target at least as strong as that on which Obama campaigned. Carol Browner, who will oversee Obama's energy and climate policy from the White House, has endorsed the same temperature and greenhouse gas targets.
Achieving the Obama target would require replacing the country's entire multitrillion-dollar energy infrastructure -- including the vast majority of power plants and cars -- in four decades. I would call this policy "radical," but in fact it is pragmatic. Failing to act quickly will most likely result, by century's end, in 5°C to 7°C global warming, sea levels rising 10 inches a decade or more, widespread desertification, the loss of the inland glaciers that provide water to a billion people and an ocean that is one large, hot, acidic dead zone.
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