Monday, October 17, 2005

Is global warming the ticket to a vacation in Greenland?

The question of whether humans are substantially contributing to global warming is still in the air, although most scientists believe humans bear at least some responsibility. Roughly a quarter of the world's oil is in the Arctic, yet oil likely requires animal and (especially) plant life to form. Obviously this oil did not materialize underneath an icy tundra. It was warm there at some point in time, long before any SUVs or Exxon-Mobil. It is only speculation as to whether or not humans are significantly affecting climate change, because the earth has been through warmer and more turbulent times than the less than one degree rise in average temperatures we've seen over the last few decades.

Also, let's be pragmatic. Of the 162 venerable countries that signed on to Kyoto, how many have met their obligations thus far? Would you guess a whopping three?! And two of those (Germany and France) have had stagnant economies. Pretty easy to keep emissions down when no one is producing any extra (the third country is Great Britain). Obviously China and India are concerned with economic growth, not limiting pollutants (unless of course it hurts economic growth, which is a problem in some places in India especially). No country (outside of Western European nations, which have an incredible threshold for economic self-destruction) is going to needlessly carry the ballast of forced restriction. Technological innovation is the ticket. Any negligible gains (reductions) in emissions are going to be more than negatively offset by the prodigious growth in these Asian giants (from the CSM):

"So much for Kyoto.

The official treaty to curb greenhouse-gas emissions hasn't gone into effect yet and already three countries are planning to build nearly 850 new coal-fired plants, which would pump up to five times as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce...

By 2012, the plants in three key countries - China, India, and the United States - are expected to emit as much as an extra 2.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide, according to a Monitor analysis of power-plant construction data. In contrast, Kyoto countries by that year are supposed to have cut their CO2 emissions by some 483 million tons...

China is the dominant player. The country is on track to add 562 coal-fired plants - nearly half the world total of plants expected to come online in the next eight years. India could add 213 such plants; the US, 72."

What is often overlooked in this debate is that the developed world is much cleaner than the developing world. Better to have them modernize now and then become more green via market-driven efficiency.

Finally, global warming could be a boon rather than a disaster. Russia east of the Urals has around 8 million people (if memory serves) scattered over an area larger than the US. Canada's metropolitan areas are concentrated along its southern border--few people live in the north. Greenland is three times the size of Texas yet it has a population (~50,000) half the size of Green Bay. All this land is too frigid to live in now. Warmer temperatures will potentially open all of it up.

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