This was printed in the Boulder Daily Camera on Saturday, January 14, 2012.
The Boulder City Council’s website touts a “Climate Action Plan” as one of its primary goals. “The current goal is equivalent to the Kyoto Protocol target – to reduce emissions to a level seven percent below 1990 levels by 2012,” it says. With the city’s carbon tax set to end early next year, it’s worth asking: Is reducing carbon dioxide emissions the best way to respond to global warming?
Reviewing analysis by retired NCAR Senior Scientist Tom Wigley, Boulder’s University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) states that even if the “industrialized and nearly industrialized countries called upon to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the protocol … continued to abide by Kyoto’s limits” through 2100, global average temperatures would be at most 0.38 degrees Fahrenheit less than midpoint warming projections. Put in perspective, global temperatures decreased by this amount between 1900 and 1910, according to NASA.
Given this tiny effect, I’m not surprised that expert climate economists commissioned by the Copenhagen Consensus Center ranked emission reductions last among cost-effective responses to climate change. More efficient methods, listed at FixTheClimate.com, include adaptation, climate engineering, and carbon storage technologies.
With or without global warming, people — especially those in developing nations –face threats from extreme temperature, coastal flooding, hurricanes, malaria, poverty, starvation, and water stress. While global warming may increase these risks, scholars including Indur Goklany and Bjorn Lomborg convincingly argue that directly reducing these threats and promoting prosperity save more lives at lower cost than attempts involving emissions reductions.