Monday, November 10, 2008
In “The Climate for Change,” NY Times editorial, Nov. 9th, Al Gore calls for the U.S. to pursue carbon cap and trade policies. What he does not call for is U.S. unilateral action to legislate mandated C02 reductions to 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% below by 2050. It is a crucial omission. I came away from conversations with Indian and Chinese government advisors on climate this summer with the clear sense that any and all international negotiations will bog down until and unless the U.S. establishes its bona fides. We need to engage in what a Chinese adviser called “a game changer”. Gore’s other prescriptions are all sensible – increasing alternative energy, building smart national grids, accelerating hybrid auto development and deployment – but they will take many years to implement. His ten year timetable ignores the fact that, assuming normal continued economic growth, U.S. energy demand is going to double within the next 30 years. We need action now that publically binds us to a course of development over time, come what may. The new administration is considering just such action - 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% below by 2050 – but the danger is that this objective will get trumped by the political pressure to the chimera of an energy independence policy.