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Only When I Laugh

November 5, 2012 - Americans keep taking baby steps on the slow, reluctant path toward climate resilience.  Last week we found out just how far that has gotten us.  For the two of you who remain unconvinced, PricewaterhouseCooper, accounting and consultancy behemoth, has been thoughtful enough to issue its annual low-carbon economy index.  Considering that Hurricane Sandy is where we stand now, there's little in the way of shock value in PwC's latest research.  Well, unless knowing that the world is on track for 11.4 degrees F. of average warming by the end of this century shocks you.

It should, considering that 90 percent of all species will have become extinct at that increased level in average temperature.   The Middle East, along with southern Europe and northern Africa, will have become unlivable.  How ironic that the nations which comprise the Middle East seem traditionally incapable of getting along with one another (or, in the case of Syria, with even itself), fighting all the while over a small plot of land called Israel.  How little it will all amount to in a very little while!

Even though the U.S. has lowered its annual GHGE (greenhouse gas emissions) - unintentionally, I might add - by .8 percent annually since 2000, it turns out that in order to do something truly significant,we have to do it intentionally.  As in it needs to be federal policy, like it is in the UK, France, and Germany.  They're all doing an admirable job - intentionally - of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.  The Scandinavian nations have all put consequential measures in place to lower their emissions, as well.  Would that others were following their example, rather than ours.

That, however, is simply not the case.  Prior to the year 2000, the U.S. may have slowed its rate of GHGE increase, but not by much.  Not so you'd notice.  Certainly not in a way that would have lowered our (cue the music) Standard of Living.  Such a lowering will, inevitably, supply us with confirmation of the efficacy of measures taken.  While the standard of living has fallen for many Americans since the inauguration of the world's economic collapse, even that hasn't been enough.  I think the way Amish people live in the U.S. will one day serve as a good benchmark.  I don't think many of us have our heads wrapped around that tidbit of information yet.

Nations that have long endured poverty demonstrate little inclination to follow a path that leads to a stable economy, since that would simply provide them with more of the same.  While moderate improvements would actually be a realistic possibility for China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Indonesia and Turkey, they have been too well trained, by the likes of us, to settle for what they have been trained to view as too little.  That's why these "emerging" nations currently increase their greenhouse gas emissions by 7.4 percent annually.  With plans in the works to build coal-fired power plants, decimate forests, and open new mines in a search for rare earths, GHGE reduction appears to have been taken off the table.

For the record, PwC advises in their report that we must implement "a rapid uptake of renewable energy, sharp falls in fossil fuel use or massive deployment of carbon capture and storage, removal of industrial emissions [!], and halting deforestation."  While neither of the presidential candidates advocates such radical policies, you might want to keep them in mind tomorrow when you vote, nonetheless.

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