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Verde Laguna: Congress needs to get it together

July 29, 2010|By Gustavo Grad

The Senate's announcement last week that the plans for energy and climate change legislation have been shelved is

about our elected officials' lack of vision to picture America leading the world with a truly sustainable new model.

It's about our economic interest, but also national security. It's about how to get out of this economic downturn and thrive again. It's about a world in peril that we cannot pass to another generation without catastrophic consequences.

Instead, we spend too much time arguing with those who ask, "What if climate change doesn't exist?"

These people usually fall into three groups: those who believe green house gases are due to natural causes; those who hate regulation and government action; and those who try to invalidate science, building an argument on the estimated 10% uncertainty that's built into statistical models.

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Even with uncertainties, the scientific evidence is clear and compelling; the climate is changing due to human activities. We know that the Earth's surface is warming from millions of temperature measurements, that sea levels are rising and that worldwide we are facing loss of snow and ice. We also know that human activities have driven carbon dioxide and other trapping gases to higher concentrations than any time in history.

Consider for a moment MIT's Integrated Global Systems Model, which tracks and predicts climate change from 1861 to 2100, that indicates that if we stick with business as usual, temperatures by 2100 will hit levels far beyond anything humans have experienced, or the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment produced by 1,300 experts that concluded that the ability of the Earth's ecosystem to absorb our impacts is rapidly diminishing.

Another big problem is that China surpassed the U.S. as the world's largest energy user. If the emerging world continues the consumption patterns America had in the 20th century, the implications in energy and climate are staggering. Just picture all 1.3 billion people in China turning their plasma TVs on at the same time. OK, they don't all have plasmas, but what about turning an incandescent bulb on at the same time?

How many megawatts are needed to support the demand? After all, everyone in this world has the right for a better life.

The problem is how to have economic growth in the new millennium in a world with limited natural resources. This is why we have to become the world leader in clean-energy technologies and efficiencies, to tip the world in a new direction.

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