The world will have to reduce emissions more drastically than has been widely predicted, essentially ending the emission of carbon dioxide by 2050 to avoid catastrophic disruption to the world’s climate.
At a kick-off event, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said
“President-elect Obama’s goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 falls short of the response needed by world leaders to meet the challenge of reducing emissions to levels that will actually spare us the worst effects of climate change.”
Pachauri was the guy handpicked by Bush to replace the “alarmist” Bob Watson. But it’s the facts that make scientists alarmists, not their politics, as I’ve said many times (see “Desperate times, desperate scientists“). At the end of 2007, Pachauri famously said:
Out guest blogger is Center for American Progress senior fellow Van Jones, CEO of Green For All, who testified yesterday before the first hearing of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. This is his testimony.
Mr. Chairman, other committee members, I’m just happy to be here and I appreciate the opportunity to talk. I was here in 2007 when the term “green collar job” was very rarely heard anywhere. This may have been the first place it was heard in Congress.
And now it is everywhere, and that reflects something. It reflects a hunger and desire on the part of the American people to solve the two biggest crises possibly ever to face this country: an economic catastrophe and a climate crisis, both of which could undermine our nation’s security, our economy, not just now but for decades into the future.
You, unlike the rest of us — next week, we’re going to be celebrating — you’ll celebrate for about ten minutes and then you’re going to go back to sweating. Sweating over the details of this recovery, sweating over the details of how it is that we can actually beat the recession and global warming at the same time.
The 111th Congress will be in the history books. A hundred years from now, students will study this Congress, and they will ask one question: “Were you able to solve the problem? Were you able to able to deal with this twin crisis? How did you do it?”
And you’re going to get a grade from our great-grandchildren: Yes or no. Pass or fail.
The reason that green jobs are so important is because they are the most secure way to ensure success for this Congress. And the whole country now is looking for a change. You have the opportunity now to turn this breakdown into a breakthrough. And you can if you honor three principles. Read more
But as I noted in my post on Stephen Chu’s confirmation hearing for energy secretary, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) made some worrisome remarks on the subject. Our very own David Lewis transcribed the exchange in the comments (here). I’m going to repost it below because Bayh is a thoughtful moderate who certainly understands the climate issue.
The international negotiation process that led to the Kyoto Protocol and that is supposed to culminate in another deal in Copenhagen at the end of this year is for all intents and purposes in a deep coma, even if most of the participants don’t realize that (see “Obama can’t get a global climate treaty ratified, so what should he do instead? Part 1“). Indeed, the only thing that could possibly revive it is China agreeing to a cap by no later than 2020. That alone means Obama’s top international priority this year must not be Copenhagen, but rather China. Whether or not Obama needs some action by China to get a U.S. bill passed, his entire presidency and the fate of the planet rest on whether he can in fact get a China deal (see “What will make Obama a great president, Part 2: A climate deal with China“).
Let me go further here, based in part on Bayh’s remarks. I think it is rather obvious that if China simply refuses to agree to any strong emissions constraints sometime during Obama’s (hopefully) two terms in office, than even if we had passed a climate bill in this country, the political support for the kind of carbon dioxide prices needed to achieve meaningful reductions by 2020 would just fade away. Second, I think it is even more obvious that the climate bill we could pass in this country would be considerably stronger if we could in fact negotiate a strong, bilateral GHG agreement with China (or trilateral with China and the EU) — though presumably the Chinese side of things would be contingent on a U.S. bill passing.
I do not want to be misunderstood here: It is more than reasonable to argue, as I have repeatedly, that the US should try to pass a bill first — and such a bill may be the key to unlocking Chinese action. But Bayh’s comments in his exchange with Chu suggest that may not work politically:
There is good climate change and bad climate change. One of the very best types is the radical warming of the atmosphere for scientific inquiry we’re already feeling from the incoming Obama Administration.
Past posts and watchdog reports have detailed the suffocation of science in the Bush Administration — the censorship of findings, delays in producing required reports, reduced funding for earth sciences. President Bush is not known as the inquisitive type. As I have reported in the past, some members of the federal government’s science corps believe the president stifled climate science because he doesn’t want to know the answers. He most likely doesn’t want the rest of us to know them, either.
What a difference an election can make. President-elect Obama, often the smartest guy in the room, obviously is open to new knowledge, information and ideas. He’s named Nobel Laureate physicist Stephen Chu, director of Lawrence Livermore Berkeley National Laboratory to Energy; physicist and energy/environment expert John Holdren of Harvard as his science advisor; Marine biologist Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State University to NOAA; Harold Varmus, former director of the national Institutes of Health, and Eric Lander of MIT as co-chairmen of the president’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
As Alan Leshner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science notes in the Economist, “we’ve never had a president surrounded in close proximity with so many well-known, top scientific minds.”
Another signal that it’s springtime for science is the economic stimulus plan the Obama team is circulating in Congress and in cyberspace. According to the plan:
Edited by Joe Romm, we cover climate science, solutions and politics. Columnist Tom Friedman calls us "the indispensable blog" and Time magazine named us one of the 25 "Best Blogs of 2010." Newcomers, start here.