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Columnist Grossly Distorts Study To Argue ‘We Can’t Do Much’ About Global Warming

By Judd Legum on July 5, 2006 at 10:12 am

"Columnist Grossly Distorts Study To Argue ‘We Can’t Do Much’ About Global Warming"

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In today’s paper, Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson asserts that there is little we can do about global warming:

The real truth is that we don’t know enough to relieve global warming, and — barring major technological breakthroughs — we can’t do much about it.

Samuelson draws his conclusions from “a new report from the International Energy Agency.” Actually, the study – Energy Technology Perspectives, Strategies and Scenarios for 2050 (purchase required) — concluded the exact opposite:

[B]y employing technologies that already exist or are under development, the world could be brought onto a much more sustainable energy path. The scenarios show how energy-related C02 emissions can be returned to their current levels by 2050.

Samuelson twists the data to argue we are now “powerless” in the face of global warming:

[T]he IEA simulates five scenarios with differing rates of technological change. In each, greenhouse emissions in 2050 are higher than today. The increases vary from 6 percent to 27 percent…the IEA report indicates we’re now powerless. We can’t end annual greenhouse emissions, and once in the atmosphere, the gases seem to linger for decades.

Here is what Samuleson doesn’t tell you. Without taking action, the IEA estimates that greenhouse emission will increase by 138%, so even the most pessimistic action scenario decreases growth in emissions by 111%. Samuleson doesn’t bother to mention a sixth scenario where greenhouse emissions decrease by 16%.

You can contact the Washington Post at ombudsman@washpost.com. Please be polite.

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