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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Global Warming Can Be Stopped

According to H. Damon Matthews and Susan Solomon in Irreversible Does Not Mean Unavoidable, Global Warming can be stopped if we stop pumping CO₂ into the atmosphere:

If emissions decrease enough, the CO₂ levels in the atmosphere can also decrease. This potential for atmospheric CO₂ to decrease over time results from inertia in the carbon cycle associated with the slow uptake of anthropogenic CO₂ by the ocean. This carbon cycle inertia affects temperature in the opposite direction as the physical climate inertia, and is of approximately the same magnitude.

Because of these equal and opposing effects of physical climate inertia and carbon cycle inertia, there is almost no delayed warming from past CO₂ emissions. If emissions were to cease abruptly, global average temperatures would remain roughly constant for many centuries, but they would not increase very much, if at all. Similarly, if emissions were to decrease, temperatures would increase less than they otherwise would have.

Thus, although the CO₂-induced warming already present on our planet—the cumulative result of past emissions—is irreversible, any further increase in CO₂-induced warming is entirely the result of current CO₂ emissions. Warming at the end of this century and beyond will depend on the cumulative emissions we emit between now and then. But future warming is not unavoidable: CO₂ emissions reductions would lead to an immediate decrease in the rate of global warming.

The message is clear: we must, with all haste, eliminate all sources of CO₂ emissions as quickly as possible in order to stop the warming that's underway right now and which is killing life on Earth. That means that governments should move to phase out gasoline engines for newly-manufactured automobiles, for instance. This can be done by rebates, or increased taxes on gasoline or diesel engines. Electric utilities could be treated the same way. Solar and wind plants should either be subsidized by the government, or all fossil-fueled generators should be heavily-taxed to make them uneconomic to continue in operation.

What we have is a failure of the free market ideal. First of all, we do not have a free market. Government intervention in the market means that the free market cannot produce the necessary outcome, which is the elimination of all burning of fossil fuel. Because we have a failed market system, government intervention is the solution to this massive problem.