The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCG) is one of those broad-based, high-minded, internationally representative do-good outfits that drive the Bush White House crazy. That’s probably one of the reasons IPCG enjoys so much prestige both here in the United States and around the world.
A joint enterprise of the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme, IPCG has this year issued three reports that define the causes of global warming (humans), the long-term risks (famine, floods, and other catastrophes), and necessary solutions (more-efficient home appliances, buildings, and vehicles).
These conclusions in summary may seem so simple as to be simplistic. But it is precisely because the Bushies have been so politically craven and intellectually dishonest in denying the threat of global warming that these reports are so vitally important. The IPCG’s dense, single-spaced, graph-laden pages constitute a cache of survival tools — tools that will help us and future generations reverse the ecological damage that our industrialized affluence has wrought.
The good news, contained in the most recent report, is that global warming can be reduced and stabilized with existing technology. That’s something that large multinational corporations, such as British Petroleum, Toyota, and Goldman Sachs, realized several years ago and are already committing themselves to — with their eyes on profits for themselves, of course.
Congress, which has been lagging behind the private sector, shows signs of waking up and shaking off its fear that environmental activism equals economic disaster. Thanks to the Democrats regaining control of the House and Senate, legislation that favors developing alternative fuels and harnessing wind power are finally moving forward. (Maybe Senator Edward Kennedy will drop his shortsighted opposition to the Cape Cod wind farm that Governor Deval Patrick supports.)
Even the US Supreme Court has gotten into the act, allowing for government regulation of carbon-dioxide emissions — something Bush, long beholden to energy interests, has perversely opposed.
While these developments are cause for optimism, they are far from reasons to rejoice. Complicated and controversial battles lie ahead. How do we develop a workable energy policy? What role — if any — should nuclear power play in it? How does the already lackluster Detroit-based auto industry retool itself for the future? What sort of ethanol development should Washington favor: the corn-based variety that would enjoy strong political support in the Midwest, or the more efficient, sugar-based variety imported from Brazil? Do the problems in transporting ethanol — let alone the carbon costs of producing it — justify the effort to convert to it? The search for answers will undoubtedly raise questions such as these.
The very idea that we are moving closer to these debates would have been almost impossible to imagine just a year ago. The inconvenient truth of Al Gore’s powerfully executed Academy Award–winning film is becoming a little less inconvenient to recognize and confront. We are moving in the right direction; we are just not moving fast enough.
For Boston City Council
Next Tuesday, citizens in South Boston, the South End, and Chinatown will vote in a special election to pick a replacement for the late district city councilor Jimmy Kelly, an old warhorse of a politician who was as controversial as he was combative.