Tuesday, October 21, 2008

So, where does that leave us?

Prometheus has a very thought provoking post up on Europe's approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to avert climate change. Many climate change activists have pointed to Europe as a "laboratory" for climate change policy methods in much the same way that the US views the states (e.g. California passing a low Carbon Fuel Standard).

Yet, while the EU has taken a much more proactive stance against climate change than the US, results have been mixed thus far. The first graph shows change in emissions on a per capita basis, while the second shows total emissions, beginning in 1997.

In both cases, it is apparent that many European countries are not necessarily halting their share of emissions. In fact, many countries seem to be having a difficult time stabilizing their emission output. Even so, these graphs don't tell the whole story.

I think it is obvious that it is very difficult to create a portfolio of policies that reduce emissions while paying head to entrenched politicians and economic feasibility. It is so difficult that my entire thesis is based entirely on this issue. Yet, President Bush or no President Bush, the discussion on how to reduce emissions would still be filled with grandiose speeches of how much a lie global warming is or how those that want to reduce emissions are communists. It would still be filled with deal making and consensus policies. The policy levers used by the US may still not be "ideal" or those used by Europe. Behind the scenes, though, there is a much different narrative.

First, many European countries are taking the initiative to embrace alternative forms of energy. For instance, Germany is becoming the world capital of solar energy, even though it gets as much sun as say, Rochester, NY. Also, many of these countries will have an easier time to reduce emissions due to their smaller share of total global emissions. The US represents almost one quarter of global emissions - with those produce by just our passenger vehicles representing almost 5% themselves.

The focus on the US and its inaction is merited in that our path to a sustainable emissions level is much more difficult than most of these European countries. So, where does that leave us now?

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