28 December 2004

Eskimo-Pie in the Corner

The recent move by the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, an international organization that represents the rights of people of the Arctic from Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Russia, to threaten the U.S. with a lawsuit "for causing global warming and its devastating impacts," is a bold move that is causing ripples of reaction from the green and the non-so-green. The announcement, made at the recent U.N. climate summit in Buenos Aires, has been described as a salvo against the current administration’s policies by some or "the tip of the iceberg" and "evidence of the green groups' failure to convince the world of the righteousness of their cause" by others.

Cybercast News Services (cnsnews.com), which is affiliated with the conservative watchdog Media Resource Center, describes itself as "a news source for individuals, news organizations and broadcasters who put a higher premium on balance than spin." CNS quotes liberally from Chris Horner, a columnist for the "free market environmental group" Competitive Enterprise Institute, who attended the conference.

Mr. Horner "ridiculed the notion that a 'subsistence' lifestyle included modern equipment like snowmobiles and charged that the Inuits themselves are responsible for ending their traditional way of life." Really? The Inuits are not the Amish; they haven't forsaken technology for a simpler way of life. They live in harsh conditions and use every means to keep their families alive. We provided technological fixes to their hunting and subsistence problems and they put them to good use. But snowmobiles can’t swim like dogs and when they fall through the ice, arctic hunters can be stranded for days before help can arrive.

I have no beef with Mr. Horner; he's got some good opinions and his own worldview. I do take issue when he says the Inuits made a "conscious choice" to trade their lifestyle "for an ideological agenda and possible financial gain." I've spent time in northern climes. Calling the disappearance of the Inuit way of life a conscious choice is a bit like saying the Yankees made a conscious choice to let the Red Sox go to the World Series this year and reverse the curse by blowing four straight games. (Sorry, I had to get in a reference to the Red Sox before 2004 comes to a close.)

I don't think Mr. Horner is off-base when he claims in another CNS article that by "2025, the developed countries will be producing more greenhouse gases than all industrialized countries combined." But that may be due to progressive companies like BP voluntarily raising their voluntary emissions caps beyond the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for only a five percent reduction over 1990 levels, and further reductions in the industrialized nations that have signed on to the Protocol. There's little question that the Kyoto Protocol pales in comparison to what is really needed to prevent catastrophic change in our climate, even extreme greens agree on that point. Yet the recent ratification by Russia demonstrates a willingness for a majority of governments to self-regulate and take action before it's too late.

What is needed are bold and appropriate incentives for other companies to join the ranks of BP. That seems an easier play to reduce emissions further and prevent additional Kyotos and regulations. The carbon market called for in Kyoto will create a free market approach to trading emissions that probably rankles hard green enviros. Get over it. Establishing markets for the bad while encouraging incentives for the good is certainly a better choice than sticking one's political head in the ideological sand and hoping the scientists are wrong or prove to be alarmist.

If incentives and market solutions are successful in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the climate is stabilized, kudos for us. Will we stand back and claim that the findings were wrong or will we pat ourselves on the back for using our industrial and technological ingenuity to address a global problem? Part of making positive change is taking responsibility for our actions.

And while we're at it, how about some progressive incentives for a move towards high technology solutions like clean coal, wind power, and other alternatives? It would be a wise and bold move for our economy to take the lead in developing the technologies of the future rather than letting some other country eat our lunch again, while we draw our line in the sand.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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