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William O'Keefe
CEO, George C. Marshall Institute

William O'Keefe

William O'Keefe is CEO at the George C. Marshall Institute, a think tank that promotes better use of science in public policy. He is a former COO at the American Petroleum Institute. ALL POSTS

The consequences of ignoring realities

The politicians who have been pushing for an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol with a global agreement mandating drastic emission reductions by 2050 -- up to 83 percent -- are the responsible parties, although they will never admit it.

Although the Kyoto Protocol has been in effect for 12 years it has not worked and cannot work. The demands for reductions by 2012 contained in it and the demands for even deeper reductions going forward are impractical. They simply are inconsistent with economic, energy, and technology realities. That is why almost all countries that ratified Kyoto have fallen short of their obligations. And, that is why calls for the US to reduce it emissions 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 are doomed to fail. They demand too much, too soon with a price that is politically unbearable.

The Copenhagen participants want a binding agreement that applies to all nations. But, Kyoto exempted developing countries like China and India. There is absolutely no incentive for those countries to accept binding obligations even though they will be responsible for the majority of emissions this century.

Politicians created this problem by using political aspirations and climate rhetoric to create an illusion. But, illusions detached from reality remain illusions. Now, the chickens are coming home to roost and the politicians are looking for scape goats. Until politicians are honest with their citizens about the nature of the risk and realities of dealing with it, these annual meetings will continue to simply kick the can down the road.

In 2002 a group of scientists published an article in Science magazine that explained why the goal of stabilizing atmospheric concentrations by 2050 was not achievable. They carefully went through a review of all existing and near term technologies and concluded that the ability to make significant emission reductions without causing serious economic harm did not exist.

What is needed is an entirely new approach that is based on realistic but challenging objectives that take into account the national and economic circumstances of each participating country. A bottoms up approach that focuses on such objectives and takes into account economic, energy, and technology realities can work if a system of pledge, reporting and accountability replaces the top down approach characterized by the Kyoto model.

By William O'Keefe  |  November 16, 2009; 7:30 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg     Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Maine has not witnessed they hysteria described by this commentator...ocean is rising at a rate that will only result in arise of 7" in the next 100 years; our temps are cooling down once again as measured by heating degree days to the 71 year average; and all the dire predictions of crop failure have been met with record maple syrup, apple, blueberry and lobster 'crops'.

And when respondents reply with blanket statements like "This is the first time in 125,000 years that the ice cap has melted this much" I get a chuckle thinking about which copy of Wikipedia this person using.

Posted by: Common_Cents1 | November 22, 2009 9:04 PM
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Thank heavens the Post finally printed somebody with an ounce of common sense.

I'm tired of snake-oil salesmen who are trying to push a carbon exchange which does nothing except to make those who run the exchanges (like Al Gore) rich.

Enough of this religion of "Climate Change", enough of the lies.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | November 21, 2009 7:10 AM
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Mr. O'Keefe .. you don't really say anything about the realities of our world; the realities of our probable almost certain future; or the possibilities of what we can do as a nation and a world. Instead, you hem and haw about economic, energy and technology exigencies not being appropriately kowtowed to by politicians.

It also feels like you want to do what you want to do, and how dare the politicians want something that may keep you and yours from growing. Not that the politicians have always been right. They haven't.

So, the Arctic ice cap has melted enough that the first commercial shipping has taken the Northwest Passage (above Canada) and the Northeast Passage (north of Russia). This is the first time in 125,000 years that the ice cap has melted this much. Scientists had predicted such would happen in 50 to 60 years ... not now.

Greenland's' glaciers are melting and so is the Antarctic ice. Scientists predicted full melt for year 2100 and/or beyond. Can we assume that they may be off by 50 or 60 years here too? That places it in your lifetime, something that you, your kids and grandkids will have to deal with.

What we will HAVE TO deal with will be the water level of our oceans rising by about 35 feet. The Florida keys, most of the Aleutians, the Maldives and more will become drowned lands, as will New York City, Washington DC, Virginia Beach, Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles, to name just a few of the many. This will create .. world wide .. about 600,000,000 homeless people or about twice the current population of America.

What does corporate America have to offer us? Lead, follow, or get out of the way ... you are doing none of these and are therefore not part of the solution.

Posted by: thetravelingmasseur | November 21, 2009 6:46 AM
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