George Bush appears to have beaten Al Gore again.
In the very same week that Gore launched a $300 million public relations campaign to convince Americans that "together we can solve the climate crisis," prominent climate alarmist Tom Wigley essentially endorsed President Bush’s approach to global warming while criticizing that of Gore’s co-Nobelist, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC.
In an article entitled "Dangerous Assumptions" published in Nature on April 3, Wigley writes that the technology challenge presented by the goal of stabilizing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations "has been seriously underestimated by the IPCC, diverting attention from policies that could directly stimulate technological innovation."
Wigley, even though he is a lead author of the most recent IPCC report, describes that document as relying on "unrealistic" and "unachievable" CO2 emissions scenarios — even for the present decade. For the period 2000-2010, the IPCC assumes that energy and fossil fuel efficiency is increasing.
But Wigley points out that in recent years energy and fossil fuel efficiency have decreased, reversing the trend of previous decades. One reason for this phenomenon, says Wigley, is the economic transformation occurring in the world, particularly in Asia.
Whereas the IPCC assumes in its emissions scenarios that CO2 emissions in Asia are increasing by 2.6 percent to 4.8 percent annually, China’s emissions actually are increasing at a rate of 11 percent to 13 percent annually.
"Because of these dramatic changes in the global economy, it is likely that we have only just begun to experience the surge in global energy use associated with rapid development. Such trends are in stark contrast to the optimism of the near-future IPCC projections and seem unlikely to alter course soon," Wigley writes.
As a consequence, "enormous advances in energy technology will be needed to stabilize atmospheric CO2 concentrations at acceptable levels," he concludes. Wigley faults the IPCC for assuming these technological advances will occur spontaneously as opposed to creating the conditions for innovation to occur.
So between George Bush and Al Gore, whose approach to the climate controversy is more consistent with Wigley’s recommendation?
In "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore preached to us about downsizing our lifestyles. He wants us to take colder showers, hang our clothes outside to dry, avoid driving, use less heating and air conditioning and generally reduce our standard of living.
On his public relations campaign’s Web site, Gore urges the shuttering of coal-fired power plants, which provide 50 percent of U.S. electricity needs; the adoption of so-called "clean energy technologies" such as cost-inefficient solar and wind power and hybrid cars; energy efficiency, which only would reduce energy use by marginal amounts; and government mandates for not-ready-for-prime-time taxpayer-subsidized alternative energy sources.
In the "Clean Energy Economy" section of his Web site, Gore even calls for more sidewalks and bike paths — hardly a technological innovation that will provide measurably more energy with less emissions. In contrast, President Bush since 2005 has promoted technological development in the form of the Asian-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate Change.
In this non-U.N. group, Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea and the United States have agreed to work together and with private-sector partners to meet goals for energy security, national air-pollution reduction and climate change in ways that promote sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction.
President Bush also may have advanced the technology ball in another, more subtle, way.
The Department of Energy recently pulled out of FutureGen, a public-private partnership to build a first-of-its-kind coal-fueled, near-zero emissions power plant. The ostensible reason for the federal pullout was the increasing cost of the $1.5 billion plant, most of which was to be borne by the government.
But it very well may be that FutureGen was sacrificed as part of a Bush administration effort to pressure Congress to take affirmative action on nuclear power, a true technological solution for concerns about atmospheric CO2. Finally, and much to his credit, President Bush (so far) has avoided the sort of futile mandatory clampdown on CO2 emissions supported by Gore but that Wigley realizes will be impossible to implement without halting vital economic growth.
You almost have to feel bad for Al Gore — being outsmarted on his own home turf by George Bush. But there still might be time for Gore to set things right.
Just last week the U.N.’s World Food Program launched an "extraordinary emergency appeal" for donations of at least $500 million in the next four weeks to avoid rationing food aid in response to the spiraling cost of food — a problem brought about in part by Gore’s climate alarmism, which helped spur the lurch to biofuels such as corn-based ethanol.
British billionaire Richard Branson, for example, credits Gore for pushing him to make a $3 billion pledge in 2006 to replace fossil fuels with biofuels.
While campaigning in 2006 for Democratic senatorial candidate Amy Klobuchar, Gore asked, "What is so complicated about choosing fuel that comes from Minnesota farmers rather than from the Middle East?" while simultaneously asserting that Klobuchar would "provide leadership in the fight against global warming."
So, Al Gore, rather than wasting $300 million on a public relations campaign to promote an unrealistic and impractical approach to the dubious problem of manmade climate change, why not donate that money to the U.N. and help prevent real people from starving today?