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[greenyes] Business on Climate Change

AUGUST 16, 2004

Global Warming
Consensus is growing among scientists, governments, and business that
they must act fast to combat climate change. This has already sparked
efforts to limit CO2 emissions. Many companies are now preparing for a
carbon-constrained world

The idea that the human species could alter something as huge and complex as
the earth's climate was once the subject of an esoteric scientific debate.
But now even attorneys general more used to battling corporate malfeasance
are taking up the cause. On July 21, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer
and lawyers from seven other states sued the nation's largest utility
companies, demanding that they reduce emissions of the gases thought to be
warming the earth. Warns Spitzer: "Global warming threatens our health, our
economy, our natural resources, and our children's future. It is clear we
must act."

The maneuvers of eight mostly Democratic AGs could be seen as a political
attack. But their suit is only one tiny trumpet note in a growing bipartisan
call to arms. "The facts are there," says Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.). "We
have to educate our fellow citizens about climate change and the danger it
poses to the world." In January, the European Union will impose mandatory
caps on carbon dioxide and other gases that act like a greenhouse over the
earth, and will begin a market-based system for buying and selling the right
to emit carbon. By the end of the year, Russia may ratify the Kyoto
Protocol, which makes CO2 reductions mandatory among the 124 countries that
have already accepted the accord. Some countries are leaping even further
ahead. Britain has vowed to slash emissions by 60% by 2050. Climate change
is a greater threat to the world than terrorism, argues Sir David King,
chief science adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair: "Delaying action for a
decade, or even just years, is not a serious option."

There are naysayers. The Bush Administration flatly rejects Kyoto and
mandatory curbs, arguing that such steps will cripple the economy. Better to
develop new low-carbon technologies to solve problems if and when they
appear, says Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. And a small group of
scientists still argues there is no danger. "We know how much the planet is
going to warm," says the Cato Institute's Patrick J. Michaels. "It is a
small amount, and we can't do anything about it."

But the growing consensus among scientists and governments is that we can --
and must -- do something. Researchers under the auspices of the National
Academy of Sciences and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
have pondered the evidence and concluded that the earth is warming, that
humans are probably the cause, and that the threat is real enough to warrant
an immediate response. "There is no dispute that the temperature will rise.
It will," says Donald Kennedy, editor-in-chief of Science. "The disagreement
is how much." Indeed, "there is a real potential for sudden and perhaps
catastrophic change," says Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on
Global Climate Change: "The fact that we are uncertain may actually be a
reason to act sooner rather than later."

Plus, taking action brings a host of ancillary benefits. The main way to cut
greenhouse-gas emissions is simply to burn less fossil fuel. Making cars and
factories more energy-efficient and using alternative sources would make
America less dependent on the Persian Gulf and sources of other imported
oil. It would mean less pollution. And many companies that have cut
emissions have discovered, often to their surprise, that it saves money and
spurs development of innovative technologies. "It's impossible to find a
company that has acted and has not found benefits," says Michael Northrop,
co-creator of the Climate Group, a coalition of companies and governments
set up to share such success stories.

That's why there has been a rush to fill the leadership vacuum left by
Washington. "States have stepped up to fill this policy void, as much out of
economic self-interest as fear of devastating climate changes," says Kenneth
A. Colburn, executive director of Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use
Management. Warning of flooded coasts and crippled industries, Massachusetts
unveiled a plan in May to cut emissions by 10% by 2020. In June, California
proposed 30% cuts in car emissions by 2015. Many other states are weighing
similar actions.

" ... "
Peter Anderson, President
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705-4964
Ph: (608) 231-1100
Fax: (608) 233-0011
Cell: (608) 698-1314
eMail: anderson@no.address

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