The last decade, 1990-2000, was the warmest decade on record; 1998 was the warmest recorded year, and it seems inarguable that global warming should be a very large concern. All the nations of the world must work together if we are to successfully address the problem of global warming. It is imperative that we reach a global accord on the methodology quickly, for the longer we wait the worse the problem becomes. Currently the future of such initiatives looks dim. While the UN has created several programs to deal with Global Warming, many have been ignored by member countries. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has successfully evaluated the problem of global warming, but was not designed to actively aid solutions, merely to suggest them.
The Framework Convention on Climate Change (issued by the Rio Summit of 1992) has failed to produce any real results in the effort to reduce global warming, and the Kyoto Protocol of 1999 was severely crippled by the withdrawal of the United States, which produces 24% of the greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. All previous efforts, while attempting to deal with the problem of global warming, have been crippled by political maneuvering. Many national leaders were more worried about selling any proposal to their voters then actually dealing with global warming. This is not entirely the politicians' fault. Most of the world is uneducated about the realities and dangers of global warming, and therefore dismiss it as harmless. The economic policy of Kyoto, the only real attempt to regulate pollution output, was flawed.
The emissions cap for countries was estimated to be 8 to 14 times more expensive than an optimal trading policy, and the cost emission permits would have quickly skyrocketed. Any future policy should be designed with the successes and failures of past efforts in mind. Only then will a truly coherent global policy emerge. There are many actions we could take that are cheap and significantly decrease the output of global warming gasses. Often times these initiatives require a high initial investment but yield far greater returns in the long run. Examples are numerous and easy to find.
They range from energy saving light bulbs, to improved building insulation, to tapping the natural gas released from oil deposits. The problem has always been a lack of cash, and a shortsighted attitude about global warming. Establishing a United Nations fund, under the control of an international committee, to reduce the effect of global warming would help unify many initiatives, providing more efficient solutions. It would require a large effort to get people of the world to swallow their national pride and combine their efforts, but the benefits are well worth the costs. An international tax on carbon emissions, payable by the emitting corporation or government would go a long way toward paying for cleaner solutions.
Enacting a tax of even two or three dollars per ton on carbon dioxide, and equivalent gas emissions, released by the industrial nations would provide about seven billion dollars; a large portion of the capital needed for the initiatives that will reduce global warming, as well as providing an incentive for polluters to reduce or halt pollution if it is cheaper than paying the tax. This tax is especially useful, since it provides a single method of stopping polluters, instead of the individually tailored and excessively complicated procedures, such as factory emission limits, or power plant emission limits that are full of loopholes corporations can abuse. By randomly sending UN inspectors to factories, and imposing harsh fines on those that lied about their pollution outputs would virtually eliminate non-compliance. The fund should pay for efforts designed to reduce greenhouse gasses and deal with the future effects of global warming. We must take care that the giving of money not become an end in and of itself.
Concrete goals should be set for each project, and if they are not met then the recipients should be held accountable by the UN. A prize for the greatest emission reduction - Corporate, National, and scientific- would give positive publicity to those who deserve it, from one of the most prestigious organizations in existence. Industry is one of the biggest causes of the increase in global warming gas. Many factories could be made to run more efficiently, improving their output and reducing the amount of CO 2 produced. Improvements have not been made due to monetary shortage. Many of these factories are in third world countries, which are forced to suffer from the smog and dirt.
Paying for improving the factories would increase their productivity, improve the living condition of people around the factories, and reduce the amount of CO 2 gas released. This would be useful even in the absence of global warming. Energy generation is not far behind industry when it comes to CO 2 emissions. Coal, oil, and natural gas all release CO 2 in large quantities. The UN could pay for construction of solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric power sources wherever they are needed. The fund should provide money for research designed to improve the efficiency of nonpolluting power sources.
Vehicles produce roughly 20% of the worlds CO 2 emissions. If the UN enacted global gas mileage standards similar to California's, or most of Europe's the total worldwide CO 2 emissions would be reduced significantly. This cost is nominal to most countries in which the automobile is heavily utilized, and most developing countries do not use cars excessively. A UN treaty could ban the import or export of any vehicle violating those standards, as well as prohibit them being built in participating nations. Establishing building codes and international standards for household appliances would reduce energy costs significantly, thereby reducing global warming. Many things that use electricity are built cheaply and inefficiently.
More expensive products that are more efficient would actually have a long term benefit to the consumer, as well as reducing electricity usage, and thereby reducing CO 2 output. As the Montreal Protocol of 1987 shows, it is possible for the world to stop the production of harmful greenhouse gasses that are easily replaced, such as Chlorofluorocarbons. Funding research to evaluate the effects of other chemicals would allow us to stop the production of harmful ones before they are emitted in large quantities. Yet all of these efforts will not cause the problem of global warming to disappear completely. Even if we restricted our greenhouse gas output to 1990 level it would only slow the effects of global warming by.
5^0 (from 2. 1^0 to 1. 6^0) over the next century. This would require a herculean effort by the governments of the world, far in excess of what the Kyoto treaty demands. This rise in temperature is definitely enough to cause global warming effects, effects that developing nations are ill equipped to prepare for.
The weather will get more extreme, with greater numbers of droughts and hurricanes. This effect can already be seen, with three of the four most expensive hurricanes being in the past decade, various floods swamping India and the Midwestern United States, and drought in parts of the globe unused to suck conditions. We must take steps to deal with these problems. The UN should design and build irrigation equipment for all major food production centers to help them deal with any droughts, a likely result of global warming. Building runoff channels for the rain is a good idea also, since it is probable that global warming will also cause floods. Bulwarks and dams for cities that are near or beneath sea level, such as New Orleans, as the rising sea levels will help prevent any floods in those cities.
The need for these initiatives is obvious, yet none of them are taking place. Without them the potential for disaster is greatly increased. These events will not occur gradually. The world, under the guidance of the UN, must prepare for their arrival before it occurs, since it is impossible to recover crops lost to a flood, or withered by drought.
This will be far costlier in both money and lives then a few simple preventative measures. We must go into this century well prepared for the effects we know will happen. If all the nations of the world work together, unifying their efforts to reach a common goal, the world can survive this crisis, and even prosper in the coming centuries.