Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Curing global warming requires sacrifice

recent article in the Christian Science Monitor said that President Bush wants to end the growth of U.S. carbon emissions by 2025. This will happen if developing nations commit to lowering emissions and the U.S. economy is unharmed.

Waiting 17 years to fix the problem of global warming is not going to help our economy, which is far from healthy.

We are more than $9 trillion in debt, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury. A good chunk of that debt is the result of global warming - in fact, approximately a $138 billion chunk, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and

Global warming is expensive. Drought, warmer oceans and severe storms affect 33 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. Industries - including agriculture and fishing - contributed $4 trillion to the American economy in 2006 after a $6 billion to $8 billion loss due to drought.

Preliminary estimates for 2007 show that drought in the Great Plains and the eastern U.S. cost $5 billion in crop yields. That same year, millions of dollars were lost due to drought and high winds when wildfires consumed the California landscape.

But drought isn't our only concern. The oceans are getting warmer and our fragile fishing industry is at risk.

Fishing is a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. It's so important that the proposed 2009 budget includes $69.9 billion for ocean and fisheries conservation.

It's counterproductive to put all of that money into preserving the ocean's ecosystem if we are going to ignore the threat of global warming.

One of the most catastrophic and expensive events in U.S. history spawned from warmer oceans. Hurricane Katrina has cost the federal government $127 billion and she's still not done. The reconstruction phase is a work in progress.

The money can be replaced, but the loss of more than 1,000 lives is irreversible.

Putting the economy ahead of our well-being is unacceptable. If we don't act now, disasters like Katrina are not the only threats to our health. Greenhouse gases have been linked to asthma, heart disease and cancer.

A recent MIT study concluded that a modest cap-and-trade system will cost $20 per household annually. We will pay more in hospital bills if we don't change current emissions soon.

Events like the droughts and Katrina will continue to rack up tabs on our bill. Working through the initial costs of mandatory caps is the only way to achieve a healthy economy. If we start now - not 17 years from now - we may have a chance to minimize global warming's tab.

Developing countries probably have more to lose from global warming than we do. The severe weather, drought, rising sea levels and increases in disease could ravage these countries before they can adapt.

Bush needs to start worrying at global levels, rather than being U.S.-centric. The most important issues are future financial, environmental and societal impacts. The health of our economy and our biological well-being depends on it.

We can be a green economy and thrive. We will all need to make sacrifices, but in terms of what it has already cost, and what it will cost in the future, sacrifice is worth it.

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