Tuesday, December 11, 2007

If We Can Put A Man On The Moon...

I'm not sure what the footdragging by the Bush administration here is about.

Bush himself has admitted that global warming is real, that it's largely manmade, and that the United States is a large contributor to the problem.

So what gives?
NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - Delegates at U.N. climate talks resisted U.S. pressure to delete tough 2020 guidelines for cutting greenhouse gases with the European Commission saying they were a "crucial" element in a draft text.

The U.N.-led talks have become dominated by disputes over whether a text should keep a mention of a need for rich nations to axe greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to avoid the worst impacts.

Any watering down or removal of the non-binding range would anger developing nations, which are demanding rich nations do more to cut their own greenhouse gas emissions.

Washington and Tokyo want the range cut out but it was still in the latest draft on Tuesday, delegates said.
Now, I'm not mathematician, but 2020 is exactly 12 years and 20 days away.

With far fewer resources in hand, with far more primitive technology, it took the United States approximately twelve years to make it off the ground and to land men on the moon. When computers were housed in huge storage spaces, and had vacuum tubes instead of transistors and micro-processors.

Is President Bush suggesting, through this intransigence, that America is incapable of meeting this modest goal? NASA's budget for the Apollo program was $20 billion dollars, which today would be about $100 billion, give or take a $20 billion.

In other words, less than six months' downpayment on the Iraq war. Is that not worth the price? The ability to save a significant part of the global environment? The likelihood of preventing a global cataclysm that will wreak havoc (as it already is) on the United States in terms of weather, drought, storms, and tornadoes? Hell, I'd wager than $100 billion dollars ANNUALLY might still be worth the price, if it also means weaning ourselves off oil and onto renewable clean energy sources.

The need for such extensive lead time is simple: in order to set up any kind of effective mechanism that will provide a long-term solution without major impact on the world economies, measures have to be introduced in steps. These measures will affect developed nations, to be sure, but will also affect less-developed nations and there's the rub: the infrastructure necessary for, say, a carbon trading market would have to include ways of enforcing adherence to the rules of the market (you can't use a credit that you've already received money for, is the obvious example) and for contingencies (to extend my example, what if you have a national emergency that forces you to resort to a more carbon-producing energy system?).

Too, the economic and technologic benefits to the nation that accrue from our "greening" can be enormous, and quite unexpected. We've seen from the space race that everything in American society changed, from how we do mathematics to what materials we use to build televisions (and indeed, the self-same microprocessors trace their roots in part to the space race).

We wouldn't have cell phones, or satellite TV. We wouldn't have laptops. We wouldn't have Palm Pilots. We wouldn't have arthroscopic surgery. We wouldn't have hip replacements or breast implants. I wouldn't be able to scuba dive in a dry suit. You probably wouldn't have microwavable food, altho you might have your microwave...it would be the size of your oven, however.

Imagine the kind of developments we would obtain from going green. For one thing, we could localize energy production to such an extent that the grid as we know it would be practically useless to the average homeowner, thus freeing up enormous capacity for business and commercial use, and if there's any one thing the history of this nation has shown us, abundance creates money.

In fact, the grid would likely become a source of income for many homeowners, who would be able to sell energy back to the grid rather than use it. Imagine trading electricity on eBay.

Cleaning technologies, probably the first step in meeting these reductions, would transfer to so many areas that it would stop being considered a nasty job. For example, what if the paint on your house could clean itself of dust and grime? This could be a direct outgrowth of advanced carbon scrubbing technologies that companies would eat up in a heartbeat in order to reduce their carbon footprints.

Imagine a house that vacuums and dusts itself, only needing a robot (or if you're old school, a push broom) for the really big messes. We're not that far away from it now, what with air handling technology in many central air conditioning systems.

And you'd think Bush would want to pump up his legacy by making this our nation's Apollo program for the 21st Century. You'd think he'd want to cement a legacy for himself that wouldn't be centered solely on the abject failure that is Iraq and the near-tragedy that Afghanistan is threatening to become.

You'd think he'd want to be known as more than a war president.

And you'd be wrong, apparently.

UPDATE: If Britain can do this, why can't we?