Via Meadia has been trying to tell the world’s greens for some time now that their quest for the green global climate treaty they dream of is a unicorn hunt. No matter how many people join the hunt, no matter how enthusiastic they are, no matter how much money you raise, no matter how many planning sessions you have, no matter how brilliant your strategy is, you won’t catch a unicorn.The treaty making and enforcement process can’t support this kind of detailed global regulatory approach any more than a rabbit can give birth to an elephant. You would need to build a strong global government before you could establish and enforce this kind of global regulatory structure, and if the threat of nuclear war hasn’t led humanity to build a world government, the threat of climate change will surely not be enough.The failure of the green movement to understand these basic facts of life undercuts its credibility as an oracle of climate science. If greens are this emotional and irrational about politics, people reason, they are poor judges of probabilities and policy. This strikes Via Meadia as a fair judgment. Greens scream that anybody who fails to join the unicorn hunt is an anti-science bigot who hates the planet and is probably an evil corporate hireling to boot. This only deepens public skepticism about their claims.Via Meadia thinks there are smarter ways to deal with climate issues than this and at least some scientists and environmentalists are beginning to think a little more creatively. A new study argues there are other ways to cool the planet—ways that can save actual lives in the present and boost crop yields to boot. The Washington Post has the details as it reports on a (paywall protected) study that appeared in the journal Science.
Reducing methane and soot would slow global warming dramatically — by almost a degree Fahrenheit — by the middle of the century, according to computer simulations run by the 24-member international team.At the same time, the simulations show that better air quality would prevent lung and cardiovascular diseases, saving anywhere from 700,000 to 4.7 million lives annually. The wide range reflects uncertainties in the number of deaths caused by air pollution.Global crop yields would also rise, by 30 to 135 metric tons annually, as rice, corn, wheat and soybean plants would have an easier time absorbing the nutrients they need from the air, according to the report.
Methane and soot (also known as black carbon) are emitted by wood burning stoves, coal mines, diesel engines, and other sources. Dirty stoves in particular have been the focus of numerous development studies, million-dollar funding drives, and ambitious start-ups for years. With mixed success, companies like Envirofit and organizations like the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves work to persuade families from Africa to India to avoid using wood- or dung-burning stoves for food and heat. Helping poor families acquire clean cookstoves cheaply is the challenge. There are other efforts to reduce black carbon under way, such as cleaner and more efficient diesel engines.These are promising efforts. Instead of chasing the elusive carbon-treaty unicorn at exotic summit locales like Bali, Cancun and Durban, or protesting big bad pipelines, greens would do better to focus on smaller, simpler, cheaper and, most important, achievable projects. As the NASA scientist who led the study says, “Even if you don’t believe climate change is a problem, these things are worth doing.”Other ideas, like the Via Meadia-endorsed concept of a revenue neutral tax shift that substitutes a carbon tax for payroll taxes to fund Social Security and Medicare, would promote job creation, raise wages and promote sustainable economic growth while reducing CO2 emissions.If greens gave up on the unicorn hunt, they just might get something done.