Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wyoming conference: Climate experts find grounds for optimism

Caspar Star Tribune (Wyoming): It may seem difficult to find optimism when looking at the preponderance of evidence on global warming.…Even if greenhouse gas emissions could be switched off tomorrow, according to climate experts, Earth's climate system is still expected to undergo dramatic changes for decades to come. Yet, it pays to take action today.

"The costs of climate change outweigh the costs of reducing climate change by about 5 to 1, especially taking risks and ecosystem effects into account. Action on climate change is certainly justified," said Geoff Heal, the Paul Garrett professor of public policy and business responsibility at Columbia University.

Heal was among several speakers at the University of Wyoming's "Finding the Balance: Energy and Climate" forum here on Tuesday. The forum began Monday evening and wraps up this afternoon. Heal said there are already efficiency standards and policies in place that curb greenhouse gas emissions. Building and appliance efficiencies inspired by the oil embargo in the 1970s, for example, are equivalent to dozens of coal-fired power plants. And there's much more to gain through efficiencies. What's needed, Heal said, is a national policy to limit carbon emissions. And when the United States does join an international carbon reduction plan, others will join….

Neither is optimism completely lost with Stephen Schneider, the Melvin and Joan Lane professor for interdisciplinary environmental studies, professor of biological sciences and senior fellow of the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University. Schneider warned that some climate changes are happening so quickly -- such as the melting of Greenland's ice sheet -- that scientists cannot possibly forecast the outcome. That's not an excuse to do nothing, Schneider said. Rather, it's a signal to take action quickly.

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