Global warming: Obama’s decisions add heat to the battle
Even before president-elect Barack Obama accedes to the highest office, he's placing green energy near the center of his plan to stabilize the economy, create jobs, and battle global warming. In an Nov. 18 statement, Obama said "my presidency will mark a new chapter in American leadership on climate change."
This is a welcome change from years of inaction. And although the recession and the vanishing price of oil have undercut the short-term allure of green energy and a low-carbon economy, on Dec. 12 the United Nations convenes a conference in Poland to set further action against global warming.
The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, the central player in global warming, is released whenever something containing carbon burns. Human activities -- mainly burning fossil fuels -- spew about 7.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, where it remains for decades.
A good number of scientists think that by 2050 we will need to cut carbon dioxide pollution to 20 percent of 1990's level if we want to avoid an environmental calamity.
Big changes needed
Improving mass transit
stressing energy efficiency throughout the economy
shifting energy supplies away from high-carbon coal
inventing and promoting low- or no-carbon energy sources such as solar and wind
preventing the wildfires that release torrents of carbon dioxide
Terry Devitt, editor; Nathan Hebert, project assistant; S.V. Medaris, designer/illustrator; David Tenenbaum, feature writer; Amy Toburen, content development executive