How to Tackle Greenhouse Gases

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bjorn Lomborg's June 26 op-ed column, "A Better Way Than Cap and Trade," got it backward when it comes to solving climate change. He proposed massive, taxpayer-funded subsidies for government-selected technologies instead of rules that let the market find the best and cheapest way to solve the problem.

Relying on research and development spending alone to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a "pay and pray" strategy: Hope the government picks the right technology and that it will reduce global warming pollution as much as scientists tell us is necessary. A better way to tackle climate change is a cap on emissions -- a guarantee that pollution targets will be met -- and an emissions trading market to keep costs down.

Will an extra push on R&D also be necessary? Surely. But what is needed most of all is a real discussion on how low-cost, market-based systems, such as cap and trade, can best be complemented with, and possibly pay for, an R&D policy to create a comprehensive climate change strategy.

Unfortunately, Mr. Lomborg has taken the discussion one step backward instead of forward.


Senior Economic Policy Analyst

Environmental Defense Fund

New York


With irreversible climate tipping points possibly less than 10 years away, the urgent message of NASA scientist James E. Hansen should be heeded at last ["Turning Up the Heat on Climate Issue; 20 Years Ago, a 98-Degree Day Illustrated Scientist's Warning," news story, June 23]. The good news is that there are immediate mitigation measures that could buy critical time for the development of needed technologies and a stronger international regulatory regime for controlling pollution.

Most important for the short term is the reduction of black carbon emissions, the second-largest source of warming after carbon dioxide. Black carbon is estimated to account for as much as 40 percent of warming, largely from the combustion of fossil fuels in the West and the burning of biofuels for cooking in the East. These emissions can be reduced with available technologies, such as more-efficient engines and stoves, and, because they remain in the atmosphere for only a few weeks, reducing them would have an immediate impact.

As the world's climate emergency worsens, we need to employ all available mitigation measures. The key is to start now, then strengthen measures as we learn what works best.



The writer is president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, a nongovernmental advocacy organization.

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