Issue Date: December 4, 2006
Carbon dioxide reduction
Regarding the article about scientists' support for curbing CO2 from motor vehicles, global warming is believed to be primarily caused by an increase in carbon dioxide concentration in Earth's atmosphere (C&EN, Sept. 11, page 10). This increase is due to the high rate at which humans are burning fossil fuels. My premise is that local efforts at a state and national level to decrease fossil fuel use not only are ineffective but also are counterproductive.
If an individual, state, country, or group of countries decides to use less fossil fuel, all that accomplishes is to lower demand so that other worldwide users can purchase and burn that fuel at a lower cost. In addition, since the annual rate of use of fossil fuels is still increasing worldwide, all current efforts are thus shown to be ineffective. No effort to date has decreased the global net annual rate of carbon dioxide release into the planet's atmosphere. Thus the California plan, the Kyoto protocol, and the Massachusetts case before the Supreme Court, while well-meaning, can have no positive effect on global warming. To have any positive effect, the global total annual net rate of carbon dioxide release must be significantly decreased.
Why is the American Chemical Society, as a major scientific organization, not speaking out about the truly ineffective nature of all of the plans to date? Global warming is a serious problem. We know that. Let's tell the truth about current ineffective plans and then talk about real solutions. Local solutions can't work. We are not dealing with a local problem like pollution of our water and air. The atmosphere is global.
I believe the only workable solution is a worldwide agreement to significantly reduce the rate of removal of fossil fuels from the ground (say 5% a year as a start). Then, the world's users can't burn what they can't buy. The problem is deciding who will be allowed to remove and sell how much. That, of course, is a huge problem, but this reduction in removal of fossil fuels is a real solution. Likewise, local sequestering of carbon dioxide has similar problems, and that economic burden would have to be shared worldwide and combined with decreased use. You get the picture-an immensely difficult solution. Is there another global solution that could actually decrease the global net annual carbon dioxide release rate?
Robert R. Hitch
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