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Managing Climate Change

June 25, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 26

Accepting the premise that human-produced carbon dioxide is the culprit of global warming and that proposed limits are needed, we need to define the root cause for increased CO2 (C&EN, May 14, page 10). According to Department of Energy statistics, between 1990 and 2000 total U.S. energy consumption increased about 25%, consumption per person increased 3%, and the U.S. population increased 13%.

If we are to maintain the 1990 level of energy use, we all have to cut our energy use by at least 13% instantly to accommodate the increasing population. Though the world's population growth rate is slowing, some projections indicate a doubling in the next 40 years. The population versus time curve mimics the temperature-time and CO2-time curves. This suggests the need to cut our energy use by 50% over the next 40 years.

Acknowledging that statistical data can readily be manipulated and all statements such as those above can be questioned, the logic that population increase has a profound impact on emissions is irrefutable. The impact of increasing numbers of people must be part of any analysis. Besides, humans also exhale carbon dioxide with each breath, and some drive SUVs. Not everything is the government's fault.

Richard K. Traeger
Albuquerque, N.M.


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