Aug 272007
 
Authors: Daniel GibsonReinemer

If global warming never happened, many of the changes we make in response to its threat would still make sense.

Adapting our lives to reduce climate change means being more efficient, innovative, conscientious and just plain smart.

Much of the skepticism surrounding global warming stems from fear of economically devastating measures needed to curb emissions.

However, leading responsible lives does not translate to hardship. In fact, many steps to combat climate change can actually help individuals and American competitiveness.

If global warming never happened, more fuel-efficient cars still make sense. This yields the immediate benefit of cleaner air in major cities from Denver to Beijing.

It’s also just more efficient. Extracting deposits halfway around the world, refining crude oil and shipping the product across oceans takes massive infrastructure and resources.

Try plugging your car into a solar panel on your roof instead. Tesla’s new car allows you to do this and still go zero to 60 in under four seconds (see www.teslamotors.com).

Finally, aggressively pursuing fuel-efficient vehicles weakens some of the worst governments on the planet. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will have a tougher time becoming a dictator when we put less money in his pocket.

If global warming never happened, increasing energy efficiency is still common sense. It saves households money each month and involves virtually no sacrifice.

If nothing else matters to you, this should be enough motivation to go green.

One of the easiest steps is to install compact fluorescent light bulbs in your house. These bulbs require less energy and save money on monthly electric bills.

If global warming never happened, research in alternative energy sources remains one of the smartest investments we can make. These technologies will be profitable soon and for a long time to come.

Further, it’s the quintessentially American thing to do. The history of American enterprise centers on innovation – making products better, more efficient and providing greater services. Alternative energy can do this.

We have the resources to continue mining and burning fossil fuels to power our microwaves, but that hardly makes it a wise choice.

As the saying goes, the Stone Age didn’t end because people ran out of stones. Changes in the technology we use occur because people recognize the improvements offered by a new approach and the drawbacks of the old approach.

Contrary to the straw man arguments constructed by opponents of green technology, this emerging field is infused with the spirit of capitalism and the desire to provide tangible benefits to customers.

In this century, we will move away from hydrocarbon sources, and do so without sacrificing the basic lifestyle we enjoy. Indeed, maintaining a high quality of life and service is the only way to produce a new, lasting era of technology.

Simply put, billions of people will not accept new energy sources and technologies unless they like the product.

From Tesla roadsters to cheaper lighting, there is a common theme of providing products which are more efficient and as good or better than their more traditional counterparts. (Yes, the new Tesla cars are more expensive than most other cars; so was the first car in relation to a horse. Economies of scale lower costs dramatically.)

Without global warming, we would still see this shift towards greater efficiency. National security, health and climate concerns have hastened its advance.

We need a tipping point – a critical mass of interest and investment to reduce the cost of a hydrocarbon lifestyle and foster an awareness of the true cost of traditional energy sources.

You don’t have to agree with the scientific consensus on global warming. Just take a keen interest in keeping America innovative, efficient, healthy and stingy towards dangerous regimes.

Daniel Gibson-Reinember is a fishery and wildlife biology graduate student. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com

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