Climate Change Gridlock

Emission standards will help manage rising temperatures, but the time to act is now.
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Emission standards will help manage rising temperatures, but the time to act is now.

Good news first: carbon-reduction policies will lower the risk of a climate change disaster. The bad news? Unless quick action is taken, extreme changes to the climate could be impossible to control.

A new MIT study suggests that there's a 50-50 chance of stabilizing rising temperatures if emissions targets in the current U.S. climate bills are met, wealthy western nations quickly follow suit, and China begins to curb its emissions standards within the next decade. That sounds easy enough — until you realize that the U.S. and its global allies have spent years fruitlessly kicking around comprehensive climate change legislation.

Before the MIT study, like many others, is written off as alarmist literature by fear-mongering activists, note that the researchers suggest that even moderate measures can have a huge impact on the ability to keep rising temperatures to a manageable 2 degree C increase (a rise above 2 degrees C could deliver major increases in sea-levels and disruption of natural ecosystems). While the proposed impact of these moderate measures can be debated , having a specific goal to work toward is at least half the battle.

The other half, enacting world-wide emission standards legislation, seems to be at a standstill. With the U.S. Congress dampening expectations for climate change bill in 2009 and China bristling at the notion of overhauling its industrial output, any real action before, or even at, the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December seems like a pipe dream.

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