NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Reducing CO2 Too Much would End Life

October 10, 2003

Whoever is advising the mayors of Newton and Worcester, Mass., to curb global warming, is acting out of hysteria and alarm and has grossly misinformed them, says Richard S. Lindzen, professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In an effort to show how important reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is, the mayors claim a scientific consensus exists that a 75 percent to 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gases is necessary.

According to Lindzen:

  • Such a reduction in CO2, however, would end life as we know it, since most (if not all) plants would not survive at such low levels.
  • Moreover, the most important greenhouse gas is water vapor and the greenhouse effect of clouds also greatly exceeds that of CO2.
  • Thankfully, there is no policy that would reduce these essential substances by between 75 percent and 85 percent.

What the mayors perhaps meant was that a reduction of 60 percent in emissions of CO2 might be necessary to stabilize its levels, explains Lindzen.

There is nothing controversial about these facts. Neither is there any controversy over the fact that the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty to stave off climate change, will do almost nothing to stabilize CO2.

Capping CO2 emissions per unit electricity generated will have a negligible impact at best on CO2 levels. It certainly will, however, increase the cost of electricity, and place those states pursuing such a path at a distinct competitive disadvantage, says Lindzen. Why would any elected official want that, even at the admittedly severe risk of appearing politically incorrect?

Source: Richard S. Lindzen, "Misinformed missteps on warming," Washington Times, October 9, 2003.


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