I was at a "Go Green" dance in my hometown here is the Boston-area, sponsored by a local Global Warming Action group. It struck me as ironic and a bit absurd that we were revelling in order to raise money to save mankind's future on Earth. Yes a bit dramatic but, as the experts say, global climate change will have the most impact on emerging countries and not on the developed ones. So why should developed countries bear an unfair burden on reversing global warming? One could argue that the 150-year industrilization of developed countries made them wealthy and was a major contributor to our current climate woes. To now tell Brazil (rainforests), China (coal power plants) and India (coal power plants) to leapfrog to the latest costly enviromental standards is hypocritical at the least. On the other "invisible" hand, entrepreneurial first movers are favored, they amass huge wealth and use their incumbency to thwart insurgents. Technology or innovative business models are usually the weapons of choice. Ethnic Europeans have been the clear winners in this economic arms race in the recent past and deservedly so. What is the solution?
Some background on the the global warming debate (excerpted from various sources):
From 1100 to 1500 AD significant deforestation took place in Western Europe as a result of the expanding human population. The large-scale building of wooden sailing ships by European (coastal) naval owners since the 15th century for exploration, colonization, slave – and other trade on the high seas and (often related) naval warfare (the failed invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1559 and the battle of Lepanto 1577 are early cases of huge waste of prime timber; each of Nelson's Royal navy war ships at Trafalgar had required 6000 mature oaks). Source--Wikipedia.
In Michael Williams excellent book, Deforesting the Earth: From Prehistory to Global Crisis, temperate forests in Europe and North America were virtually eliminated by 1920. Tropical forests such as the Amazon began to be depleted relatively recently in the 20th century.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) November 2007 report says: "There is also the moral/equity issue concerning the extent of the polluters obligation to compensate for past emissions (i.e., a form of environmental debt)..... "In particular, developing countries emit much less per capita and have contributed less to past emissions".
From the Economist "How Green is their Growth": At the moment, perhaps 2 billion people have no formal access to modern energy—they make do with cow dung, agricultural residue and other solid fuels which are far from healthy. Unless foresight and intelligence are applied to the satisfaction of these people's needs, they may embrace the filthiest and most carbon-emitting forms of fossil-fuel energy as soon as they get the chance.
The grassroots climate change movement in the US is slowly creating change in the face of the failure of our government to regulate change. Innovation in business models (eg carbon offsets) and new technology (eg cellulose ethanol, clean diesel) is rapidly catching hold in the US. Many of us technology entrepreneurs are reinventing ourselves to participate in these new Cleantech opportunities. I am involved in the spin-off from www.degreeC.com of their AdaptivCool data center thermal management solution that can reduce energy consumption by 20-30% in a data center. Data centers consume 1.6% of the nation's electricity, and that consumption is doubling every five years.
Inspired US entrepreneurs have the opportunity to create the technologies that will make people's lives better in emerging countries, while reducing green house gases. This is a great way of paying our environmental debt to the world.