candid thoughts on the issues of the day.
I Say We Declare War!
Published on February 23, 2004 By Robert Guinness In Current Events
A recent report that the Pentagon has produced a study on global climate change reminded me of an article I published in 2002 in Student Life, the newspaper at Washington University in St. Louis. I thought I'd reprint it here because it's still very topical:

The war on ourselves: stop global warming

by Robert Guinness

"You are either with us or against us." These are the harsh, truthful words of President Bush regarding his international coalition against terrorism. Tackling such a large and pressing problem requires an unprecedented amount of cooperation between nations and enormous sacrifices. The war has cost the US several billion dollars per month and loss of life, and has damaged the economy. President Bush is, however, committed to this costly battle, saying, "Whatever it takes, whatever it costs, this patient, this resolved nation will win the first war of the 21st century."

I'd like to turn your attention to a different but perhaps more threatening prospect of terror. This threat could lead to the loss of thousands of lives, the damage of trillions of dollars of property, and the destruction of entire cities and nations. This threat, known as global warming, could truly be the worst catastrophe since... well, since a large asteroid hit the Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs.

When you translate Bush's above words to the context of global warming, you see an enormous disparity in his efforts to combat global problems. Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, an international treaty signed by 178 nations in a drastic attempt to reduce greenhouse emissions. His decision to reject the Kyoto Protocol became a hot topic right before our President headed off for an Asian tour on the international politics circuit in 2002. Disregarding intense international criticism, he remained firm, saying "I will not accept a plan that will harm our economy and hurt our workers." This seems a far cry from his "Whatever it takes, whatever it costs" stance on the "first war of the 21st century." What the President needs to realize is that global warming will be the most important war of this century and that we must begin fighting it now.

Now, what has our President proposed as an alternative to Kyoto? Well, Bush's plan basically consists of a series of tax credits and other incentives offered to businesses and farmers who voluntarily reduce their greenhouse emissions. The plan set as a goal an 18 percent reduction in greenhouse gases over 10 years. It provides $4.5 billion of funding for global climate change programs, which includes tax credits for businesses that pursue alternative energy sources.

The President should be applauded for this symbolic recognition of the reality of global warming. His plan, however, falls far short of what is needed. In 1992, the first President Bush agreed to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. Now, two years past the deadline, we are 13.6 percent above 1990 level. Not only did we not make the promised cut, we made the situation worse. It is up to our current president to pick up where his father (and his father's successor) failed.

What we need now are not the baby steps that President Bush is offering but large, drastic steps. We need to mandate lower emission rates for businesses. We need to mount massive educational campaigns on how citizens can reduce the amount of energy they use. We need large increases in funding for alternative energy source research. Most importantly, we must hold our country accountable for the contributions to the problem for which we are responsible, just as the rest of world has shown they are willing to do.

Defeating global warming will not be easy. It may cause higher taxes, some lost jobs, and a slumped economy in the short term, but when considering the long term (+100 years), these immediate costs become negligible. Regardless of the expense, however, this is a battle that must be fought, and every citizen of the world should be willing to contribute to its success.

Please begin thinking and learning about this issue and discuss it with your friends. Look for ways that you and your community can reduce your impact, and tell your congresspeople that you want our great nation to be a leader and not a lout. Whatever it takes, whatever it costs, our patient, resolved world can win the most important war of this millenium, a war against ourselves, a war called global warming.

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