If you take Al Gore and replace his global warming apocalypticism with a careful pragmatism and his insistence for energy taxes with a love for human innovation, research and creativity, you will end up with someone similar to Skeptical Environmentalist author Bjorn Lomborg. At The Heritage Foundation Bloggers Briefing this Tuesday, Lomborg said he considers global warming to be a legitimate threat – one that is exaggerated and can be handled through the power of human ingenuity.
Lomborg shows his other way to tackle global warming in his new film Cool It. Forget about onerous cap-and-trade legislation, which Heritage estimates would cost the average family of four $3,000 by 2035. Instead, Lomborg sees solutions in further research and experimentation.
One of many possible solutions mentioned in the film is predicated on something Benjamin Franklin discovered when a volcano in Laki, Iceland erupted in 1783.
Franklin made a connection between the volcano’s eruption and the change in the climate. His theory was confirmed in 1991 when scientists determined that the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines cooled the earth’s overall temperature by almost one degree Fahrenheit.
A group of entrepreneurs who work for an organization known as Intellectual Ventures have now come up with a way to cool the earth’s temperature using a hose that injects sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere. The hose imitates what the eruption in Pinatubo did to lower the earth’s temperature. Such efforts to control the earth’s temperature are known as geoengineering.
There are, of course, legitimate objections to the idea. But if injecting sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere won’t work, maybe another geoengeneering proposal called Cloud Brightening will. The goal of Cloud Brightening is to make marine clouds reflect more sunlight back into space, which would offset Co2.
Geoengineering is still very new and purposely changing the earth’s temperature by even one or two degrees may have considerable unintended consequences that include ocean acidification or even international tensions (India becomes indignant because they miss their monsoon season). However, if global warming is a real threat (which is still highly debatable) and a geoengineering solution like Cloud Brightening doesn’t work, America’s innovative history can assure that a solution will come soon enough.
Lomborg said the U.S. government should spend 0.2 percent of GDP on researching the issue, but there is no reason private organizations and philanthropists can’t take care of the job without Uncle Sam’s help. If there emerges evidence showing that global warming is a serious threat to America’s future, philanthropists, environmentalists and concerned citizens won’t hesitate to fund projects like Intellectual Ventures.
Once all the “poverty fighting” programs of Johnson’s Great Society began, charitable giving decreased dramatically, and when welfare reform took place in the 90’s, giving started to increase again. This gives us good reason to believe that individuals will give to a cause if the government gets out of the way. But the federal government has already decided for us that global warming is a pressing issue, and its solution, is once again, more taxes. If individuals decide for themselves that global warming is a serious threat, the solution would mean voluntary, private funding for the things that made America great in the first place: ingenuity, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Mark Chenoweth is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm