Begin with peace " end global warming
November 22, 2007
Our well-intentioned, highly publicized efforts to curb global warming are not working now, nor will they in the future. As long as the world’s supply of crude oil is finite and the end of its supply is foreseeable, a race is on between all nations to see who can burn it up most quickly and heat our atmosphere.
As it is, total oil reserves and increases in average temperature on Earth are inversely related. The depletion of the former leads to a rise in the latter. A crisis with each is looming in the not so distant future.
The main problem is that while there are things we can do to alleviate global warming, oil is going to run out no matter what we do. It’s a matter of time. Reducing it to an issue of prioritizing, oil consumption becomes an immediate problem while reversing the trend of overheating our planet is put on the back burner.
Thus, in dealing with a limited supply of petroleum, there are two scenarios that leading nations of the world can play out. The first is an ideological model that most of us hope for.
In it, the United States assumes the role of leader in the quandary of alleviating global warming by reducing our consumption of oil. In doing so, other nations follow our example in creating cleaner air while allowing the world’s oil reserves to last longer, upping the chances that an alternative fuel can be developed in the meantime. It feels good to think in these terms.
Unfortunately, this scheme won’t happen. It goes against the fiber of human nature. Another scenario is more likely. In this sequence of events, all major economic powers of the world fully recognize that the planet’s oil reserves are severely limited and will be depleted sooner than later. They also understand that oil is currently the most efficient fuel on which to power an economy, and that a strong economy is directly responsible for a country’s relative standing in the international pecking order. Through a wicked combination of selfishness and realistic expectations about the future, countries are motivated to consume as much oil as possible until there is no more.
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With the end of oil supplies in sight, nations recognize that it will be advantageous to reach total depletion in the strongest economic and developmental position possible. Alternatively, if a country begins to focus on developing alternative sources of energy now, this close to the end of oil, it does so at the expense of running its economy less efficiently. In doing so, it risks ending up in a relatively weaker position when we reach zero oil. This is, indeed, a race to burn petroleum.
Yes, a country that develops an efficient alternative energy source stands to lead the world into the future. But, such a breakthrough is more likely to occur in a country that commands major capital resources. Even if the technology is developed in a smaller country, a wealthier country will be in a better position to obtain it and exploit it.
So, which country is willing to invest heavily now in alternative energy sources while other countries are happy to keep burning oil and improving their relative economic strengths in the global economy? To focus heavily on alternative fuels now with only dim prospects of success is an incredibly huge economic and political gamble. A weaker nation not only provides a lower standard of living for its people, it also subjects them to military threats from stronger countries.
The United States, with one of the highest standards of living and most secure borders for its citizens to live within would arguably have the most difficult time and take the most risk in weaning itself from oil consumption.
As long as there is war and political friction, worldwide measures to reduce oil consumption and global warming cannot be achieved. Think of a group of competitive people stranded on an island with a limited amount of stores. As these people don’t trust each other much to begin with, it is easy to imagine that each person will act in their own best interest to control and devour as much of the limited supply of food available as quickly as possible given that the others will if they don’t. Even though all know that the supplies will run out more quickly this way, the strategy gives them the best chance of surviving the longest.
Contrast this with a family in the same situation. It is imaginable that this group would figure out a way to ration the food over time giving everybody a chance for a longer survival and eventual rescue. It’s funny that the world doesn’t work this way.
Locally, Aspen Skiing Co. is a good example of what is happening everywhere. I do not pick on them to be mean. It’s just that they are very typical and easy for us to examine here in the mountains. When it comes to the issue of global warming and energy usage they say one thing and then do another. Why? Because, they have to stay competitive. It’s an example of the race to burn oil in our neighborhood.
We, the residents of Aspen, are not discernably different. We pass the Canary Initiative as a solution to do what we can to ameliorate the effects of global warming and then do whatever it takes to make this the most desirable place on the planet to visit and live. That’s competition. We are competitors.
We could stop developing and expanding and growing, but we won’t. We have accepted these inevitabilities. We are not doing what we can. We are doing what we will.
Despite all of this, I refuse to leave you with a message of doom. We need to change our approach to the problems of oil and an over-insulated atmosphere. These problems cannot be approached as isolated nations. Solving them does not begin at home. It begins in a world with love and respect of every person by every person. We need humility. We need compromise. We need peace. The key to resolving global warming does not reside in our minds. It grows in our hearts.
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