Until recently, the United States was the #1 carbon polluting nation in the world. Now it appears that China, with its rampant industrial and commercial growth, has grabbed the top spot. Of course, on a per capita basis, the U.S. is still far and away the leader -- the average American contributes more than four times as much CO2 and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than does the average Chinese.
It's about time, then, that the United States took leadership on the issue and showed responsibility in reducing carbon output. It looked like that might happen this year, but the first major bill to seriously tackle the issue failed in the Senate last week.
But, you may be asking, shouldn't a blog (and an organization) that promotes advanced nanotechnology put more emphasis on a scientific or technological solution to the problem, instead of calling for countries to scale back on their growth?
There are several ways to answer that question.
First, we can say that we are supporting a scientific solution to the problem, and the first step in that is to accept the verdict of the overwhelming majority of researchers who say we are courting ecological catastrophe if we continue on our present course. Virtually every respected scientific body is backing the findings of the IPCC and urging nations around the world to take urgent action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and moving toward renewable energy sources. That is the scientific approach.
Second, it's not accurate to describe CRN as an organization that promotes advanced nanotech. Our mission is to raise public awareness about both the benefits and the risks of molecular manufacturing, and to encourage safe development and responsible use of the technology. Certainly we'd like to see extra effort put into developing innovative solutions for sustainable growth, and we hope that scientific ingenuity might find effective ways to remove CO2 from the air and slow the rate of global warming. However, neither of those proactive approaches should be allowed to distract us from the real and urgent need to make big changes in how the U.S. and the world do business.
Third, as we said yesterday, even if emerging technologies such as nanotech, biotech, and artificial intelligence might someday be able to offer remarkable new answers to help us slow or even reverse global warning and deal with the effects of climate change, we do not have the luxury of waiting for them. There is no time to waste. Denial, debate, and delay are no longer acceptable.
The situation we find ourselves in is bleak, but it's not hopeless -- not yet. Workable solutions have been proposed that should allow us to avert the worst-case scenarios.
Here in the United States, new legislation already has been prepared that will be stronger, simpler, and fairer than the act that failed last week. The new bill most likely will not be taken up until 2009, when the next Congress is seated, but it does appear that the outlook for meaningful legislation in the U.S. is better now than it has ever been.
Of course, that alone won't be all that's required. China, India, Japan, Europe, and dozens of other developed and developing nations also will have to take strong steps. But given all that the U.S.has done to pollute the atmosphere, it's time for America to be a leader in responsible climate policy.