As the mother of two young boys, I want to do everything I can to protect their future. But I feel like a shnook buying fluorescent light bulbs -- as Environmental Defense recommends -- when at last count, China, India and the United States were building a total of 850 new coal-fired power plants. Clearly, it's time for some radical ideas about solving global warming. But where's the radical realism when we need it?
Here's the truly inconvenient truth: Scientists have long been warning that the world must cut back on greenhouse-gas emissions by as much as 70 percent, as soon as possible, if we're to have a fighting chance of stabilizing the climate. Yet even with full participation by the United States, the controversial Kyoto Protocol -- the only global plan in the works -- would hardly begin to do that. Its goal is to reduce emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. And so far, the best plan offered by American politicians -- the Climate Stewardship act sponsored by Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman -- has an even more modest goal: it aims to cut emissions in the United States merely to 2000 levels by 2010. And the Senate has rejected it twice.
What we need is something more imaginative and daring. But where's the discussion of anything like that? The ''Take Action'' page on the Web site for Mr. Gore's movie offers no such vision -- the boldest action it suggests is to back the McCain-Lieberman bill. And when I recently asked David Yarnold, Environmental Defense's executive vice president, why his group wasn't offering solutions more dramatic than Congress has thought up, he replied, ''Why would you want to lobby for something that can't get done?''
Caring makes you smarter. See Ellison's book, The Mommy Brain, her Shopping for carbon credits, in Salon.com 2 July 2007, and Global-warming-era parenthood, from Los Angeles Times 23 Dec 2006. For impacts in the next 25 years, see USDA report The effects of climate change on agriculture, land resources, water resources, and biodiversity in the United States (final report May 2008).