Richard Greene

Is this really the beginning of the end to global warming?

United Nations and French officials celebrate Dec. 12 after 200 governments reached climate agreement in Paris.
United Nations and French officials celebrate Dec. 12 after 200 governments reached climate agreement in Paris. AP

I’m going to raise a couple of questions that might label me as a global warming skeptic.

Not so much about the science, but more about what was actually accomplished with the much-heralded outcome of the United Nations’ Paris agreement that is supposed to mark the beginning of the end to global warming.

Before I do, however, a reminder of my participation in the first-ever initiatives to deal with greenhouse gas emissions — the stuff that, if there is too much of it, traps heat on the earth’s surface and threatens the survival of the planet.

At least that’s the opinion of the majority of the world’s climate scientists and the stated public policy position of the Obama administration that has led to the most comprehensive regulatory initiatives anywhere on earth.

But the EPA first addressed such controls in our country during the George W. Bush era, and I got to witness that effort as a firsthand participant.

Go ahead and challenge me on that if you wish, but none other than U. N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon backs it up.

He credits Bush for initiating talks that led to the Paris landmark international agreement and says he is “very much grateful” to the former president for “the beginning of our success.”

What the EPA did before Obama took office was to begin the process of regulating carbon dioxide emissions — something never before done in the history of the agency’s mission to protect human health and the environment.

That makes me a participant, one who is not so much a denier but a realist.

And I’m a pragmatist supporting the “art of the possible,” where progress is achieved through the process of balancing improvement of the air we breathe, the water we need and the land we live upon with economic opportunity for all.

Interestingly, that’s really what the representatives of almost 200 countries achieved in Paris last month in the agreement they signed there.

After changing crucial wording in the pact, they all promised what they “should” do to voluntarily report and monitor progress on controlling greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.

There are no effective enforcement mechanisms in the deal, and many of the countries still have to get their governments’ ratification for what their emissaries agreed to do.

Then there’s the question of whether major emitting countries such as China and India will actually comply with the pact.

Their priorities remain those of seizing economic opportunity provided in abundance only from coal, oil and natural gas leading the way for many to escape punishing poverty.

Yes, lots of progress is being made in the development of renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar, but they start from a tiny percentage of where we get what we need to power our industry and our daily lives.

The U.S. Department of Energy says that’s not going to materially change through the middle of the century and likely beyond.

Together with the historic lack of public concern for global warming found in years of national polling, there’s little expectation of any swift transformation in the way we live.

Even if Obama’s Clean Power Plan survives the multitude of lawsuits brought by states across the country, EPA officials acknowledge our country’s regulatory initiatives alone will have virtually no affect on the level of CO2 in the world’s atmosphere.

So whether what was done in Paris will save the planet from extinction as predicted by Al Gore alarmists, the reality is we have again witnessed a familiar outcome of form over substance.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

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