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TED Talk by climate economist Nicholas Stern posits our environmental future as a technological and regulatory problem, and being merely a matter of good choices over bad. It inspired me to think and address the problem in a larger meta-context of global politics

Like the nuclear stockpiling of the 20th Century between two world powers, our current century has a new sort of race, also with devastating consequences. But instead of seeking military supremacy between the Soviet Union and NATO, economic supremacy is being contested between China and the West.

Instead of fallout, expended lives in Cold War squabbles, and squandered dollars and rubles, the cost is environmental. And it is the reason the Unites States will not sign the Kyoto Accord. China’s jacked up GDP is the result of it burning 50% of the world’s coal and being the main consumer of cement, one of the greatest industrial sources of emissions. When one side gains advantage by not playing “fair” with the planet, the other side can only tie that arm behind their back so often.

It doesn’t make it right. But it gives us a context that cannot be dismissed on grounds of idealism. Like the token cooperation in our space programs of the past (such as the Apollo-Soyuz missions), maybe we need to share clean technology with China. Maybe we need to stop playing carbon credit games (China actually makes money by purposely setting up unused factories to sell credits) and vie for policies and programs that don’t pad Al Gore’s pocket.

As suggested in the video, technology is improving our present and future, but more ought to be done. I say technology isn’t enough — we need to stop the economic race, or rather that it is being run to win at all cost. Competition can be an impetus for progress, but at some point it goes too far, perhaps tempered only by cooperation.

{Caveat: I want to make it clear that I am not an environmentalist in the current use of the word, as I reject the politics and premises of AGW in favor of (dissenting) science. But pollution is pollution, and though I don’t care about or even welcome an extra degree on the thermometer, we all deserve to breathe clean air and drink clean water. And so do plants and animals, debates about qualitative rights between species aside. I don’t see a climate armageddon on the horizon, but have always been on the side of not poking Mother Nature with a huge stick. We all suffer from such acts, not in some Green Millennialism near future, but here and now.}