We have the power to put a stop to global warming

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The Independent Online

Scientific investigations into global warming do not usually make optimistic reading. But it is possible to draw a degree of hope from the research of Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala, from Princeton University, because they categorically assert that global warming can be beaten within the next 50 years. They also know how to achieve it.

Messrs Pacala and Socolow have a clear, pragmatic vision of how the world's economies can drastically cut their carbon emissions and stabilise the earth's temperature. Their 15-point blueprint is not predicated on the development of revolutionary new technologies that will end our reliance on fossil fuels overnight. Rather, it is based on technologies already available to us. We simply need to scale up what we already know how to do.

For example, we must conserve energy by reducing car usage and making buildings more efficient. Renewable energies like hydrogen, and biofuels such as ethanol, must be used more. And then there are environmental reforms. The rainforests, those vast sponges for carbon dioxide, have to be protected, or replanted where they have been chopped down We must force farmers to be more efficient when they till the soil, so they do not encroach on forests or natural grassland. None of these ideas are new of course. The novelty is that Messrs Socolow and Pacala have calculated that, cumulatively, these techniques can effectively "solve" global warming.

This piece of research is timely. The United States' shameful decision to pull out of the Kyoto treaty on limiting carbon emissions three years ago has shattered the international consensus on the necessity of tackling climate change. China and India have increased greenhouse emissions greatly as their economies have expanded. The world has been drifting further and further away from facing up to the damage inflicted on the global ecosystem by our careless behaviour.

But these optimistic proposals demonstrate that progress is within easy reach and that governments now have no good excuses for failing to implement them. We have the tools; it is time to get on with the job.