Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Fire or Ice?
Two recent articles in the New York Times highlight growing concerns about the possible consequences of climate change, generally referred to as global warming. In the first, investors are becoming more assertive in asking energy companies to quantify their exposure to future regulation of greenhouse gases, which are associated with the observed warming trend of the last century or so. A number of firms, including mid-sized US upstream-only companies, are facing shareholder resolutions along these lines.

The second article compares the upcoming action film, "The Day After Tomorrow", by the director of "Independence Day", with an extreme climate change scenario commissioned by the Pentagon. The scenario was developed by Peter Schwartz, the founder of the Global Business Network, a leading scenario planning group. However one might assess the likelihood of such a scenario occurring, involving drastic cooling of Northwest Europe and the Northeast US as a result of interference with the North Atlantic warming current, such an event would certainly have major security implications.

Given the criticisms by both of the Democratic frontrunners of the Bush Administration's handling of global warming and the Kyoto Treaty, and with a blockbuster movie that could elevate the public's awareness, climate change could become a hot issue this year. If so, let us hope that this stimulates a meaningful national debate on the subject, rather than a rush for a quick fix. After all, even the most ardent supporters of Kyoto would agree that it was only intended as a first step in dealing with a problem that could be with us for the next century, or longer.

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