Federal energy budget shows lack of interest
In the United States, annual federal spending for all energy research and development -- not just the research aimed at climate-friendly technologies -- is less than half what it was a quarter-century ago. It has sunk to $3 billion a year in the current budget from an inflation-adjusted peak of $7.7 billion in 1979, according to several different studies.
In fiscal 1981, the last year of Jimmy Carter's budget - and not coincidentally the year I and 140 others lost our jobs at the Solar Energy Research Institute (now the National Renewable Energy Laboratory) - spending for renewable energy sources was four times the current budget, adjusted for inflation.
In an e-mailed statement, the White House Council on Environmental Quality said, "The U.S. government has produced an abundance of economic analysis on the issue of climate change. The Stern Report is another contribution to that effort."
The statement from spokeswoman Kristen Hellmer said the United States is "well on track to meet the president's goal to reduce greenhouse gas intensity of our economy 18 percent by 2012."
The problem, said Annie Petsonk of Environmental Defense, is that this goal essentially requires only the status quo.
"This is just business as usual for this economy," Petsonk said by telephone. "The result is no reduction in America's total greenhouse gas emissions."
What me, worry? seems to be the White House motto on many subjects, including global warming. Here's why anybody who isn't worrying ought to be:
Stern by the numbers
The level in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, stood at 280 parts per million by volume (ppm) before the Industrial Revolution, in about 1780. The level of CO2 in the atmosphere today stands at 382ppm
£200bn, or 1 per cent of global GDP, must be spent every year to get carbon dioxide levels to "stabilise" at 550ppm.
This figure will rise as world GDP increases, and could be three to four times as large by 2050
40 per cent of the world's species would face extinction if temperatures rose by 2C
200 million people are at risk of being driven from their homes by flood or drought by 2050
6C is a "plausible" estimate of how much world temperatures could rise by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions are unchecked
60 million more Africans could be exposed to malaria if world temperatures rise by 2C
35 per cent drop in crop yields across Africa and the Middle East is expected if temperatures rise by 3C
200 million more people could be exposed to hunger if world temperatures rise by 2C
550 million more people could be at risk of hunger if world temperatures rise by 3C
4 million square kilometres of land, home to one-twentieth of the world's population, is threatened by floods from melting glaciers
35,000 Europeans died in the 2003 heatwave, an event likely to become "commonplace"
4 billion people could suffer from water shortage if temperatures rise by 2C
Nothing here to see here, folks. Move along.