In short, we have time to think about what we're doing before we are swallowed by a climate apocalypse. We should realize that emissions controls are mostly symbolism. Al Gore's top climate adviser, Tom Wigley, estimated that Kyoto, if fully implemented, would avert 0.07 Celsius of a degree of warming by 2050. McCain- and Bingaman-style controls would do even less. This is why Wigley called Kyoto only "a first and relatively small step" toward addressing global warming.
Even the first step isn't faring well. The Europeans signed up for Kyoto restrictions because we all know they aren't addicted to SUVs the way Americans are. Well, well. The European Union is set to fall 7 percent short of its Kyoto targets by 2010. France will be 9 percent short, Belgium 14 percent, Denmark at least 36 percent. If these countries are going to make such an ostentatious show of hampering their economies for no good reason, at least they can follow through.
Although there is little that can be done to address greenhouse gases in the short term, who knows what technological advances will hold in the future? As far as the effects of global warming, most of the speculation is that it would harm the third world the most through increased disease, declining agricultural productivity, etc. If we worry about the fate of the third world, however, there are more urgent ways to address its suffering there than emissions restrictions. We could plow a portion of the cost from Kyoto-lite legislation ? Bingaman's bill might cost $300 billion by 2025 ? into directly battling HIV/AIDS, combating malnutrition, controlling malaria, and creating more potable water, the problems that kill millions every year.
U.S. senators, unfortunately, are always inclined to prefer the meaningless gesture instead.