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Cool-headed

"Cool-headed" Continued...

Issue: "Don't fence me out," April 21, 2007

The current cost of cutting CO2 emissions is about $20 per ton, a significant burden for wealthy nations but an impossible hurdle for poorer countries like China and India. New technology and ideas could change that. "If we could cut carbon-cutting costs to say $2 per ton instead of $20, then the chance is much better of getting more countries on board," Lomborg explained.

Whether such arguments resonated with Congress enough to trump the political muscle behind Gore's vision will play out in the coming months as legislators consider bills to restrict greenhouse gases. Between the IPCC's projection of harms and a recent Supreme Court decision giving the EPA power to set CO2 standards for automakers, many environmentalists believe the momentum toward a self-imposed American-style Kyoto is unstoppable.

Ben Lieberman, a senior environmental policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, disagrees: "This still is more of a fashionable cause than a populist cause. There is some momentum in the direction of action, but the specter of politically unacceptable high costs is always going to be there until we develop more greenhouse-friendly technology-and that takes time."

Gore and his disciples contend that time is running out, that we are just 10 years away from a disastrous tipping point and the unrelenting disdain of our children and grandchildren. Lomborg, too, fears such future contempt-though for entirely different reasons: "Everyone in this debate wants to be able to look squarely into the eyes of the next generation and say, 'We did the best we could.' To go off on one particular concern and invest everything we can there, when most of the evidence tells us that will be a poor investment, is unlikely to impress future generations."

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