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Climate: Work Under Way

Earth needs a greenhouse effect, as we have reminded readers for years, if it isn't to go the way of frigid Mars. The challenge is to help the upper atmosphere trap just the Goldilocks-right amount of sun warmth. Not too hot, not too cold.

'Greenhouse' negotiators in Kyoto faced the hugely difficult task of deciding who pays what premiums for a workable insurance policy against a potentially too warm world 50 to 100 years hence. They tried to put teeth into the broad pledges made five years ago in Rio.

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It should be noted that Kyoto was only one more step toward such teeth. Ratifications and detailed national programs are the next, by no means certain, step.

Before environmentalists, industrialists, labor, thermostat pushers, and the motoring public themselves become overheated in coming debates, remember that, even without teeth, efforts to cut greenhouse-gas emissions are already well under way.

Climate scientists are speeding research on the still-uncertain cause-effect systems influencing climate change. Major global firms (British Petroleum, Norsk Hydro, Ford, Honda, Toyota, Asea Brown Boveri, Daimler Benz, Dupont, and many North American utilities) are spending hundreds of millions on research. They are developing car engines with exhaust cleaner than their intake air, fuel-cell motors and heating systems, more cost-effective photovoltaic roofing, and pollution-swallowing manufacturing processes.

We continue to believe that governments can best move this effort along by four means: (1) Creating tax incentives for emission-related business research. (2) Funding university research and its flow to businesses. (3) Quickly cutting trade barriers on environmental equipment. (4) Negotiating a global system for tradable emissions credits to help even out different national fuel dependencies and transport needs.

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