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A New Year's Resolution to reduce greenhouse gases?
Original post made
by Losing Sleep, Community Center,
on Dec 12, 2006
Every day, I read new and more heart-breaking news about the effects of climate change around the world. Here, for instance, is today's headline: Web Link
It strikes me that we Palo Altans are in a prime position to take a leadership role in showing people elsewhere in the country how to reduce our carbon emissions and start taking actions to reverse the trend of global warming. We are, for instance, an affluent, well-educated, liberal-minded community seated in the heart of a technology capital, and many of us have children who will inherit the planet that we adults leave behind whatever shape it may be in.
What keeps us as individuals from doing more to prevent this (theoretically) preventable disaster from occurring? There are so many little things we all could be doing not to mention the bigger actions we could take but many of us still want to ignore the problem.
Word is that we have ten years to do an about face on our carbon-emitting lifestyles. When will we start? What keeps us from starting today? I am losing sleep over this, and I would like to hear others' thoughts on this.
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Posted by SilverBullet
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2006 at 10:50 am
I don't think I'll be running for office anytime soon! I'm trying to imagine scenarios where the government could actually change our lives to be more green, and do so in a fair and practical way. Its just not possible.
So much manufacturing is done outside of the US, so I guess you could slap gigantic import fees on those goods. That would no doubt lead to a huge black market. To prevent that, maybe the soldiers could come home from Iraq and break down our doors to make sure we don't have any contraband.
Of course you could shut down must manufacturing here, which would lead to mass unemployment. Mabye that would be good - if those formerly self sufficient people are wards of the state, the governement can decide how much they consume.
How about driving? No gas - no driving. Ration gas so that an average person could drive no more than 100 miles per week. If you ration gas, there would be a huge demand for more gas, and therefore, a black market for gas. More soldiers.
Energy use: did you buy your florescent lights yet? Manufacturing all those lights probably isn't a "green" activity by the way. Prepare to open your homes again to inspectors to make sure you don't have any of those evil incandescant lights. Maybe you could swap them out for the inspection, but to prevent that, the inspections could come at any time, day or night, and maybe the soldiers could provide an extra incentive to keep your florescents in.
Also, no electricty, no power consumption, so perhaps your electric meter could be made to ration your power, which would of course lead to tampering, which would lead to arrests.
Livestock contributes to greenhouse gases, so cattle breeding would have to be restricted, which would put t
I seriously doubt that nightmare scenario will happen, but I think you should appreciate that short of making draconian laws and enforcing them with draconian measures, its all voluntary. As usual, we must reflect on how its pretty easy to buy a prius if you have the spare change, but for someone who is barely making ends meet, they will do whatever they have to do get by. Who are we to tell someone who works their fingers to the bone that they can't have a some enjoyment in their life - like a new TV or video game system?
There is a phrase that gets batted around alot, and I think it means different things to different people. The phrase is, "Freedom isn't free." Some people think that freedom's price is the spilled blood of the soldiers and patriots who created this country, and I think that is part of it. The other part of it is that if we want freedom, we can't have utopia. For instance, the police may find you with 2 tons of cocaine on your coffee table, but if they failed to get a warrant, you'll probably go free. Someone might committ a brutal murder, and it may be very likely that they did it, but if the jury has any reasonable doubt, they must not find that person guilty.
The environment is inevitably going to pay the price for our excesses. But who decides what is excessive? In a free country, you decide, within reason. Defining that reasonable area is difficult, but historically I think we give deference to an individual as long as they aren't directly hurting someone else. Now, it can be said that having a large "carbon footprint" hurts others, but the degree to which it does isn't known. I don't think its wise to restrict freedom based simply on computer models and scientific theories. Freedom is sometimes restricted for public health, but that's usually when the threat is absolutely real an imminent - such as an infectious epidemic.
I apologize for not having the time to organize these thoughts more. To sum up, massive governmental restrictions are impracticable. If we could send a human being to the moon and back, we can find technology to solve the global warming problem. If you can't stand the excessive consumption of others, I feel for you, but my advice is: get used to it. There are economic and human forces at work that are far to powerful to stop.
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Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 17, 2006 at 8:01 am
Skeptic's Challenge Part Three- Sorry, couldn't link you to this link, it is for Wall Street Journal Subscribers only. So, I decided to post it, though it is long.
For the rest of the story on pretty much everything else, I challenge all of you to read the editorials in the WSJ for just 3 months, and you will start to see how much power the media has to shape our opinions by leaving out news that should be reported, or presenting what news they report in a distorted or judgemental way.
Always research the source of the stories you read. Always go to reputable sources and read "all sides". It is hard and time consuming, but on critical issues such as this that influence our politics and policies, we must be fully informed about all our decisions, including unintended consequences.
Ok, I will leave all of you with this.
Kyoto Canard ( Wall Street Journal)
December 14, 2006
Climate-change activists and Democrats on Capitol Hill
are gearing up to push the U.S. to limit so-called
greenhouse gases. In their telling, America must save
mankind from an eco-Apocalypse by adopting the
arbitrary targets popular with Europe and other Kyoto
Well, let's look at results in the real world, as
opposed to this Kyoto spin. Recent data show that
placing artificial limits on emissions not only fails
to make the world cleaner, it is also
counterproductive, even on the environmentalists' own
grounds. Contrary to caricature, the American approach
offers more promise than the European one.
As the nearby chart shows, CO2 emissions growth in the
U.S. far outpaced that of the 15 "old" members of the
European Union from 1990-95 and especially from
1995-2000, when Mr. Climate Change himself, Al Gore,
was the second-most powerful man in America. But, lo,
the U.S. has outperformed the EU-15 since 2000,
according to the latest U.N. data. America's rate of
growth in CO2 emissions from 2000-04 was eight
percentage points lower than from 1995-2000. By
comparison, the EU-15 saw an increase of 2.3 points.
As far as individual EU states go, only two, Britain
and Sweden, are on track to meet their Kyoto emissions
commitments by 2010. Six more might meet their targets
if they approve and implement new, as yet unspecified,
policies to restrict carbon output, while seven of the
15 will miss their goals.
Cynics play down America's improvement, noting that
its economy cooled from the earlier years to 2000-04.
True, but the EU-15 also had lower economic growth in
the latest period and still saw its emissions growth
rate double. What's more, the U.S. economy expanded
38% faster than the EU-15 in 2000-04, and its
population twice as fast. So the trend lines, for now,
are reversing. That may make the green lobby choke on
its alfalfa wrap, because its fund raising depends on
vilifying the U.S. But facts are facts, no matter how
underreported they are.
Europe's dismal record is explained by its approach to
reducing emissions. The centerpiece of the Continent's
plan is a carbon-trading scheme in which companies in
CO2-heavy industries receive tradable permits for a
certain amount of emissions. If they emit more CO2,
they must buy credits from firms that are under quota.
The idea is to force companies to emit less CO2 by
making it prohibitively expensive to keep the status
All this scheme has done so far is provide further
proof that government cannot replicate the wisdom of
markets. A red-faced European Commission recently
admitted that it allowed more permits than there were
emissions in 2005-07, keeping permit prices low and
undermining the entire system. When Brussels tried to
make amends by ordering several member states to cut
carbon permits by 7% more than expected for 2008-2012,
industry and national capitals squealed. The market
hadn't priced in such a dramatic reduction. With
carbon permits trading relatively cheaply, firms have
been able to get by with minimal changes to the way
they do business. That has minimized Kyoto's economic
Once the supply of permits is more in line with the
eurocrats' ambitious environmental goals, though,
expect European industry to take a big hit. The number
of firms moving manufacturing work to countries
without emissions caps, such as China and India, will
only grow. That might make Europe's emissions data
look good, but it will have zero net effect on world's
production of greenhouse gases.
Some companies may elect to purchase cleaner
equipment, but the rising cost of compliance -- i.e.,
buying more carbon permits at higher prices once the
supply is slashed -- will eat into the money available
for developing the next generation of clean
technology. In short, Europe offers no magic solution
for capping greenhouse gases.
America may even have a few things to teach the Old
World. The U.S. strategy has been to keep economic
growth strong and provide incentives for private
industry to develop cleaner technologies. For
instance, the Bush Administration has granted $1
billion in tax credits for nine new coal-fired power
plants that will double efficiency and reduce
pollution compared with older generations. China is
picking up on these tactics. This year it bought $58
million in machines from Caterpillar Inc. that trap
methane in coal mines and use it to power electric
If global-warming activists were as interested in
lowering air temperatures as they are in expanding the
role of the state, they'd understand that the key to
reducing emissions lies in unleashing the private
sector, not capping it. That's the real lesson from
the policies -- and the results -- in Europe and the
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Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 17, 2006 at 8:54 am
Last Installment of Skeptic..
I saw that this link didn't go through either. ( Wall Street Journal Online). The paragraphs are mine, not the authors, because it slipped into here in this way.
This is from a Climatologist at MIT
Click here: Web Link If that link doesn't work here is the article copied and pasted.
There Is No 'Consensus' On Global Warming By RICHARD S. LINDZEN June 26, 2006
According to Al Gore's new film "An Inconvenient Truth," we're in for "a planetary emergency": melting ice sheets, huge increases in sea levels, more and stronger hurricanes and invasions of tropical disease, among other cataclysms -- unless we change the way we live now. Bill Clinton has become the latest evangelist for Mr. Gore's gospel, proclaiming that current weather events show that he and Mr. Gore were right about global warming, and we are all suffering the consequences of President Bush's obtuseness on the matter. And why not? Mr. Gore assures us that "the debate in the scientific community is over." That statement, which Mr. Gore made in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC, ought to have been followed by an asterisk.
What exactly is this debate that Mr. Gore is referring to? Is there really a scientific community that is debating all these issues and then somehow agreeing in unison? Far from such a thing being over, it has never been clear to me what this "debate" actually is in the first place. The media rarely help, of course. When Newsweek featured global warming in a 1988 issue, it was claimed that all scientists agreed. Periodically thereafter it was revealed that although there had been lingering doubts beforehand, now all scientists did indeed agree. Even Mr. Gore qualified his statement on ABC only a few minutes after he made it, clarifying things in an important way. When Mr. Stephanopoulos confronted Mr. Gore with the fact that the best estimates of rising sea levels are far less dire than he suggests in his movie, Mr. Gore defended his claims by noting that scientists "don't have any models that give them a high level of confidence" one way or the other and went on to claim -- in his defense -- that scientists "don't knowÂ… They just don't know." So, presumably, those scientists do not belong to the "consensus."
Yet their research is forced, whether the evidence supports it or not, into Mr. Gore's preferred global-warming template -- namely, shrill alarmism. To believe it requires that one ignore the truly inconvenient facts. To take the issue of rising sea levels, these include: that the Arctic was as warm or warmer in 1940; that icebergs have been known since time immemorial; that the evidence so far suggests that the Greenland ice sheet is actually growing on average. A likely result of all this is increased pressure pushing ice off the coastal perimeter of that country, which is depicted so ominously in Mr. Gore's movie.
In the absence of factual context, these images are perhaps dire or alarming. They are less so otherwise. Alpine glaciers have been retreating since the early 19th century, and were advancing for several centuries before that. Since about 1970, many of the glaciers have stopped retreating and some are now advancing again. And, frankly, we don't know why. * * *
The other elements of the global-warming scare scenario are predicated on similar oversights. Malaria, claimed as a byproduct of warming, was once common in Michigan and Siberia and remains common in Siberia -- mosquitoes don't require tropical warmth. Hurricanes, too, vary on multidecadal time scales; sea-surface temperature is likely to be an important factor. This temperature, itself, varies on multidecadal time scales.
However, questions concerning the origin of the relevant sea-surface temperatures and the nature of trends in hurricane intensity are being hotly argued within the profession. Even among those arguing, there is general agreement that we can't attribute any particular hurricane to global warming. To be sure, there is one exception, Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., who argues that it must be global warming because he can't think of anything else. While arguments like these, based on lassitude, are becoming rather common in climate assessments, such claims, given the primitive state of weather and climate science, are hardly compelling.
A general characteristic of Mr. Gore's approach is to assiduously ignore the fact that the earth and its climate are dynamic; they are always changing even without any external forcing.
To treat all change as something to fear is bad enough; to do so in order to exploit that fear is much worse.
Regardless, these items are clearly not issues over which debate is ended -- at least not in terms of the actual science.
A clearer claim as to what debate has ended is provided by the environmental journalist Gregg Easterbrook. He concludes that the scientific community now agrees that significant warming is occurring, and that there is clear evidence of human influences on the climate system. This is still a most peculiar claim. At some level, it has never been widely contested. Most of the climate community has agreed since 1988 that global mean temperatures have increased on the order of one degree Fahrenheit over the past century, having risen significantly from about 1919 to 1940, decreased between 1940 and the early '70s, increased again until the '90s, and remaining essentially flat since 1998. There is also little disagreement that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have risen from about 280 ppmv (parts per million by volume) in the 19th century to about 387 ppmv today. Finally, there has been no question whatsoever that carbon dioxide is an infrared absorber (i.e., a greenhouse gas -- albeit a minor one), and its increase should theoretically contribute to warming. Indeed, if all else were kept equal, the increase in carbon dioxide should have led to somewhat more warming than has been observed, assuming that the small observed increase was in fact due to increasing carbon dioxide rather than a natural fluctuation in the climate system.
Although no cause for alarm rests on this issue, there has been an intense effort to claim that the theoretically expected contribution from additional carbon dioxide has actually been detected. Given that we do not understand the natural internal variability of climate change, this task is currently impossible. Nevertheless there has been a persistent effort to suggest otherwise, and with surprising impact. Thus, although the conflicted state of the affair was accurately presented in the 1996 text of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the infamous "summary for policy makers" reported ambiguously that "The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate." This sufficed as the smoking gun for Kyoto.
The next IPCC report again described the problems surrounding what has become known as the attribution issue: that is, to explain what mechanisms are responsible for observed changes in climate. Some deployed the lassitude argument -- e.g., we can't think of an alternative -- to support human attribution. But the "summary for policy makers" claimed in a manner largely unrelated to the actual text of the report that "In the light of new evidence and taking into account the remaining uncertainties, most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations."
In a similar vein, the National Academy of Sciences issued a brief (15-page) report responding to questions from the White House. It again enumerated the difficulties with attribution, but again the report was preceded by a front end that ambiguously claimed that "The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability." This was sufficient for CNN's Michelle Mitchell to presciently declare that the report represented a "unanimous decision that global warming is real, is getting worse and is due to man. There is no wiggle room."
Well, no. More recently, a study in the journal Science by the social scientist Nancy Oreskes claimed that a search of the ISI Web of Knowledge Database for the years 1993 to 2003 under the key words "global climate change" produced 928 articles, all of whose abstracts supported what she referred to as the consensus view. A British social scientist, Benny Peiser, checked her procedure and found that only 913 of the 928 articles had abstracts at all, and that only 13 of the remaining 913 explicitly endorsed the so-called consensus view. Several actually opposed it.
Even more recently, the Climate Change Science Program, the Bush administration's coordinating agency for global-warming research, declared it had found "clear evidence of human influences on the climate system." This, for Mr. Easterbrook, meant: "Case closed." What exactly was this evidence? The models imply that greenhouse warming should impact atmospheric temperatures more than surface temperatures, and yet satellite data showed no warming in the atmosphere since 1979. The report showed that selective corrections to the atmospheric data could lead to some warming, thus reducing the conflict between observations and models descriptions of what greenhouse warming should look like. That, to me, means the case is still very much open. * * *
So what, then, is one to make of this alleged debate? I would suggest at least three points.
First, nonscientists generally do not want to bother with understanding the science. Claims of consensus relieve policy types, environmental advocates and politicians of any need to do so. Such claims also serve to intimidate the public and even scientists -- especially those outside the area of climate dynamics.
Secondly, given that the question of human attribution largely cannot be resolved, its use in promoting visions of disaster constitutes nothing so much as a bait-and-switch scam. That is an inauspicious beginning to what Mr. Gore claims is not a political issue but a "moral" crusade.
Lastly, there is a clear attempt to establish truth not by scientific methods but by perpetual repetition. An earlier attempt at this was accompanied by tragedy. Perhaps Marx was right. This time around we may have farce -- if we're lucky. Mr. Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT.