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Editorial: 'Green' has never been more urgent

Original post made on Mar 11, 2008

Despite a few curmudgeonly doubters, there is no question that how we humans exist on Earth today is not sustainable. Our patterns of using energy to fuel our lifestyles will cause catastrophic changes in climate, with unknowable yet fearful consequences.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 12, 2008, 12:00 AM

Comments (62)

Posted by Bill, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 11, 2008 at 9:50 pm

Please take a soapbox and go preach this in China!

Posted by a, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 12, 2008 at 9:43 am

NASA scientists also predict that this upcoming solar maximum starting in 2010 and peaking in 2012 will be greater than usual. NASA has already seen the first sun spot for this coming solar maximum.
Here's the link to the NASA website: Web Link

This means greater solar flares which in turn creates a hotter Earth, which will also increase global warming. Increasing population growth also adds to global warming.

I'm convinced we're also going to see bigger earthquakes as a result of changes in atmospheric pressure, and god forbid, a volcanic eruption.

Posted by julie, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2008 at 4:31 pm

Within two years, Chinese emissions of greenhouse gases will have vastly outstripped the reductions achieved by all the countries that have signed up to the Kyoto protocol combined.

Using data provided by the Chinese government, researchers at the University of California have calculated that China's emissions by 2010 will be at least 600 million metric tonnes greater than they were in 2000. But the most likely outcome, according to the computer models, will be emissions of twice that figure.

Even the minimum figure is five times as large as the 115.90 million metric tonnes in reductions which the US Energy Information Agency estimates will have been achieved by signatories of the Kyoto protocol by 2010.

"The emissions growth rate is surpassing our worst expectations, and that means the goal of stabilizing atmospheric CO2 is going to be much, much harder to achieve," says Maximillian Auffhammer of the University of California, Berkeley.
Doubled estimates

Auffhammer and Richard Carson from the University of California, San Diego, used national data on pollution produced by Chinese provinces. Previous estimates have been based on national data only. The pair says that the level of detail provided by the data has allowed them to make a more accurate forecast of the growth of Chinese emissions.

They estimate that CO2 emissions will rise by 11% per year in China between now and 2010. Previous estimates ranged between 2.5% and 5%.

China is deemed a developing country by the United Nations and as such is not required to reduce its emissions under the Kyoto protocol. It may, however, agree to do so in future.

At a UN climate summit in Indonesia in December 2007, China caved in to international pressure and pledged to consider cutting its emissions under a successor of the protocol. Negotiators are aiming for such a "son of Kyoto" to come into effect in 2012.
Marathon opt-out

Auffhammer and Carson's findings have been made public just days after the world's marathon record-holder declared he was unlikely to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"The pollution in China is a threat to my health and it would be difficult for me to run 42 kilometres in my current condition," says Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia.

The 34 year-old suffers from asthma, but will not withdraw from the games altogether. Instead, he will focus on his 10,000-metre run.

In response to Gebrselassie's announcement, the Chinese government reiterated on Tuesday its pledge to have clean air for the summer games.

Zhang Lijun, vice minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration in China said the city had already met international standards on three major pollutants: sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and organic pollutants in water. Beijing must now reduce the concentration of tiny airborne particles in order to fulfil its pledge.

Although it is conceivable that the city will hold "clean air" games – it was given a positive progress report by the UN Environment Agency in October 2007 – this will do little to allay the concerns over its growing emissions of carbon dioxide.

Journal reference: Journal of Environmental Economics and Management (DOI: 10.1016/j.jeem.2007.10.002)

Posted by Megreen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2008 at 5:26 pm

As someone who cares a lot about the environment, who lives and votes as green as possible,and also I do contribute to many a green cause, I have to say I'm tired of overzealous greenies who lord their greenness over others. Don't they realize they are not winning people over? Please be as green as you can bear to be and can we all be a little more patient with one another?

Posted by a, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 12, 2008 at 7:36 pm

I agree with you completely. I think Americans should lead by example. We should not expect "others" as though they were servants to do the cleaning up for us especially when Americans are the world's largest consumers of energy and largest polluters. The European Union has taken a far more progressive approach, particularly Germany.
However, there is nothing we can do about a hotter sun, which is undeniably a big factor in global warming. The anticipated solar maximum and a warming sun worries me greatly.

Posted by Jarred, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2008 at 8:03 pm

According to recent computer simulations, increased C02 will lead to bisexual fish, ball lightning, mass psoriasis, and finally, the Singularity itself on June 6, 2012 at 11:54am, followed shortly thereafter by stagflation, goose bumps and copious amounts of government cheese. Don't even bother to argue with me -- the debate is over.

For this and other reasons, everyone should drive a Prius and fly to at least 3 global warming conferences in Bali each year.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2008 at 7:18 am

There is still my crumudgeonly challenge - using the greenie's own program, plug in ALL the reductions demanded, and demonstrate that THEIR OWN program then predicts an improvement, and how much.
In the real world, we call that put up or shut up.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2008 at 8:32 am

Of course we should do all we can to reduce global warming, including maintaining the hydrological cycle rather than depleting our ground water and asphalting over our green areas. If we work toward this target rather than using excuses not to work toward it, we will move closer to reducing global warming. People who work against this target (ABAG) do so because a few can profit by overbuilding the Bay Area either through development and/or building salt water desalination plants, larger sewage waste plants. Some of our larger corporations are looking into privatizing water and selling it to those who can afford it. Ground-Water Depletion Across the Nation: Web Link explains why large scale/dense development proponents need to be told No.

Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2008 at 11:51 am

Don't worry too much about solar output. It is not that important to our current situation. A recent article from Science magazine describes an analysis of the last 50 years of solar output, trying to correlate it with climate:

Web Link

The article says:

"Don't blame the sun for recent global warming. A new analysis, based on historical data rather than computer simulations, shows that our star's role in climate change has been vastly overtaken by other factors, particularly the human-induced buildup of greenhouse gases.....To help nail down the effect of solar radiation, geophysicist Mike Lockwood of the University of Southampton, U.K., examined data available since 1955 on the monthly average output of the sun, including sunspots, magnetic activity, and cosmic-ray variations. Then he compared those data, month by month, with average global temperature records, as well as El Niņo- and La Niņa-induced weather cycles and the atmospheric effects of major volcanic eruptions. The result, Lockwood and colleagues report in two papers published online this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, is that for the past half-century, the sun has exerted only a small influence on climate--about 3% compared with the warming influence of greenhouse gases and natural climate cycles."

Posted by NotWalter, a resident of Southgate
on Mar 13, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Walter, some of us would be happy if you only did the second part...

Posted by perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2008 at 12:05 pm

"greenhouse gases and natural climate cycles"

reminder: 99% of all greenhouse gases are part of the natural cycle. Even CO2.

Posted by Jay Thorwaldson, editor emeritus
on Mar 13, 2008 at 12:54 pm

Jay Thorwaldson is a registered user.

Ah, Walter -- We weren't referring only to you in our use of "curmudgeon." Some of my best friends are curmudgeons. ;-)>

Posted by Stringer Bell, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2008 at 3:40 pm

That's great, but...
Even IF we put an end to all CO2 producing human activity in Palo Alto, and obviously that's a huge if, but lets just say, all cars were impounded, all electricty was turned off, and Palo Altans were even forced to take green nutrient pills (that came from dead people, perhaps?) We didn't utter a word or exhale into the open air...
it wouldn't make one noticeable difference in the predicted course of global warming...would it? I mean, if you have evidence to the contrary that shutting down a city of about 60,000 residents would not make one iota of difference, then please share.
If you are urging individuals to act, I have no problem with that. But it is unaccaptable that our elected leaders would spend even 1/10th of 1 second of official "on-the-clock" time talking about global warming.

Posted by Stringer Bell, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2008 at 3:42 pm

Let me clarify my last sentence - I mean our local elected or appointed leaders. I have less of a problem with a dialogue at a national or perhaps a state level when you are talking about a state as large as California.

Posted by julie, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2008 at 3:53 pm

33% of the particulate pollution in the Bay Area comes from China

30% of the mercury in California comes from coal fired power plants in China.

A new coal fired plant is fired up every week to 10 days sending plumes of pollution to California.

Nothing we do here will make any difference as this continues.

Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 13, 2008 at 5:16 pm

We really don't need to do anything. There are 6 billion other people in the world who could go green and make a much bigger difference than 60,000 of us in Palo Alto.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2008 at 5:47 pm

It is not I who predicts disaster. I only ask an engineer's question of those who interpret the entrails of their program to - surprise! - justify their demand for draconian power over the lives and economy of others. I can see why the NotWalters of the world recoil in horror from aspersions cast at their oracles. There are ways to validate a program - Hansen and Ehrlich and their ilk back away from those ways like Dracula from a cross.

Posted by a, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2008 at 6:39 pm

Thanks for that interesting point of view, but I'm not so sure we can exclude the sun. For example, in the last solar minimum, the sun spouted out the biggest X-flares scientists had ever seen during a solar minimum. You can see the NASA article here - Web Link. It also so happened that right around the time of those massive solar flares we also saw the most devastating hurricane season on record, which included hurricanes Katrina, Maria and Rita. You can check out the wikipedia documentation on the dates of those hurricanes here - Web Link. If we saw those massive solar flares during a solar minimum and scientists are expecting a larger than usual solar maximum, I wonder if we might see the same type of hurricane activity. Incidentally, during 2005 there were earthquakes in South America and Africa that coordinated with the hurricane season. Some may say this is just coincidence, but I think we need to consider the sun's impact and prepare.

Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2008 at 7:31 pm

The sun has a well-known cycle of sunspot activity. There are also cycles of hurricane activity. Sometimes the maxima will coincide, but that means nothing. The report that I cited used 50 years of historical data, which is much more compelling than your single coincidence.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2008 at 7:34 pm

You made the claim in another thread that 33% of our air pollution comes from China, and it was shown in that other thread that your statement is false. You took a speculative statement that one expert said that in the future up to 1/3 of our air pollution could come from China and you stated it as a fact in the present. You don't do yourself any favors by stating speculation as fact; indeed you ruin your credibility.

Posted by a, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2008 at 7:34 pm

Believe me, I hope you're right. I don't want to see devastating hurricanes.

Posted by Responsible, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 13, 2008 at 8:08 pm

The sins of other people provide no justification for your own. Refusing to be responsible for your own mess because other people are doing worse is childish. Our country has lost it position as a moral leader in this world because of this kind of selfish thinking. We need to take the high road and set a good example. If our national leaders won't do so, then we need to do it at local and state levels. Anything less is reckless and irresponbsible.

Posted by a, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2008 at 8:14 pm

I checked out your link a little more, there was one scientist who made the assertions you subscribe to, albeit Science is a fairly respectable publication. But in clicking further on some of the links on the article you presented and I came to a site describing "SORCE, the solar radiation and climate experiment," which is the satellite NASA sent up into space in 2003. SORCE says clearly on the web site that variations from the sun's radiation effect Earth's atmospheric chemistry. "Ultraviolet radiation at wavelengths below 300 nm is completely absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere and contributes the dominant energy source in the stratosphere and thermosphere, establishing the upper atmosphere's temperature, structure, composition, and dynamics. Even small variations in the Sun's radiation at these short wavelengths will lead to corresponding changes in atmospheric chemistry," according to the site, which you can find here - Web Link. And they still are not entirely sure of how the sun effects Earth's atmosphere, that's why they're still studying the sun and recently set up this project. It seems to me that ruling out the sun is premature at this stage.

Posted by a, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2008 at 8:32 pm

Just to clarify, even though I do think the sun's anticipated larger-than-usual maximum will further heat up the Earth during the years 2010-2012, the human impact (or destruction if you want to call it that) on and of Earth is profound. I think there is much that people can do to alleviate the global warming situation. It will take an enormous amount of global courage and collective action to persuade 6 billion people on Earth to change their lifestyles and consumption habits. Perhaps it can be done, but when our own politicians in the United States and many folks even in a conscious community such as Palo Alto are still doubtful, it may take a global catastrophe involving the loss of many lives to get people to make a real systematic change.

Posted by Cooper, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2008 at 12:46 am

For all you complaining about China, remember China is making all the crap those of us that live in America can't live without. It is our pollution.

Check your labels and check your investment portolio. Where are you putting your money?

Posted by Common Sense, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 14, 2008 at 2:06 am

The "green" movement has been co-opted by the man-made global warming nut cases. Instead of wasting time, money and resources on reducing CO2, which is not a pollutant and does not cause warming, why don't we get back to dealing with real environmental issues? Our focus should be on the proven hazards of toxic chemicals and pollutants in our air, water, buildigs, food and so forth. Let the science on global warming get sorted out before we start implementing "solutions" for it. Misdirected fixes usualy cause more harm than good.

Posted by More Weakly Bunk!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2008 at 9:26 am

This editorial is pure BUNK! It demonstrates just how out of touch the Palo Alto weekly has become, or more likely has always been!

No one at the weekly professes to be a scientist, or to ever demonstrated any facility with science or mathematics. The weekly people have enough trouble as it is just getting their facts right, when someone tells them what to write. Has anyone at the weekly actually read that IPPC documents? Does anyone at the weekly even remotely understand the science that has been put forward by this group over the years? Many of the issues are still hotly being contested here and there -- -- some as fundamental as how to set how to determine the temperature of the earth.

Locally, the weekly is one of the Palo Alto's biggest indirect polluters. The Weekly has for decades caused tens of thousands of trees to be chopped down, hauled to processing plants that all operated with fossil fuels, processed with polluting chemicals, then hauled again to printing plants operated with fossil fuels. Using vehicles operated with fossil fuels, the printed papers are driven to the homes around Palo Alto where they generally go unread and thrown in the trash. Next they are hauled with motor vehicles to the local landfill, where they have for decades helped cause a premature end-of-life of this precious community.

If the weekly actually believes its own hype, it would commit to terminating the print edition of this sad little paper and operate totally off of its website--demonstrating that it is committed to at a world that is as pollution-free as possible and recognizing its own contribution to the local levels of pollution.

Additionally the weekly should lead by example by disallowing the use of fossil-fuel operated with vehicles in the operation of the paper. It would disallow any of its employees using fossil fuel vehicles by demanding that they use public transportation going to/coming from and during the execution of their work.

Unless the weekly is capable of leading by example--it is just another mouthpiece for people committed to the slow destruction of our industrial-based economy.

Posted by a, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2008 at 9:29 am

More Weakly Bunk,
I agree. I really wish the Weekly wouldn't send me the print version. I get everything I want to know online. The print edition just goes into the bin.

Posted by Student, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2008 at 10:16 am

a - The scientific connection between short term solar "weather" like the sunspot cycle and weather at the earth's surface is very tenuous. Scientists have hunted in vain for a direct correlation between sunspot numbers and temperatures ever they began monitoring both. They have lately begun to find some indirect relationships, mentioned in the article you cited, but the connection of sunspots to weather is still far less established than the CO2 greenhouse gas effect. It may exist, and believe what you wish, but there is presently little scientific basis to expect sunspots and related phenomena to significantly affect the earth's temperature.

The article also says: Although the ultraviolet radiation from the Sun varies by much larger factors, its measurement also requires access to space since the radiation does not penetrate the atmosphere." That is key. Solar UV is almost totally absorbed in the upper atmoshpere many kilometers above the surface (remember the ozone layer?). That's good, else we and all living things on land would be fried. What does get through is bad enough.

Posted by gordon, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2008 at 10:23 am

More Weakly Bunk,

Just curious . . . did you type that Town Square posting on a non-polluting computer using Green energy?

Oh, and I couldn't help but notice you posted that on the Weekly's Web site.

If it's such a bad newspaper, why would you bother to visit its Web site and contribute a response?

Posted by a, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2008 at 10:33 am

Considering that in the recent solar minima just three years ago scientists saw unprecedented X-flares, I think scientists have yet to gather enough data to make a definitive conclusion about the sun either way. That is why they have recently set up projects to study the sun. About the Earth's atmosphere, scientists also agree that the Earth's magnetic field, which is key to absorbing radiation from the sun is weaker. See the NASA article here - Web Link. This means our atmosphere is less able to absorb the radiation from the sun. This is why melanoma is increasing, why sunscreen proofs are increasing, and why people burn more easily. If the expected solar maxima is going to be 30% to 50% bigger than normal and we saw unprecedently large flares during a recent solar minima, combined with our weaker magnetic field, and the added phenomena that during the solar flares Earth experienced record hurricanes, I can only say that we cannot stick our heads in the sand and wait for science to have another 50 years of data to make a definitive conclusion. It took decades for global warming to become global consensus and yet there is still debate. It would probably take decades for any scientific consensus to conclude that the sun's unprecedentedly large X-flares cause hurricanes. 2010 and 2012 is only two to four years out. I suppose we'll just have to wait until 2010 and 2012 to see what happens, but if it some kind of disaster does occur I really do hope scientists into the correlation. I hope nothing happens.

Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 14, 2008 at 12:49 pm

Look out! The sky is burning! We better turn down the sun right now.

Posted by Student, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2008 at 3:44 pm

The earth's magnetic field is on the move. It always is. However, while it strongly influences the charged particles from the sun that create the aurora, it does not affect radiation like sunlight or ultraviolet or x-rays at all, nor their interaction with the atmosphere.

Posted by julie, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2008 at 4:42 pm

NYT April 07

One of China's lesser-known exports is a dangerous brew of soot, toxic chemicals and climate-changing gases from the smokestacks of coal-burning power plants.

Coal-burning factories like the Gu Dian steel plant have given Shanxi Province in China a Dickensian feel.

In early April, a dense cloud of pollutants over Northern China sailed to nearby Seoul, sweeping along dust and desert sand before wafting across the Pacific.

An American satellite spotted the cloud as it crossed the West Coast.

Researchers in California, Oregon and Washington noticed specks of sulfur compounds, carbon and other byproducts of coal combustion coating the silvery surfaces of their mountaintop detectors.

These microscopic particles can work their way deep into the lungs, contributing to respiratory damage, heart disease and cancer.

Posted by julie, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2008 at 4:50 pm


Huge Dust Plumes
From China Cause
Changes in Climate
July 20, 2007

One tainted export from China can't be avoided in North America -- air.

An outpouring of dust layered with man-made sulfates, smog, industrial fumes, carbon grit and nitrates is crossing the Pacific Ocean on prevailing winds from booming Asian economies in plumes so vast they alter the climate. These rivers of polluted air can be wider than the Amazon and deeper than the Grand Canyon.

"There are times when it covers the entire Pacific Ocean basin like a ribbon bent back and forth," said atmospheric physicist V. Ramanathan at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, CA

On some days, almost a third of the air over Los Angeles and San Francisco can be traced directly to Asia.

With it comes up to three-quarters of the black carbon particulate pollution that reaches the West Coast, Dr. Ramanathan and his colleagues recently reported in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2008 at 7:32 pm

Julie, this says "almost" 1/3 of the AIR is from Asia, not 1/3 of the air POLLUTION. It also says that "up to" 3/4 of the black carbon particulate pollution that REACHES the West Coast comes with this air. That seems to exclude particles that are generated here and only includes those that come from other places. In that case, it is not surprising at all that 3/4 of the foreing carbon particles are from Asia. All in all this is very misleading and sloppy journalism. It seems that is designed to get people all worked up, and apparently it worked on you. I am not denying that China is a major source of pullution, but the numbers in this article are extremely misleading and are causing you to make false statements.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2008 at 8:53 pm

Until we can clean up our own air by banning open fires, both in fireplaces in winter and outside fireplaces in summer, the greenies can do all they like about global warming, but it won't make a difference to the air we breath all the time.

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 16, 2008 at 11:05 am

One of the first impressions one has when landing (that is, not yet on the ground) in Beijing, is how polluted the air is. My daughter spent several weeks over the past two summers there, and upon her first return at SFO made the comment how nice it was to see blue sky after doing without for the better part of a month. Mexico City is the only other city in which I have spend a good amount of time that comes even close. These Olympics will not likely result in any records where one's capacity to breathe is a key ingredient to the athlete's performance.

I see a leadership deficit on two levels. First and foremost is with the corporations such as GM, DuPont, and the like who have opened up massive operations in China, and had to my way of thinking a responsibiity, not merely an opportunity, to make them as green as current market technologies enabled. They did not hesitate to make them super efficient from a cost of manufacturing standpoint, labor savings aside. While many companies have been careful about how they built and operated their facilities over there, many have been more lax than they should have been, and have created a problem that will last for many years. Local Chinese manufacturers are disinclined to do such things in any case, when the multinationals come in with similar lack of concern, it does nothing to push the commercial world to think more carefully about their long term stewardship of the resources they use. The "low cost producer" mentality found in a great deal of Chinese enterprises runs counter to "green" practices in numerous instances. The Chinese business community are great imitators, but they are not great innovators, which is what is needed here.

There also is a failure of political leadership, and the Bush Administration is the worst offender, but by no means the only one. Count me among those that has utter disregard for this Administration on a number of fronts, but the recent EPA ruling that in effect attempted to thwart California and other states from imposing stricter rules on emissions is a timely example of not just egregiously poor policy (and counter to the White House's stated position on states' rights) but also a shining example of poor leadership at the US national level. Bush has been quoted as saying things along the lines referenced above about how China needs to get its act together, instead of ackowledging and fostering action here over which the Presdient has some control and influence. What an aw shucks guy ol' W is, the stakes never get high enough for him to change his tune, assuming he actually is capable of doing so.

There are others in elected office, such as Arnold S., who are to their credit taking more enlightened views on this matter, but the White House is an elephant in the room no matter who holds power, and in this case, the elephant has most definitely made the problem worse. Perhaps a better animal analogy would make reference to a bovine spending time in a room with a Tiffany collection. All three leading candidates will do a better job on US leadership on this front than what we have witnessed the past 8 years.

Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Mar 16, 2008 at 11:40 am


Since you are on your soapbox about air pollution, will you make a statement in favor of nuclear power? Bush has. Several top environmentalist have. China is making an attempt to improve things, by building nuclear. The USA could lead the way, and show real leadership. Are you aboard?

Posted by Mike, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 16, 2008 at 12:20 pm

If you really, really do care about global warming and being green, there are two priorities you must adress:
1. If you have not had any children, plan not to. It is people that directly drive global warming. If you already have, shame on you, and move to item 2 below.
2. Consider making the greatest green gesture of all; removing your self from the planet. Dr Jack Kevorkian appears to be running for office and may be able to help you in realizing your ultimate commitment. And you can have a tree planted over your ultimate resting place. Palo Alto or Berkeley may eventually engrave your name on a bio-degradable memorial plaque.

Posted by a, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 16, 2008 at 12:42 pm

Please remember, the U.S. refused to sign onto the Kyoto Protocol.

Posted by Just Say No To Kyoto!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2008 at 1:42 pm

> the U.S. refused to sign onto the Kyoto Protocol.

And for very good reasons, too!

Posted by Mike, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 16, 2008 at 2:08 pm


No need to wait. You can act on your person or household at a time. Don't hold back. Implement within your own control for your family and person.

Local action, global impact. Sorry I don't know the rhyming version of the chant that is shouted at rallys.

Posted by julie, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2008 at 3:05 pm

china did not implement Kyoto either.

nothing we do will make any difference with china opening a new polluting coal power station every week.

Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Your defeatist attitude is unwarranted. We actually have significant leverage on China, should we choose to use it. After all, they are using much of their energy to make products that they sell to us. Their leadership is also coming to realize that their current approach is unsustainable. We can make a difference if we have true leaders who are willing to look at the big picture and work with other countries to come up with mutual solutions.

Posted by Al, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2008 at 5:53 pm

> Local action, global impact.

That's right .. you can start by;

1) Selling your car and taking public transportation everywhere.
2) Don't buy anything that has been manufactured with fossil fuels.
3) Turn off the electricity into your home. Do your housework during
the day time. Go to bed at sundown--get up when the sun comes up.
4) Don't have any children.
5) Terminate your own life at about 45 years old--that's long enough
for most people to do a few things and then realize that they are
a burden on others.

Everyone can do all of these things without any government intervention--or Kyoto!

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 16, 2008 at 6:19 pm


My understanding--very limited--of current nuclear power is that it may be part of the future of energy. Much has changed since the days of the 1970's and before, so it has to be viewed from a vantage point that reflects how the technology would be deployed going forward, including waste treatment, but the upstream aspects as well.

One thing that nuclear had going against it in the past was the huge capital costs that went into building such power plants. I tend to be a skeptic of massive infrastructure undertakings in our present day, hence my misgivings about a high speed rail line linking Northern and Southern California. Since I need to become better educated about how present day nuclear would be designed and deployed, I don't know to what extent that aspect would influence how I view the nuclear option and the extent to which it can play a role.

It is much more heavily utilized in Europe, and there does not appear to be the sort of resistance to it as we have seen in the States, at least not so in recent years. I am sure there are some lessons we can learn from that experience which can help flesh out just what nuclear may do in the energy equation going forward.

Posted by my 5 cents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2008 at 7:17 pm

Re: "We actually have significant leverage on China, should we choose to use it. After all, they are using much of their energy to make products that they sell to us. Their leadership is also coming to realize that their current approach is unsustainable. We can make a difference if we have true leaders who are willing to look at the big picture and work with other countries to come up with mutual solutions."
As an earlier post described, we as consumers ARE the leaders. Don't expect politically and economically hamstrung government leaders to lead. Somebody needs to change our course, and each of us is a somebody. Cheap Chinese-made goods have inflated our purchasing of unnecessary, poorly-made items destined quickly for the landfill, taking their energy content (manufacture and transport from China and to the dump) with them. Has anyone attended a kid's birthday party lately? In addition to the usual volume of presents, peer group pressure also requires a "goodie bag" of junky Chinese-made trinkets to be dispersed to each attendee. Why, because it is so inexpensive as to be "free" in Peninsula economic terms. Each of us has the capacity to be role models for our kids and others, and to exert our collective economic power to change the world. Reducing consumption is monumentally better than recycling. As far as I can ferret out, aluminum is about the only recycling that would stand on its own terms without the massive subsidies we are required to pay to support the system, (think 5 cents on a 50 cent soda, plus removal costs, so definitely over 10% of the initial cost). Even as a green-leaner, I view most recycling as a "feel good" program, and maybe a marginally effective litter reduction and educational exercise, providing significant benefits to the waste industry. Plastic can only be recycled into a lower grade product once, so it is particularly undesirable, vs. the unlimited life cycle of aluminum. Anyone have any idea why Palo Alto changed from dual-stream to single-stream recycling at the same time that Huntington Beach took exactly the opposite course?

Posted by a, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 16, 2008 at 9:09 pm

China definitely has to clean up its act and I agree with you there, but China is not the end-all be-all for remedying the problem the world has with Global warming. It seems as if your only point is that China is the global warming problem without looking at what Americans have to do here in States.

Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2008 at 9:41 pm

To Greg and other starry-eyed nuclear proponents,
A recent full-cycle analysis of nuclear power has concluded that it is not efficient enough to solve our problems. If you consider the energy expended to extract and purify the fuel, and to build the power plants, the efficiency is too low. Here is a quote from the abstract:
"To both replace fossil-fuel-energy use and meet the future energy demands, nuclear energy production would have to increase by 10.5% per year from 2010 to 2050. This large growth rate creates a cannibalistic effect, where nuclear energy must be used to supply the energy for future nuclear power plants."
The report is in the International Journal of Nuclear Governance, found at:
Web Link

Sorry to burst your bubble, but there is no free lunch. Nuclear power may be one part of the solution, but it is not going to solve all of our problems.

Posted by a, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 17, 2008 at 7:39 am

The Chinook Salmon are gone from San Francisco Bay. Must be all those phosphates from the laundry detergents and dish wash. And all those plastic water bottles floating around in the ocean. Web Link

Posted by SorryCantHelpIt, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2008 at 11:17 am

Might b, a. Might b.

Posted by julie, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2008 at 11:48 am

A local store is taking constructive action re chinas pollution.

Trader Joes will no longer sell food produce from china because of the poisons that much of it contains.

More companies and families should follow this example.

china not only poisons out air but also our imported medicines, pet food, human food and childrens toys.

chinas public health record is a disaster, the next export will be SARS and Bird Flu

Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2008 at 1:06 pm


"Greg" is indeed an enthusiast of nuclear power, however, I have not seen him make claims like the quote from that obscure journal article that you provided. I think Greg is just trying to get people to think positively about nuclear power. Nuclear will never become the entire electrical energy package in this country. Therefore, your 10.5% annual growth rate is absurd on its face.

Nuclear should provide more than its current 19% of national electrcal power, and it should grow faster than growth in demand. It does not need to elimnate every last source of polluting energy sources (coal, NG, petroleum, etc.). It will get help from solar and mechanical efficiencies and conservation. With all that, we will still be consuming electrcity produced by coal and NG, just a smaller share.

I am glad to see Greg out there trying to promote nuclear. He is, essentially, correct. However, the main problems with nuclear are political and legal issues, not engineering solutions. In my view, it will take a major national energy crisis, in order to get nuclear back on track. If the carbon footprint issue is to be taken seriously, we are currently straight on course for a crisis, since all carbon-based fuels will need to be significantly reduced.

Posted by GMC, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2008 at 3:11 pm

I think the point above about the Weekly itself producing thousands of newspapers that probably go right in the recycling bin is a great one. It really illustrates how "talk is cheap." When you put things in the recycling bin, they don't just magically disappear. It takes trucks to move all that paper around, factories to process the paper and more trucks to put it back in use. I'd be curious to know if its really even a net benefit to the environment to recycle in the first place - especially when reducing use is an option.
So - will the Weekly start offering an "opt out" program for people who no longer want to receive a print version, and just like reading the news online?
Maybe they will! Or, maybe they won't because I'm sure if print readership drops, then print ad rates drop, and online revenues probably aren't great enough to make up the difference. I'm not saying that the Weekly is some evil greedy corporation, but they probably have bills to pay, and maybe it wouldn't be possible to not distribute the paper as widely and still survive under their current business model.
Telling everyone else to change the way they act is really easy, isn't it? Actually leading be example is a great deal more difficult.

Posted by hmm, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2008 at 4:49 pm

My main uses for the Weekly consist of using the paper for packing, for protecting carpet/furniture, etc. when doing tasks such as painting. Old newspapers are great for paper mache projects. In fact, I would not know what to use if it wasn't for all the free newspapers.

(Tongue in cheek)

Posted by Bill Johnson, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Mar 17, 2008 at 5:47 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

We've always enabled people to opt out of receiving the Weekly. It does neither us nor our advertisers any good to distribute a paper that is not wanted. An unwanted paper simply adds to our costs (and to the recycling system) without any benefits to anyone.

Posted by a, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 17, 2008 at 7:03 pm

I opted out.

Posted by a, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 17, 2008 at 8:55 pm

Oh, and the disappearance of the Chinook Salmon was not caused by China. This is a local disaster.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2008 at 2:45 pm

Resident, I agree with you that there are some easy things we can do locally to clean up the air, i.e., ban woodburning fireplaces, pizza ovens, outdoor wood stoves, etc.

There's no arguing the data about harmful particle pollution. Researchers say it can shorten lives, contribute to heart disease, lung cancer and asthma attacks and interfere with the growth and work of the lungs. Web Link

BTW, last time I sent an email to our green Councilwoman Kishimoto about this, she suggested I write a letter to the newspaper!

Also, we can protest the proposed spraying of Checkmate to "protect" us from the brown apple moth.

From Web Link
Moth spraying likely to harm more than help Richard Fagerlund

"Here are some of the ingredients in Checkmate LBAM-F: (E)-11-Tetradecen-1-yl acetate, (E,E)-9, 11-Tetradecadien-1-yl-acetate; cross linked polyurea polymer; butylated hydroxytoluene; polyvinyl alcohol; tricaprylyl methyl ammonium chloride; sodium phosphate; ammonium phosphate; 1,2-benzisothiozolin3-one; 2-hydroxyl-4-n-octyloxybenzophenone.

"Ammonium and sodium phosphates can irritate or burn the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. So can tricaprylyl methyl ammonium chloride, which is used to mothproof clothing and degrades into chemicals that are more environmentally toxic. Polyvinyl alcohol has caused cancerous tumors in lab animals. It's also labeled as an irritant - as is another Checkmate inert, butylated hydroxytoluene, which may be linked to a spectrum of symptoms including asthma, gene mutations and cancer. The little-studied 1,2-benzisothiozolin-3-one, a germicide, is considered highly toxic to green algae and marine invertebrates, according to a 2005 EPA re-registration document. And while there's not much data on UV-absorbing 2-hydroxy-4-n-octyloxybenzophenone, the family of chemicals to which it belongs is linked to the disruption of hormones, including estrogen, according to a 2003 report in the Journal of Health Science."

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2008 at 9:01 pm

None of the ingredients in Checkmate are nearly as hazardous as the pesticides that will be used if the moth infestation becomes widespread.

From the Monterey County Weekly
Web Link

E)-11-Tetradecen-1-yl Acetate and (E,E)-9,11 Tetradecadien-1-yl Acetate: These active ingredients are synthetic pheromones mimicking the female moth's mating scent. They are not likely to have a significant impact on the environment or humans, but officials acknowledge that they may have some effect on related "leafroller" moths.

Crosslinked polyurea polymer: According to Suterra, this compound makes up the shell of the microcapsule that contains the pheromone. Urea is a nitrogen source that dissolves in water. The overall effect on the marine environment is likely small compared to the large amount of nitrogen that enters the water with runoff.

Butylated Hydroxytoluene: Acts as a common preservative that keeps food from going rancid. "There is no reason to suspect an effect, even from breathing it in."

Polyvinyl Alcohol: An emulsifier that allows other compounds to mix together and may keep the microcapsules suspended in water. Harmless in isolation, but could potentially dissolve other compounds on impervious surfaces into stormwater. The Society of Plastics Industry considers it a plastic resin.

Tricaprylyl Methyl Ammonium Chloride: A low-foaming surfactant that keeps polymer beads from sticking together and allows other compounds to dissolve in water. May have some level of antimicrobial properties, which can favor the spread of immune bacteria. In large amounts, surfactants can change the surface tension of water—possibly affecting zooplankton, particularly in shallow waters or along shorelines. Even at modest levels, surfactants can significantly impact amphibians such as frogs.

Sodium Phosphate and Ammonium Phosphate: Buffers to control pH; common ingredients in fertilizer. Both are on the EPA list of inert ingredients of minimal concern. They are likely harmless to humans at low application levels. If stormwater runoff concentrates them to high levels, they could contribute to algal blooms potentially harmful to marine life.

1,2-benzisothiozolin-3-one: Urbansky is not familiar with this compound. According to Haz-Map, a federal database of occupational hazards, exposure is associated with asthma and skin irritation.

2-hydroxy-4-n-octyloxybenzophenone: According to, acts as an absorber of ultraviolet light. May add a very faint smell used as a tracer to enable monitoring. Health impacts are unknown.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Web Link
Experts question plan to spray to fight moths
Jane Kay, San Francisco Chronicle, 03/06/08
The light brown apple moth may not be the voracious crop threat portrayed by state and federal agricultural officials, according to some scientists who also warn that the aerial spraying of a pesticide over California's cities may turn out to be an...

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