Town Square

Have you changed your habits because of global warming?

Original post made by Lisa Van Dusen on Jun 21, 2006

This post was created in conjunction with the new Palo Alto Online news poll.

Have you changed your habits due to the threat of global warming? If so, how? If not, why not?

Global warming is a hot topic in today's society. Read the June 21, 2006, Palo Alto Weekly cover story, "Warming to the challenge": Web Link


Posted by Daniel Rand, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2006 at 3:50 pm

Daniel Rand is a registered user.

After seeing Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," I spent the day walking around town rather than driving. I noticed more items I could recycle -- such as yogurt containers -- that I used to simply throw away. And I got really, REALLY angry that President Bush has not signed the Kyoto Treaty. I am now making a far greater effort to recycle with more diligence, walk and bicycle rather than drive, and support the vote for a Democratic House and Senate in 2006 so we can get Bush out of office and get the treaty signed.

Posted by Ted Mulvaney, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 22, 2006 at 8:32 am

I'm all for saving money when it comes to utilities and gasoline, and I also think planting trees in one's yard is a great decision. I'm not entirely comfortable, however, with the City Council turning its attention to the "global warming" issue and away from things like balancing the budget, fixing the roads, and ensuring a safe city.

The PA Weekly article references the steps that other visionary cities like Portland are taking to prevent global warming (namely, investing more in light-rail lines). In this situation, one might reasonably wonder if global warming is not simply a rationalization used to support pre-existing city initiatives, whether or not they are good ideas. Indeed, global warming might well be just the thing to justify duplicating such ill-fitting and expensive policies elsewhere. (I have family in North Carolina, and Portland is held up as a shining example of what Charlotte should be. As such, Charlotte is spending a mind-boggling amount of money on building light-rail.)

I hope that Mr. Rand has enough anger stored up to share it with all of the other governments in Europe that will fail to comply with Kyoto (I believe it's estimated that something like 12 of 15 will fail to meet their targets). And it might bear repeating that when the Byrd-Hagel resolution - which required "that the US not be put at an economic disadvantage as a result of the Kyoto Protocol negotiations," the resolution passed, 95-0. (Here I'm quoting from a statement by US Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY).) Certainly, additional research has been completed since that vote was cast in 1998, but I don't think anyone would think the US would sign up for Kyoto, no matter who lives in the White House. Perhaps Mr. Rand is suggesting that the President should have powers to ratify treaties without the consent of Congress?

Posted by Jobst Brandt, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2006 at 3:02 pm

Global Warming (conservation is counterproductive)

That global warming is brought home to the population of a world that
more interested in the immediate future, is important, but no remedy
is being offered. Recycling paper, plastic, reducing use of
automobiles and conserving water is not the answer. Besides, power
consumption is growing as more people are pressed to live in areas
that require more heating and air conditioning.

Not long ago, here in Palo Alto (pop 25000), we had black-smoke
belching steam trains, cars with smoky exhausts, trash piles burning
in back yards, and fireplaces with smoldering fires, without having
smog, something that seemed to be peculiar to Los Angeles at the time.
It wasn't so much what we did that caused smog, but how many people
did it. The same goes for global warming.

Conserving energy and resources is not the answer because that only
serves to prolong the inevitable a short time. Conservation is
counterproductive by ameliorating and masking the true problem.
Unless we all live as ascetics (I doubt even that the would do) there
are too many people on earth all hoping to live as wastefully as we
are now.

We often hear of declining birth rates but never of declining
population growth. Home building in most of this nation and Europe is
in full swing at an increasing rate. These homes do not stand empty
nor are traffic jams on our roads made of empty cars. Each vehicle is
occupied, not the product of declining population.

Educating people to not reproduce at untenable rates goes against many
religions and even if accomplished is not enough. We must also change
our economic system that depends on growth. There is where the real
problem lies. Our Ponzi scheme economy, based on growth must change.
If we can reverse population growth by educating world citizens to
practice individual restraint the economics of it will be an equally
difficult task.

I don't believe just telling every citizen about where our planet is
going is enough. It will require concerted positive national and
world leadership. I am not hopeful.

Jobst Brandt

Posted by Ted Mulvaney, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 22, 2006 at 4:47 pm

It is good to see that someone still reads Ehrlich and Malthus.

But also see the following report by the UN on population growth:

Web Link

Of special relevance is the last paragraph:
"The more developed countries in Europe and North America, as well as Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, are growing by less than 1 percent annually. Population growth rates are negative in many European countries, including Russia (-0.6%), Estonia (-0.5%), Hungary (-0.4%), and Ukraine (-0.4%). If the growth rates in these countries continue to fall below zero, population size would slowly decline. As the chart "World population growth, 1750–2150" shows, population increase in more developed countries is already low and is expected to stabilize."

I'm not sure what Mr. Brandt means by "positive national and world leadership" being part of the "solution" to the population problem. Perhaps he is suggesting enforced population control?

Mr. Brandt's comments show, I think, the driving force behind at least some of the environmental movement: the goal isn't clean burning fuels or eco-friendly solutions, but rather to get rid of industry and economic growth. One of the problems with this, of course, is that countries (like those mentioned in the UN quotation above) that have achieved economic wealth and stability tend to have fewer children. Instead of trying to reverse the benefits of wealthy nations, why not help developing countries (where the vast majority of population growth is centered) grow economically as well?

Posted by Mac, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 23, 2006 at 5:20 pm

I don't mean this in any ironic way. I think its really wonderful to live around people who care about healing the world. I wouldn't want to live somewhere where people didn't care about the welfare of the planet.
However, I don't think that individual conservation efforts are likely to help global warming much, assuming the problem is entirely or partially human-made. I'm not saying we shouldn't continue those practices, since its reprehensible to continue to do things you know are harmful to the planet, but I wouldn't expect it to solve the problem. I'm also against any sort of statist solution. I think its not feasible to impose good behavior on people, and I don't think we should generally be doing so here in Palo Alto. If a person doesn't want florescent lights, they shouldn't be forced to have them.
I think we should start to look for solutions that assume people won't conserve. Perhaps we could find some way to counter the possible effects of greenhouse gases by pumping some "healing gas" into the air, and develop synthetic fuels that are cheap and don't pollute. I realize this probably sounds crazy, but I think that trying to change the behaviors of people in the US is difficult, and changing the behaviors of other countries is even more unrealistic. I've heard that China pollutes a lot, and that the air quality in the interior cities is absolutlely awful - but how likely are they to change?
Popultion in certain areas of the world is out of control, which occurs because of natural human desires which we all know are very difficult to supress. Additionally, religious beliefs which I personally respect and refuse to attack play a role in making artificial population controls ineffective.
Ultimately, I personally try to do some little things to help the environment, but I just assume they don't matter much. I haven't seen Gore's movie yet. Maybe it will change the way I act, but I doubt it.

Posted by Walter E. Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 24, 2006 at 9:40 pm

Ah, yes. Do read Ehrlich and Malthus, but note that both have been close to 100% wrong in their predictions. If you really want to do good, work to give every family on earth 1500 watts to energize an electric wok so they don't need to strip the forests for firewood, an electric teakettle to boil water for disinfection and a tv set for education - and property rights to encourage independence.