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A New Shade of Green

By Sherry Listgarten

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About this blog: Climate change, despite its outsized impact on the planet, is still an abstract concept to many of us. That needs to change. My hope is that readers of this blog will develop a better understanding of how our climate is evolving a...  (More)

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If you do nothing else, do These Three Things

Uploaded: Apr 21, 2019
The bad news: The Earth is sick, and getting sicker. The good news: We know how to make it better, and we can all help!

Earth Day is this Monday (April 22), so I thought it would be helpful to list the top three things we can all do to lower emissions and cool the planet. First, though, here are a few visuals showing some of the impact the extra greenhouse gases are having on our planet.

Global temperatures are increasing rapidly:


2018 surface temperatures, relative to the 1951-1980 average. From https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature

Arctic sea ice is shrinking rapidly:


Arctic sea ice at its minimum phase, in 1979 and in 2018. From https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/arctic-sea-ice

Coastal flooding is worsening rapidly:


Frequency of coastal flooding, comparing 2010-2015 (blue) with 1950-1959 (orange). From https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/climate-change-indicators-coastal-flooding

I find the Global Summary published each month as part of NOAA’s “State of the Climate” to be very informative. There are plenty more charts showing the progression of climate change at NOAA’s climate.gov dashboard and at the EPA’s climate indicators page.

Moving on to the good news: There is a lot that you can do. To keep it really simple, if you do nothing else, the top three things you should do are:

1. Drive a gas-powered vehicle less. Gas-powered vehicles are by far the biggest source of emissions on the peninsula. What alternatives will work for you?
- Buy, lease, or borrow an EV or PHEV (plug-in hybrid). They are fun to drive, low maintenance, can “fill up” at home while you sleep, and cost just one-third as much to “fill up” as gas. There is a reasonable used EV market now. For many lifestyles, this is the best fit.
- I know you’ve heard this before, but walk, bike or <insert your favorite alternative transportation mode here> when you can. Try out something new, like an e-bike or e-scooter. The rainy season is over, it’s nice to be outside…
- Carpool! Save time in traffic, lower emissions, and make friends all at the same time :)
- Consider transit. This is not a given, since transit here is not great. But when it does work, it’s easy and convenient. It makes most sense for a trip you do at least weekly. CityMapper, Transit, and Google Maps are apps that can show you the main transit options. I don’t think they have local options like the Marguerite and Palo Alto Shuttle, though.

2. Drive a gas-powered vehicle less. Seriously, this is so important that it deserves the top two spots on a three-spot list. I know it’s not easy, but if you nail this one, you get a pass on everything else for the rest of the year, it is that big. If you already use transit or bike, invite a friend or co-worker along, show them the ropes. And if you already drive an EV:
- Avoid charging it between 4pm - 9pm. Electricity is cleaner at other times.
- If you live in San Mateo County, sign up for ECO100, your 100% renewable electricity.
- Offer friends, neighbors, and colleagues a ride in your EV. Or just talk about why you are happy with it. Which brings me to...

3. Speak up. Voting is all-important. And protests can be helpful. But just as important is being willing and able to talk (and listen) on an everyday basis with friends, neighbors, and colleagues about climate change and things you are doing to help out. Advocate for changes in your community as well:
- Ask your city for better transit and more EV chargers. What do you need?
- Ask your workplace to install EV chargers -- fill up for free!
- Ask your workplace to limit air travel, and buy offsets when flights are necessary.
- Ask your favorite restaurants to provide more meatless options, or try an Impossible burger.
- Ask shops and vendors to focus on repairable items with limited packaging.
- And so on. Just speak up!

That’s pretty much it: reduce your gas-powered driving, try again to reduce your gas-powered driving, and speak up -- engage your community in conversation and action around climate change. That would be huge progress.

But this is an area that likes its extra credit. You can find more emission-reducing ideas (and an opportunity for a group challenge) for Palo Alto, Los Altos (and Hills), Menlo Park, and San Mateo County residents. (Mountain View is coming soon.) My top four options for extra credit are listed below. Apologies if this sounds preachy -- I don’t mean it that way. I am not very good at most of these, but I know they are big-emission items, so I’m paying attention and getting better. Don’t worry about perfection. Try something for a while, see if it sticks. Then add something else. Lather, rinse, repeat. At least, that’s my approach.

a) Eat a cow-lite diet and waste less food. Eat less beef (and lamb). Commit to your fruits and vegetables -- eat what you buy. And for extra extra credit, go easy on dairy (especially cheese). Fellow blogger Laura Stec published a corn croquette recipe a while back that looks worth a try when summer comes around.

b) Reduce, repair, reuse. Aka “buy less stuff”. Reduce your consumption emissions while also limiting waste and saving money. This is getting easier each year as companies focus more on sustainability.

c) Fly less. A good start might be to halve your overseas air travel and/or your transcontinental air travel. Any chance of replacing a local flight with a bus? When you do fly, buy certified offsets to cover your emissions. I use TerraPass, but there are a number of options.

d) Limit gas-powered home heat. Make sure you have and use a thermostat in cool weather. When your water heater dies (or better, before it dies, thanks Tom!), replace it with a heat pump water heater. For extra extra credit, install a heat pump for your home heating.

Finally, don’t forget to spend time outside! Enjoy this amazing place we live in with a walk or bike or beach visit or creek wade or gardening task or game of frisbee or ... and truly celebrate Earth Day!

Two Worthwhile Earth Day Activities

- In Menlo Park: Monday, April 22, 12:30pm: Celebrate the city’s new Climate and Sustainability Resolution in front of City Hall. Event information is here.

- In Palo Alto: Sunday, April 28, 2pm: Join Gunn and Paly high schoolers and local organization Community Climate Solutions to learn about practical, effective, and cost-saving actions you can take. Mitchell Park Library. Event information is here.

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Comments

 +   10 people like this
Posted by Tom, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Apr 21, 2019 at 10:14 am

Related to making items last longer... One fun free item repair opportunity is coming up at the volunteer-run Repair Cafe Palo Alto on Sunday 4/28 from 11-3 at the MOAH ( 351 Homer Ave.). Web Link

But there are fossil fuel using items you shouldn't make last longer. e.g. Don't wait until your gas water heater dies to replace it with a new clean powered heat pump. At that point the plumber has you over the barrel and will sell you whatever they have on the truck. (My friend got gouged that way on a crappy gas water heater.) Instead of making yourself vulnerable by trying to milk that last year out of your existing dirty water heater and getting gouged for a crappy new gas one, just replace it in an orderly way this year so you have time to step up to a clean heat pump water heater. Similarly, if either your furnace or your air conditioner are getting old, you can replace them both with the a new efficient heat pump that does both jobs cleanly.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by I'm all in., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Apr 21, 2019 at 10:16 am

I'm all in. is a registered user.

Great list. If we work together, we can make a difference! Our children and grandchildren are counting on us.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 21, 2019 at 11:30 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Tom, thanks, you are right, you don't want to wait until your water heater dies before replacing it, since it can take some time to install the heat pump water heater. Thanks for the comment, and I added a note in the blog post.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by C Cedr, a resident of Downtown North,
on Apr 21, 2019 at 2:42 pm

Do it for your children and their children.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by 8 Billion Humans and Growing, a resident of another community,
on Apr 22, 2019 at 11:08 am

And, the elephant in the room that no one talks about:

4. Don't reproduce yourself.

Global human overpopulation is the main cause of most problems around the world.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Parker Leahy, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Apr 22, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Parker Leahy is a registered user.

"Global human overpopulation is the main cause of most problems around the world."

Agreed. Fewer people = less environmental issues.

"4. Don't reproduce yourself."

Agreed. Having children is purely to perpetuate a false sense of eternity.

Once you're dead & after 3+ generations have passed, no one cares.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Rick, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 22, 2019 at 12:05 pm

@8 Billion Humans and Growing

You have hit the nail on the head. Doesn't matter how much you drive if you are also going to have kids. POVs are a big contributor to greenhouse gasses, but so is agriculture and shipping that are primarily driven by the number of people. Private cars are already being supplanted by electric, hydrogen, etc. The emphases in cars is short-term and feel good.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Sustainable, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Apr 22, 2019 at 12:44 pm

Fascinating. Three zero growth posts, all in a row. Popular!


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by eileen , a resident of another community,
on Apr 22, 2019 at 7:39 pm

Now that I have a used EV that only gets about 80 miles on a charge, I am much more aware of how much I drive. I try to ration how often I plug it in to keep my electric bill down. The same awareness occurred when I decided to pay for gas in cash. The side benefit of the latter was less points to use on flights, thus less flights.

As for not reproducing ourselves it's too late for me, but I find that idea a bit "in your face."


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 23, 2019 at 10:24 am

Eating less beef (and other red meat) turns out to have a bigger environmental benefit than most people realize in several dimensions (discussed at length previously).


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 23, 2019 at 10:48 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Thanks for the comments about population. That is indeed a (big) factor, but this list was customized to this area, where it is not so urgent. Our birth rate is dropping, and is already below replacement level. See this table, for example. The same is true for the United States, where it's the lowest it's been in 30 years. See this writeup, for example. So, absolutely, it's something we need to pay attention to. But imo it's not our biggest problem right now, in this area. As @eileen says, it is a sensitive issue, so more often addressed in terms of women's education and opportunity.

@Anon, yes, cows have a surprisingly large impact on our emissions, particularly when you take into account the impact of methane over a 20-year timeframe. (It is more than 80x more powerful than carbon dioxide over that period.) This post has some information on the impact of cattle. Avoiding beef (and also lamb, as sheep are also grazing ruminants) makes an outsized impact, and especially in the US where we eat more beef than almost any other country. A report I saw said we should get down to no more than 1/4 pound per week per person. Currently we eat more like 1.5 pounds per week per person, on average.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by sequoiadean, a resident of Los Altos,
on Apr 23, 2019 at 10:49 am

sequoiadean is a registered user.

Another suggestion - eliminate the use of gas-powered lawn equipment, especially leaf blowers, which are already prohibited in Palo Alto, Los Altos, and other neighboring towns. These are becoming a huge contributing factor to increased emissions, and have many other harmful effects on our gardens, our gardeners, and ourselves.

Don't blow it - leave the leaves!!


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Sustainable, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Apr 23, 2019 at 11:09 am

Population!
Cows! (Devin, is that you?)
Lawn Mowers!

"These are becoming a huge contributing factor..." Can you document how large a factor garden equipment is? I just went through rush-hour traffic on 101, and look forward to that study that shows that Climate Change is my gardeners fault for not using an electric leafblower, as opposed to the gridlocked tailpipes I just experienced.

:-/////

The Deniers can't deny anymore, even they get how embarrassing it was/is; so they deflect to all the lesser causes or blame population.

It's fossil fuels, folks. Use less extracted fuel, make the move to renewables and while implementing, we can address the lesser issues. Like leafblowers (which I also detest: noise, particulate matter, destroying topsoil, etc..)


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Apr 23, 2019 at 12:56 pm

The phrase "spending your children's inheritance" comes to mind.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by We Are All Gas Bags, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 23, 2019 at 1:10 pm

> cows have a surprisingly large impact on our emissions, particularly when you take into account the impact of methane over a 20-year timeframe. (It is more than 80x more powerful than carbon dioxide over that period.)


From the Selby thread...

> Farting cows will destroy Mother Earth in 12 years!!!

What about farting humans? All 17.6 billion of them?


Meanwhile humans continue digesting:

beans, green leafy vegetables, such as cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and asparagus. ...

soft drinks, fruit juice, and other fruits, as well as onions, pears, and artichokes. ...

dairy products as dairy foods and drinks contain lactose


Yeah...blame the cows


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Sustainable, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Apr 23, 2019 at 1:21 pm

Sorry, it isn't cow 'farts', it's their digestion, mostly released while chewing.

"Many other mammals, such as cows, dogs, and sheep also burp. In the case of ruminants, much of the gas (wind) expelled is produced as a byproduct of the animal's digestive process. ... 95% of this gas (wind) is emitted through burping."

Humans and methane? Not so much.

"Hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane are all produced in the gut and contribute 74% of the volume of flatus in normal subjects. Methane and hydrogen are flammable, and so flatus containing adequate amounts of these can be ignited. Not all humans produce flatus that contains methane."

Just ask @DevinCow. ;) Web Link

But the bulk of Climate Change is from the extraction of fossil fuels.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Rick, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 12:54 am

Virtue Signaling.

All this talk of driving less and capturing cow farts in bags distracts attention from the massive government intervention we will need to dig ourselves out of this hole. Reducing population is probably the only thing you can do individually to address the problems we face. Not to say that consuming less and living mindfully of the environment is a bad thing, but thinking it addresses the issue of global catastrophe is pissing in the wind. Articles like this may make upscale communities feel better about themselves while shopping at Whole Foods, but it is the whole concept of Whole Foods that illustrates the problem.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 8:38 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Rick: Policies to address climate change are critical, as you point out. Everything from vehicle emissions limits to renewable standards to building codes to tax codes to ... What would you suggest people can do to ensure the right policies are passed?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 9:06 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@musical: "spending your children's inheritance". I'm not so sure. "inheritance" sounds like something optional. Our home (the planet) is not. And it's not just your children. It is all the inhabitants of the planet. It can be hard to wrap your head around the magnitude of this problem we have created. Maybe there is no nice pithy saying....


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 9:41 am

Rick-- massive government intervention -to do what-? We need to understand the problem before determining what to do.

In the past, you could call the development of the current beef industry a -massive government intervention-. Now, we know that beef production increases GHG emissions in a variety of ways, both directly Web Link and indirectly through fertilizer+water=>feed production as well. Poultry is a much more GHG/energy/water efficient way of producing animal protein, if you look at it that way.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Sustainable, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 10:01 am

"massive government intervention -to do what-?"

Renewables on a massive scale. For example, China owns the solar panel market, through 'massive government intervention.' We need America to take a 'moonshot' on renewables and sustainability, or life changes in an absurd number of ways.

Just ask the Pentagon and the DOD. They know we're in deep doo-doo if we don't curtail the worst effects of Climate Change.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Rick, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 11:55 am

@Sherry Listgarten

Many good suggestions in this thread so far. Massive shift to renewables, making climate-denier politicians unelectable, Better resource management. Didn't that natural gas blowout in Southern California release enough greenhouse gasses to equal a -year- of driving for every vehicle in California? I believe there is some debate about the methane hydrates frozen in the polar regions being released through global warming -but- if that is a possibility we need to do everything possible to keep it from happening. Another aspect of overpopulation is the increased threat of global pandemic. Any serious attempt to curtail climate change is going to go way beyond driving less and is going to require that we give up much of our First World expectations. Good luck with that.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Sustainable, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 1:00 pm

> going to require that we give up much of our First World expectations

What study made that assessment?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Rick -- Thanks for your comments. There are indeed a lot of potentially effective policies to address climate. The key is making them happen.

Given your assessment that driving a gas-powered car less is "virtue signalling", I'm wondering if you see any role for individuals in making those policies a reality. What do you suggest, besides voting? Or are you more of a fatalist?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Rick, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 2:32 pm

@Sherry Listgarten

I vote in every election. I've made every improvement to the house, other than solar, to reduce my energy footprint. I typically don't mention it because the global impact is minimal and I don't want to engage in virtue signaling. I also don't have children, though I admit that was a personal choice and not a conscious effort to save the world though it is certainly a major carbon offset. Perhaps as a result of that I am more of a fatalist since I don't feel a need to save the children of others by tilting at windmills. I just read an article (NB I haven't fact checked it) that claimed that driving a Tesla had the same lifetime carbon footprint as driving a diesel car once the total manufacturing cost was taken into account - all those batteries. . .

So, no, I don't have an answer but if we come to believe that driving less absolves us of making more difficult choices it is just more of the same.

As I said earlier, consuming mindfully is good, it is just not gong to save the planet which is where I came back to @Sustainable to note that most First World activities are purely wasteful and we can't continue to consume way more resources than our less privileged planetary inhabitants.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sustainable, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 2:51 pm

Rick: "Any serious attempt to curtail climate change is going to go way beyond driving less and is going to require that we give up much of our First World expectations."


Perhaps you missed the question the first time: What study made that assessment?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Rick, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 3:04 pm

Rick: "Any serious attempt to curtail climate change is going to go way beyond driving less and is going to require that we give up much of our First World expectations."


@Sustainable "Perhaps you missed the question the first time: What study made that assessment"?

Forgive me, but are you a climate denier? I just want to know why you want me to provide studies that state the obvious. The US has 5% of the worlds population and consumes 25% of the worlds energy. Our population is growing. We are at or near peak oil. What magic technology will allow us to continue to burn resources at the rate we do without consequences? If you are a denier, I don't want to waste my time here. If you are not, then I challenge you to state why you think we -can- maintain this level of consumption?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Sustainable, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 3:09 pm

I believe I responded to all that 5 hours ago.

Thank you - I was just curious about your statement, as it came across as a fact. Instead, it was an opinion/speculation.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Rick, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 3:27 pm

@Sustainable, sorry it is a fact. I'm just not going to do your homework for you. Been around this Internet block too many times to fall for that.

Population growing.
25% of the worlds energy
At or near peak oil.
No magic technology in the offing.

Your wish for a "moon shot" is just that, a wish. If you think the renewables fairy is going to allow us to consume at the rate we do without slowing down you are just engaging in magical thinking. It's not just energy, it's rare earths, minerals, everything else we are stripping out of the ground.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 4:14 pm

"I just read an article (NB I haven't fact checked it) that claimed that driving a Tesla had the same lifetime carbon footprint as driving a diesel car once the total manufacturing cost was taken into account - all those batteries."

Wow! Can you provide a link to the article?


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Sustainable, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 4:55 pm

"25% of the worlds energy
At or near peak oil.
No magic technology in the offing."

It isn't about energy consumed, it's about clean energy from renewables.

Peak oil? Haven't we been discussing peak oil for decades? And guess what - technology kept that peak oil from being achieved. Some might even have called it back in the day: "magic technology".

Yes, I'm hopeful for a moonshot (see also: magic technology) where we spend ~2% of GDP on a green economy, stimulating the economy by adding jobs and other benefits. etc..

And cutting carbon.



NASA spending for the 'moonshot':
Year - NASA as % of US spending
1958 0.1
1959 0.2
1960 0.5
1961 0.9
1962 1.18
1963 2.29
1964 3.52
1965 4.31
1966 4.41
1967 3.45
1968 2.65
1969 2.31


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sustainable, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 4:55 pm

"25% of the worlds energy
At or near peak oil.
No magic technology in the offing."

It isn't about energy consumed, it's about clean energy from renewables.

Peak oil? Haven't we been discussing peak oil for decades? And guess what - technology kept that peak oil from being achieved. Some might even have called it back in the day: "magic technology".

Yes, I'm hopeful for a moonshot (see also: magic technology) where we spend ~2% of GDP on a green economy, stimulating the economy by adding jobs and other benefits. etc..

And cutting carbon.



NASA spending for the 'moonshot':
Year - NASA as % of US spending
1958 0.1
1959 0.2
1960 0.5
1961 0.9
1962 1.18
1963 2.29
1964 3.52
1965 4.31
1966 4.41
1967 3.45
1968 2.65
1969 2.31


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Rick, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 5:03 pm

@Curmudgeon:

Bloomberg says yes: Web Link

This article is more nuanced: Web Link

@Sustainable: I hope you are right.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 5:58 pm

Rick, I believe that Bloomberg article is highly misleading. I would agree that buying and electric car manufactured in China or Germany, and then driven there, is probably pointless. However, in most cases, electric cars are still at least slightly better, and usually substantially so: Web Link

An electric car manufactured in the US and driven in the US is usually a win. See above. And this: Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 6:04 pm

Sorry the second link above, at the UCS website, is not the link I intended; it is an older link. The link I intended is here: Web Link Also, the above, and other links on electric vehicles are here: Web Link


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Neal, a resident of Community Center,
on Apr 24, 2019 at 10:14 pm

Neal is a registered user.

@Sherry,
I've said this before and I think it's worth repeating because so many people casually dismiss the elephant in the room....Pollution begins at conception. People have become a pox on the planet. The population bomb is at the heart of global warning. Treat the etiology not just the symptoms. The population growth rate may have slowed in the USA and globally, but nonetheless, the population is still growing here and abroad. The planet doesn't care about growth rates. It reacts to the total concentration of GHGs. The planet doesn't care if all the GHGs are produced by one person or 8 billion. Because we all pollute, it stands to reason if you reduce the number of GHG producers you'll have less GHGs. But, apparently, population growth is good for the economy and as a nation we're willing to sacrifice our "Pale Blue Dot" for short term economic prosperity.

In 2018 the consumption of fossils fuels in the United States increased over year 2017 along with an increase in population. A lot of our population increase is from immigration. Many of these immigrants came from countries where their carbon footprint was small. When they arrive here, they adopt the American lifestyle with gas guzzling cars, big homes, rampant consumerism and the list goes on. Our immigration policies are indeed an environmental issue.







 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Rick, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 25, 2019 at 9:03 am

@Anon,

I have nothing against electric cars. I was an early adopter of a first gen Prius and a Hybrid Ford Escape. A totally electric car won't work for me because of the range and charging rate issues, but for local use they are awesome. Even though I don't personally have an electric vehicle I'm having a 100A sub-panel dropped in the garage next week to eventually provide power to guests with electric cars.

My Tesla carbon footprint comment was just to observe that things are not always what they seem and taking actions at face value often ignore deeper and perhaps paradoxical issues.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sustainable, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Apr 25, 2019 at 10:04 am

"When they arrive here, they adopt the American lifestyle with gas guzzling cars, big homes, rampant consumerism and the list goes on."

Not to go far afield, but it oddly sounds like immigrants provide an economic boom. Huh. Thought I was told that they're a drag and the cause of all our problems, not a boom.

Funny that.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 25, 2019 at 10:59 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Really interesting discussion about consumption, and the extent to which we can grow and consume at the current pace while addressing climate change, and how much of a role technology can/will play in reducing the amount of change we need to make. I read "This Changes Everything" by Naomi Klein, and she has some choice words about technology and "magical thinking". On the other hand, technologists would look at our progress on climate to date, and more generally our ability to work together across the globe, and say it is obvious that, despite the shortcomings and risks, we must push hard on these other options. Definitely worthy of a whole post...

I've also seen a number of comments and questions around what it means to have done your part, which is another interesting topic.

@Anon, thanks for addressing the EV myth. Those are good resources, and show why clean electricity is so important to our efforts to reduce emissions. I will add one thing I read a while back, which is that larger/heavier cars are still less efficient than smaller cars. So a really small gas-powered car will, in some places, generate fewer emissions over its lifecycle than a large EV (e.g. Tesla S).

@Neal, rather than worry about the impact that people moving around has on climate change, I think you'd be better off worrying about the impact that climate change has and will have on people moving around.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Sustainable, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:09 am

"rather than worry about the impact that people moving around has on climate change, ... worry about the impact that climate change has and will have on people moving around"

Well constructed.

Suggest reading about Climate Change and what the Pentagon and DOD have to say about people moving around - hundreds of millions of climate refugees around the world (rising waters, agricultural shift, etc..) Our safety will be compromised by the political instabilities in far-away lands. A wall won't stop any of that.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Novelera, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:31 am

Novelera is a registered user.

Wow, long thread. While I agree with not eating much, if any, beef, I don't see the logic in not eating it as an environmental good move. I don't eat it much because it's not good for my body. But, my not eating beef unless I'm invited somewhere where it's the entree, doesn't solve anything. The cows are still being raised and slaughtered and someone else will eat beef. It appears to me that 50 million people, or so, would have to stop eating beef for the farmers to give up having cows.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Shastri, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Apr 25, 2019 at 1:12 pm

To eat beef is akin to consuming one's ancestors.


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Posted by Polly Wanacracker, a resident of Downtown North,
on Apr 25, 2019 at 3:38 pm

"To eat beef is akin to consuming one's ancestors."

Not mine.


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Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 26, 2019 at 1:14 pm

Posted by Novelera, a resident of Midtown, on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:31 am

>> But, my not eating beef unless I'm invited somewhere where it's the entree, doesn't solve anything. The cows are still being raised and slaughtered and someone else will eat beef. It appears to me that 50 million people, or so, would have to stop eating beef for the farmers to give up having cows.

True of everything, isn't it? What difference does it make if I do or don't vote, pay taxes, obey the speed limit, or, in fact, -anything-?

But, in the aggregate, reducing beef consumption would have a significant positive environmental impact.

More generally

"Ipsa quidem pretium virtus sibi." -- "Virtue is indeed its own reward."

Various forms of this concept back to the (Roman) Stoics (at least). See, e.g., Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, Book V.


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Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 26, 2019 at 5:17 pm

>> Various forms of this concept back to the (Roman) Stoics (at least). See, e.g., Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

Is there an emoji for a stoic face? I just realized (I must have known this once but forgot) that the Meditations were actually written in Greek. (Apologies for following up my own post.)




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Posted by Mary, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Apr 27, 2019 at 10:52 am

I am quite surprised that the carbon cost of air travel is so seldom mentioned in this thread and that Sherry didn't emphasize it more in her post. For many of us in this rich town, air travel is the largest single contributor to carbon emissions. Many of us think nothing of jetting to Hawaii or the east coast for leisure trips or even long weekends. A yearly international trip - or several - to Europe or Asia is almost mandatory. There are numerous carbon calculators online into which one can plug his or her various carbon producing activities. I don't travel as much as many of my friends and my air travel carbon is almost three times what my driving emits. If you are fortunate enough to travel first or business class, your carbon footprint is four to ten times that of us in the back of the plane on the same flight.

Most of us kind of know this but prefer to keep our eyes closed to the harm we are doing by flying because, well, we just think it's an essential part of our lives. And so those who are the most climate-aware and profess to be the most concerned about it are often the biggest emitters of carbon polution. And most policy makers and climate activists are in this class.

So is it any wonder that climate policy recommendations always emphasize less driving and forcing people out of their SUVs and pickup trucks, taxing gasoline, forcing people to buy less effective more expensive dishwashers and closing coal mines....but never seem to get around to restricting air travel?

If I were a pickup driving coal miner in West Virginia, I might be easily convinced that the whole climate change issue was a scam designed to let the "better" classes exercise hegemonic control over "deplorables".

The fact is that we better hope that the consensus climate estimates are wrong because even the most aware among us really aren't willing to sacrifice our lifestyles to any meaningful degree to adress climate change. And that's not even getting to the much bigger issue of the billions of Chinese, Indians and other people in the developing world who understandingly aren't willing to sacrifice their chance to live a first world lifestyle to achieve the "goals" set by a bunch of seemingly hypocritical scolds from American and European environmental organizations.


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Posted by Sustainable, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Apr 27, 2019 at 12:45 pm

Wow - so many great big claims! I can't substantiate them, can you please share links?

> For many of us in this rich town, air travel is the largest single contributor to carbon emissions
Not per the calculators and average household footprint info on google. Please share.

> less effective dishwashers
Wow, I guess I got lucky, mine is awesome at cleaning

> The fact is that we better hope that the consensus climate estimates are wrong

An odd way to phrase it, unless one is listening to deniers. Using "hysterical" is a clue, certainly.




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Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 27, 2019 at 3:20 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Mary, thanks for the comment, and the question about air travel. You are right that for many people in this area, air emissions exceed driving emissions, particularly with the number of EVs in the area. But based on the local data I have seen (which isn’t perfect, but it’s all I’ve got), aggregate driving emissions in the Bay Area exceed air emissions by a good amount (e.g., a factor of 3 or more). Check out data for your own neighborhood in this interactive map, for example.

We do fly much more on average than most of the country (flying emissions are correlated with wealth). The rule of thumb that I use is if you fly at least half as many miles as you drive, then your flying may be exceeding your driving. (It depends on many factors, including your vehicle mileage, how often you drive alone, and what types of flights you take.) Either way, both are big sources of emissions.

Your point about policies tackling the big emission items is spot on. In my opinion, it would be terrific if we could establish a meaningful carbon tax, because it would naturally do that. In the meantime, the policies we do have around vehicle emissions, renewable power, building codes, agricultural emissions, and efficiency standards are driving the progress that we are making in California.

Finally, just yesterday I was on a teleconference with a climate scientist who in passing said that she and many of her colleagues are doing much less travel. I hope we can all find ways to do that and to encourage others to do that. She said she is so worried about what she is seeing that she sometimes cannot sleep at night. The climate consensus and projections are not wrong, and appear to be underestimating the extent and impact of our emissions, if anything. Starting with the next blog post (tomorrow), I will be including links to up-to-date climate impacts and metrics with each post, so you can check in and see what you think.


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Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Apr 27, 2019 at 7:25 pm

Total SFO passengers this year should break 30 million coming plus 30 million going.


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Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 28, 2019 at 8:24 pm

California has been near the bottom among US states in per capita carbon dioxide emissions: Web Link Not surprisingly, transportation is by far the largest sector in GHG emissions in California: Web Link

So, driving locally/commuting via electric car is better than a hybrid which is better than a conventional vehicle which is better than an old gas guzzler. We all know what we should do to reduce this sector locally. Long distance travel is more difficult. I would like to think that train travel will make a comeback, especially at regional distances, e.g., within California and up/down Pacific Coast.


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Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 29, 2019 at 10:27 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Anon -- Great comment. FWIW, I am a big fan of the potential of electric buses. I think they are flexible, use existing infrastructure, and can be made comfortable for long rides. And they are very efficient. They are slower than trains, but not by much. And in fact, given how infrequently the longer distance trains run, and their limited endpoints, the buses can end up being much faster end to end. And we can always dedicate a lane (or even add a lane in some places) if we find a need.

I think this page is interesting, but specifics vary (e.g., type of fuel and directness of route) for different situations.


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