Archive for the 'Environment' Category

Dinosaur flatulence

Friday, February 9th, 2007

Dana Rohrabacher, Republican member of the United States House of Representatives representing California’s 46th congressional district, in his rebuttal to the testimony of Susan Solomon, co-chairwoman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and three of her colleagues and co-authors before the House Science & Technology Committee in today’s Hearing on the State of Climate Change, explaining the findings of their recently issued Climate Change report (IPCC Fourth Assessment Report).

Sure, pre-historic changes in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere may have had natural causes, so why not this time? Except, wait, dinosaurs aren’t around anymore…

Rohrabacher kept bringing up the question of what percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is regularly caused by humans (he says 10 percent). Well, as far as I know that’s not the point. The point is that the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased about 40 percent over the last century and is now higher than it ever has been over the last 600,000 years. Oh, and according to an overwhelming majority of scientists that change is largely due to emissions caused by — you guessed it — us.

So, I want to see his list of “hundreds of scientists who honestly disagree” with the findings of the IPCC (not that global warming isn’t happening, but whether or not it’s caused by humans).

Interesting to see, though, how many of of the Republicans on the committee seemed to overall support the findings of the panel.

Global warming: The 2010 Imperative

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

Join The 2010 Imperative: Global Emergency Teach-In

To successfully impact global warming and world resource depletion, it is imperative that ecological literacy become a central tenet of design education. Yet today, the interdependent relationship between ecology and design is virtually absent in many professional curricula. To meet the immediate and future challenges facing our professions, a major transformation of the academic design community must begin today. To accomplish this, The 2010 Imperative calls upon this community to adopt the following:

Beginning in 2007, add to all design studio problems that:
“the design engage the environment in a way that dramatically reduces or eliminates the need for fossil fuel.”

By 2010, achieve complete ecological literacy in design education, including:

  • design / studio
  • history / theory
  • materials / technology
  • structures / construction
  • professional practice / ethics

By 2010, achieve a carbon-neutral design school campus by:

  • implementing sustainable design strategies
  • generating on-site renewable power
  • purchasing green renewable energy and/or certified renewable energy credits (REC’s, Green Tags), 20% maximum.

Global warming: How many excuses are there to do nothing?

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

Two overall disappointing articles on global warming today.

Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post op-ed: Global Warming and Hot Air

Anyone who honestly examines global energy trends must reach these harsh conclusions. In 2004, world emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2, the main greenhouse gas) totaled 26 billion metric tons. Under plausible economic and population assumptions, CO2emissions will grow to 40 billion tons by 2030, projects the International Energy Agency. About three-quarters of the increase is forecast to come from developing countries, two-fifths from China alone. The IEA expects China to pass the United States as the largest source of carbon dioxide by 2009.

Poor countries won’t sacrifice economic growth — lowering poverty, fostering political stability — to placate the rich world’s global warming fears. Why should they? On a per-person basis, their carbon dioxide emissions are only about one-fifth the level of rich countries. In Africa, less than 40 percent of the population even has electricity.

Nor will existing technologies, aggressively deployed, rescue us. The IEA studied an “alternative scenario” that simulated the effect of 1,400 policies to reduce fossil fuel use. Fuel economy for new U.S. vehicles was assumed to increase 30 percent by 2030; the global share of energy from “renewables” (solar, wind, hydropower, biomass) would quadruple, to 8 percent. The result: by 2030, annual carbon dioxide emissions would rise 31 percent instead of 55 percent. The concentration levels of emissions in the atmosphere (which presumably cause warming) would rise.

Russell Roberts, Cafe Hayek: The political economy of global warming

The final reason we’re not going to do anything about global warming is because the Chinese aren’t going to do anything about global warming. If the Chinese don’t do anything, our incentive is very small. We will have to take a big hit in standard of living to make up for the surge in the Chinese pollution that’s coming. And I don’t think the Chinese are going to do anything to reduce their march toward modernity.

A final thought: the experts on global warming bear little cost for making overly pessimistic predictions about the world in 2100. So they have an incentive to make overly pessimistic predictions.

True, their reputations will be harmed. But right now they are all in the same boat. You don’t look foolish predicting that Florida is going to disappear if almost everyone else with glowing credentials makes the same argument. So I’m a little skeptical of their pessimism given that the costs of pessimism is low and benefits in the form of being on the good side of the funding angels is high. But they could be right. Maybe the earth is headed toward a fiery end. But if I’m right about the politics, then we’ll get to find out if the experts are right to be pessimistic. We’ll find out, not because we’ll all be alive in 2100, though many of us could be, but because we’re going to get a lot more data in the next decade or two to see if the current pessimism is justified. So we’ll talk again in 2020 and see whether the scientific consensus is as dire or direr than it is now.

I wonder. Is that really all we got? Specifically, is that all America got? The same America that put the first man on the moon? The same America that — and I still believe this — could achieve practically anything as long as they jumped in with both feet? The America that believes everything is possible, with its trackrecord of overcoming even the biggest challenges — political, scientific, and economic?

Instead what I hear is excuses, excuses, excuses.

And that is disappointing.