Yves here. I know grand-sounding ideas like a Green New Deal are made with the best of intention, but reading this post confirms my view that our collective goose is cooked. A big push towards green energy 30 years ago could have made a big difference, but we need more radical, faster impact measures now. Emphasis on green energy diverts attention from the fact that individuals and businesses need to cut their energy use in a big way, now. The article does mention ideas for cutting some big energy uses, like beef and single use plastics but is hesitant about restrictions. I see no proposals for cutting air transportation. And don’t get me started on the misguided concern about hyperinflation.
By contrast, during the oil shock, people did way more in the way of energy conservation than I see now. Office buildings turned their summer temperatures to 77 degrees. The every-other-day gas system (and long lines at pumps) led to a lot more car pooling. Do we see anyone now sharing rides or trying to cut back on car use? Instead we have Uberization, which means more cars running around with one person in them.
The article also fails to mention issues NC readers often raise, first, that these green technologies often use scarce or nasty inputs, like rare earths, so they have high non-carbon environmental costs. Second, the greenhouse gas cost of creating green infrastructure is seldom factored into the equation. It takes lots of moving of stuff, which these days entails using fossil fuels.
Of course, one thing that would cut government energy expenditure meaningfully, a major downsizing of the US military, is guaranteed not to happen.
By Edward Robinson, a researcher and writer based in Brussels and focused on sustainable development and EU policy. He tweets at @ejcrobinson. Originally published at openDemocracy
As the IPCC publishes its new report on global warming of 1.5 degrees, we need a political and economic stock-take.
Nearly three years on from the Paris Agreement to hold global average temperatures to well under two degrees above pre-industrial levels it’s time for a political and economic stock-take. Is the massive mobilisation of human and financial resources needed to cap global warming finally underway, and can coordinated capitalism save us? A recent paper by a group of Finnish scientists written for the UN’s Global Sustainable Development Report calls this claim into question.
The publication of today’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report into Global Warming of 1.5ºC is unlikely to yield many surprises, but that doesn’t make its message any less urgent. After plateauing for three years, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels hit a new record in 2017, climbing by 1.4 per cent. 2017 also went down as the hottest year on record without an El Niño weather event.
Based on previous IPCC data, CarbonBriefestimates that there are under seven yearso f current emissions budgets left to have even a 50 per cent chanceof remaining below the 1.5-degree limit. That means that the world would blow its total GHG emissions allowance in less than seven additional years if net-emissions continue at today’s level. The global ‘Green New Deal’ was supposed to meet these challenges, so what happened?
Last year, worldwide clean energy investment rose by three per cent according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, taking cumulative investment since 2010 to $2.5 trillion But this masks a 26 per cent year-on-year fallin investment in Europe and a 20 per cent decline in India – leaving the heavy lifting to China, whose nearly 60 per cent growth in installation is impressive but may now be hampered by recent decisions in Beijing to reduce feed-in tariffs and limit subsidies for new solar generation. Renewable energy supplies face an uphill battle as energy efficiency efforts stall and global energy demand rises.
Figures on total green investment are hard to compile, but some of the most comprehensive come from the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI). The CPI found total investment peaking in 2015 at $437 billion, then falling to $388 billion in 2016, overwhelmingly driven by private sector investment in wind and solar energy (which partly explains the fall since generation costs from solar PV, for example, are falling at an average rate of 17% per year). But total green investment is still overshadowed by overall investment in fossil fuel projects ($800 billion in 2016) and the CPI acknowledge that – despite the positives – “climate finance remains far below estimates of what is needed.”
In terms of the flow of multilateral climate funds from developed to developing countries – the target for which was set in 2009 at $100 billion per year by 2020 – the principle vehicle (the Green Climate Fund) is under severe pressure at the moment. It has only committed around $3.5 billion to 74 projects in the last three years.
How much investment would be needed for a genuine Green New Deal? Estimates vary. In 2013, the World Economic Forumsuggested an annualinvestment need of around $5.7 trillion from 2010 to 2030 to keep global infrastructure in-line with a 2-degree climate target, with the ‘green’ portion needing to be around $700 billion per year.
Meanwhile, The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate calculated a higher annual investment requirement of around $6 trillion for the same period but with a much lower “green increment” of $270 billion for a 2-degree target. A 1.5-degree target would require three times as much, as a 2017 paper from the Global Climate Forum points out.
Whatever the exact figures, the fundamentals are concerning. Emissions are still rising, energy demand is still rising, green investment is stalling and fossil fuel investment and subsidies continue. Time is running out. So how are policymakers responding?
The effort to finalise the Paris Agreement “rulebook” before 2020 is being hampered by arguments about money. The European Union has announced an “Action Plan” for Sustainable Finance with a timetable to come up with a “taxonomy” for green bonds in the next couple of years. When the “High-Level Group on Sustainable Finance” issued its report in January2018, the European Commission appointed a “technical expert group” to work on a policy roadmap. It has suggested ringfencing around 25 per cent of its next long-term budget for climate action, but has not ruled-out using some of that budget for high-emissions infrastructure like gas pipelines (unhelpful when countering, for example, OPEC narratives of an oil boom in the future).
Meanwhile, Mark Carney and Michael Bloomberg’s Taskforce for Climate-Related Financial Disclosures(TCFD) is working off a five-year timetable towards achieving “broad understanding of the concentration of carbon-related assets in the financial system and the financial system’s exposure to climate-related risk. In a status reportpublished in September 2018, the TCFD noted that “Climate-related disclosures are still in early stages and further work is still needed for disclosures to contain more decision-useful climate-related information.”
One fears that global institutions will, rather like Balzac’s Frenhofer, produce a masterpiece just at the moment that emissions breach the 1.5-degree budget, setting off the feedback loops to destroy trillions of dollars’ worth of assets. Or perhaps the resistance will be too strong. A leaked memo attributed to BusinessEurope on how to respond to the EU’s plans for more ambitious emissions targets captures the moment completely:“[the response] should be rather positive, as long as it remains a political statement with no implications.”
So, can regulated markets save us? The evidence is mixed. States must do more to help boost and sustain investment (especially in less mature technologies than wind and solar PV), but technical groups and taxonomies won’t do this alone. Higher carbon prices will certainly help.
However, if we are going to deliver a global Green New Deal we need to consider even more radical policies like ‘Green Quantitative Easing’ (QE), combined with legally-binding timetables for fossil fuel phase-outs (the Europe Beyond Coalcampaign tracks phase-outs for coal power), and significant behaviour change.
We know that meat-rich diets (and the factory farming that supplies them), single-use plastics and single-occupancy vehicles are very carbon-intensive. So we should be moving to tax (or price) their carbon content more appropriately and fund better public transport and recycling and re-use infrastructure to enable people to avoid the worst-offending products. The question of meat-eating is obviously cultural and will require civil society pressure. A meat taxmay be too far, but we should not rule it out.
On Green QE, the main idea is that a central bank would create an amount of money for the purchase of ‘green bonds’ issued by organisations to finance investment that helps us achieve our climate targets. These could include sovereign green bonds issued by governments and bought in the secondary market. The aim of classic QE is to reduce long-term interest rates, and a programme of Green QE could also do this while creating real economic value by stimulating the issuance of green bonds and reducing risks for conventional investors (especially in large-scale projects).
The Bank of England has already created £435 billion for bond buying since 2009, while the European Central Bank has created nearly €2.5 trillion since 2014. Unfortunately, there is evidence that a lot of this bond buying has served high-carbon interests. Furthermore, as is well known, while classic QE may have had the desired effect of reducing long-term interest rates, the flip side has been inflated asset prices and, therefore, growing wealth inequality. A programme of Green QE would aim to channel money into non-financial growth sectors (rather than just property markets or stock markets), and so could create a more widely shared ‘wealth effect’ at the same time as tackling climate change.
A still more radical option would be ‘Green Overt Monetary Finance’ (OMF), whereby a central bank would buy zero-interest, perpetual government bonds in the primary market in order to fund direct government spending on low carbon projects. This is currently prohibited by the Treaty of Lisbon, although a number of financial experts like Adair Turnerhave championed it (albeit not for climate-related reasons).
The biggest risk of OMF is that it would spiral out of control, thus fuelling hyperinflation. But in a world of sluggish growth, output gaps and ultra-low interest rates, this concern seems very distant, and at this stage we need to be weighing the risks more accurately. As the IPCC is about to illustrate, spiralling global temperatures are a much more present danger than hyperinflation. It is time for more radicalism and a real Green New Deal.
I would share Yves deep pessimism over this. One huge problem is that any solution must be entirely holistic – far too often progress is made in one direction, with the benefits completely wiped out in related or opposing sectors. For example, here in Ireland very significant progress has been made in renewable energy – as I write this over 50% of electric power is coming from wind. Yet this (expensive) progress has been entirely unbalanced by the recent growth in the dairy sector, with its encouragement of high input (nitrogen enhanced) farming. Improvements in vehicle engine economy has been wiped out due to the wordwide popularity of SUV’s, and so on.
It has gone far beyond what can be achieved by individual effort. Only international agreements can produce the change at the speed needed. And this will only happen when real undeniable climate catastrophes are occuring worldwide. Even this years insane weather doesn’t seem to be enough to have shifted the political dial.
Just one point raised by the article – its obvious that a meat based diet is unsustainable worldwide, but I don’t think the solution is a meat tax. The most efficient solution environmentally would be a tax on animal feed – especially the use of grains. This would shift animal husbandry back to grass feeding, which is significantly less damaging, and would encourage more diverse arable farming.
Yes, meat taxes are a cultural preference, not a solution. Feed lots, mismanaged livestock are the problem. If we’re going to grow enough food to even get within shouting distance of industrial farming productivity, then we’ll need livestock and their manure as fertilizer.
The key issue is to recognize that renewable energy replacement is perhaps 20% of the story.
The biggest and best hope that can be implemented, starting now, is to bury far more CO2 while simultaneously filling a critical need–good food and fresh water cycling.
To do that, the misleading holes in Vegetarian narrative need to be corrected.
Until a couple of years ago the CO2 air levels spiked down yearly corresponding to the CO2 pulled out of the air by deciduous trees. We can restore that down spike and maintain a pull-down of CO2 it if we adopt a more systemic, innovative, yet also more environmentally adaptive food system.
The Vegetarian/Vegan narrative has many false assumptions and flaws as soon as they go past the obvious trophic level point that eating plants have about a 10x volume (not total nutrition) advantage over eating grazing vegetarians (i.e. cows). While this true, this is just a small part of the issue.
Vegetarians, in an understandable appeal to a moral purity (do no harm, don’t kill animals), are, like most single issue utopians, guilty of poor understanding of systems: such as ecosystems, nutrition and energy cycles. Many use emotional/moral arguments with poor scientific methods to advocate for changes that do more harm.
Ideological vegetarians lose scientific (and medical) credibility as they mix real prediction with moral prophesy. Their flawed analysis ignores total energy/biomass lifecycle benefits to a well-managed complex animal-plant relationship in farming. Modern farming/ranching can resemble the most efficient, stable and productive biomes known, the evolved animal (grazers)-plant grassland-savanna (grass and tree) ecosystem. This integrated animal/plant ecosystem is more than 10x as productive (biomass/energy (sunlight, diesel, etc.) as an annual monocropped farm.
Vegetarianism actually increases CO2 in the air as it relies heavily on grain consumption which is usually monocropped annuals (or bi-cropped with soy). These annual crops are massively mechanized, thus fossil fuel intensive, and contribute to high erosion and nutrient runoff on our best flat deep topsoil farmland.
Annual grains are not a viable option for huge swaths of rolling range lands. These are perfect for integrated animal/plant production farms. The grazing animals have co-evolved with grasses. Animals, if well-managed, fertilize the plants (cycling nitrogen, and other nutrients) and clear the aerial parts so the plants don’t develop inedible rotting “sour bunchgrass” while also deepening fertile topsoil. Soil improvment, as well as lessening pest burdens, never happen in Green Revolution externally applied fertilizer farming. Which, in any case, can only be used safely (without erosion) on a small fraction (flat) of arable farmland.
In the early 20th century, after the dust bowl, a massive tree planting project was taken on by the US New Deal government and trees were scheduled to be planted from Canada to Mexico. Although not fully realized (and not well maintained), like many other Depression era projects, often prototyped by Herbert Hoover, could be scaled up. FDR’s messy experiments in scaling up showed that some big projects are possible, some are beneficial, and a functioning big government can serve more than just a corporate plutocracy.
The US program inspired an even more ambitious reforestation program in the USSR. Both countries failed to maintain the programs over time. But, for a while, they changed the global environment and climate for the better.
What if we launched and sustained an even more massive re-forestation effort, focused on clear economic gains for farmers and clear ecological benefits?
Can the NC commentariat help figure out the economics of a rural rejuvenation to make not just feeding the world, but saving the climate and urban coastal cities, actually pay a living wage?
How can the flood up economy trickle down enough money and support to those who live on the land, to save all of us? If properly deployed, the food-scaping species, e.g., nut trees, might just pull our nuts out of our human created fire.
We must put massive amounts of CO2 into the ground, fast and naturally as part of an ecology-agriculture (agroecology) movement tied to local/regional food economics (v global neoliberal race-to-the-bottom lives for peasants). A locus of control and income dignity can make the program sustainable here in the US and also in the global south which has been a leader in developing and spreading this agricultural alternative (see Campesino a Campesino) even when suppressed by governments and fossil fuel dependent industries.
Feeding humans ideally also has the function of healing natural systems and feeding people (and nature). The Green Revolution, though for a time showing impressive food output gains, has over time met a number of unanticipated consequences that make it a net problem ecologically and economically. This is because farming, optimized only for machine replacement of labor, and not simultaneous enhancement of natural services and the economic lives of farmers, drives bad climate change. The Green Revolution uses too much fossil fuels, requires expensive too many external inputs, fertilizers and pesticides being only the most obvious.
Renewable energy can slow the throwing gas on the fire. We need to support it and eliminate subsidies to fossil fuels yesterday. But pulling down atmospheric CO2 fast, which will eventually reduce marine carbonic acid levels and help the oceans heal, is critical too. We can build-in this outcome into a different farming model.
Significant carbon taxes could prime the pump for good innovation and muzzle the bad. Already, growth of no-till and low-till farming has been an impressive win for the good in mainstream farming. Also, many feed-lot problems have been solved. Also good.
For range lands, Management Intensive Grazing (MIG) of dairy and meat animals has had impressive results. Each time the herd moves through the pastures to eat the tops off grasses (annual or perennial) this causes the woody rootlets to prune themselves. But, if a lot of leaf surface area remains (hence the MIG) those roots rapidly regrow along with the top leaves (fixing and storing yet more carbon in the ground where it can’t be burned). In some areas the grasses will pulse and prune 4-5 times, thus parking 4 to 5 times as much carbon into the soil, making it better at holding and cleaning fresh water and improving the hydrologic cycle as well.
Manure supplies nutrients, i.e., nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, and bacteria. Along with traditional legumes (nitrogen fixing plants) it turns out other plants have bacterial onboard that also fix nitrogen. Start-ups are now selling inoculations to apply these bacteria to the farm. As manure, legumes, and now possibly a many more grasses and forbs add accessible nitrogen, the standard fossil fuel intensive fertilizers become unnecessary.
Several growth pulses/pruning of different depth roots per year means that the amount of carbon stored can be 3-4 times that of old continuous grazing models. That means 3-4 times the amount of carbon sequestered AND rapid increase of high carbon topsoil, which in no/low till are not oxidized and thus keep the carbon in the soil long-term.
When these ranch models are integrated with diverse food growing systems, such as when mixed with 4D functionally stacked perennial nut, fruit tree/shrub agroforests (as opposed to the inherently less efficient annual food system dominant today) the animal-plant system uses far more solar power to produce much more biomass and natural services.
Takeaway: THIS SEQUESTERS LARGE AMOUNTS OF CARBON IN THE SOIL AS STABLE HUMUS, while eventually (as trees grow), producing more food than the “Green Revolution” (confusingly named as it is heavily fossil fuel dependent). This is a human assisted refinement on the ancient evolved plant/animal ecosystems.
While USDA programs encourage the agro-ecology approach, and agree with the science, far more bottom-up and top-down support can be done to ramp up adoption. The lesson that government can be a force for societal good was held by the first wave of Progressives in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was only instantiated once, during the New Deal. But the concept was proven, even if subsequent conservative economic thought ignores it. We have a proven road to a society and climate friendly agriculture. Can we please find leaders with gumption and scale it? Now would be best.
Its been said before . . . Gabe Brown is one of those 1-in-ten thousand farmers who are doing this now.
Mark Shephard may well be another. https://www.forestag.com/pages/mark-shepard
Silvo-pasture has been referred to as a way of doing this.
Eric Toensmeier has recently written a book about various people doing Carbon-Suckdown Farming.
If these approaches are as Carbon Capturing/ Soil Carbon Storing as they claim ( and as I hope), then their food output in particular deserves to be bought and paid for and eaten, to strengthen their bussiness presence against the day when other farmers and graziers might look to replicate what these people are doing. If Farmer Brown’s fast-moving tightly-bunched cattle herd really helps him raise his soil carbon the way he says it does, then buying his pasture-and-range-fed beef at $20.00 per pound ( which he says he charges AND GETS) is an eco-protective carbon-DEmitting act.
Suggestive evidence would suggest that if cattle on land are properly managed, they are better than “less damaging”. They can be “counter-damaging” in terms of causing the pasture-and-range under their hooves to suck down and sequester more net carbon than what the cattle on pasture-and-range themselves emit. But it depends on how they are deployed and managed. Or so I have read.
Gabe Brown claims to be making it work in North Dakota.
If it is working as claimed in North Dakota, could it be made to work in the milder climate of Ireland?
Exactly right Drumlin and others. On our farm we are designing distributed solar light/thermal solar power panels while also adapting Mark Shepard’s Restoration Agriculture model to the western U.S. in a agro-forest/silvo-pasture farm that sequesters much more carbon, while also improving water infiltration and storage to reduce tree stress/death and make the agro-forests far less vulnerable to burning or flooding.
We hope to model in the Western US ways to largely eliminate the frequent habit of human burning of biomass “waste” by demonstrating that that limbs and leaves biomass is a valuable resource, not just for composting, but to construct earthworks for better water management, placement, cleaning and cycling, healthier plant growth, greener fields and forests, and greater fire/flood resiliency.
I want to design a path to end to the now almost yearly “the West is burning” phenomenon. This year in Oregon we were again surrounded by fire, in one scare, as close as a mile away. We are now installing an ambitious irrigation system that also doubles as a flood prevention water collection system AND a fire prevention and fire fighting system.
We are experimenting with the best ways to move water from too wet valleys, or erosion prone gullys, out onto the normally dry raised barren prominences. This spreading of water from the wet to the dry areas for absorption, is what impermeable surfaces in the city and older non-self-cleaning stormwater systems fail to do at all.
In this way all of the managed land becomes effectively a giant greenery/food supporting sponge. Hard fine compacted red clay becomes loamy, ever blacker, prime topsoil.
Underground, a cleaning lens of water collects and moves over months slowly down into the aquifer and laterally to gently feed into rivers. The earth-sponge slows the movement of water off the land, much like, but even better than, the old snowpack melt could give a useful late spring bump in water as the long dry season takes hold.
But instead of a spring flood risk, this designed rural “sponge” also protects the rivers and cities not just from fire but from flood damage too!
Instead of burning, we take our farm/forest/ranch woody biomass, mixed with soil and inoculates and arrange them, as ~near contour surface or partially buried “hugglekulture” swales, to direct water to move back and forth and into the grown as the water follows erosion preventing switchbacks. Pastures and forests (see the effects of badger ponds) are much greener and productive when these Carbon sequestration methods, and others like Keylines, are applied in Permaculture earthworks design.
There are many needed machine and tool innovations, as well as legal land and water use law changes, to make this re-visioning of land and water management happen in a time-frame to make a big difference. Inventors? Investors?
Do you, or your farm as such, have a blogsite or a webpage where you-all discuss and describe what you are doing?
The farm magazine Acres USA invites farmers to tell Acres USA what those farmers are doing individually on their farm. If the Acres staff are interested and impressed enough, they will accept a well-enough-written-and-illustrated article about the operation into their publication. I have seen it happen in the past. Would that be an avenue of exposure to seek out?
Drumlin, I enjoy Acres, but have not submitted articles.
I have started taking “before” photos to book-end “after” photos.
I do plan to do some You Tube posts. I need to get my video skills together to document processes, especially when I am alone and using moving machinery to build earthworks in the deep forests.
The more open Silvo-pasture construction/irrigation/swales with tree and pasture alleys will be easier to do videos. Still early experimental days on this farm.
In roughly general, where in the West is your farm at? West or East of the Cascades? In how dry an area?
How much of the skywater precipitation falling on your operation comes down as snow? Does any of that snow remain intact AS snow by springtime? Such that it can soak into the thawing earth? Or does your area now get winter heat waves which flash-melt all the snow off your land so it runs away over the still-frozen ground? Leaving you with zero snow-in-place and not-yet-melted when actual springtime arrives?
I know that this idea may seem strange but for years now I have thought that what is needed is a new system of accounting – one that takes into account ALL costs associated with any economic activity from end-to-end. As an example, one could with present accountancy work up a case for a nuclear power plant which would make it seem economically reasonable.
However, with an end-to-end form of accountancy, you would have to crank in such factors such as what was not financed due to government giving the nuclear power plant a boat load of subsidies as well as the cost of tens of thousands of years of storage of radioactive waste. That makes the case a lot more realistic economically. Yves mentioned too at the beginning of this article how often green technologies fail to account for such factors such as ‘scarce or nasty inputs, like rare earths’.
Having said all this, I do like PlutoniumKun’s approach of more efficient taxing such as on animal feeds. It would put an end to a lot of industrial animal husbandry but would make things more sustainable.
“what is needed is a new system of accounting – one that takes into account ALL costs associated with any economic activity from end-to-end. As an example, one could with present accountancy work up a case for a nuclear power plant which would make it seem economically reasonable.”
Look Rev, this is fine – but who knows, given that we are not omniscient, what ALL those costs will be? So who and how shall these costs be attributed or not?
Now we have to think of politics… & the Vista is Not Good.
We can make a pretty accurate guess on most of these costs. As an example. Work out the full costs for single-payer health for the United States and for how things are done there now. A full accounting will tell you which is cheaper.
Put it this way. Suppose that you were going to buy a business but that you were only allowed to look at three out of the last twelve months in the business accounts. How accurate a picture would you be getting of the business? That is the present situation of how things are done.
I agree that we could use more accurate accounting of known but currently unaccounted for costs and benefits. But given the politics of things as comparatively straightforward as reported profits and taxes, the notion that there is a way to make a more accurate accounting of anything absent political will is putting the cart before the horse.
Just for example, virtually every finance person who does long term analysis uses a discount rate that makes all costs and benefits 50 years or more out effectively zero. Meaning that there is no financial way to justify any current spending whose benefits are far in the future.
There are more holistic accountancy models in use:
Triple top line,
triple bottom line,
Get the US onto a single payor, care versus insurance national health system. We use the most resources.
Re-deploy all the misplaced workers into full life-cycle cost accounting to analyze each and every product and activity. Freeley share the information and results. Stop demonstrably, objectively bad actions.
Migrate to a full life cycle BTU-based global currency, again based on full life cycle analysis (BTU from pv probably has higher value than a BTU from a nuke generator. ) Start enacting laws that bar abhorrent products.
Mandate that utilities buy power from any producer, not simply net meter— ie get rooftop solar on every building, pay the owners, and the owners will conserve energy –use less –so they can sell more and have a new ‘gig’ — another stream of (worthy) income.
Create incentives to telecommute for work, get foodstuff gardens in every yard. Put food by. Share it.
Stay home and get to know and care for your neighbors.
Ride a bike and walk. One less car.
Work on social justice issues, care for the least among us, ‘the other’.
Get used to the fact that we have truly screwed the pooch, we are NOT all going to get to go to space for tourism, much less to colonize, and the majority of leaders and power people do not care one whit about the earth, their fellow man.
Get these guys out of power.
Try to not go nuts as you watch yourself, your fellow man dither and head toward the precipice in the lemming wave.
Nice list, but you forgot to use force to conquer oil markets!
One could call it Truth In Pricing, or a catchier phrase if there is one.
James Hansen sought to introduce Truth In Pricing to the fossil carbon markets with his fee-and-dividend concept, whereby every would-be seller of coal, gas and/or oil would have to pay a carbon fee to the fee-collecting-authority before being permitted to sell the coal, gas and/or oil. They would then OF COURSE add that fee to the price of the fossil carbon they sold. And the price of that fee would follow the carbon and its use-derived products all the way down the buy-sell-chain to the final sale to the final consumer, with the fee baked into the price of whatever that consumer was buying. The fees would be ramped up over some years to punitive levels . . . to price-torture the fossil carbon industries to death. TORture them To DEATH. He also said the collected fees should be dividended to every legal resident in America at the same amount per resident no matter how rich or poor. As the rising fee kept rising the price of anything touched by fossil carbon, non-rich people ( to whom price makes a difference) would seek out less fossil-carbon-tainted and therefore fee-price-baked-in goods and services, thereby strengthening the providers of those goods and services.
Nothing else would reduce the fossil-based net-carbon emissions, in Hansen’s view.
Hansen also seriously suggested looking at some kind of nuclear power he wrote about in his book Storms Of My Granchildren. It was supposedly a totally fast breeder and eater of almost all the unstable or destabilizable nucleii in a load of nuclear fuel. I can’t remember the details. Its in his book.
There are Too Many Humans — already. And of course it is Heresy to talk about population controls, because gawd tells us to go forth and multiply. Articles on this subject never mention population as a factor.
All the signs are there. Global warming causing 500 year weather events. The ocean is covered in plastics. Rivers and streams are polluted. The air is causing respiratory diseases. Sea level is rising. Oceans have turned acidic. The list is long.
So while the Green New Deal is interesting and should be pursued, it is using a band-aid to fix cancer. Ok, you can burn me at the stake now.
I linked to this a few days ago:
An almost 50 year writing by Garrett Hardin about many things, the tragedy of the commons, the inability to ever have population control and “the important concept of a class of human problems which can be called “no technical solution problems,””
In the USA, there is always a pressure for more CO2 producing workers, either in the USA or overseas.
I suspect human population control will be forced on the world by upcoming events, as it can never be done politically.
I also believe climate change is one of Hardin’s “no technical solution problems,”
I believe Hardin had some regrets about that essay, probably because some people drew the wrong lesson.
If there is no technical solution to an anthropogenic problem then the solution must be social. To some people that means there is no solution. That is not really Hardin’s position but I think he allows readers to think that. He fails to point out that despoliation of the commons is not actually inevitable, they are not tantamount to a free-for-all, there are many cases of commons which have been successfully managed for centuries.
Population pressure can undermine them but the more immediate threat is the carpetbaggers.
“He fails to point out that despoliation of the commons is not actually inevitable, they are not tantamount to a free-for-all, there are many cases of commons which have been successfully managed for centuries.”
The core of his ‘tragedy’ is basically bunk unsupported by the evidence of how people actually used the English commons. I’m pretty sure NC has talked about or linked to articles about why the entire concept is wrong before.
Also I’m pretty sure we are passed the point of no return. There literally is no solution now.
While there are lots of people who think ‘gawd’ wants them to multiple, plenty more just do it because it’s what you do. It’s baked into society and our upbringing: *of course* you get married and have kids. It’s a basic biological drive. If pressed people will come up with all kinds of rationalizations, usually completely selfish. If you’re a poor farmer you might have an actual practical reason for doing it in that you’re creating more workers to help you.
But ultimately humans just make more humans because it’s what we do. And we keep doing it right up until the environment can’t take it anymore, at which point a lot of people die. Climate change is effectively a kind of global population control.
OK, as long as we’re talking about sensible ideas that will never be implemented, I haven’t seen anything along these lines: require every manufacturer of plastic products to recycle those (and maybe other plastic) products into new items, instead of using fracked oil as the raw material. Just dictate: if you wanna make plastic gizmos, this is how you have to do it, so figure it out. Is this really stupid and I just don’t understand why? Is anyone talking about this and I just missed it?
Kind of related: US environmental laws used to be “technology-forcing.” Under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, e.g., the rulemakers went to the trouble to figure out what was within the realm of technical possibility, then adopt rules that drove emission and discharge limits down often significantly. This required e.g. coal fired power plants and nasties like Dow Chemical and Monsanto and the steel companies to put on their thinking caps and come up with best practices to reduce waste and emissions and discharges from their operations. Of course, this all got gamed and crapified and a lot of fraud was committed along with criminal lying about discharges and emissions actually ongoing (see, e.g., VW rigging the emissions numbers from their Diesel engines, and any number of false reports from power plants and chemical and petroleum and metals corporations and the rest.) But a number of polluters discovered they could actually save a lot of money (and get some PR value) by revising processes and figuring out how to re-use and recycle stuff they had just been “sending away” into the wider environment.
Hey, it’s seldom mentioned any more, but there was worldwide agreement (subverted recently by “Chinese” and other makers of foam plastic products) to remove at least the most long-term deadly fluorocarbons (CFCs) from manufacture and use, though of course that “international ban’ is riddled with lobbied exceptions and nose-thumbing by corporate looters and ‘little people’ with pounds to tons of CFCs either in “legacy” (what a legacy, my children) installations of hoarded and illegally (many places, not all) brought out at high premium prices to recharge leaking systems in cars, buildings, etc. One exception to the universal idiocy that proves the larger rule. All because some plant manager or “businessman” notes that local enforcement is weak or absent, and that his bonus or base pay can be increased by again producing CFCs for short term profit.
Obviously, the apotheosis of “market” has bred a complete perversion of “business” across the planet into short-term CEO pay and bottom-line scams, including the easy play of moving nasty dirty industrial activities out of even modestly regulated jurisdictions to places where “pay to play” is the Modi operandi. And in the US, the last 40 years have seen decimation and depression of all the agencies that ought to be working from the “precautionary principle” as their text and gospel.
Humans adapt, up to the limit of their adaptability. So people flock to Beijing and Kolkata and such places because “that’s where the opportunities are,” without regard to the pollution that shortens their lives. And the policy makers and rulers know they will mostl likely be comfortably dead and beyond revenge and consequences before the SHTF any harder than it already is, and besides, what are any of the rest of us, who are just everyday blasé and complicit in the headlong rush to the precipice, actually going to do about the incentives and forces that drive Homo polluticonomous to live the way we live, always wanting MOAR and seeking growth and appreciation of assets or, because we are low level mopes who are stuck with a waning drive to survive, just going day to day about our wasteful lives, consuming, dropping the plastic trash everywhere, and so on. And breeding more humans, for many reasons — tradition, instinct, government subsidies, there are more. Like the privileged couples and ladies who rent surrogate wombs and engage in in vitro expensive fertilization, or freeze their eggs so they can produce Mother Love later in life after career ambitions are satisfied, and can “afford” — for some definition, excluding externalities — to add to the population problem.
Bless the humans who are working to at least mitigate the worst of the crap that a relative few of us (though more aspire to the same) are pushing onto the rest of us, as we collectively waste the bounty that we fortuitously were borne into, here on this fairly exceptional planet… Too little, one fears, too late, and so we march or stampede or ar dragged along into the nasty dead end that has ‘evolved” via our selfishness and greed and survival drives…
Not to worry. Once Trump starts his war with Iran it will be back to the 70s with doubled gas prices and lines at the pumps. Light truck sales will plummet as the econobox stages a comeback. This must be Trump’s secret environmental plan.
Of course if that doesn’t happen (and it probably won’t) then it’s hard to see what, other than the price signal, will change behavior. AGW just seems too big a problem for our capitalist system to grasp.
Dean Baker recently had an amusing post which described Trump’s energy policy as a carbon tax (increased energy prices due to Iran sanctions) which was then redistributed to the frackers (not to consumers as some have advocated).
He’s been trying to jaw down gas prices prior to the midterms by putting pressure on the Saudis. Trump’s telling them “they wouldn’t last two weeks” without the US was a subtle hint.
Of course even if everyone did use an econobox most Americans still have to drive everywhere to function. Trump’s AGW denialism no longer seems to be the main problem since Paris accord countries aren’t doing that well either. Revamping the world economy is the problem from hell.
Yesterday’s, Sunday, October 7’s, Financial Times carried a story that quoted Carlos Ghosn, the Chairman of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, as saying that the production of EVs by his company has been slowed by a shortage of batteries. This is due to a number of inter-related factors: 1.) The lack of sufficient production capacity, which is due to 2.) The insufficient production of critical raw materials, which is due to 3.) The lack of adequate finance in the critical metals sector, which is due to 4.) The dis-interest in the sector by Wall Street, London, Singapore, and (perhaps) Perth, which is due to 5.) a general disbelief by analysts that the junior (exploration and development) sector for battery materials has enough “good” projects to make a difference.
The capital intensive global OEM automotive industry is in a quandary. The Chinese government is actively and massively subsidizing the ENTIRE EV supply chain while the rest of the world is mostly studying the problem of how to finance the conversion of the industry to electrical propulsion. Markets see this as a cop-out but note that politicians have moved “climate change” to the back burner. The Wall Street herd is grazing while politicians make up their minds.
Below is a recent article on a game changing future for batteries if the info pans out as real. Zinc and air are abundant and apparently there are 3,000 systems in use. If they can be produced for $100/kWh, Tesla et. al. are in for real competition and the move to PV and batteries will get a real boost.
@Jack Lifton: Yes. Battery shortages will be a continuing problem, with raw material shortages being the ultimate constraint. It’s been discussed here at Naked Capitalism before: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/07/cobalt-production-as-the-hidden-choke-point-on-mass-conversion-to-electric-vehicles.html
In 2018, it is expected that a total of 148 GWh of batteries will be produced world-wide. To convert the world’s one billion cars in the world to the Tesla 3’s type of technology (with one 75 kWh battery per car) would require over 500 years of battery production at current rates. And that doesn’t cover our fleets of large trucks, locomotives, and farming equipment. We can undoubtedly ramp up some, but mining for lithium and cobalt isn’t subject to Moore’s Law, where miniaturization makes everything cheaper and faster over time. If you want 100X as much lithium and cobalt, you need to have 100X the mining and refining activity. It won’t be easy. It won’t be clean. It won’t be cheap.
Electricity use is not all or zero. There is some choice about how MUCH or LITTLE to use.
I found a website called ” How much electricity do homes in your state use?” That has to be an average per-home figure, of course. And I suppose each home is supposed to contain an average family consisting of 2 parents and 2 children ( 4 people).
This website claims that ” the average” home in Michigan uses 665 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month. I assume this “average” home contains the “average 4 people”.
I am the sole member of my one-person family unit of one. I and my dwelling unit use around 95 kilowatt-hours per month . . . some months less, some months more. If I were a Family Of Four, I would be using 380 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month. That would be 285 kilowatt-hours less per month than what the average homeful of people IS using in Michigan. And I live a perfectly reasonable 20th century lifestyle. I am not freezing in the dark. My food does not rot in a switched-off fridge.
A reduction from 665 kWh to 380 kWh, while commendable, isn’t good enough. It needs to be an 80% reduction down to 133 kWh of electricity per month. That means down to 33 kWh for you. And the oil or natural gas that is burned in a furnace to heat your home also needs to be reduced by 80%. And the fuel you burn in your car (or in the public transportation you use) needs to be reduced by 80%. And you need to purchase 80% less food and “stuff” to reduce the emissions associated with their production and delivery. Do you have a reasonable path to get there?
That’s the rub. I certainly agree that there are choices people can make to reduce their energy consumption. [I’ve made several myself. Probably enough to account for a 35% reduction in my total carbon footprint.] But there aren’t enough reasonable choices to get all the way down to an 80% reduction. It’s a factor of FIVE. You’ve accomplished a factor of 1.75 on just the electricity front.
We won’t get to the 80% goal on energy conservation efforts alone. Some of our carbon-based energy sources must be replaced with low/no-carbon alternatives. It’s the only path to success that doesn’t involve the dictatorship-enforced impoverishment of basically everybody.
No you don’t. At roughly 10x current market price, lithium can be refined from seawater. Plentiful, but not cheap.
buy consume and travel less in the developed world (not holding my breath).
more birth control in the non-secular developing world (not holding my breath)
use more nuclear fission energy as a stop gap everywhere (never going to happen cuz environmentalists prefer natural gas-fueled electricity and fracking/methane over buying time w/the fission)
On the plus side, you’ll know when things are starting to go pear-shaped if/when we see big food/meat inflation at the grocery store.
Ah yes, the nuclear option. How long does it take to build and bring on line a nuclear power plant? In time to make any kind of difference in what is currently in train?
And gee, I guess that all the waste created is “easily dealt with by glassifying and burying it,” right? Which is what those glassification plants are already operating and the waste is being safely transported and buried under monuments that will last 10,000 years…
And maybe we mopes should just rescind all regulatory oversight, that awful cost imposer, and trust that Westinghouse and the like, jolly players in the corruption and regulatory-avoidance-and-capture game (and the little companies that have all these other forms of nuclear reactors that are “demonstrably safe-er”) will “do a really good job this time,” not cut corners and shave materials and not keep a constant gimlet eye on profit as the central driver of engineering and construction decisions, as measured by the accounting and score-keeping systems that everyone operates within. Because the executives and engineers and contractors will not be living in proximity to their brainchildren, nor have to live near the waste places, and also will be retired or dead from natural causes before any bad stuff might eventuate.
Lyndon Larouche, https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Lyndon_LaRouche, had for a time as his banner argument that “nuclear power is safer than sex.” Dare one ask when was the last time that crazy guy, and others who push the same kind of memes, fornicated with a reactor?
Find me an off the shelf power source that can pump out 100,000 megawatts at 3am 365 daysa year that isnt coal or nat gas in the foreseeable future.
I’m all ears. It’s certain doom with fracking and coal or a few decades of breathing room with more fission and time for tech breakthroughs (hopefully)
Just look at that photo at the lede. All that land for solar panels and it barely powers a subdivision. The world has 7+ billion people. You gotta use a denser form of energy. It’s simple thermodynamics
Yep. It’s nuclear or bust.
Too many people out there think we can run things on 100% renewable power, but simply isn’t true. The intermittent nature of wind and solar make them totally unsuitable for powering the grid on a continuous basis. Theoretically this could be overcome with energy storage, but if you do the math and realize just how huge those energy storage systems would have to be (hundreds of TWh, with a price tag easily exceeding $50 trillion), you’ll realize that this isn’t viable either. And the damage from massive lithium and cobalt mines would be tremendous. There’s a reason James Hansen called the 100% renewable solution a “grotesque fantasy“.
And we can’t do any more hydro. Most of the good spots have already been used, and do we really want to be altering that many river ecosystems anyway? Many environmentalists argue that we should be tearing dams down to restore rivers to a more natural state, but if we push for more renewables, this will never happen.
Can we cut our energy consumption by 80+ percent? I don’t see how, given that an energy expenditure cut of that magnitude would require everybody who lives in a single-family home to abandon their house (and cars) and move into well-insulated block housing in the city near public transportation. I don’t see how we’d coax literally hundreds of millions of people into accepting such a severe downgrade to their lifestyles.
Denmark has embraced renewables, but their rate of improvement is decelerating, and it looks like they’ll fall far short of an 80% reduction. Germany has also embraced renewables, and they’ve seen zero progress since 2009. China and South Korea have supposedly embraced renewables, but in both countries CO2 emissions are actively accelerating.
The only low-carbon technology left on the table is nuclear. We either figure it out and embrace it, or we learn to live with climate change that we have no hope of stopping.
Given what it takes in time and money to bring your megaTWh of nuclear plants on line, and the pace at which consumption of carbon fuels has happened and is likely to happen even if there’s a “Manhattan project” across the planet, I’d say the time for your preferred solution to “run things” a very large part of which are waste, waste, war and more waste, has already gone well past. Unless one does not accept the regularly seen to be too optimistic guesses by climate science practitioners are proven somehow to be actually way pessimistic, Chicken-Little noises.
And nuclear is “low carbon?” Glad that much of a concession is made here. You got to burn carbon to get to nuke, I understand. And gee, who will profit from the changeover, assuming that the Believers succeed in driving that to be the central policy thrust of “running things” like the servers that generate bitcoin solutions and the electricity that powers Vegas and Boeing and Alcoa and all those producers of single-, or even multiple-use, plastics.
It;s all about how “we” can continue to “run things” like “we” have, everywhere, no? As if the thermodynamics and physics and chemistry of all those generations of carbo-combustion, leading to the “desired Western Lifestle” model and its consequences, don;t somehow count in the accounting of the energy ‘budget.” Which is no “budget” at all, considering that it’s mostly assumed as Gospel that all great societies have always and everywhere used more energy than the people who built the ruins that “modern” is built on, to dominate more terrain and have more stuff. One manpower, then one horse-power (mule, oxen), fire and coal and heated water to drive the pistons of industry, turbines and reactors and take a peek at the planet’s dark side that isn’t dark any more because of all those electric lights and stuff, because “progress is our most important product (aside from profit and the shedding of externalities.”
So the nuke boosters can say “we told you so, and Fukushima and the rest really were not so bad, now were they, given the trade offs that us policy makers and corporate types were happy to design and force on the rest of you.” Because failing to “Adopt” nuclear heat making to drive turbines to spin generators to power a Kardashian vibrator was all the reason that “climate change” was not “stopped.”
What kind of car does the CEO of Westinghouse drive? Oh, that;s right, he has a chauffeur and a private jet, so the question, unless it is related to maybe a hobby vehicle, is meaningless…
Your either-or is a complete false choice. As if “learning to live with lots of nuclear reactors and embrace them” is in any way going to “save us” from “living with climate change.” Which, and this should have been a new sentence, without the conditional, “we have no hope of stopping.”
All bow down and pray to the Great God Uranium! He will save us!
I really don’t understand your continued harsh rhetoric against nuclear power. It is an option for centralized baseload generation. There are lots of other things we could do to help change things around. But if we want to impact the current system as little as possible, nuclear is a good option.
A huge amount of the cost of nuclear isn’t from reasonable regulation, it’s from NIMBY’s pushing back against anything and everything. It’s environmental groups requesting multiple public meetings and never being satisfied with any answer. It’s paying the federal government for a disposal solution that doesn’t exist.
You can’t make 100% renewable energy work without changing everything in our culture. You can’t continue to use the current power generation mix without causing more long term problems. So we have to make a different choice. You don’t like nuclear? Fine. What’s your scalable, proven, alternative?
Yes, we will have to reduce our carbon footprint (energy consumption) by 80% in the US, kicking and screaming hopefully rather than bombing and nuking. And this will only be a temporary measure unless we can figure out how to limit population. Or find free energy just laying around. Read up on the proliferation of solid state LED lighting for streetlights and similar, rather than leading to a reduction in municipal energy use it has led to an increase in municipal illumination and relatively unchanged energy consumption. We are well and truly f**ked because our instincts and societies are woefully unprepared for limits on growth. Unless we institute a dramatic shift in societal values along the lines of pricing the costs that are currently viewed as externalities and future impacts of our activities (energy, pollution, population, waste disposal, etc) into each and every economic activity we cannot hope to turn back the clock on out impact on this planet. Getting our asses to a new planet? Not likely. Interesting times indeed.
IFF! we could INcrease our Carbon Suckdown by 40%, then we would only have to DEcrease our Carbon Emissions by 40%. This might be socially do-able.
Carbon Farming, Silvo-Pasture, Bio-Char, Carbon-Capture Livestock Deployment, etc. all deserve hard and fast study, and if they live up to their promise, hard and fast rollout.
See Hunter and Amory Lovin’s work showing that radical conservation of 90% is possible. For example, a large amount of energy is wasted moving gas and fluids. Fans and pumps. For fluids, simply avoiding the typical 90 degree Elbows and Tees and replacing them with various sweep angles leads to 90% energy savings.
The sun is always shining somewhere. We need some major investment in transmission lines.
Thank you for the excellent article. As a retired engineer from an oil company an understanding of global economics is quite beyond my pay grade. I do understand the economics of running an energy company and feel we missed our best chance in the late 90’s when we could have moved the monies from subsidies and tax breaks the oil companies were enjoying to promote green energies. We could have had both and environmental and economic benefit.
Don’t worry, Mother Nature has a plan. She’s followed it many times before and everyone submits. I think we are in her 6th Epoch Plan right now and things are proceeding smoothly. She understands you have to dust of the countertop before you start a new recipe.
Jobs Guarantee, Universal Income. How come we never talk about a short work week?
Three day weekends could save the world.
I definitely vote for a shorter workweek. Four eight or nine-hour days would reduce commuting by 20% and would probably have only a slight impact, if any, on productivity. And how about store closings on Sundays? States could raise sales taxes on Sunday purchases to discourage the shopaholics.
Articles such as this one are somewhat misleading regarding the current and future state of the climate. If it were truthful it would point out that there isn’t a 50% chance of remaining below 1.5 degrees of warming because we have already emitted too much carbon. We are already at 1.4 degrees of warming but the dimming effect of aerosol pollution cools the plant between .5 and 1.1 degrees. So even if we stopped emitting pollution today within 1 year the planet would be at 1.9 – 2.5 degrees warmer. And then if we stopped emitting CO2 today the planet will continue warming for at least 40 more years since there is a lag time from when CO2 is put in the atmosphere. That will add at least another .5 degrees of warming so now we are at 2.4 – 3 degrees of warming.
There will be too many feedback loops to mention but the one I like to point out is that once we are over 2 degrees of warming the tundra will thaw enough to emit just as much CO2 as the U.S. currently does which will further warm the planet. We will easily reach 3.3 degrees of warming and humankind has never been alive in a climate warmer than that.
It’s an existential question for billions of people, and nature bats last; not the MIC, a few Wall Street and corporate CEO’s, or a few deca-billionaires in the energy and related sectors who inherited billions. Yes, the latter groups might “win in the short term, preserving their control of all branches and levels of government through their pocketbooks, depending on how one wants to define “winning”. But out in time, beyond another decade or so, I strongly suspect that rather than being accorded economic, social and political deference they will be regarded as what they are, with their “assets” either dissolved or confiscated. Too bad. With a modicum of concern for the public health and welfare and that of the planet, it could have ended differently for them… and for us.
So many of these carbon taxing, fuel tax, meat tax, and other green ideas seem to me to be regressive charges on the lower earning groups. BC Green Party opposed NDP government eliminating a certain bridge toll because it would facilitate increased driving and fuel consumption. But it sure helped working class commuters get to work. Of course, the toll would not discourage certain Green voters living on Salt Spring Island with trust funds and money to spend, but that’s stereotyping, I know. Driving for me, eco vacations par avion on the Galapagos for me, regressive taxes for thee. And get thee out here to my ex urban 4,000 sq. foot custom built log home and fix my plumbing. I need to host a political meeting on Friday. So where are the massive green public transportation projects that go along with these taxes? Taxes, charges etc vs rationing, prohibition etc. I don’t know. Want to vacation in the Galopagos, go by sailing ship. But that would still favour those who don’t need to “work” and with increasing concentration of wealth, there will be more and more of those.
I’m very discouraged about the whole Climate Change thing. It’s happening with calamitous consequences, but even our own PM Trudeau is in favour of oil pipelines and drilling all the tar, I mean oil, sands out. The politics of this seems impossible and not even the most politically astute seem to have a political road map out of this mess.
Population control. Nuclear power. Renewable/distributed generation combined with storage. All worthwhile topics. One of my favorites is real-time electric rates. Discuss this in a room full of utility representatives and they’ll say you’re crazy. We have the technological means to implement it, but not the societal will power.
Unless I missed it, I didn’t see anyone discuss energy efficiency. The sad truth is there are so many energy efficient technologies sitting on the sidelines so corporations can continue to profit the easy way, as oligopolies selling commoditized products, competing primarily on price. The list is long. Magnetic refrigeration. Heat recovery ventilators. CO2 heat pump water heaters. Amorphous ribbon metal core low-voltage dry distribution transformers. Phase-change materials as an insulation layer. Heat pump dryers, ultrasonic dryers. 80-plus platinum power supplies. Power-scaling computation. I could go on and on. Manufacturers have these technologies in their back pockets, they claim there is no market for them in the U.S., but then argue with the force of their trade associations and lobbyists to make sure markets aren’t corrected through voluntary programs or mandatory standards…their true colors.
The U.S. Dept of Energy is fully in “win slowly” mode, mainly at the direction of the executive office. Even the California Energy Commission is relatively restrained. Humans will be the first species to go extinct because it wasn’t yet demonstrated cost effective to do otherwise. Apparently, things just aren’t bad enough. Unfortunately, by the time it gets so bad that it becomes obvious that massive societal changes are necessary, it will likely be much too late due to the lag time.
So I’m going to throw in a (hopefully) comprehensive and holistic approach to meaningfully addressing climate change that is also highly unlikely later today (still need to compile it) but I wanted to specifically address the futility involved in dealing with climate change. It really is just a problem with apathy and a lack of will. Up until May, I had spent more than 6 years working for a state energy agency whose purpose was to fund research into sustainable energy projects and develop codes and standards (mostly for buildings) to reduce energy usage.
One of the things I remember realizing early on was just how much of a bubble we all lived in. We would sit in our offices and conference rooms dreaming up policies and technologies that would reduce energy usage (that would likely be ignored by the higher ups anyway) and patting ourselves on the back for our ingenuity. Then, everyday, at 5:00, I’d walk the 5 blocks to get my car and pick up my wife and daughter along one of the major roads that leads to the freeway and look in awe over the virtual parking lot that the road became at that time of day. And then, a couple of years after I started working there, it hit me that these are all gas burning cars, just sitting there burning gas. Maybe a couple hybrids, one or two electric vehicles, but the rest were gas burners (well more than 90%). And then it also hit me just how little, if any, impact we were actually making. I began imagining how each and everyone of those people would complain bitterly and mercilessly if we were to initiate even just one of our ideas. “How dare you sacrifice our comfort and convenience for something that MIGHT happen?!” Even though nothing we were working on would do that, that’s not how they see it.
Now, where I currently work, we have a lovely view of a freeway out of our west facing windows and I still see no difference compared to my epiphany 5 years ago.
This post was timed interestingly with a streetfilms video that popped up yesterday on LA’s public transit investment. One big takeaway is that their expo lines added no new passengers at all. In other words, no one left their car at home, it was all people who used public transit already. They had just cannibalized bus ridership. No one wants to give up the comfort, perceived safety and perceived convenience of the car. I keep hoping for some catastrophic or cataclysmic event that will cause car use to plummet, but I don’t think it’s coming. Yves is right, we’re cooked. Maybe the next civilization (human or otherwise) will learn from us and do better.
Since it looks like this thread has been abandoned, I decided not to post my comprehensive and holistic approach to meaningfully address climate change.