Question and Comments

I have received one question and two comments since I last posted.

What is ppm C?

I am sorry for abbreviating, this should be spelled out at least once/blog, and it’s been a while. ppm C is an abbreviation for ppmv C which means parts per million volume carbon. The current level of atmospheric carbon is 380 ppmv C — out of every million units of air, 380 units are carbon dioxide. Doesn’t sound like much to be having such a great effect?

Methane is measured in even smaller units, ppb, or parts per billion.

Comments that go beyond nays and praise Thanks to Susan for her comments on the previous post on how we talk, and how we think about issues. Please read her comment!

Thanks as well to Bob for his comments on biofuels. He points out (in a longish comment, read the whole thing) that we need to look at behavior as well. This is absolutely true, but go to the post on Making Transit Work to see how difficult it is to effect behavior change. For those who missed it, this is a National Academy of Science examination of how to double transit use in the US from 2% to 4%. This modest goal, which will likely take decades to achieve, will be a small blip in the upward exponential use of airplane and automobile.

In reality, we need both technology and policy changes and behavior changes on top of those. Policy changes will lead to behavior changes, but we need behavior to change more rapidly.

There are two reasons for this. First, there is reason to doubt that policy and technology changes will be fast or deep enough to confront climate change and other environmental disasters. And second, people who look at their own flying and driving, who look at how far their food travels and the environmental impact of where they live, are more likely to push the issues with the general public and with legislators.

One Response to “Question and Comments”

  1. Bob Seeley says:

    I agree with all this. We need changes in all three areas mentioned-technology, policy, and behavior. My point was that poor policy and poor social design make behavior change less likely, and better policy and design can help to facilitate it. If we build our communities on the assumption of cheap and abundant fuel (and without taking into account the environment), as we did done in the latter half of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st, we end up encouraging people to use energy wastefully and in environmentally destructive ways. If you can’t get anywhere without a private car, as you can’t in many late 20th century suburbs, you will regard your private car as essential.

    Building better-designed, more environmentally sound communities will not in itself cause people to change their behavior, but it will make change an option. Building standard sprawling suburbs makes change more difficult for all but hermits. People who want to visit family members or friends will find it hard to do so without a vehicle.

    I don’t, however, mean to suggest that any of this will happen fast enough to effect the necessary changes. We (meaning our species) need to come up with short-term fixes that will make it possible to build more environmentally sound communities in the long run. Otherwise there will be no long run.

    This appears to contradict my first paragraph above, which seemed to make better design primary, so I should clarify. Better design is one primary need for the long run; but it can’t be primary for the short run. I can’t personally think of a way out of this box, at least not yet. But recognition that we are in a box is the first step toward doing something about it.