Archive for May, 2006

Inevitable Losses

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

A summary of the losses that many scientists are seeing as inevitable, at the top of a post rather than at the bottom

Climate scientists and those who study species extinction use the term committed to refer to the inevitable. A species is committed to extinction in the wild when there is no longer enough connected habitat to support it. Relic individuals may continue for generations after a species is committed to extinction.

The temperature of the Earth has increased by 0.8 C, and is committed to 0.6 C more. The Earth may be 2 C (or more) hotter in 2050 than in 1960 (and committed to more), and 3 C (or more or much more) in 2100 and committed to even more.

The following comes from John Holdren’s talk at UC, Berkeley June 23, but others have said it as well. I will link to his talk as soon as his presentation is posted.

When the increase is 1.5 C, the polar bear and the coral reefs will be committed to extinction. With a 2 C increase, the Earth may be committed to catastrophic sea level rise of 3 – 4 m/century. At 2.5 C, agricultural productivity is expected to decrease pretty much everywhere on Earth (regionally, this change has already begun).

No one holds much hope for the polar bear or the coral reefs. The goal now is to keep the temperature increase below 2 C.

I address how to begin in If We Could Move Like Centipedes.

China US Conference – Holdren Portion

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

The John Holdren portion is long enough to separate out.

Business as usual could increase the 2004 emissions of 6.4 (metric) tonnes C (this counts just the carbon portion of the CO2 molecule) to 21 tonnes by 2100. Today’s figures also include 1.6 tonnes from deforestation and 0.2 tonnes from cement production. Deforestation is expected to decline by 2100, presumably because the Earth doesn’t have that many forests. Climatologists are worried that small changes in temperature can lead to changing the state of the climate – big changes in precipitation patterns, ocean upwelling, etc. Many of the pollutants we have added to the atmosphere reflect back sunlight, partially offsetting and partially masking climate change. But these pollutants kill people and their use will drop.

In order to reduce carbon emissions, we can reduce population, GDP/capita, energy/GDP, or carbon intensity/energy. The fastest and cheapest changes will be in the energy intensity of GDP. More slowly we can change the mix of energy sources to include less carbon, or carbon capture and storage. A population of 8 billion is easier to deal with than 10 billion, and fortunately some of the paths to lower population, such as educating women, are good in their own right.

Soot is an important contributor to climate change, from two-stroke and diesel engines [note; much, much less so from the ultra low sulfur diesel], biomass, agriculture, and fossil fuel use in general. With technology change there can be sharp reductions.

Many technology suggestions won’t work as hoped. Increasing building reflectivity (light roofs) is important for the urban heat effect, but has small global benefits. Scrubbing carbon from the atmosphere is 5 – 10 times as expensive as carbon capture and storage. Experiments with ocean fertilization [adding iron and other nutrients to increase photosynthesis to absorb carbon] indicate that it will be of limited benefit. Afforestation and better agricultural techniques was assumed by the 2001 IPCC reports to take up 100 Btonnes of carbon by 2050, but this estimate appears to be 20% optimistic.

How much mitigation? We signed and ratified the 1992 UN Framework, and it is the law of our land. We agreed to stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. The temperature increase has already been 0.8 C, will be 0.6 C more due to thermal lag in the oceans. Under business as usual by 2050, the increase will be 2 C, and 3 C by 2100 over pre-industrial temperatures. [Note: these are lowish values for BAU estimates.] A temperature increase of 1.5 C will drive the coral reefs and polar bear to extinction. A 2 C increase could lead to catastrophic melting of 3 – 4 m sea level rise/century. A 2.5 C increase would decrease crop yields worldwide.

Until a few years ago, a 3 C increase in temperature (about 550 ppmv) was seen as a compromise, as both the highest increase we could live with and the fastest mitigation possible. Now 2 C is seen as the maximum safe increase over pre-industrial times, with the atmospheric concentrations maximizing at 400 – 450 ppmv by 2100. [Note: ppmv is parts per million volume – out of every million pieces of air, 400 would be carbon dioxide.]

Temperature increases as a function of atmospheric carbon concentrations are obtained by using probabilistic modeling. The main uncertainty is about the size of the masking. Climate sensitivity is thought to be between 1.5 and 4.5 C [note: the increase in temperature after doubling atmospheric carbon], but it may be above 4.5 C, which means maximum safe levels of atmospheric carbon are even lower.

There is uncertainty about the movement of carbon into and out of the atmosphere. Feedbacks not accounted for may require even lower levels of stabilization.

The cost of delay is likely to be substantial. [Note: assume this is an understatement.] Further delay may make the 450 ppmv goal impossible.

Emissions cap and trade or a tax is necessary. There are many policies that are considered win-win. [Note: win-win polices satisfy other goals, such as lowering prices and decreasing pollution.] If the proposed solution is not equitable, it won’t be achievable. All people must have an equal right to put carbon into the atmosphere.

Again: Paul Baer focuses on ecoequity as first-third world squabbles could easily preclude any climate change solution.

Climate Change Skeptics

Saturday, May 27th, 2006

Joel Achenbach looks at climate skeptics in tomorrow’s Washington Post.

Bill Gray, one of the skeptics, points out that climate skeptics trained in science tend to be old. This is true — even the most brilliant minds can fail to keep up with modern science. Einstein never accepted quantum physics, and Kirchhoff resisted the idea that atoms were physical entities and not just models. There are exceptions, some of the skeptics are boomers, and generally, the most brilliant minds do keep up with the science.

[Update: one reader noted not the age of people signing a letter stating their skepticism of climate change science, but how many years or decades it had been since they had submitted research to a peer-review journal. Looking at other names on the same list, I noted how many were not actually scientists; one listed his touch typing skills above his environmental experience.]

The skeptics are still working on getting their ideas into peer-reviewed journals. They are breaking a cardinal rule of science — explain your reasoning, and see if you can (rapidly or over time) convince others who are knowledgeable with your reasoning. You don’t get partial credit for convincing people who are not knowledgeable. Galileo began investigating Copernican ideas because he saw those around him who were knowledgeable shifting from Ptolemaic thinking, but he saw no movement in the other direction among knowledgeable people.

Efficiency is Cheaper But…

Friday, May 26th, 2006

I keep running across the idea that it’s cheaper to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving efficiency, so we shouldn’t do this other stuff, one of which is nuclear power. To see why this doesn’t work, consider an analogy:

You weigh 140 pounds, 20 of it excess fat, and you want to reduce your weight to 28 pounds over the next 4 decades or so. This is comparable to lower estimates for reductions we want to make in GHG emissions – 60% reductions or more or much more as total energy use more or less doubles (or would without improved efficiency). So per unit energy, we need to reduce carbon emissions by 80%. (Or reduce the amount of energy we use and reduce carbon emissions per unit energy.)

[An aside: improved efficiency is crucial to reducing GHG emissions. All policy recommendations stress that we can’t possibly succeed without aggressively getting rid of waste in energy use, or without carbon cap and trade. Research and development must be better funded to improve efficiency more rapidly.]

There are several options. One includes walking 1.5 miles/day, to lose a pound+ a month. Other ideas are likely to be more expensive, such as replacing bones with lighter weight versions.

Are Politicians Shifting?

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Those Americans at the China US Climate Change Conference who are paying most attention to legislators believe that with 93% of Americans saying they consider climate change serious, though differing as to when and how serious, there will be climate change legislative action starting January 2007, or possibly January 2009.

Then this announcement came from Pew Center on Global Climate Change:

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee today (May 23) approved a sense of the Senate resolution calling for U.S. participation in negotiations under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change to establish mitigation commitments for all countries that are major emitters of greenhouse gases. The resolution was introduced by Senator Richard G. Lugar (R-Indiana), the committee’s chairman, and Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-Delaware), the committee’s ranking minority member.

Senators Lugar and Biden announced the resolution in November 2005 at an event releasing the report of the Climate Dialogue at Pocantico. The Pocantico dialogue, convened by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, brought together 25 senior policymakers and stakeholders from 15 countries to recommend approaches for advancing the international climate effort beyond 2012.

The resolution approved by the Foreign Relations Committee reads in part:

[B]e it Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that the United States should act to reduce the health, environmental, economic, and national security risks posed by global climate change and foster sustained economic growth through a new generation of technologies, by–
(1) participating in negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, done at New York May 9, 1992, and entered into force in 1994, and leading efforts in other international for a, with the objective of securing United States participation in agreements that–
(A) advance and protect the economic and national security interests of the United States;
(B) establish mitigation commitments by all countries that are major emitters of greenhouse gases, consistent with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities;
(C) establish flexible international mechanisms to minimize the cost of efforts by participating countries; and
(D) achieve a significant long-term reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions

The full text of the Lugar-Biden resolution, the Senators’ press releases, and the Pocantico report are available at

Climate Change Policy

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

More from the China US Climate Change Conference

John Harte describes the oft-cited wedge solutions of Socolow and Pacala (, showing the use of wedges to decrease today’s carbon with different technologies, slowly at first and then more rapidly. Harte would add wide destabilization wedges to the Socolow stabilization wedges: greenhouse gas emissions must be cut more rapidly and radically to reach targets, reinforcing Inez Fung’s speech.

Pretty much everyone says that reducing use is critical. Efficiency – doing the same with less — can be improved much more rapidly. John Holdren, who (along with many others) advocates taxing energy more, believes that higher energy prices will slow economic growth, compared to business as usual (ignoring costs of adapting to and suffering from climate change). This means that instead of reaching a certain standard of living in 2050, we must wait until 2051 or 2052. Holdren was asked about voluntary simplicity, and while he appreciates the contribution of the 5 – 10% amenable to simplicity arguments, he believes that policy changes will facilitate decision-making by the other 90-95%.

Everyone emphasizes that paying today is much cheaper than paying for adaptation later. We are at risk of facing adaptation costs too high even for the rich, in not so many years.

If We Could Move Like Centipedes

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Many of us look at climate change goals – 70% reductions in carbon worldwide, even as population and per capita consumption increase, more in the US and other industrialized countries. And stop. And say, “too hard.”

It might be useful to consider the centipede. The centipede has anywhere from 30 to 146 legs, but our example centipede has 100 legs, one brain/leg.

Suppose it’s obvious to a centipede that death by shoe squishing is imminent. The various legs could just sit there, after all, one leg can’t do much. Or the most motivated legs could start to move away, first in different directions, then in the direction that makes the most sense. At some critical point, perhaps 20 legs working together, the other legs will be pulled along.

So what kind of motion could we start today that will make a difference?

In our own behavior, most of us would find it easy to reduce energy use nominally, say 10%. For this exercise, we’ll give free credit to anyone using buses or trains. So reduce your car plus plane plus boat use by 10%. One passenger mile on a plane is about equal to one person in a 30 mpg car. (This is still being evaluated, as planes dump water vapor at high altitudes, so the GHG effect is much higher than the carbon contribution alone indicates). Boats are worse (water presents more of an impediment than does air).

Check your electric and natural gas bill. You should see big changes if you replace energy inefficient air conditioners or refrigerators with energy efficient ones and frequently used incandescent bulbs with fluorescent or compact fluorescent bulbs, turn off lights if you won’t be using them for a while (10 minutes or more for fluorescent and compact fluorescent, a couple of minutes for incandescent bulbs). Hang up your clothes, especially if your dryer is electric, especially if it’s summer and you air condition. Longer term, add insulation and if you air condition, replace your dark roof with a light one. Don’t heat or cool unused rooms. Use an electric blanket rather than a room heater. Don’t heat or cool quite as much. Many of us already do several of these or more, but most of us can use one or more of these methods to make a quick 10% decrease in our home use of energy.

Second, talk to others about what you are doing and what your concerns are. Reading, and personal discernment of what motivates us, can help us find effective ways to communicate our concerns.

Third, and this works better with a group, express your concerns about climate change to legislators. Many legislators know climate change is also important. Also means that they will get to it later.

What do we want legislators to do? Add carbon cap and trade, which will increase energy prices for all of us and make less-GHG intensive alternatives more attractive. Double fuel economy of cars and light trucks over the next few years (even better would be making fuel taxes a substantial portion of our tax base, then mandated fuel economy might not be needed). Invest heavily in research and development of energy efficiency and lower carbon energy sources. Look seriously at how the US, which has contributed 30% of the increase in atmospheric carbon since the beginning of the industrial revolution, can pay 30% of the cost of shifting other countries to post-fossil fuel energy sources.

These are fairly easy changes that most of us can make over the next year. Future changes may not be as easy, but the first steps are to make ourselves, other people, and our legislators conscious of the importance of climate change, both in terms of reduced quality of life and the economic consequences that will accompany failure to act. Your job, should you accept it, is to find 19 other legs and work more or less together.

Climate Change and Feedbacks

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change produced the Third Assessment Report (2001), feedback mechanisms were not considered in predictions of how much temperature would increase this century. It was not known whether positive feedback mechanisms, such as melting ice (reflects 80 – 90% of sunlight) to water (reflects less than 10% of sunlight and heating speeds up), or negative feedback (more clouds reflect more sunlight and heating slows) would dominate. It is now thought that contributions from positive feedback will swamp any negative feedback.

Note: albedo measures reflectivity, so the albedo of ice is above 0.8, and below 0.1 for ocean.

At today’s sessions of the China-US Climate Change Conference at UC, Berkeley, Inez Fung suggested several other mechanisms of positive feedback. The ocean is acidifying as it absorbs carbon dioxide, and so absorbs less. (Eventually the carbon dioxide will be absorbed below the 500 – 1,000 m depth it’s reached so far, but in 200 years since the beginning of the industrial revolution, carbon has remained in the top quarter of the ocean. As carbon dioxide in the top layers moves down, the top layers will be able to absorb more.) Photosynthesis is expected to slow as the Earth warms and dries – there may be more rain, but soil will be dryer. Soil carbon turns over more quickly when warm, that’s why tropical soil contains less carbon.

John Harte cited additional examples. The retreat of ice at the end of the ice age was hurried along by the advance of spruce trees (albedo = 0.1), much more rapid change than if ice had been replaced by rock or silt (albedo = 0.4). Margaret Torn and John Harte studied how carbon dioxide changed in the Vostok ice cores (Antarctica). First the Earth warmed (from orbital changes) and then the warmed Earth added greenhouse gases which warmed the Earth more. We are adding greenhouse gases which warm the Earth which will lead to the release of more carbon dioxide and methane which will warm the Earth more. The more GHG we add to the atmosphere, the stronger will be the positive feedback. Their work will be in the May 26 Geophysical Research Letters.

Part of the Colorado Rockies is Harte’s lab, where heaters mimic climate change. Forbs, or daisies, are declining and sagebrush increasing. The sagebrush has a lower albedo, thus warming the area around a heat loving plant, an advantage to it. One more positive feedback to us.

Other speakers repeated the point made by both Fung and Harte: increases in temperature are going to be more than we thought, and decreases in greenhouse gas emissions need to be faster and more rapid than many now anticipate. Failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions a lot is likely to be too costly; it is not a serious policy option.


Monday, May 22nd, 2006

In the last post I mentioned the person who thought that sea level could rise 20 feet this century. I have now heard from someone else who is convinced that climate change is immediately and radically worrisome. Her predictions:

2020: bad weather for homo sapiens. Less food production. hunger. spread of tropical diseases to previously temperate areas.

2050: the major die off of humans will have happened, and things will be stabilizing.

2100: I don’t know. I don’t think that the ocean currents will re-reverse, so probably limited areas of habitation. I don’t know if the weather will stay crazy.

Finally, someone who can take my class and feel more optimistic afterwards.

On and off I hear from people convinced that the Gulf Stream will shut off within the decade and that cold weather for much of Europe is imminent.

Barbara, who sent in this last set of predictions, has never worried that nuclear war is imminent or about peak oil. Some of those I hear from have more free floating anxiety, though they aren’t the people who got excited that Cassini might crash and kill most humans.

In addition to the lack of concern many express, I also have been hearing predictions of massive imminent death. I’ve been ignoring these predictions, but am now thinking that anxiety and denial are mixed together in our culture, a noxious combination.

We must live under a rock

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

I asked my “under a rock” question of three people in Berkeley Friends Meeting yesterday.

One will come to the June 4 Called Meeting on the Environment with a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece from Richard Lindzen. For more on Lindzen, see this and this and this description of how he welshes on bets. I haven’t read the actual Lindzen piece as it requires a subscription.

Another believes worse case, Greenland’s glaciers will melt this century (this is not a published worst case scenario, worst case in the 2007 IPCC will probably be on the order of 2 – 3 m sea level increase rather than 7 m); he detects no sense of urgency among Friends.

A third has heard few talk about climate change, mostly me, so she doesn’t know what people think. It’s important when someone listening to the pulse of the Meeting can’t find a climate change pulse.

I also asked a friend, someone not very involved in environmental issues. Everyone she knows except her elderly parents thinks climate change is important, but they are still used to talking about gas prices and such, so whatever wisdom exists in the head has yet to show up as behavior change or change in speech.

If you have a different experience, I’m interested in hearing more.

Under a Rock

Saturday, May 20th, 2006

Katherine Ellison’s NY Times op-ed piece today says, “only someone who has been hiding under a rock would need to see the new Al Gore movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” to learn that global warming is real.”

I’ve heard this from others but not witnessed it all that dramatically myself. Is this the experience of list readers, that Crichton and Inhofe and Will and a few others excepted, Americans pretty much know that climate change is happening, is serious, and that we have to act?

I hear many say it is the most important topic for us to address. But I hear many list it as just one of various important topics. And few of us, of course, have internalized that important means that we need to act.

What are family members, coworkers, friends and colleagues, and various others saying about how serious climate change is, about how quickly we need to respond, and what we need to do?

More Responses

Saturday, May 20th, 2006

Three more responses to the questions:

What changes do you expect from climate change by 2020, 2050, and 2100?

Trish comments.

Someone else, age unknown, sent this in:

I think global warming will look much like the last eighteen months. Spring floods in New England and elsewhere will become the norm. I can see them moving further inland each year. The seasonal flooding everywhere will be worse not only because of global warming but also because of urbanization of watersheds. I am not sure what the tropical storm season is going to do. If the hurricanes land in third world countries the majority of the time then I think that Americans–in general–will continue to ignore the storms’ severity. Generally I think weather will become much less stable. For some time the yearly averages will look about the same but the day to day fluctuations will be greater.

Another sent this in, not saying what he expects to happen, but that the whole project appears hopeless:

The only problem is that most people are more concerned about the cost of fuel for their automobiles than something that they think they cannot do anything about. They simply do not recognize climate change as an urgent and moral issue.

That’s sad to say but I fear it is true. Most of us don’t even do the simple little things we can do such as buying the compact fluorescent light bulbs. And that just makes sense even on one’s own budget, for we are told that we can save up to $275 per year just by changing all of the light bulbs in your home to the energy efficient fluorescent bulbs.

He’s right. In part because only those of us who live in the far north, or on Pacific islands expected to be submerged in a matter of decades, have really internalized the kinds of changes we expect to see. In large numbers.

Consider how pictures of gunked up lungs helped shift people who already knew that smoking was dangerous. Reminders, pictures, all will help.

One of our tasks is to learn to say what changes we expect to see in our lifetime, or in the lifetime of our children. We can also learn to describe what changes we will have made inevitable in our lifetime. If coal power plants are built without geological storage (storing the carbon in oil wells or the seams of coal mines) in the next 10 years, of if fuel economy is not doubled, or any number of other changes are not made, what do you expect will be inevitable? What will we have left to the world to deal with this half-century, this century, and later? (To repeat: huge numbers of coal power plants are expected in India and China in the next few years, and these will be built without geological storage unless the West finances the cleaner but more expensive coal gasification plants. In the US, people in industry believe that the more expensive plants will be required here, but see no leadership at the national level.)

And to our Friend expressing frustration, it is possible to say to others, “You will save yourself money and help to protect the climate if you replace all of your frequently used light bulbs with fluorescent or compact fluorescent bulbs.” In at least one Friends Meeting, compact fluorescent bulbs are given away to members and attenders. There’s a rule, Chinese we are told, that people don’t see the horse until the third time they see it. So we all need to help others see the climate change problems horse, and the climate change partial solutions horse.

Tackling climate change is the responsibility of each and every one of us. We need to work individually and corporately.

Again, part of our work is to expand the picture of what will happen or what may happen beyond the temperature rising. We need a way to understand the changes ourselves, and a way to help others understand. I very much appreciate all who have sent in your picture, your ideas!

Expectations about Climate Change

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

I’ve received two more answers, but none left in comments. Again, what do you think will happen by 2020, 2050, and 2100?

1) I assume it is a very bad prognosis. Even if the country decides to go full blast at solving the problem. Water everywhere on our coast way above the present coast line. Dry areas that aren’t dry.

2) Barring immediate and drastic changes to emissions, there will be continued and no doubt increasing melting of polar ice caps and other detrimental changes resulting (for example) in further droughts in large parts of sub-Saharan Africa. There may well be political, cultural, social and military unrest, none of which my descendants (assuming I have any) would like to see. In fact, some of these changes may be past the ‘tipping point’: I would not like to own land in Micronesia.

When, I asked?

Some changes in the next five years. Major changes in my lifetime. My daughter (born 1998) will end her life with a very different world view than that of her grandparents if she lives as long as they have (who were born in 1917, 1926, 1926, and 1927). It is hard to predict exactly what will happen when.

I also found this Tony Blair quote in Elizabeth Kolbert’s excellent Field Notes from a Catastrophe : Man, Nature, and Climate Change. It’s plain, Blair said, that

[the emission of greenhouse gases] is causing global warming at a rate that began as significant, has become alarming, and is simply unsustainable in the long-term. And by long-term I do not mean centuries ahead. I man within the lifetime of my children certainly; and possibly within my own. And by unsustainable, I do not mean a phenomenon causing problems of adjustment. I mean a challenge so far-reaching in its impact and irreversible in its destructive power, that it alters radically human existence. “

Changes We Expect to See

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

I’ve received one answer so far re what changes we can expect to see when, from someone in her 30s: hopefully, a quick reduction in greenhouse gas emissions so that changes will taper off. She doesn’t know what changes are happening or are expected.

Others? What changes do you expect by 2020? by 2050? by 2100?

What changes will be inevitable by 2020? by 2050? by 2100? even if they occur later.

Closing the Gap between Science and Action

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies has produced Americans and Climate Change, an excellent analyis of why we are where we are (addressing climate change very slowly) and how to do better.

They have suggestions for people in a variety of fields:

News Media
Religion & Ethics
Entertainment & Advertising
Business & Finance
Environmentalists & Civil Society

Climate Change Will Cause What?

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

What is your concern about climate change?

I’m curious because my sense is that we bring different images of the future to the discussion. Which generation will really be hit, what will climate change look like to us and to others, who will be the most affected?

Spending Hundreds of Dollars

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

I’ve received several replies to the questions of whether we should spend, every year, hundreds/household each here and in the third world for climate change. Only Bob’s was for publication, and the answers are one sided.

To summarize answers not posted:

• Yes, I want to spend the money both here and in the third world, but I’ve been saving for college education (and this is a drop in the budget compared to college?)

• Yes, that price is more than reasonable, but anyone buying a gas-guzzler should pay much more and attention should be given to those unable to pay the extra cost.

• Yes, that will be much cheaper than paying for climate change (from someone in her 30’s – people who expect to live less than a decade more might not see it as cheaper).

• Yes, where do I sign up?

To answer the last question:

In order to spend hundreds of dollars more/household in the US, you need to elect legislators, or train them afterwards, who will strongly promote carbon cap and trade (explanation at end). If the cap is set low enough, coal power will be less attractive and only built with geological storage. The price of driving, flying, and possibly taking the bus will go up, along with the price of goods that travel long distances. The price of electricity will rise, especially for regions that depend on coal power and to a lesser extent electricity made from natural gas. The price of aluminum will rise.

The money raised can go to large increases for the research and development of technological reductions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, earned income credit to reduce the penalties of being poor in a changing economic climate, and even toward the substantial tax increases that will be implemented beginning January 2009. (Nothing about cap and trade precludes the government getting tax revenue from taxes on automobiles, fuels, and coal power.)

To send money to the third world, you need to elect legislators, or train them afterwards, who will raise our taxes several hundred dollars/year and then send that money to the third world, and most immediately to countries like China and India: rich enough to rapidly build up energy supplies, huge coal reserves, not rich enough to use geological sequestration with coal power. Also, you need to elect legislators, or train them afterwards, who believe in treaties, because this money will only be spent in the third world after treaties are ratified.

Americans very much (overwhelmingly?) don’t support these proposals. So let’s hear from some grumps!

If you’re interested in public transit and good city planning issues, check out Bob Seeley’s blog, Surviving the Future. Part of his focus is on the choices we make as individuals, how much we pay for our choices, both individually and in social costs.

Cap and Trade
From EPA

A cap and trade program first sets an aggressive cap, or maximum limit, on emissions. Sources covered by the program then receive authorizations to emit in the form of emissions allowances, with the total amount of allowances limited by the cap. Each source can design its own compliance strategy to meet the overall reduction requirement, including sale or purchase of allowances, installation of pollution controls, implementation of efficiency measures, among other options. Individual control requirements are not specified under a cap and trade program, but each emissions source must surrender allowances equal to its actual emissions in order to comply. Sources must also completely and accurately measure and report all emissions in a timely manner to guarantee that the overall cap is achieved.

Cap and trade programs are easier to monitor for compliance than many other programs because it only requires a meter recording emissions, and some paper pushers.

US – China climate change conference

Monday, May 15th, 2006

UC, Berkeley will host a US-China climate change conference May 23 – 24.

From their site:

Participants include:

• Steven Chu, 1997 Nobel Prize winner in physics and director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
• John P. Holdren, a Harvard University professor of environmental policy and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
• Inez Fung and Dan Kammen, co-directors of the UC Berkeley Institute for the Environment
• George Akerlof, UC Berkeley professor of economics and 2001 winner of the Nobel Prize in economics
• Terry Tamminen, former chief of California Environmental Protection Agency
• Speakers from China’s State Environmental Protection Administration, its national oil company, major universities, and other governmental panels
• Representatives of major insurance, venture capital and energy companies, including Royal Dutch Shell

Al Gore will speak separately at 7 PM, tickets are $10. The main conference, all two days, is free.

Hundreds of Dollars

Sunday, May 7th, 2006

I sent y’all in the last post to a Harvard site where they ask these two questions, paraphrased:

1. Would you be willing to spend hundreds of dollars/household/year in the US lowering our greenhouse gas emissions, for example, by building more expensive coal power plants that sequester — geologically store — the carbon, and raising the price of gasoline and all other greenhouse gas emissions?

2. Would you be willing to spend hundreds of dollars/household/year in extra taxes so that we can subsidize third world construction of lower greenhouse gas emitting projects, such as building more expensive (and much less polluting) coal power plants?

Assume that the new expenditures would start January 2009.

I’d like to see your votes at this site, and your reasons. So please comment!

Fueling Our Future

Friday, May 5th, 2006

Harvard Magzazine looks at a few of the consequences of climate change, and proposes sequestering carbon in the oceans as part of the solution. The idea is to inject carbon from nearby power plants deep into the oceans where little complex life exists.

The most interesting part for me was the video supplement explaining how hard it is to get there from here, and asking:

would you be willing to spend hundreds of dollars per household per year to cut per capita American carbon emissions in half?

would you be willing to spend hundreds of tax dollars per household per year to cut third world emissions by financing technology there?

Take the poll, if only to see the blurb continue after your vote.

(The goal, many hundreds of dollars per household per year from now, is to reach an atmospheric level of carbon still at risk of accelerated, runaway, or abrupt climate change. The reductions may need to be greater than proposed, in part because the Earth’s ablity to absorb carbon is decreasing. But many in policy don’t see a more sensible goal as doable, and they don’t see this goal as readily achievable.)

The importance of these questions, similar to those asked at the Marian Koshland Museum in DC, is to emphasize that addressing climate change even somewhat is likely to cost us money. Yes, there is much that we can do that will end up saving money; energy efficient light bulbs and appliances, and better insulation, often save money, but not always. Shifting away from coal and other fossil fuels will cost money. Not addressing climate change is likely to cost us even more.

I have heard many say that climate change solutions are easy and cheap. Many of the solutions are. But overall, we probably want to consider shifting some of our budget toward reducing climate change, and some more of our budget to living with the consequences of what we don’t prevent.