Green Linkdump 1: 392.04 and rising

by Robert Nagle on 7/14/2010

in global warming

Well, the CO2 count is now 392.04. In totally  unrelated news, 2010 has been setting temperature records

While reading James Hansen’s Storms of my Grandchildren,  he reminded me that George W. Bush promised during the 2000 presidential campaign that he would regulate CO2. 3 months later, he changed his mind. Hansen argues that this empty promise may have helped Bush to clinch the ecologically-minded Florida  voters.

I will always blame  organized religion for helping George W. Bush to get reelected in 2000. The best  predictor about whether you voted for Bush in 2000 was whether you attended church regularly.  It defies explanation that the church  can rouse all sorts of emotional reactions about creationism and gay marriage and abortion but not whether our successive generations will have a habitable planet. That is why it gratifies me to see a green movement forming in the church. But I understand that organized religions might be too busy worrying about outlawing gay marriage and  futile constitutional amendments to have time to consider minor issues like global warming.

By the way, I am loving James Hansen’s book on climate change. Doesn’t sugarcoat the science and presents a lot of background about what was going on during the Bush Administration. I also recommend Global Warming and Climate Change Demystified. Some of it is out-of-date (when it was published in 2008, reports about icecaps in Greenland and the Arctic hadn’t come out yet, for example). But it covers the science (and especially the IPCC 4 reports)  in a methodical and readable way.

Here’s an anonymous quote by a commenter on Climate Progress:

Joe1347 says: “Can’t these Scientists just say that Global Warming is real and is a grave threat?”

Joe, I understand your frustration, but if a scientist came out and said “global warming is real”, she would immediately be asked to prove it without a doubt, with 100% certainty. Of course that is impossible, and that same day you’d see the big headlines “Climate scientist caught lying”. And she’d probably end up in huge trouble, attacked by the public, her employer, other scientists, and perhaps the US government (it’s already happened during the Bush regime).

Most people understand probability, at some level. Most of us brush our teeth, buy insurance, buckle our seat belts, and see our doctors once in a while, because we realize there is a small probability that if we don’t do these things, we will be in big trouble one day. So I don’t think it is a lack of understanding of probability that keeps people from reacting. Do you think most people would be unaffected if their boss told them “There is a 99% chance you will be fired tomorrow?” And yet, people remain essentially unaffected by a similar statement about global climate change.

I can only speculate why this is the case. Maybe the problem is too big and abstract for most people to really get. Maybe it’s too slow – the human brain evolved to deal with quick threats, not ones that take decades to develop (just look at the state of most people’s retirement planning for evidence). Maybe it’s too damn scary to take in. Maybe people feel helpless in the face of a problem of this size (with good reason). Or maybe it all seems very unlikely when the mall and the gas stations are still open, and your car is waiting to take you there at the twist of a key. Most likely of all, people just don’t *want* to believe, because it is too damn inconvenient. (I think Al Gore hit the nail on the head with his choice of title.)

I’m not sanguine about our future. Individual humans are often brilliant, but humanity as a whole is colossally stupid. Our species has already slaughtered millions of our own kind, wiped out most of our forests, fished our oceans near empty, filled the air we breathe with poison, used up most of the fresh water on the earth, and burdened the planet with a staggering 6.5 billion people. Some of these problems started centuries ago, and yet we have found no effective way to stop even a single one of them on a global scale. So what are the odds that this newest crisis – global climate change – will result in, for the first time in the 150,000 years our species has been in existence, all the worlds people actually agreeing on something, and then actually working together on a solution?

Pigs will fly first, you know. So forget about a “fix” for the problem. Just do what little you can to minimize your own carbon footprint. If you don’t already have kids, please, please don’t have any. Settle down to enjoy the rest of your life as best you can. Global climate change will play a significant role in it, that I can guarantee.

Yeah, with a 99% probability.

Tips to improve your gas mileage. Each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas.

Shannon Hayes makes the case for sustainable meat.

The calculated ratio of the amount of grain an animal requires to gain a pound of weight is called the conversion factor. When grain is fed to fish, the conversion ratio is about 1.25 to 1; in other words, for every 1.25 pounds of grain product fed to a fish, there is a pound of weight gain. The conversion ratio for chicken is 2 pounds of feed per pound of gain on the bird. Pork requires 4 pounds per pound of gain. And when ruminants enter the equation, it skyrockets: estimates vary, but generally lambs require 8 pounds of feed for a pound of weight gain, and beef cattle consume some 9 pounds of feed per pound of gain.

Joe Romm reports that the carbon footprint for the 2010 World Cup is 8x the footprint for the 2006 World Cup. Wow, that’s an idea: use carbon footprints as  a criteria for choosing event venues.

USDA closes a loophole for organic milk (Sachpreet Chandhoke reports) Now it requires that dairy cows graze on grass for 120 days minimum to sell their milk as organic.

The judge who ruled against the 6 month moratorium didn’t recuse himself from the case even though he owned lots of energy stocks.  Apparently 58% of federal judges in oil-producing states own oil stocks.

On Green Week in Houston event (Oct 10), apparently the No Impact Man Colin Beavan will be in Houston (later that week).   For Houstonians, Houstongreenscene.org provides  events, activities and commentaries by Houstonians about green living. (I have a feeling I will contribute sometime!). 

Jonathan Hiskes reports on  10 ways cities and towns can kick the offshore oil habit and some federal initiatives which could be taken.  Hiskes also reports that the Senate climate bill will go for a vote before the end of July.  If it doesn’t pass this time, maybe it never will. That said, it seems to be putting the onus on utility companies instead of consumers and small businesses. What about electric cars? Dairy farms? Dry cleaners? Update: The big bargaining chip is whether the Senate bill will exempt utilities from EPA oversight. By the way, the Supreme Court ruling that granted EPA regulatory authority over CO2  may turn out to be the most important judicial decisions of the decade.  It gave environmentalists an enormous bargaining chip.

I’ve always felt that Corporate Social Responsibility reports will be a hot field for technical writers and accountants. Here’s a piece in Triple Pundit about why GRI will be the next LEED. (Triplepundit has the GRI trainers as a sponsor, but I don’t see that as a conflict of interest). Here’s more about voluntary carbon reporting.

TedX Oil Spill has live video streams of all their talks. I’ve started listening to it. Here’s a wrapup by J.A. Ginsburg, including this great quote from one of the talks:

The National Academy of Sciences estimates that ever gallon of gas you burn in your car creates 29 cents in health care costs.

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