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Candidates favor reducing carbon emissions to levels not seen since the American Revolution.--

Last week some commenters wondered why I hinted that radically reducing greenhouse gasses in the present environment ran the risk of impoverishing people. I had in mind two things: (1) our nonsensensical government policy promoting ethanol, which appears to have contributed to a worldwide run-up in food prices, leading to disasters for many poor people around the world, and (2) the stated goals of all three major candidates to reduce US emissions to per capita levels not known here since before the Industrial Revolution.

In the Wall Street Journal, Steven Hayward, who knows a lot more about such things than I do, expresses my inchoate second thought in detail:

The usual chorus of environmentalists and editorial writers has chimed in to attack President Bush's recent speech on climate change. In his address of April 23, he put forth a goal of stopping the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2025. "Way too little and way too late," runs the refrain, followed by the claim that nothing less than an 80% reduction in emissions by the year 2050 will suffice -- what I call the "80 by 50" target. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have endorsed it. John McCain is not far behind, calling for a 65% reduction.

We all ought to reflect on what an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050 really means. When we do, it becomes clear that the president's target has one overwhelming virtue: Assuming emissions curbs are even necessary, his goal is at least realistic.

The same cannot be said for the carbon emissions targets espoused by the three presidential candidates and environmentalists. Indeed, these targets would send us back to emissions levels last witnessed when the cotton gin was in daily use. Begin with the current inventory of carbon dioxide emissions -- CO2 being the principal greenhouse gas generated almost entirely by energy use. According to the Department of Energy's most recent data on greenhouse gas emissions, in 2006 the U.S. emitted 5.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, or just under 20 tons per capita. An 80% reduction in these emissions from 1990 levels means that the U.S. cannot emit more than about one billion metric tons of CO2 in 2050.

Were man-made carbon dioxide emissions in this country ever that low? The answer is probably yes -- from historical energy data it is possible to estimate that the U.S. last emitted one billion metric tons around 1910. But in 1910, the U.S. had 92 million people, and per capita income, in current dollars, was about $6,000. By the year 2050, the Census Bureau projects that our population will be around 420 million. This means per capita emissions will have to fall to about 2.5 tons in order to meet the goal of 80% reduction.

It is likely that U.S. per capita emissions were never that low -- even back in colonial days when the only fuel we burned was wood. The only nations in the world today that emit at this low level are all poor developing nations, such as Belize, Mauritius, Jordan, Haiti and Somalia.

Excessive environmentalism, if actually implemented, would lead to poverty, and poverty leads to death. If a solution is to be found, wealth — and the technology that wealth buys — will play a big part.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Candidates favor reducing carbon emissions to levels not seen since the American Revolution.--
  2. Reynolds on Geoengineering.--
ithaqua (mail):
"Excessive environmentalism, if actually implemented, would lead to poverty, and poverty leads to death."

Which, to environmentalists, is precisely the point.
4.28.2008 10:48pm
Richard A. (mail):
Look on the bright side: Global warming is the best argument for nuclear power ever advanced.

With any luck, we'll get cheap electricity from nukes.

And then this fad will blow over and we'll still have a reliable source of power.
4.28.2008 10:59pm
Cornellian (mail):
I say reducing carbon emissions would do wonders for our economy, specifically the carbon dioxide emitted by elected politicians when they speak. Ban those emissions and our economy will be well on the way to recovery.
4.28.2008 10:59pm
bittern (mail):
Jim, you'd have a good point even if you didn't slide in the per-capita bit and slither back to Colonial days with no data. Why gild the turd?
4.28.2008 11:03pm
George Weiss (mail) (www):
American revolution or industrial revolution?
4.28.2008 11:05pm
Angus:
Talk about confusing. In the same editorial, Hayward says that environmentalists are trying to turn back to the clock to: the colonial period, the American Revolution, the early-1800s, and 1910. Which one is it?
4.28.2008 11:07pm
James Lindgren (mail):
The year 1910 refers to the total (not per capita) Co2 emissions. Hayward says that the per capita emissions favored by at least 2 candidates may be less than even those in the colonial period.

Because the American Revolution is before the Industrial Revolution and marks the end of the colonial period, he is talking about "levels not seen since [at least] the American Revolution," hence my title. I refer to the Industrial Revolution when referring to all 3 candidates to expand coverage to McCain's proposal as well as Obama's and Clinton's.
4.28.2008 11:21pm
Fearless:
I think the hype blaming ethanol for rising food prices is a little overblown.

Let us not forget the impact of higher oil prices on food prices because of increased transportation and production costs. A lot of agriculture is dependent on natural gas.

Let us not forget the effects of commodity speculation which have artificially increased commodity prices.

Let us not forget the effects of unusually bad weather conditions.

The bottom line is this. I do not think that ideologues like Adler can be trusted. They always talk about the factors that advances some pet idea, rather than putting things into context.

It is like Somin, who never talks about race, except to advance his futile anti-eminent domain positions.

If you listen to Adler, you would think the main factor driving up food prices was ethanol subsidies. If you listen to Somin, you would think that the main factor causing tensions in race relations was eminent domain.

Ideologues cannot be trusted. I think they do much more to harm the debate with their half analysis than advance it.
4.28.2008 11:32pm
Luis (mail) (www):
Good Lord, Jim, why do you think that greenhouse emissions are identical with prosperity, and their absence identical with poverty? Greenhouse emissions are identical with, well, burning things, for the most part. Talk about your proxy variables! The quickest and sloppiest analogue I can come up with, in my tired little brain, is to suggest that slavery rates are identical with prosperity, and that a society with no slaves in it must be poverty-stricken. OR MAYBE people could find, in their endless creativity, other ways of making money!

Also: Your post is a polemic desperately in search of a threat. Can anyone here name one society whose economy is being trashed by rampant enviroNaziism? (First person to yell hurr, Europe! loses.)
4.28.2008 11:38pm
bittern (mail):
In January, Time magazine said of a Lester Brown proposal:

At the heart is a call to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions 80% by 2020 — far more aggressive than anything you'll hear from political leaders or even most activists.

The candidates are backsliding to 2050!!

Ha. It all just goes to show what a snappy slogan will get you.
4.28.2008 11:44pm
SenatorX (mail):
I think the hype blaming ethanol for rising food prices is a little overblown.
Let us not forget the impact of higher oil prices on food prices because of increased transportation and production costs. A lot of agriculture is dependent on natural gas.
Let us not forget the effects of commodity speculation which have artificially increased commodity prices.
Let us not forget the effects of unusually bad weather conditions.


You left out the big enchilada : plummeting value of the dollar.
4.29.2008 12:07am
randal (mail):
Luis has it exactly right. You have to be pretty totally intellectually dishonest to advance the argument that carbon emissions are required for prosperity.

1. As Luis points out, you could make the same argument about a number of ridiculous things, such as lollipops.

It is likely that U.S. per capita lollipops were never that low -- even back in colonial days when the only lollipops we licked were hand-made. The only nations in the world today that lick at this low level are all poor developing nations, such as Belize, Mauritius, Jordan, Haiti and Somalia.

2. Burning wood doesn't count as a CO2 emission for environmental purposes because the CO2 in wood comes from the atmosphere to begin with. It's only fossil fuels that cause problems.

3. Even burning fossil fuels doesn't count as CO2 emission if the CO2 is sequestered and not emitted.

Is it really that hard to imagine that we could refrain from burning and/or emitting a very high percentage of fossil fuel CO2 we do today? No, basically.
4.29.2008 12:37am
A. Zarkov (mail):
The US consumes 105 exajoules per year. An exajoule equals 10^18 (1 followed by 18 zeros) joules. About 90 exajoues of that comes from fossil fuels. Therefore if we are going to reduce fossil fuel usage by 80%, we have to find 72 exajoules of energy per year. Of course carbon emissions is not the same as energy consumption so this is approximate. Currently we get about 20 exajoules from nuclear energy. So we need to more than triple our nuclear energy generating capacity by 2050. Just to maintain what we have. Obviously the demand for energy will increase every year as the economy grows. Right now we have 103 nuclear power plants in operation which means we need something like 267 new plants brought on-line by 2050 or about 6 per year. Can we do that? I suspect not since it seems to take something like ten years to design, build and approve a new plant. That's out. Next. Wind, solar, geothermal and biomass give us about 2.4% or about 2.5 exajoules. That means we have to expand these energy generators by a factor of about 29. That's an increase in alternative energy generation of 8% per year. And remember that's just to stand still in terms of generation. Even if we can build nuclear power plants fast enough or grow alternative energy fast enough, we still need energy storage to run transportation vehicles. That means something like hydrogen, which requires a whole new infrastructure. None of this is likely to happen.

The whole thing is ridiculous. This is just so much political hot air. Americans are not going to become poor to make environmentalists happy. They will throw them in the river first.
4.29.2008 1:08am
Rock On (www):
I don't think most honest environmentalists were ever particularly in favor of ethanol. It's been clear for many years that unless/until science gets cellulosic ethanol to work, it's a total waste of time.
4.29.2008 1:13am
Ben P (mail):

2. Burning wood doesn't count as a CO2 emission for environmental purposes because the CO2 in wood comes from the atmosphere to begin with. It's only fossil fuels that cause problems.


To be fair this statement is just slightly too broad. I think what you meant was climate change purposes.

Burning Wood (and unfiltered coal for that matter) is still very polluting but in other ways. Anecdotally I've heard that the Chinese have increased the air quality in their cities by orders of magnitude merely by banning the use of individual wood fires for cooking.


But this brings out another interesting point. Regardless of what one argues about the science regarding climate change, people said many similar things about past environmental programs, and yet, in retrospect, they've generally been quite successful.


Take CFC's for example. In the 1970's and 80's there was a generally growing recognition that CFC's were causing damage to the Ozone layer. At that time you saw many of the same arguments against regulation that you see against carbon regulation today. In the late 80's international treaties were adopted that promised a fairly agressive phase out of the most damaging chemicals. (Goals for a complete phase out within 10 years)

Today, Atmospheric concentrations of CFC's have been declining for more than 10 years, and although the "Ozone hole" was abnormally large in 2006, nearly all scientific projections indicate that the growth has stopped and that it's expected to begin shrinking measurably in the next 10 years, and return to pre 1980 levels by 2050.
4.29.2008 1:19am
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"Americans are not going to become poor to make environmentalists happy."

You're right. Americans are going to become poor because the Republicans trashed our economy and lost our economic and military edge in the world. Ultimately, it may not be the reduced CO2 levels that drive us back to the poverty of the American Revolution; as Senator X pointed out, it may well be the falling dollar. There are some advantages: the falling dollar, leading to a trashed economy and hyperinflation, will inevitably sap our National apshalt road-building funds, cooling the climate a bit, and making it more conducive to travel by horse and buggy.
4.29.2008 1:20am
GatoRat:
With temperatures now declining, shouldn't we be increasing our CO2 emissions.

(Trick question since the answer is no since CO2 is not a causative agent of global warming.)
4.29.2008 1:40am
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"(Trick question since the answer is no since CO2 is not a causative agent of global warming.)"

Prove it.
4.29.2008 1:51am
Oren:
So we need to more than triple our nuclear energy generating capacity by 2050. Just to maintain what we have. Obviously the demand for energy will increase every year as the economy grows.
Missing option: we can do more with less.

Automobile efficiency has actually risen many-fold when you consider the HP:MPG ratio - every year engines get better and automakers use that to increase power while keeping efficiency constant (in the era of $1 gas, that's what the market wanted). The average car has gone up considerably in weight and power/weight - technology that the market is now putting towards increasing efficiency instead. Modern refrigerators are 30-40% more efficient than just 2 decades ago, modern AC is 100% more efficient, modern water-heaters, washing machines, dryers and dishwashers have also posted 50-100% gains in recent decades. Housing with modern insulation and reflecting/absorbing siding can save you a bundle and we are getting a fair bit better at conserving water too.

What's most promising to me is that we've made all this progress during times of cheap power. Now that power is expensive ($4/gal, $.25/KWH) the market incentive to create more efficient vehicles, appliances and houses should lead to even larger gains.

There are many other innovations and changes that are contributing to using less energy while still enjoying the same standard. Newer urban design that allows people to live close to where they work means considerably less commuting (I moved to 1.5 miles from my job and it's the best fricking thing I've ever done). Any road development that reduces traffic jams is probably energy positive. Peak/off peak electricity pricing (requires a fancy new meter) encourages people to use power when the grid is relaxed at night and conserve when it's at maximum strain (the cost of power is dominated by capital costs which scale as peak demand, power used off-peak is basically free at the margins).

In short, we are probably throwing away at least 30% of those 105 EJ in the form of inefficient vehicles, homes, appliances and commutes. I reckon the wastage is even higher. Unlike some environmentalists, I don't consider it a moral or cultural failing - it's not. When power is cheap, there is just no incentive to conserve. Now that power is expensive (and funds people that want to kill us) we have the incentive, the technology and the resources to conserve without breaking the bank or reducing our standards.

Right now we have 103 nuclear power plants in operation which means we need something like 267 new plants brought on-line by 2050 or about 6 per year.
Could be accomplished with a standardization scheme with regulatory approval coming in blocks. NIMBY-ism is the biggest problem here.
4.29.2008 2:17am
Elliot Reed (mail):
I think there's no serious dispute that arranging the reduction solely through a reduction in energy use would lead to poverty. The idea is that we'll get there by switching to power sources that don't involve burning stuff. Possibly supplemented with some amount of cutting back on our per capita energy use by changing our lifestyles so they don't involve as much per capita energy use (greater use of pubtrans instead of cars, etc.). Why would this produce poverty?
4.29.2008 2:20am
Oren:
Elliot, I seriously dispute that! A combination of conservation, nuclear power, alternative power (research now, implementation when it becomes < $.25/KWH) is what's broadly needed.

I prefer not to hype public transportation because of the general stigma associated with it. It's much more productive in the long run to chose a place to live close to where you work. Don't do it for the environment - do it for your friggin sanity, your pocketbook and the fact that your time is way too valuable to waste driving to and from work every day.
4.29.2008 2:56am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Oren:

Increased efficiency is certainly a good thing to do, but there's only so much gain possible because of a little thing called the second law of thermodynamics. The Carnot efficiency sets an upper bound on the efficiency of any heat engine. For real world heat engines you should use Chambadal-Novikov-Curzon-Ahlborn efficiency. Materials set a limit on the efficiency of internal combustion engines. A steel engine has 37% maximum efficiency. Practical values for the maximum are in the low 30's. Most engines today get achieve around 21%. We might get that up to 28% with a lot of work. But as you can see we are well into diminishing returns. Of course we can reduce weight, drag and horsepower. If Americans are willing to drive small under powered cars we might approximately double the fleet average.
4.29.2008 2:57am
CDU (mail) (www):
A steel engine has 37% maximum efficiency. Practical values for the maximum are in the low 30's. Most engines today get achieve around 21%. We might get that up to 28% with a lot of work.


There's a lot more to efficiency than just the engine, you have to look at everything, including the entire drivetrain, the tires, the overall mass of the car, etc. The biggest potential benefit probably comes from better structural materials. Build a car out of carbon fiber or lightweight alloys (essentially the same stuff they build airplanes out of right now) and you can halve the mass of the car without reducing size. How this translates into increased efficiency is a bit more complicated since it's a function of mass, rolling friction, and drag, but in stop and go city driving mass is the dominant factor. Halve the mass of the car and you can approximately double city fuel economy. Throw in some better tires and aerodynamics and you can get similar benefits and you can get similar efficiency improvements in highway driving. So a 50% boost is eminently achievable even before you start looking at the engine or drivetrain.
4.29.2008 3:26am
Oren:
Ah, the internet: where even a statistical physicist can be lectured on the laws of thermodynamics.

Regarding cars, you are correct in your analysis, although I think that substantially lighter cars need not be smaller as the cost of composite materials comes down. Ricers with carbon-fiber hoods have the right idea already. Combined with better urban planning and reduced traffic (god knows how much energy we burn sitting at red lights) I don't think it's out of the question that we can reduce automobile-related energy usage by 50% by 2020 without any major technological breakthrough. Shit, we could go down 2-5% right now by going back to 55MPH (actual driving speed, not the posted limit which doesn't seem to do anything).

I would also favor development of a robust system of rail freight (Amtrak is dead except for Boston-DC corridor, just let it die) to replace the largely truck-based system we have now. Realistically, it would be a hub/spoke system with rail-based distribution to the regional hubs and trucks from there out. This would have the benefit of reducing energy usage while at the same time cutting down on a major cause of traffic, thus further reducing energy usage.
4.29.2008 3:26am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Build a car out of carbon fiber or lightweight alloys (essentially the same stuff they build airplanes out of right now)"

Carbon fiber is a great idea, but what about cost?
4.29.2008 3:59am
CDU (mail) (www):
Carbon fiber is a great idea, but what about cost?


Economies of scale ought to bring that down quite a bit. Not to knock Boeing or Airbus, but compared to the auto industry, the amount of these materials used for the aerospace industry is practically nothing. Make ten million cars a year out of carbon fiber and the cost is going to drop by a lot. As cheap as steel? Probably not, but considering how much fuel would be saved (at more than $3 per gallon) the cost of materials could rise a lot and the buyer would still come out ahead.
4.29.2008 4:23am
Armstrong (mail):
It is likely that U.S. per capita emissions were never that low -- even back in colonial days when the only fuel we burned was wood. The only nations in the world today that emit at this low level are all poor developing nations, such as Belize, Mauritius, Jordan, Haiti and Somalia.

And, of course, the only difference between us and Haiti is per-capita emissions. And the only difference between the US in colonial times and now is per capita emissions.

The point is sloppy, the analogy stretched, and no real attempt is made to properly estimate the actual costs of reducing emissions. We live in a capitalist society, people! We are ultimately flexible in solving problems. If oil were to run out in ten years' time, we'd cope. Similarly, if oil were to be banned in ten years' time, we'd cope.
4.29.2008 5:05am
randal (mail):
I tried to say "sequester" earlier but it doesn't seem to have registered.

I agree with all the points that say it would be difficult to find alternative energies and/or additional efficiencies to save 80% of CO2 emissions by 2050, due mostly to physical limitations. (If it weren't for the physicists, the problem would be simple. Find someone to turn water into ethanol.)

If you add sequestering to the mix, which has no inherent physical barriers, you can burn as much crap as you want and not emit CO2. There's little reason to believe that by 2050 we can't figure out a way to capture ~80% of CO2 emissions before they enter the atmosphere.
4.29.2008 5:59am
douglas (mail):
"The only nations in the world today that emit at this low level are all poor developing nations, such as Belize, Mauritius, Jordan, Haiti and Somalia."

Also countries where you can live without a heater.

Lighter cars are great from a fuel economy standpoint, but at some point, you're trading lives for fuel savings. That's a tough sell. Yes, I know race cars are both extremely light and safe, but there are significant differences that make those levels of safety impractical in a normal road car.

"2. Burning wood doesn't count as a CO2 emission for environmental purposes because the CO2 in wood comes from the atmosphere to begin with. It's only fossil fuels that cause problems."

Well, not really. That CO2 released from the wood burned wasn't in the atmosphere before you burned it, it was 'banked' in the wood. If you burn it, you take it out of the bank prematurely and put it in the atmosphere as a gain. Wood burning being carbon neutral is completely dependant on the wood burned coming from equally renewed resources.

"Now that power is expensive ($4/gal, $.25/KWH) the market incentive to create more efficient vehicles, appliances and houses should lead to even larger gains."

Absolutely true. And honestly, we really shouldn't complain about current gas prices, but that's the big news right now.

"Combined with better urban planning and reduced traffic (god knows how much energy we burn sitting at red lights) I don't think it's out of the question that we can reduce automobile-related energy usage by 50% by 2020 without any major technological breakthrough."

Well, we'd need a major technological breakthrough just to solve the traffic problem. Engineers haven't even been able to come up with a reliable traffic model to work with, much less anything approaching a solution. As for Urban Planning, unless we're willing to live with new Baron Haussmann's change will take decades, and there's no reason to believe that it will be profound change, given historical precedent. (particularly here in Los Angeles).
4.29.2008 6:46am
davod (mail):
"Can anyone here name one society whose economy is being trashed by rampant enviroNaziism? (First person to yell hurr, Europe! loses.)"

- Sorry mate - Europe is cutting back on its emissions targets as it starts to understand the effect on heavy industry.
4.29.2008 7:45am
davod (mail):
Douglas: Thanks for pointing out the fallacy about CO2 from trees not counting.
4.29.2008 7:48am
Malthus:
We can reduce our burdens on the earth and return to the levels of 1910 or whatever by the simple measure of stopping all the breeding. Similar reduction of human population could also be achieved by war over resources and environmental pollution, of course, and if we don't choose the former, we'll no doubt get the latter.
4.29.2008 9:15am
cjwynes (mail):
I don't think any of these folks seriously thinks they can reduce emissions by this amount, and it's not like the number means anything. Hell, the UN was telling us just a couple years ago that temperatures would rise for another 100 years regardless of ANY action we took. Does anybody KNOW that cutting X% of carbon emissions will result in X% less warming over X number of years? Of course not. Without that, how do we know the best % to target? Surely there is some point at which the cost of further reductions would be higher than the cost of adapting to whatever temperature increase would be prevented by such further reduction.

Of course, that assumes they're interested in reaching the optimal result. They may not be. Environmentalism is all just a socialist trojan horse to smuggle gov't regulators into every sector of our economy and grant them command and control over all business activity. Green on the outside, red on the inside.
4.29.2008 12:19pm
10ksnooker (mail):
It really is funny isn't it? I doubt anyone really knows what these environmental whacka-doodle loons mean when they talk CO2 reductions.

Regardless, as the cooling tropics, the cooling oceans and all the ice and snow worldwide say, the Earth and it's climate is going to do what it's going to do, and man can't do anything about it.

This years US crop failures should show up just before the November elections -- That's going to be fun.

I recommend Prof Bob Carter's latest video lecture for a real cold shower about how stupid this CO2 warming nonsense is.
4.29.2008 12:20pm
A.C.:
Don't forget the production side of the economy when calculating impacts. A lot of debates focus on households and the consumer side, but a lot of our emissions come from factories and other businesses. Nuclear could help those businesses that rely on electricity, but what about the rest?

The traditional sources, and the ones that are still in use in most of the poor parts of the world, are human and animal power. When people talk about how reducing emissions will make us poor, they're talking about this. An individual's human muscle can only do so much, so you're talking about extremely low-wage work, serfdom, or slavery for a lot of people if you depend on human muscle to run your economy. Getting horsepower from actual horses is somewhat better, but they still eat and poop. And horse productivity only goes so far.

Switching to fossil fuels was a huge leap forward. (Anyone think it's a coincidence that places abolished slavery in the order they did?) Other leaps forward may be possible, but people who say "don't make us poor" are looking at the logical result of returning to an economy based primarily on muscle power.
4.29.2008 12:27pm
Joe -- Dallas, TX (mail):
A basic understanding of cost v benefit and marginal cost v marginal benefit is needed by all the enviromentalists and policy makers. For a very basic example, in the late 1990's the EPA required a reduction in VOC's (approx 30% reduction) in paint. After the reduction of the VOC's the adhesion and hardness of the paint deteriated which requires more frequent painting. As such, the VOC's instead of being reduced by 30% have actually doubled due to the shortened life span of the paint jobs and the resulting multiple paintings. This does not even take into account, the addtional solid waste due to the increased painting
4.29.2008 12:52pm
Crimso:

And the only difference between the US in colonial times and now is per capita emissions.

While you're being sarcastic, you're correct, and that's why the globe is warming (or so I hear a bunch of non-scientists insist). And before any actual scientists here that do believe that AGW has been proven slap me down, I'll note that the highest percentage of "deniers" that I've noticed for any given group I am in contact with seems to be my faculty colleagues (you know, scientists). OTOH, Al Gore is also a faculty colleague. Anybody care to bet whether the media would take his word over someone in an actual science department over AGW? I tell my students: don't take political advice from scientists, and don't take scientific advice from politicians.
4.29.2008 12:59pm
Oren:
Lighter cars are great from a fuel economy standpoint, but at some point, you're trading lives for fuel savings.
An across-the-board reduction in weight would probably end up being just about safety neutral since most collisions are car/car. At any rate, I think it's silly to blame lighters cars for higher fatalities when fully 1/2 of traffic related injuries and fatalities are alcohol related.

Also, I don't think we need urban planning as radical (and destructive) as Haussmann. I just want people to live near where they work, which necessitates having nice neighborhoods with a wide variety of housing options near commercial centers. This seems to be happening anyway, as most workers prefer not to spend 45 minutes each way in the car.

Also, traffic is a huge problem but there are some things we can implement immediately are just common sense: dynamic tolling (especially to encourage truckers not to sit in traffic), nighttime-only constructions (already in place lots of places) and incentives for car-poolers.
4.29.2008 1:21pm
CDU (mail) (www):
Douglas wrote:
Lighter cars are great from a fuel economy standpoint, but at some point, you're trading lives for fuel savings.

Actually, research has shown that in modern cars, safety is much more heavily correlated with size than with mass. The critical factor here is the depth of the crumple zone, not the overall mass of the car. Of course, when you're building cars out of steel, size and mass are pretty closely coupled, but with lightweight materials this is no longer the case. A full size sedan made out of carbon fiber with nice big crumple zones is going to be a lot safer than a steel framed compact car with the same mass.
4.29.2008 1:32pm
MXE (mail):
Look on the bright side: Global warming is the best argument for nuclear power ever advanced.

With any luck, we'll get cheap electricity from nukes.

And then this fad will blow over and we'll still have a reliable source of power.


Cheers to that!

By the way, to those saying CO2 emissions are only correlated with prosperity: true in some sense, but I have literally never seen a proposal for reducing CO2 by anything close to the levels discussed here that didn't involve a bunch of hand-waving about miracle technology that's supposedly right around the corner.

Of course there are ways to reduce CO2 emissions without slowing economic growth, and of course the relationship between CO2 emissions and prosperity isn't some fundamental logical fact of the universe. But I want to hear a single person say with a straight face that "80 by 50" isn't absurd, and at least an order of magnitude away from what we can realistically expect or plan for.
4.29.2008 1:49pm
Oren:
80 by 50 isn't absurd. Read the thread, there are dozens of technologies that are already available but the majority of changes are even simpler: live near where you work, don't sit in traffic (drive some other time) and insulate your house.
4.29.2008 1:53pm
ruralcounsel (mail) (www):
Malthus wrote:

We can reduce our burdens on the earth and return to the levels of 1910 or whatever by the simple measure of stopping all the breeding. Similar reduction of human population could also be achieved by war over resources and environmental pollution, of course, and if we don't choose the former, we'll no doubt get the latter.


So, the interesting question then is which is preferable? Is there some long term advantage to humanity in having one over the other?

I'll propose that mankind is better off in the long run in fighting over scarce resources than allowing statist political structures exercise command and control over our personal breeding habits (and no doubt many other habits as well).

Better my children be hungry wolves loose on the countryside than dogs in someone else's kennel, beholden for what scraps are thrown their way. Better the intelligence of predators than the dullness of domestic livestock.

I think the intelligencia fears apocalypse because it becomes too difficult to stay on the peak of the power pyramid ... social upheaval and chaos doesn't defer to Ivy league degrees. They see this as a chance to frighten the common folk into surrendering the rest of their freedoms.
4.29.2008 2:08pm
Oren:
ruralcounsel, statistical studies from the 3rd world (where most of the population growth is) show that the most effective population control method is universal education. Girls that go to school have many fewer children, absent any sort of statist intervention.

I don't want statist intervention, I want all the women of the world to have a real choice.
4.29.2008 2:15pm
ruralcounsel (mail) (www):
As far as anthropogenic global warming/"climate change" goes, count me a skeptic. The science keeps advancing, the feedback mechanisms keep cropping up with lots of surprises. (Who knew cosmic rays, influenced by the solar output, has such an effect on cloud nucleation?) In the long run, my suspicion is that we have some slight impact on climate, but it will all get lost in the noise. But say I'm wrong ...

For those who think human beings (particularly those of us in the affluent world as opposed to the third world) will be willing to make great sacrifices in style or standards of living in order to alter the direction of climate change ... well, good luck with that. Try pulling your main circuit breaker on your house open 9 days out of 10, and putting your car keys in a time vault so you can only use them 9 days out of 10, and sell your suburban house so you can move closer to work in a big city, etc. etc. Ain't gonna happen. We're going to burn the last drop of gas trying to accelerate! If we revert to an lifestyle of an earlier time, it won't be voluntary. Look at the number of cars in any Walmart parking lot, and you'll know its true.

That's my guess ....
4.29.2008 2:26pm
Smokey:
GatoRat:
With temperatures now declining, shouldn't we be increasing our CO2 emissions.

(Trick question since the answer is no since CO2 is not a causative agent of global warming.)
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano:
Prove it.
Too easy. If CO2 caused global warming, then the steady rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the last century would be making the planet hotter and hotter. In fact, the planet is cooling significantly.

In fact, more atmospheric carbon dioxide is extremely beneficial. The planet has been starved of CO2 in recent geological history. If CO2 levels doubled, plant life would benefit immensely -- something to think about, considering the indisputable fact that the ethanol scam will absolutely result in the starvation of millions of poor people around the globe; a billion are already living on less than $1 a day. The skyrocketing cost of food has pushed their backs to the wall.
4.29.2008 2:28pm
ruralcounsel (mail) (www):
Oren wrote:

I don't want statist intervention, I want all the women of the world to have a real choice.


So do I. And I suspect they'll choose to have kids. That's about the one thing they have any control over now; certainly more so than where their next meal will come from or who runs their country.

You can't impose western cultural mores and education on the rest of the world any easier than you can impose stable democracy on Iraq.
4.29.2008 2:31pm
ruralcounsel (mail) (www):
"putting your car keys in a time vault so you can only use them 9 days out of 10"

Ooops. I mean NOT use them 9 days out of 10.
4.29.2008 2:34pm
Smokey:
davod:
Sorry mate - Europe is cutting back on its emissions targets as it starts to understand the effect on heavy industry.
Well, that's wrong.
4.29.2008 2:34pm
Dick King:
A. Zarkov


Right now we have 103 nuclear power plants in operation which means we need something like 267 new plants brought on-line by 2050 or about 6 per year. Can we do that? I suspect not since it seems to take something like ten years to design, build and approve a new plant. That's out.


Huh?

First, is there anyone who thinks that these ten years can't be shortened?

Second and more importantly, we can still build six plants per year even if it takes ten years to build a plant, provided we have sixty in progress at a time. This is not obviously impossible. The Chinese seem to build a coal plant every week or every couple of weeks. Do you think that there's one really fast constructiopn crew that goes to a site every Monday, builds one plant by Friday, and spends the weekend traveling to the next site? The concrete doesn't even cure that fast!

-dk
4.29.2008 2:36pm
ruralcounsel (mail) (www):
Oren wrote:
"... statistical studies from the 3rd world (where most of the population growth is) show that the most effective population control method is universal education. "

Actually, I think you mean that the birth replacement rates are lower for more "educated" and "advanced" countries ... at least that's how I always heard it said.

Seems like Mother Nature's way of regression to the mean. Sounds like the "educated" people are becoming a smaller and more irrelevant fraction of the population.
4.29.2008 2:40pm
MXE (mail):
80 by 50 isn't absurd. Read the thread, there are dozens of technologies that are already available but the majority of changes are even simpler: live near where you work, don't sit in traffic (drive some other time) and insulate your house.

I have read the thread. Oren, it's fatuous to suggest that people voluntarily jiggering around commute times and putting better insulation in their houses is somehow going to put us on the path toward pre-Industrial Revolution emissions levels.

Your various points about more efficient technologies are essentially sound per se, but are undercut by the fact that CO2 emissions have steadily risen at the same time. As you say, cars and household appliances are way more efficient than they used to be -- so why have emissions never even leveled off, let alone decreasing?

Also, I find the point about urban design very puzzling. Do you expect all (or even any significant percentage of) the extant suburban housing developments to become ghost towns as people voluntarily cram themselves into downtown apartments in order to save on gasoline? Maybe I just don't understand what you mean by "urban design."
4.29.2008 2:50pm
Smokey:
The cost to the consumer of nuclear energy is the lowest of all the alternatives. And no one has ever been killed by any of the 104 U.S. nuclear power plants. And France gets 80% of its electricity from nukes; Sweden is close. But we haven't built a new nuke for many years, directly due to the scare tactics of the envirowackos [why is the Communist Party in America called the Green Party?]

Jane Fonda's movie, The China Syndrome was the Inconvenient Truth of its day. Absolutely dishonest liberal propaganda -- but it has hobbled nuclear power in the U.S., to the detriment of every utility bill payer, ever since.
4.29.2008 2:51pm
gasman (mail):
It's good to live a life with energy at one's disposal. We're not going to change that essential reality. Efficiencies cannot exceed 100%, and we are approaching diminishing returns.
The problems ultimately is not that the United States has 5% of the population using something like 25% of the world's energy, it is that 95% of the world wants to achieve the same usage level. That is, the world can only sustainably support a fixed CO2 production rate. We can do that with a small number of people living large, or a large number of people living small.
The elephant in the room for the last century has always been how to keep the human population off the exponential growth curve. In the petrie dish, lab, or other closed setting (just like the world is a closed setting) it always works out the same; the population of some organism takes off, grows uncontrolled, then exceeds its resource limits and crashes and burns.
China's one child policy has probably saved us from WWIII (an extra billion hungry chinese would have long ago marched across the continent), but have allowed population pressures to be just low enough that they can create an exponentially growing energy and environmental problem.
In the end, if population isn't controlled in a somewhat voluntary manner (read as involuntary by civil libertarians), then it will be controlled ultimately by far less pleasant methods, such as war, famine, and disease.
4.29.2008 3:12pm
FWB (mail):
This CO2 thing is out of hand. In every combustion of hydrocarbons, the primary greenhouse gas produced is WATER. That's right water NOT CO2. And yes, water may condense out of the atmosphere as precipitation. While the Relative Humidity may remain steady as the atmospheric temps rise, the absolute amount of water in the atmosphere increases. It is that absolute amount of water that is important because heat capacity is based on moles of materials.

CO2 increases in the atmosphere result in a Le Chatelier shift, meaning more CO2 dissolves in the oceans as CO2 in the atm rises.

In addition water in the atm is approx 100 times the CO2 level with water holding at least twice as much heat per mole as does CO2.

If it were not for the water in the atm, the Earth would not habitable. Water is the substance that modulates/moderates the temp variations.

Oh yes, and the Ozone hole is a natural phenomenon caused by the physics of the plant as we orbit the sun.

And of course by freons being heavier than air, fall down to the surface of the planet, slide down the surface to the south pole and drip off, thus destroying the ozone above the south pole.
4.29.2008 3:13pm
Ben P (mail):

This CO2 thing is out of hand.....


You should document your theories and submit them to journals for publication. I'm sure climatologists all over the world would be simply fascinated to learn that you've proved them all wrong.
4.29.2008 3:47pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
A. Zarkov


Right now we have 103 nuclear power plants in operation which means we need something like 267 new plants brought on-line by 2050 or about 6 per year. Can we do that? I suspect not since it seems to take something like ten years to design, build and approve a new plant. That's out.


Huh?

First, is there anyone who thinks that these ten years can't be shortened?


I agree it could be shortened. But good luck with that. We have constructed zero new nuclear power plants since 1979. The NRC constantly fends of law suits. Are any of the candidates running on a platform for a radial reform of the NRC regulations that would permit a crash program in nuclear power plant construction?
4.29.2008 3:48pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
A. Zarkov


Right now we have 103 nuclear power plants in operation which means we need something like 267 new plants brought on-line by 2050 or about 6 per year. Can we do that? I suspect not since it seems to take something like ten years to design, build and approve a new plant. That's out.


Huh?

First, is there anyone who thinks that these ten years can't be shortened?


I agree it could be shortened. But good luck with that. We have constructed zero new nuclear power plants since 1979. The NRC constantly fends of law suits. Are any of the candidates running on a platform for a radial reform of the NRC regulations that would permit a crash program in nuclear power plant construction?
4.29.2008 3:48pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
In every combustion of hydrocarbons, the primary greenhouse gas produced is WATER.

But the residence time of water vapor in the atmosphere is very short compared to CO2. It's also true that atmospheric water vapor absorbs much more of the radiated heat than CO2. However water vapor is an amplifier and not a forcing input, and that's why it's not listed as a greenhouse gas. So an increase in CO2 causes a little warming, which increases the water vapor, which in turn causes more warming. And so forth. Note that CO2 is not a feedback. But more water vapor means more clouds, and that could cause cooling. The cloud physics is not properly modeled and that's a major problem with the predictive models the IPCC uses to predict temperature increases.
4.29.2008 4:00pm
Oren:
Actually, I think you mean that the birth replacement rates are lower for more "educated" and "advanced" countries ... at least that's how I always heard it said.
No, I meant that, in 3rd world countries, those women that go to school longer have fewer children. Economic opportunity is also correlated with a drop in birth rates (see here , here and here).

Women that are given a choice almost invariably chose education and economic involvement (not that they don't have kids, they just don't have nearly as many).
4.29.2008 4:21pm
Oren:
Are any of the candidates running on a platform for a radial reform of the NRC regulations that would permit a crash program in nuclear power plant construction?
Obama did take lots of money from Exelon, if that's any consolation.

Also, I can't believe I agree with Smokey about something. . . .
4.29.2008 4:31pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Carbon emissions and immigration.

All candidates support immigration. All candidates support amnesty for illegal aliens. These positions are inconsistent with a concern about carbon emissions as more immigrants mean more energy consumption.

Migrants don't come to the US for a lower standard of living. They come here to consume more, and that means more fossil fuel combustion. And more consumption of other scarce resources as well. The effect is not trivial as even legal migrants amount to more than 1 million per year. The McCain-Kennedy Senate bill in 2007 (deceptively labeled as a comprehensive reform) also provided a path for the relatives of currently illegal aliens to join them. Both BHO and HRC voted for the bill and both support "family unification." The effects of both legal and illegal immigration will add more than 100 million people by 2050 over what we would have without immigration and amnesty.

Joule for joule one of the easiest ways to cut back on carbon emissions is to curtail or even eliminate immigration both legal and illegal. Deportation would also cut back carbon emissions.
4.29.2008 4:45pm
10ksnooker (mail):
The only way to counter weight reduction is through technology, what they do with race cars. So the death rates are going to go up when you reduce car weight, becasue you can't afford to put that technology into a production car. When a truck runs over you, or you are forced off the road and hit a tree, the only thing between you and survival is your car. Choose wisely. I have no desire to trade safety for fuel mileage, and neither do most politicians who ride around in mostly huge SUVs.

I have a friend who had the unfortunate experience of meeting an errant driver head on. Neither he nor his wife ever expects to recover from the accident both walk around today in constant pain. She has had hip replacement, he has had multiple back surgeries. He was driving a Subaru with all the modern safety gadgets, the other car was a big Ford sedan.

Hardly a day goes by where the local news doesn't have a feature article on illegals and the traffic accidents they cause locally.
4.29.2008 4:59pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"I have no desire to trade safety for fuel mileage, and neither do most politicians who ride around in mostly huge SUVs."

You are absolutely correct. During the 2004 presidential campaign Kerry was asked about his fleet of SUVs. Kerry campaigned against ownership of such vehicles. His response. "Those SUVs belong to the "family." What a pair of balls on that guy. If the SUVs are registered in his wife's name, then they somehow don't count. Recently Gore was asked about private jets and carbon emissions. He said he didn't want to get into anything "personal."

If the fate of the planet hangs on curbing carbon emissions then why not just ban the use of private jets outright?

"I have a friend who had the unfortunate experience of meeting an errant driver head on."


That's right. To first order vehicle mass is going to determine which car suffers the most damage. Last week I heard someone on the radio try to convince the listeners otherwise. He made some valid points, but they were all second order compared to mass. Of course the heavy car needs safety features too like side airbags.
4.29.2008 5:27pm
Oren:
To first order vehicle mass is going to determine which car suffers the most damage.
Yes, but to 1st order, the size of the crumple zone determines which driver suffers the most damage. If you want to play chicken with me, you can drive Rambler (4000 lbs) and I'll drive my Impreza (2800 lbs). My car will be wrecked but my neck will not snap. Your car will be fine, but you will look like chopped beef.
4.29.2008 5:34pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Your car will be fine, but you will look like chopped beef."

That's right, and that's why I said the heavy car has to have modern safety features. The Rambler is an ancient car. But point well taken, it's not just mass.
4.29.2008 5:51pm
Smokey:
Ben P, responding to 'This CO2 thing is out of hand...':
You should document your theories and submit them to journals for publication. I'm sure climatologists all over the world would be simply fascinated to learn that you've proved them all wrong.
Hey Ben, wise up.

The climatologist community has, in fact, falsified, through the peer review process, the failed notion that CO2 causes any but the most insignificant warming. Do you even understand how the Scientific Method actually works? Or are you a mindless parrot for the media machine? The failed hypothesis that carbon dioxide can cause any significant global warming has been repeatedly falsified.

When a hypothesis has been falsified, it has been proved false: the hypothesis has been scientifically discredited.

Every link in this post has been peer reviewed; none has been refuted. You can either accept the conclusions of real climate scientists -- or you can get your opinions from TV:

Television's perfect. You turn a few knobs, a few of those mechanical adjustments at which the higher apes are so proficient, and lean back and drain your mind of all thought. And there you are, watching the bubbles in the primeval ooze.

~Raymond Chandler


It should be noted that all of the hypotheses that CO2 will cause runaway global warming have come from always-inaccurate computer models. Here are the predictions of the computer climate models used by the UN/IPCC. Note that the empirical [real world] measurements are signified by the dashed lines. The models are wrong, every one of them.

You can believe in the UN's computer models and the Easter Bunny for all anyone cares, neither one reflects reality. Reality is the Earth's temperature, measured by calibrated instruments. And those measurements clearly show that the Earth's temperature is going down at the same time that beneficial CO2 is rising. Therefore, CO2 can not cause global warming. QED.

Stop listening to Al Gore's globaloney, and start thinking for yourself. Otherwise, there's always TV.
4.29.2008 7:51pm
genob:
How much CO2 would be released in a very short period of time if we really had to undertake a multitrillion dollar public works effort to build hundreds or thousands of nuclear power plants. Probably as much as we'd normally use for many years or even decades.

If Global Warming alarmists really believed for a minute that it is caused by human activity and that it would required the 80-90% reduction to be effective, they would be calling for investment in dealing with the inevitable consequences (and selling their oceanfront property). That isn't happening.

This is like being told that it's going to be a hot day tomorrow and spending money to try to stop the sun from coming up instead of maybe buying a fan....
4.29.2008 8:13pm
Oren:
The models are wrong, every one of them.
Models are not right or wrong, they either capture some particular phenomenon or they don't. The only "model" that captures 100% of the original is a perfect copy (not terribly useful in the scientific sense).

And those measurements clearly show that the Earth's temperature is going down at the same time that beneficial CO2 is rising. Therefore, CO2 can not cause global warming. QED.
In a strongly chaotic system, such short time-scale measurements are not as significant as long-term trends.

I agree with you to the extent that our current climate change models are incomplete and that the data are somewhat ambiguous but, on the totality of the evidence, I think that the AGW hypothesis is well enough supported to merit CO2 reduction.

Plus, anything to buy less oil from the Saudis - we can agree on that, right?
4.29.2008 8:21pm
Gaius Marius:
"(Trick question since the answer is no since CO2 is not a causative agent of global warming.)"

MARY: Prove it.


Sorry, Mary, one cannot prove a negative.
4.29.2008 9:54pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"I think that the AGW hypothesis is well enough supported to merit CO2 reduction."

Not until the modelers come up with a better way to handle the cloud physics. That's doubtful since the scale on which the models operate is too large to do the cloud physics. Freeman Dyson says it best:

Freeman Dyson: I am not able to provide details of particular climate models and their deficiencies. Typical examples of fudge factors occur in the treatment of clouds. Each cell of the atmosphere in the model is characterized by a set of numbers which specify the temperature, pressure, density, humidity, wind-velocity, cloudiness, etc. in that cell. Since the cell is much larger than a typical cloud, the "cloudiness" number is only a rough measure of the fraction of the cell that is occupied by clouds. An empirical formula then gives the rate of precipitation in the form of rain or snow for a cell with a given humidity and given cloudiness. The empirical formula contains several coefficients which are fitted to the observations to make the model agree with the existing climate. These coefficients are what I call "fudge-factors". They are not based on a detailed understanding of clouds and rainfall but only on fitting a formula to observations. If now the model is run with enhanced CO2, there is no reason to believe that the same fudge factors will still give the right answers. There are many other fudge factors concerned with processes such as snow-melting and vegetation-growth that cannot be modelled in detail. I agree with the opinion expressed by Schaffer in the last sentence of his fourth paragraph.
4.29.2008 10:12pm