Chinese Family Carbon Footprint from NPR

May 5th, 2008

There is a lot of talk, of course, about the facts that (i) the U.S. has the highest per-capita (and overall) rate of CO2 emission in the world, and (2) that China is catching up quickly.  This podcast from NPR puts some facts to the story.

NPR previously profiled a family in North Carolina that worked hard to reduce its CO2 output and succeeded in getting itself well below the North Carolina average.  For contrast, NPR then profiled an “upper middle class” family in Beijing with a 3 bedroom apartment, a car and a house in the country that makes no real effort to conserve.

The result?  Excluding air travel, the North Carolina family trying hard to conserve and the Beijing family that doesn’t are basically even on CO2 emissions.  The American family travels more and farther by plane, so factoring that in put the Chinese family in the lead (in the best sense) by a wide margin.

This kind of data, even though anecdotal, is really fascinating.

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The “New Environmentalism”, the Next Set of Problems and the Darn 2.0 Meme Again

March 15th, 2008

Time Magazine online has a piece on "environmentalism 2.0" and the promise of technology to lead the planet out of the climate mess technology has created.

Environmentalism 2.0 – TIME

I love technology and I am really fired up about the level of attention climate issues have gotten in the past year or so.  Still, every time I see one of these pieces I remember a line from Jared Diamond’s book Collapse.  I don’t have the book in front of me, so to paraphrase: technology has never solved any problems without creating a whole set of new ones (if you don’t believe this I have some Yucca Mountain real estate to sell you).

Fossil fuels have enabled many things (like this blog post).  We desperately need a non-greenhouse gas-emitting replacement for them, of course, and the sooner the better.

At the same time, let’s not forget to keep an eye out for the unintended consequences. Maybe in the next go-round (assuming we squeak through this one) we can figure out how to address the problems before they become crises. 

P.S.  Dear Time editors: please stop referring to things as "___ 2.0".  Do you have any idea how 2007 that sounds?

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Tidal Energy, Plug-in Hybrids and *Turning* *Off* the *Lights*

March 5th, 2008

Climate change begins at home for sure.  Putting a stop to it also requires lots of local effort.  Still, where’s the line between encouragement and pie-in-the-sky-ism (I just made up that term)? 

San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom is reportedly bullish on tidal energy, despite the fact that it is economically unfeasible for the near future, and would produce very little energy.

Newsom Waves On SF Tidal Energy « Earth2Tech

Someone last night also told me that San Francisco has an open purchase requisition out for a fleet of city plug-in hybrid vehicles.  The problem is that no one is making them as OEM and there have been only 150 or so plug-in conversions of hybrid vehicles nationwide (maybe worldwide) ever.  

I applaud San Francisco for moving to the vanguard in pursuing alternative energy.  Without taking away from that at all, I would also like to see practical initiatives such as getting commercial buildings to turn the lights out at night. Imagine how much coal it takes to light all those offices when no one is in them at night.

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