Monday, May 19, 2008

"Our society as currently designed has no future"

Inconvenient Truths About Global Warming

June 2008

My June issue of Wired magazine arrived in the mail on Friday. I was immediately taken aback by the cover (pictured here). I initially thought it was a clever tongue-in-cheek that would be turned on its head upon reading the actual article. But as I began reading “Inconvenient Truths About Global Warming” it quickly became apparent that there would be no "Gotcha's". Indeed they are quite serious.

“In the age of climate change, what matters most,” the piece begins, “is cutting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. That means rethinking everything you ever learned about being green. “

Then this telling pronouncement:

"The war on greenhouse gases is too important to be left to the environmentalists. There, we said it.”

Of course the (not necessarily inconvenient) truth is, climate change is too complex for any one discipline or special interest group to adequately tackle.

Following is a quick summary of Wired’s Inconvenient Environmental Truths followed by a statistical factoid that helps support their revelations (more details are contained in the article).

Live In Cities.
30%: Amount by which an average household reduces its CO2 emissions if one member takes public transit to work instead of driving.

A/C is OK.
8: Factor by which the CO2 released by heating US homes exceeds that released by cooling them.

Organics Are Not the Answer.
45%: Amount by which an organic chicken’s lifetime greenhouse gas emissions exceed a nonorganic bird’s.

Farm the Forests.
55 Years: Age at which a tree’s ability to absorb carbon starts to decline.

China is the Solution Not the Problem.
35%: Portion of the world’s solar cells manufactured in China.

Accept Genetic Engineering.
50: Millions of tons of CO2 equivalent that genetically engineered rice could save annually.

Carbon Trading Doesn’t Work.
6.5: Days by which the Kyoto carbon-reduction projects will slow the increase in greenhouse gases.

Embrace Nuclear Power.
37%: Portion of US CO2 emissions that come from coal.

Used Cars Not Hybrids.
100K: Miles a new Prius would have to travel to achieve the carbon savings that come from driving a 1998 Tercel.

Prepare for the Worst.

62: Years before atmospheric carbon will reach critical levels even if drastic steps are taken now.

I think this is a very important article because it demonstrates that now that we've been pretty successful at convincing the public that we've got a major problem on our hands, we'd better be prepared to offer some VERY convincing solutions backed up by analysis. That analysis should include a rethinking of what economics means in a world of climate instability and uncertainty. If seems only fair if it's OK to rethink what it means to be green.

The message is: if we don't others will. For example, while conservationists and renewable energy advocates (card-carrying environmentalists be they both) continue to bicker with one another over the siting of wind turbines, the nuclear industry is trying to figure out how to qualify for renewable energy subsidies.

A rebuttal ("It's Not Just Carbon, Stupid") written by Alex Steffan, editor of and the book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century" also appears in the June issue. The title of today's blog is borrowed from his essay. (GW)


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