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Poll: What to do about climate change? 

What are the top priorities for climate change?
No action needed 7%  7%  [ 1 ]
Cut Emissions 36%  36%  [ 5 ]
Tax Carbon 14%  14%  [ 2 ]
Remove Carbon Dioxide from Atmosphere 29%  29%  [ 4 ]
Manage Solar Radiation 7%  7%  [ 1 ]
Reduce Personal Carbon Footprint 7%  7%  [ 1 ]
Total votes : 14

Poll: What to do about climate change? 
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Post Poll: What to do about climate change?
Please answer this poll, happy to discuss.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:31 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
I know this is a subject near and dear to your heart, as it should be for all of us, but I am somewhat ignorant of the science involved. With that said I voted for cutting emissions and taxing carbon. I just don't know enough about the other options to vote/comment on them.


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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
I added a sixth option, Reduce Personal Carbon Footprint, because that is something some people see as the only possible action. Adding the extra option set all the votes to zero, so if you voted early you can vote again (but not vote often).

I am basically working full time on this issue now, but it still perplexes and depresses me how weak the public understanding is, with an amazing psychology of repression of challenging information. The situation is that the extra carbon humans have added is enough to cause accelerating feedback loops to make dangerous warming inevitable, unless we take urgent action to remove the added carbon and directly cool the planet. That makes managing solar radiation an urgent security imperative, through the priorities of field trials and political analysis. Unfortunately there is a complete lack of interest in any such action. We spend trillions on weapons and almost nothing on the real clear and present danger of climate change. Despite that I am a complete optimist. Maybe I should add another option, trust in God.


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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
I voted for cutting emissions and removing carbon from the atmosphere. But I also wanted to vote for reducing one's own carbon footprint. The first two are goals that we make as a society and are because they require a political unity that is missing from today's discourse. Liberals tend to frame climate change in idealistic and often over-simplistic terms. Conservatives tend to dismiss the problem as just liberal propaganda.

But reducing one's own footprint is arguably a personal obligation. Can we decry climate change without making personal sacrifices? I wonder what David Thoreau would have to say about it. Or would he simply show us by demonstrating what a sustainable lifestyle would look like?


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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
I voted for reduce emissions and remove carbon. It's hard to argue that Robert isn't right that without that we won't reach the goals of Paris. The problem with this combo, I suppose, is that it might confuse the public. If we're going to remove the carbon, then do we even need to reduce emissions? Of course, we do. It's a two-pronged attack. Relying only on CR would be just as futile as relying only on reduction. The point I see as crucial but don't often see recognized, is that zero-emission energy is a necessary goal because it may be only for the next 80 years that we have anything to burn! Gas and oil will become scarce despite the fracking boom. As for more abundant coal, let's not go there. So it's a matter of saving our economy as well saving the earth.

Circular economy is getting to be a big deal, although some have called it hyped. 76 million Google results vs. 476,000 four years ago. CE is not itself a frontline solution to transforming the energy grid, but it assumes that in a no-waste economy the energy input will be all renewable. I mention CE because getting behind it is a natural way to reduce individual carbon footprint. The biggest problem with carbon footprint is that there is no leadership on the issue and no effective policies exist. Maybe if Jay Inslee can get himself elected president, we'll all get a better idea of how we can help.

Jeremy Rifkin has some interesting ideas about zero-carbon energy in The Third Industrial Revolution. He says that every home can be a green power producer, with extra energy sold over the grid to other small producers who need more.



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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
geo wrote:
I voted for cutting emissions and removing carbon from the atmosphere. But I also wanted to vote for reducing one's own carbon footprint. The first two are goals that we make as a society and are because they require a political unity that is missing from today's discourse. Liberals tend to frame climate change in idealistic and often over-simplistic terms. Conservatives tend to dismiss the problem as just liberal propaganda.

But reducing one's own footprint is arguably a personal obligation. Can we decry climate change without making personal sacrifices? I wonder what David Thoreau would have to say about it. Or would he simply show us by demonstrating what a sustainable lifestyle would look like?
Thanks geo. A friend of mine working on climate change argues that what humanity needs is a new 'great awakening', not as a religious movement like in the 1840s but rather as a way of understanding personal responsibility for our planetary survival, seeing the connection between our individual values and the fate of the biosphere. That echoes Thoreau's spiritual ideas about nature, and shows how our individual psychology can be decisive in bringing about social and environmental change. I think there is much merit in such a personal sense of connection, since many of the dominant consumerist values - envy, gossip, vanity, hedonism - are antithetical to humanity continuing to participate in evolution.

What I dislike about the 'personal footprint' idea is how it perversely reinforces an individualist mentality, by suggesting what we do as isolated individuals is more important than combining to work together on shared objectives. Climate change will only be fixed through global industrial systems that remove more carbon from the air than total emissions. And before that can be achieved, radical measures are needed to directly cool the air in order to prevent dangerous tipping points into a hothouse earth. Personal frugality only makes a spiritual difference toward those material goals, and can even harm those goals when people see them as too risky.
The reality is that not cooling the air is far far riskier than cooling the air.


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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
I voted for a carbon tax because it brings all the others in its wake. Robert makes a cogent argument that removing carbon is needed, but a reasonable carbon tax will create incentives to remove carbon, and thus, as usual in economic policy, recognizing reality in the form of prices will motivate many smart and effective people in a way that central decisions will not.

Likewise, many environmentalists argue that we need to learn to be at one with our environment and quit with the extractive mentality. All well and good, I say, but until the revolution has come, do we have to have a scorched earth as the price for people's slow response? The pent-up destruction is already almost unbearable, and if we recognize that it will be twice as bad by the time it is undeniable and obviously urgent, then putting our faith in a radical change in culture just looks like eco-cide.

We have a lot of experience to show that corporate capitalism can work wonders to clean the environment, but will only do so if the incentives are present. Yet so far we have done close to zilch to provide such incentives. Why waste breath haranguing individuals to change their wicked ways when the really efficient changes require large-scale coordinated technical efforts, rather than goodness of consumers' hearts? (Invisible hand, and all that.) Among the many forecastable effects of incentives would be serious efforts to remove carbon, and probably some pretty efficient measures to use it commercially.



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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
I drive a hybrid which I hope helps out. Although it has nothing to do with climate change, I recycle everything I can get away with. I refuse to throw plastic bottles in the trash. I'll take them home with me if I'm out somewhere and toss them in my recycle bin. It pisses me off when I see people throw them in the trash.



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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
DB Roy wrote:
I drive a hybrid which I hope helps out. Although it has nothing to do with climate change, I recycle everything I can get away with. I refuse to throw plastic bottles in the trash. I'll take them home with me if I'm out somewhere and toss them in my recycle bin. It pisses me off when I see people throw them in the trash.

Recycling is about all individuals can do currently to feel they are doing something. Well, there are a few other things like spending more money on high-mpg cars and installing solar panels. But recycling is such a sad system that won't get much better until producers give more attention (or are forced to) to the end points of their products, ensuring that products can be repaired, refurbished, remanufactured, or recycled--whatever is most appropriate for the product and its condition. That is the point of having "extended producer responsibility" regulations in place. Making consumers feel it's all on them to see that waste is reduced is bs. That does all relate to climate change because the "circular" way is generally less energy intensive.

I agree with Harry Marks that taxing carbon is quick and effective, and it is really more likely to bring about a heightened consciousness than invoking all the environmental prophets will. Responding to necessity does that sometimes. It did in the first gasoline crisis in 1973.



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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
DWill wrote:
Recycling is about all individuals can do currently to feel they are doing something. Well, there are a few other things like spending more money on high-mpg cars and installing solar panels.
My point would be that the system should not depend on individuals making more moral choices. There are indeed some choices that make a difference: not buying more house than you need is one of the big ones - heating and cooling use a lot of energy and people often buy extra space just for status. You can install a heat pump, especially if you have a basement or second floor that you don't use all that much (so the slow heating and cooling response doesn't matter that much to you). And you can indeed drive less car (high-mpg) and use solar (for water heating, in the sunny zones, not just for electric).

But the real difference on GHG's will be made by things like what powers cars (hydrogen is really good, electric is potentially very good but right now often generated by coal) and how electricity is generated. The choices involved will depend on which sources are cheaper, but if fossil fuels (and to an extent, nuclear) are cheaper by imposing costs on the rest of society, then government has to get that reflected in the prices. Only when they do so will the private sector begin to adapt to the true public interest. We have seen huge advances in solar power and battery technology with very little incentive, but the response would have been much faster and more thorough if the incentives had been there. Firms responded to the potential in the learning curve, which is what Robert wants to take advantage of, but they at least had a market (off-grid users of electric, etc.) without any added incentives. Carbon sequestration is going along on the same basis, but with the threat of carbon penalties to give incentive to the technology.

DWill wrote:
But recycling is such a sad system that won't get much better until producers give more attention (or are forced to) to the end points of their products, ensuring that products can be repaired, refurbished, remanufactured, or recycled--whatever is most appropriate for the product and its condition. That is the point of having "extended producer responsibility" regulations in place. Making consumers feel it's all on them to see that waste is reduced is bs. That does all relate to climate change because the "circular" way is generally less energy intensive.
Yes, this is the idea. It may offend Devin Nunes terribly to be asked if he wants a straw, rather than just have one thrown at him, but in general producers can be very responsible and usually with minimal customer displeasure. We ran into a problem about this in Europe with UHT milk (most Americans will say "Huh? What's that?" but it is big in Europe.) Something about the packaging requirements has foil inside the typical cardboard box, so it is not recyclable. If there were more incentives, the packagers would find a way to make that foil separable from the cardboard after use.



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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
A climate change expert commented to me today that “mitigation [ie emission reduction] alone is completely insufficient, even in the remotest fantasy of extremely rapid shifts to renewable energy, massive-scale CDR [carbon dioxide removal] is absolutely essential, and that we need to do enough research on SRM [solar radiation management] to inform decisions on it.”

An analogy to help ram home this essential moral point comes from Leonardo Da Vinci, who described his drawing of the ideal proportions of a human figure, the Vitruvian Man, with the famous remark that “man is a model of the world”. In considering the global problems of climate change, Leonardo’s perspective, linking human and global scales, can help us imagine the world on the model of a man.

Looking at climate change as like a planetary medical condition, the prognosis for the planet today is like a person with a serious heart condition. The current policies of mitigation can be compared to a prescription of diet and exercise, whereas the danger of global warming tipping points requires response like open heart surgery, with urgent CDR and SRM deployment at scale. A doctor who prescribes minimal response for a patient who goes home and dies of a heart attack is guilty of culpable negligence. That is the situation for the UN today, with the 1.5° report ignoring SRM and deferring action on CDR.

Further to this medical comparison, blood acidity need only increase by 0.05 pH to make a person very sick, while a lack of iron produces the serious fatigue and weakness of anaemia. The planet is suffering from conditions equivalent to acidosis and anaemia, and needs drug treatment for these conditions. These are medium term problems. The urgent SRM task is to pull back from the brink of risk like a heart attack, with surgical type intervention to remove the grave uncertain hair trigger points of polar warming, which have the planetary gun loaded and cocked to tip into a hothouse climate.

The irony in this analysis is that the barriers to such a medical-type emergency response to stop global warming come from the political left, not from the political right who are demonised as preventing effective climate action. The left say to trust that decarbonisation is enough, while the right have the resources, the skills and the contacts to deploy urgent climate response, if only they could be convinced that strategic security analysis supported such action. The tragedy is that the tribal nature of politics prevents the people who could fix the problem from doing so.


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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
Robert Tulip wrote:
. . . A friend of mine working on climate change argues that what humanity needs is a new 'great awakening', not as a religious movement like in the 1840s but rather as a way of understanding personal responsibility for our planetary survival, seeing the connection between our individual values and the fate of the biosphere. That echoes Thoreau's spiritual ideas about nature, and shows how our individual psychology can be decisive in bringing about social and environmental change. I think there is much merit in such a personal sense of connection, since many of the dominant consumerist values - envy, gossip, vanity, hedonism - are antithetical to humanity continuing to participate in evolution.


I was reading a blurb in the recent issue of Hedgehog Review about Mary Midgley, a British philosopher who recently died. Midgley apparently saw the Gaia "theory" as a useful myth for our times. I don't know exactly what she meant by this, but I can imagine she would have agreed with your above statement. I think I may read one of Midgley's books.

Robert Tulip wrote:
. . . What I dislike about the 'personal footprint' idea is how it perversely reinforces an individualist mentality, by suggesting what we do as isolated individuals is more important than combining to work together on shared objectives. Climate change will only be fixed through global industrial systems that remove more carbon from the air than total emissions. And before that can be achieved, radical measures are needed to directly cool the air in order to prevent dangerous tipping points into a hothouse earth. Personal frugality only makes a spiritual difference toward those material goals, and can even harm those goals when people see them as too risky.
The reality is that not cooling the air is far far riskier than cooling the air.


If we are to find solutions to climate change, I agree we will need something like a Great Awakening. Being aware of our own personal footprint might help us see the larger context of climate change. It's interesting to see how recycling has become so widespread in the last ten years or so. Most of us who dutifully separate our garbage from our recycling might consider that our parents and grandparents probably produced vastly less garbage than we do today. Almost everything we buy today is encased in plastic. We are somewhat blind to how much consumerism has taken over our lives. I don't pretend to know the answers, but perhaps the bigger movement arises from a grass roots which arises from a sense of personal awareness and responsibility.


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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
geo wrote:
If we are to find solutions to climate change, I agree we will need something like a Great Awakening. Being aware of our own personal footprint might help us see the larger context of climate change. It's interesting to see how recycling has become so widespread in the last ten years or so. Most of us who dutifully separate our garbage from our recycling might consider that our parents and grandparents probably produced vastly less garbage than we do today. Almost everything we buy today is encased in plastic. We are somewhat blind to how much consumerism has taken over our lives. I don't pretend to know the answers, but perhaps the bigger movement arises from a grass roots which arises from a sense of personal awareness and responsibility.

I might question whether the analogy with religious revivalism in the 19th Century really leads to any kind of action model for fighting climate change. What matters is only that we stop a certain behavior, i.e., using the atmosphere as a waste sink. It's hard for me to see how heightened consciousness can be a lever for accomplishing that task. Are there any historical instances we can cite of such psychological events making the kind of difference we need? Looking at my own situation, what would an awakening of consciousness look like? I can't picture it, but how would it change anything, anyway, unless as a result of it I renounced just about every advantage I have? Just by being a North American with a middle-class income, a house, two cars, traveling by air occasionally, etc., my footprint is at least twice the world average. Am I going to drop out of all of that? No, I don't think so. All the people in my life would be upset, for one thing, but I also would find it very difficult to do. And it would not feel virtuous, rather desperate instead.

So the radical restructuring of economic life that many people are talking about, some of it under the heading of circular economy, is about all I can see as a possibility, and even that faces long odds. It's likely that "people like me" will need to become the exception before very long, resist that reality though I will. There is some hope in the changing expectations of the youngest adults, who care less about owning things than my generation did, cars and houses, for example. Whether that lesser interest is enough to start to make a major difference, I don't know.

The Amish make an interesting case study, by the way. I can't find data on their carbon footprints, but it would be logical to assume that it's less than any other major grouping. However, they're extremely conservative and not generally environmentally-minded. I suspect they'd think climate change talk is from Satan. So consciousness doesn't seem to play a role in their lower impact on the planet.



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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
geo wrote:
I was reading a blurb ... about Mary Midgley, a British philosopher who recently died. Midgley apparently saw the Gaia "theory" as a useful myth for our times.

I hope I can speculate a bit on this. If I understand the Gaia theory, it proposes that the biosphere and supporting geophysical systems have some capacity to adjust to change by tempering it in a way that makes it more supportive to life. A simple example would be the way trees react to a new pest by evolving defenses. A murkier example would be a claim that the environment “greens up” in response to more CO2 in a way that mitigates the damage. The problem there is an implicit claim that responses will be biased toward mitigating the drastic and the extreme, but in fact some responses, like methane release from the melting permafrost, add to the catastrophe.
So, like most mythos, it is not a description or an explanation but rather a motivational narrative. If people can see themselves as part of an adjustment process that all of nature shares, they may be influenced both to think less extractively toward nature and to feel more reflective and capable about formulating a conscious, deliberate response. I rather suspect most mythos narratives for our time will have to combine some element of scientific understanding with some way of helping us feel good about being part of larger mechanisms of causality. A simple example might be rejecting the use of genetic modification for purposes of enhancement of the powers of biologically normal people (which the college admissions scandal does not give a lot of hope for – but at least the value will be part of some mythic narrative).

geo wrote:
If we are to find solutions to climate change, I agree we will need something like a Great Awakening. Being aware of our own personal footprint might help us see the larger context of climate change.
Nothing like a metric to focus the mind (unless it be the prospect of hanging from the gallows tomorrow morning). The most useful role of profit is that it focuses the mind of managers on a more-or-less helpful metric. A company might make a loss because it is doing something else helpful, but most likely if it is making a loss it is because it is doing something random or no longer plays a useful role for society.

If people get used to monitoring their own footprint, then it will be much more meaningful to them if their power company does something to substantially reduce that footprint.



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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
DWill wrote:
geo wrote:
If we are to find solutions to climate change, I agree we will need something like a Great Awakening.

I might question whether the analogy with religious revivalism in the 19th Century really leads to any kind of action model for fighting climate change. What matters is only that we stop a certain behavior, i.e., using the atmosphere as a waste sink. It's hard for me to see how heightened consciousness can be a lever for accomplishing that task. Are there any historical instances we can cite of such psychological events making the kind of difference we need?

I tend to agree with you on this, seeing the matter much as Robert does that the necessary choices require such enormous investments in technology and infrastructure that corporate effort is required. A simple example is electric vehicles. We would not have hybrids without the auto companies having invested billions in making it possible, and it is not even a half-measure to reach the needed change in emissions. More like a fourth or a fifth. Plug-in hybrids are probably the next step, but if electric power generation doesn't shift away from fossil fuels and GHG emissions, plugging in your car will not make much difference. It's just that the infrastructure for recharging (or refueling with hydrogen) requires a critical mass of motivated consumers, and that would not have happened without Elon Musk, on one end, and Chevy Volt on the other, putting LEVs within the realm of practicality for those following a typical American lifestyle.

On the other hand there are measures, like farm-to-household locovore plans, that move things in a helpful direction. Even organic foods, while making nearly no difference to GHGs, give a useful example of customers shifting the system away from low level toxins.

DWill wrote:
There is some hope in the changing expectations of the youngest adults, who care less about owning things than my generation did, cars and houses, for example. Whether that lesser interest is enough to start to make a major difference, I don't know.
This links to another interesting development. When technology puts people out of work, the savings is supposed to free up income for other demand. We know that technological lock-in is creating monopoly power that prevents some of the needed adjustment, since consumers may not see the savings. But even allowing for that, the tech change of the last 2 decades should be freeing up some new demand. What is it going to?

One answer is services. Rich countries are basically saturated with goods. Items that can be manufactured now take up less than 50 percent of a typical American household's income, and a fair portion of that is retail, which is a service. That includes food, clothing, housing and transportation machinery such as cars, as well as smaller appliances, etc. Where will the new demand go? Probably to more specialized services, whether it be travel combined with adventure or education, or tutoring lagging students, or coaching people to lose weight, or funkadelic hybrids of musical genres. There is good reason to suppose that digitalization has increased the satisfaction people get from services such as entertainment even while decreasing the spending on them.

And that's where the Millennial difference enters the picture. In my experience my sons' cohort gets much more of their pleasure from interacting in interesting ways with friends than my wife and I did. One son regularly hosts couch surfers, and loves it. Even Facebook is an example of people creating enjoyment for other people they know. There is a business now in the other son's town of hosting "escape parties" where the group has to solve puzzles and decode clues to figure out how to get out of a building. It doesn't take much imagination to see digital technology turning this trend into cash: I could become a skater-boy in my old age through virtual imaging, without ever scraping an elbow.

And of course the GHG footprint of a virtual visit to the Galapagos (not to mention the eco-footprint on the islands) is much smaller than for a physical travel visit to them.

The next question is how to make that life functional in a circular economy. It strikes me as answerable.

DWill wrote:
The Amish make an interesting case study, by the way. I can't find data on their carbon footprints, but it would be logical to assume that it's less than any other major grouping. However, they're extremely conservative and not generally environmentally-minded. I suspect they'd think climate change talk is from Satan. So consciousness doesn't seem to play a role in their lower impact on the planet.
Well, except that their consciousness is based on being "plain". The idea is that warfare is based on people's envy and struggle for status (and Rene Girard has developed this with remarkable anthropological analysis), so if people resist the temptation to try to seem more cool, smarter, more accomplished, more tasteful, and generally higher status than their neighbors, it will make conflict unnecessary. They were doing organic farming before anybody explained that it is environmentally friendly. And my friends in Philly explain that most of the Amish are quite wealthy, since they make their money without spending a lot of it. (You could check that out, DWill, since your location is not far from Lancaster County PA.)



Sat Mar 16, 2019 6:30 pm
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