RE: Kyoto

From: Vandergraaf, Chuck (
Date: Mon Apr 23 2001 - 12:18:58 EDT

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    I have found that it's better to live in a moderate-to-cold climate because
    one can always add clothing to keep warm, but there is a limit to how much
    clothing you can remove. ;-) I have read somewhere that loose fitting garb
    actually helps cool you by providing an airflow (updraft) between the
    clothing and the body, so there may be an optimum.

    The reason North American cities are so spread out is no doubt due to cheap
    and portable energy and affordable private cars. We all (well, many of us)
    want to have a grass buffer between ourselves and our neighbours and prefer
    to live in detached houses rather than in apartment buildings. As long as
    portable energy remains cheap, we will continue to do so.

    As far as I know, there are only three ways to turn this suburbanization
    1) increase the cost of portable energy
    2) make it difficult to drive in cities and encourage increased use of
    public transit
    3) rely on people to make a conscious decision to move closer together

    Increasing the cost of portable energy will come automatically when our
    resources run out or when society decides that "it's a good thing" for
    prices to go up.

    Encourage the use of public transit can be done by providing free public
    transit and use the money to fund this by cutting back on building roads.
    This is a case of "social engineering" and may not be acceptable to the
    public. IOW, politicians that advocate this won't get (re)elected.

    The third option is not likely to be a viable one as long as the advertisers
    and the media tout the advantages of suburbia.

    Problem is that, if we don't do something proactive, we will live with the
    consequences and these will include massive dislocation and disruptions.
    For example, those of us who live in suburbs would see the price of our
    homes plummet if the cost of portable energy goes through the roof. Since,
    for many of us, our home is our investment, we have a vested interest in
    maintaining the status quo: "après nous, le deluge."

    Chuck Vandergraaf

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Jonathan Clarke []
    Sent: Saturday April 21, 2001 2:07 AM
    To: Vandergraaf, Chuck
    Subject: Re: Kyoto

    Hi Chuck,

    As I said in my original post I grew up in the tropics (8 degrees N of the
    equator to be precise). temperatures were in the 30's all year round with
    humidity to match. We survived quite well. One indeed gets used to it,
    although having an air-conditioned bedroom does make sleeping easier.

    Well, one has to compared energy consumption of N America to somewhere.
    not perfect, there are enough similarities in standard of living and climate
    make some comparison between N America and Europe possible. It won't happen
    over night, but N America may have to move towards a more European approach
    issues such as urban design. this will of course take decades, but when you
    consider the change in urban design in the 20th century it does seem an
    impossible goal. The political will must be there, and that is a different


    "Vandergraaf, Chuck" wrote:

    > Jon,
    > I agree with most of your comments. However, as you probably know, living
    > in the desert with temperatures in the 40s is not the same as living in a
    > humid climate with temperatures in the 30s, like Chicago. I spent three
    > years in Michigan and five in Pennsylvania and the summers were not
    > conducive to sleeping. I suppose one can get used to it. But you are
    > correct, modern houses are not designed to take advantage of natural air
    > circulation. IMHO, the last 50 or so years, houses have been designed
    > cheap energy in mind. Our house was built in 1968 when oil was 18
    > cents/Imperial gallon (that was before we went metric). Windows were
    > glazed and the walls are built with 2x4s. Since then, I have had triple
    > glazing installed all around but, even with the current energy costs (now
    > electric for us), the pay back time for adding additional insulations is
    > very long.
    > When the oil crisis hit in ~1973, there was some footage on TV featuring
    > people complaining about the high costs of heating: these people were
    > dressed in short-sleeved shirts, in the winter! The idea of a sweater
    > crossed their mind.
    > As I pointed out to my e-mail to Michael Roberts earlier this evening,
    > switching to a less energy intensive lifestyle is not easily accomplished
    > without major dislocations. In the first place, it is very expensive to
    > increase the insulation of houses. Second, there is the general
    > inertia" that is central to an unwillingness to change. Let me give you
    > example. I listened to a presentation this afternoon about the public
    > perception of nuclear power. One way nuclear power could be more
    > in Canada (and help Canada come closer to meeting its "promised" goal for
    > the Kyoto Protocol) is to institute a "carbon tax." A tax on fossil fuels
    > based on the carbon content (highest for coal, lowest for propane) would
    > drive Canada to nuclear energy (again) and lower the emission of
    > gases. Yet, instituting a carbon tax is considered political suicide at
    > moment and might result in the province of Alberta (oil and gas rich)
    > separating from Canada.
    > Where I take issue with you is the comparison of energy consumption in
    > America and elsewhere. The climate in most of Canada and much of the US
    > continental. We are situated in the middle of the continent and our
    > winter temperature can drop to -40 although -30 C at night is more common,
    > with winter highs typically -15 C. In the summer it's not unusual to have
    > highs of +30 to +35 C. We are close to lakes and rivers (Canadian Shield)
    > we have the added humidity.
    > What is often ignored in the energy discussions is the vast distances (our
    > town is at the end of a highway and the nearest town is 25 km away), our
    > energy-intensive industry (e.g., aluminum, smelting, and other primary
    > industries). As Canada evolves to more secondary industry, the energy
    > consumption will decrease.
    > BTW, last time I was in Japan in a summer, the stores in one of the
    > provincial capitals had their doors wide open and the air conditioning
    > full blast, to entice shoppers into their stores! Yet, if Japan uses less
    > energy per capita than Canada, it must be because the houses are much
    > smaller, apartments use less energy to heat than detached homes, the
    > is not as severe, and the population density is much higher which means
    > public transit can be much more efficient.
    > Chuck
    > -----Original Message-----
    > From: Jonathan Clarke []
    > Sent: Friday April 20, 2001 11:04 PM
    > To:
    > Cc:
    > Subject: Re: Kyoto
    > Hi Chuck
    > Your example illustrates the problems of lifestyle, expectation and
    > perception. I grew up in the tropics were temperatures were frequently 39
    > over, and
    > spent nearly 5 years in the desert when the day time temperatures were
    > over 40 in summer. We never had air conditioning and learned to live with
    > it. Of course houses were also designed in such a way as to allow maximum
    > circulation. even today, were I to live in those areas again and be able
    > afford airconditioning, I would only bother with the sleeping areas. To
    > some extent the same applies to heating. I was amazed when I visited the
    > and
    > Canada to degree to which buildings were heated to near tropic
    > when to could have been cheaper for people to wear a few more clothes (it
    > only early autum). How next door neighbour, a Canadian, has twice the
    > bill that we do simply because she insists in closing the house up and
    > it
    > round the cloth as soon as there is a chill in the air and keeping it like
    > that for 6 months of the year. She has lived here for 20 years and should
    > used to it by now. Of course once houses are designed and built for year
    > round
    > heating and cooling it becomes difficult if not impossible to be able to
    > comfortably in them any other way. I seem to remember that the per capital
    > domestic energy consumption in North America is higher than that of
    > or Japan, presumably this is a reflection of lifestyle, not different
    > climates.
    > Jon

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