Re: [asa] Carbon Offsets for the Elite (or, How the Wealthy Adapt to Warming)

From: Rich Blinne <>
Date: Sun Mar 04 2007 - 17:11:07 EST

On Mar 4, 2007, at 1:31 PM, Dave Wallace wrote:

> Rich and others
> Al Gore's message that climate warming is generally correct (in
> some places over the top as we have discussed on list) however, as
> an non-scientist activest/popularizer his actions leave him with
> little or no credibility IMHO. If you don't walk the walk then
> your talk is useless. I absolutely would not want or trust someone
> like him helping to set policy in this area.
> One article that I read indicated that Gore was in the process of
> switching to compact fluorescent bulbs. Big deal! In his case that
> probably will not save much as given the size of his bills he must
> use a lot of power for none lighting purposes. I can't remember
> when I finished switching our house to mostly fluorescent bulbs
> (except for those on dimmers) but it was 4 or 5 years ago. In fact
> once LEDs become reasonably available, they will be used for
> background room light as they save another 5 or 6 times.
> Reducing consumption of fossil fuel must be a factor in any plan
> for remediation not just carbon offsets as well as reducing total
> energy used. Sure the wealthy can always adapt better than my
> neighbors who live is subsidized housing. However when the
> consumption of the rich appears very excessive compared to even
> people of average means, then a voluntary program will not work and
> in the past considerable social unrest has occurred.

This is where the focus on Al Gore by skeptics have skewed the policy
discussion. No one and especially Al Gore himself is saying that
these things by themselves solve the problem. AIT references Pacala
and Socolow's work on stabilization wedges (Science, 305, p. 968).
Multi-faceted solutions are necessary because of the fact that CO2
stays around for centuries. The critics morph things into an either/
or debate. For example, Jonah Goldberg on Talk of the Nation was
debating policy and he kept saying we need 30 Kyotos. The other
guests were giving many other options other than Kyoto in dealing
with this problem. Goldberg then responded that he wasn't against
that. Well then what's the problem? We've discussed these wedges
before (Note: Pacala and Socolow is now three years old.). Yet,
because any one technique does not completely solve the problem, we
are stuck doing nothing. This is paralysis by analysis and the people
in the Great Rift Valley will suffer for it.

Speaking of which, the Rocky Mountain chapter of the ASA just had a
meeting discussing sustainable development and your idea fit right in
it with what we discussed. Overly large and overly industrialized
solutions in developing countries simply do not work. Many times
19th Century styled solutions are the way to go. When a Baylor
engineering professor was presenting an extremely low cost solution
to USAID they complained he didn't have enough zeros in his proposal!
As part of the plans to deal with climate all the schemes I have seen
include sustainable development and include the millennium
development goals. The United Nations Foundation sponsored an expert
group to take a systematic look at mitigation and adaption and they
just reported in February. I believe you would approve. You can find
their report here:

Here's a summary of their conclusions:
> • To avoid a entering a regime of sharply rising danger of
> intolerable impacts on humans, policy makers should limit
> temperature increases from global warming to 2-2.5°C above the 1750
> pre-industrial level. It is still possible to avoid unmanageable
> changes in the future, but the time for action is now.
> —Temperatures have already risen about 0.8°C[1] above pre-
> industrial levels and are projected to rise of approximately 3-5°C
> over pre-industrial levels by 2100.
> —Avoiding temperature increases greater than 2-2.5°C would require
> very rapid success in reducing emissions of methane and black soot
> worldwide, and global carbon dioxide emissions must level off by
> 2015 or 2020 at not much above their current amount, before
> beginning a decline to no more than a third of that level by 2100.
> • The technology exists to seize significant opportunities around
> the globe to reduce emissions and provide other economic,
> environmental and social benefits, including meeting the United
> Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. To do so, policy makers must
> immediately act to reduce emissions by:
> —Improving efficiency in the transportation sector through measures
> such as vehicle efficiency standards, fuel taxes, and registration
> fees/rebates that favor purchase of efficient and alternative fuel
> vehicles.
> —Improving design and efficiency of commercial and residential
> buildings through building codes, standards for equipment and
> appliances, incentives for property developers and landlords to
> build and manage properties efficiently, and financing for energy-
> efficiency investments.
> —Expanding the use of biofuels through energy portfolio standards
> and incentives to growers and consumers.
> —Beginning immediately, designing and deploying only coal-fired
> power plants that will be capable of cost-effective and
> environmentally-sound retrofits for capture and sequestration of
> their carbon emissions.
> • Some level of climate change and impacts from it is already
> unavoidable. Societies must do more to adapt to ongoing and
> unavoidable changes in the Earth’s climate system by:
> —Improving preparedness/response strategies and management of
> natural resources to cope with future climatic conditions that will
> be. fundamentally different than those experienced for the last 100
> years.
> —Addressing the adaptation needs of the poorest and most vulnerable
> nations, which will bear the brunt of climate change impacts.
> —Planning and building climate resilient cities.
> —Strengthening international, national, and regional institutions
> to cope with weather-related disasters and an increasing number of
> climate change refugees.
> • The international community, through the UN and related
> multilateral institutions, can play a crucial role in advancing
> action to manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable by:
> —Helping developing countries and countries with economies in
> transition to finance and deploy energy efficient and new energy
> technologies.
> —Accelerating negotiations to develop a successor international
> framework for addressing climate change and sustainable development.
> —Educating all about the opportunities to adopt mitigation and
> adaptation measures.

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Received on Sun Mar 4 17:11:39 2007

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