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Posts tagged ‘Global Warming’

How big are fossil fuel subsidies?

The short answer is “too big”.

I found this report (via Political Irony), from, of all places, the International Monetary Fund, discussing the size of the gravy train subsidies given to fossil fuel industries. Among its findings:

  • Almost $5 trillion is spent in such subsidies. This is about 6.5% of global gross domestic product.
  • Coal gets the most subsidies. This finding is new to me. It is also the most disturbing, as coal is one of the worst fossil fuels in terms of pollution and global warming.
  • A substantial part of these subsidies are indirect, as in not properly charging for externalities.
  • Eliminating these subsidies would have enormous benefits, including increased government revenue, less pollution, and millions of fewer deaths
  • Global coordination is not necessary, as a country “going it alone” by eliminating subsidies will still reap benefits.

With the above benefits, it is obviously a great idea to end these subsidies now. Energy companies do not need these subsidies. Indeed, the same way those who are doing just fine don’t need an unpaid cheer squad, those who are doing just fine don’t need coddling from the government either.

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Link farm Sunday in April edition

In no particular order:

Nuclear power has saved about 1.84 million lives over the last 40 years due to the prevention of air pollution (via). A large expansion of it over the next four decades could save from 420 thousand to as many as 7.04 million additional lives.

This is one of the reasons there should be a large–scale increase in nuclear power generation. It is far less deadly than coal, once air pollution and mining deaths are accounted for, not to mention its carbon dioxide emissions’ causal factor in climate change. And nuclear power is safe; most scientists and experts believe that the risks from nuclear power are far overblown, especially considering the threat from global warming.


The teams promoted and relegated for all levels of the IIHF Women’s World Championships are:

Tournament Promoted Relegated
World Championships n/a Czech Republic
Division IA Japan? Latvia
Division IB France Great Britain
Division IIa Hungary Slovenia
Division IIB South Korea South Africa
Division II Qualification Turkey n/a

Since the IIHF does not explicitly say, in both the news report and statistics page, whether Japan was promoted or merely the winner or Division I Group A, I still have no idea what was going on. By the looks of it no one was promoted to the main tournament in 2014, which will keep it at eight teams in 2015. That negates any point of winning the tournament this year, which is a shame. I hope I’m wrong, and that a better explanation is forthcoming. Update: Another possibility is that there will be some sort of qualifier series, like a best–of–three between Japan and whoever wins Division I Group A next year.


Quote of the day from Vyckie Garrison, the co–founder of No Longer Qivering:

“Fanaticism will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”


Yes! JJ, the Unrepentant Old Hippie, lives. She’ll be returning to blogging soon.

Earth Hour 2013

Earth Hour today, but frankly, I don’t think everyone turning off the lights would make much of a difference, for the following reasons:

  • If candles are used to compensate, CO2 emitted by the candles will more than make up for what wasn’t emitted by power plants.
  • It is pure “slacktivism”, which will make people feel like they are making a difference while not actually having much of an effect.
  • At best, Earth Hour raises awareness. While that is important, more substantive action is necessary.

Much better individual things you can do about climate change include:

  • Eat less meat, especially of ruminants. Most people in North America consume way more protein than is necessary to stay alive.
  • Walk more and drive less. Telecommute if possible.
  • Rather than turning up the heat when you’re cold, put on a sweater or blanket instead.
  • Not use air conditioning or use it less. Closing curtains to prevent the sun from shining in can have a substantial cooling effect.
  • Using no–till no–till gardening. Modern soil management practices release CO2 from the soil, while no–dig methods turn soil into a carbon sink.
  • Replace old appliances, lightbulbs, transportation, etc. with more efficient models.
  • Get rid of “heat leaks”, like tiny gaps under doors, around doorknobs, etc. By blocking these you’ll keep more heat in your house, thereby needing to use less energy to heat it.
  • Get rid of “vampire power.” These are things like remote-controlled appliances. When a remote–controlled appliances is “off”, it still draws power to maintain standby mode, so it can detect any on signal. The only way to get rid of this “vampire power” is to unplug them.

Several of these things are good for reasons other than climate change. By walking more, you’ll be physically fit and healthier. If put on a sweater rather than turning up the heat, you’ll save money. Ditto for heat leaks.

Link farm and a random thought

In no particular order:

The ultimate in data storage. Scientists have found a way to store digital information in DNA. The storage method is sophisticated enough that all information currently in hard drives could fit into the palm of your hand.


Quote of the day (emphasis added):

“What always interests me about defenders of creationism is how they clearly don’t think of children as people in their own right, but instead property that you use to enact your ideological obsessions.”

I personally would edit that quote to include the entirety of the rotten parental rights movement. Those people really do see their own kids as enemies and who’ll do anything to prevent those children from thinking for themselves and not being a projection or perfect reflection of the parents. Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism has emphasized this point multiple times.


Solar power is well on its way to becoming cheaper than coal. It might reach that point before the end of the decade. This is important, as it would eliminate much of the point of burning coal, which is important for climate change mitigation. (It’s still better to start today, however).


I fully agree with these suggestions on how to write a better fantasy story. (Via all these people).


Did you know that (supposedly) the committee of the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women supposedly “Told Libya to re-interpret the Koran in the light of CEDAW”? To rational people, this is an excellent reason to support the CEDAW. But, Echidne found out, wingnuts actually use this as a justifiation for opposing the CEDAW. To their credit, at least they’re honest.


Two of the comments on a post on Brute Reason have won awards. You just have to see them.

And yes, I did manage to read and finish what is visible of the first comment. It starts repeating itself part way through Can’t it be all new woo?

This post has been edited since publication.

Perhaps it’s time to start the alternative

The Arbourist has a post about a small company that has a proposal to create liquid fuels out of water and carbon dioxide from the air. While the proposal looks promising, since, as far as I can tell, it takes more energy to create the liquid fuel than is released by burning that fuel, and that any carbon extracted from the atmosphere while creating the fuel will ultimately be re–emitted when that fuel is used, I have difficulty seeing how much of a difference this particular technology would make. (See also my comments at the Arbourist’s post). However, if new evidence or technology emerges that allows this technology to make more of a difference, I will certainly change my mind about it.

And The Arbourist’s post got me thinking. Since there has been much resistance to making more than a token effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, perhaps it is time to put geoengineering on the table. That might potentially be the best hope for avoiding disaster. While I am not actively suggesting we start geoengineering, I am suggesting we put it on the table. This is important considering our collective failure to make much effort towards mitigation of global warming and climate change.

Geoengineering is not science fiction. Several of the proposals have analogues that happen naturally. And it is not decades away. As far as I can tell, the following proposals are pretty much shovel ready, and we could start tomorrow if there was a serious effort, and with no significant research yet to be done or technology to be developed:

  • Atmospheric sulphur aerosols
  • Grassland restoration
  • Cool roofs
  • Enhanced weathering

These proposals each have a number of advantages and disadvantages (discussed after the jump):

(more…)

Why a carbon tax is the way to go

An editorial in the New York Times got me thinking about why a carbon tax is a better way to fight global warming and climate change than either cap–and–trade or efficiency regulations.

Here are several reasons I can think of:

  • Carbon taxes always provide an incentive to pollute less and use less energy. Even if you cut carbon emissions by half, you still are paying taxes for the carbon you do emit, and therefore still have an incentive to eliminate it. Compare this with efficiency regulations, where someone has no incentive to reduce energy use once the regulation is met. In addition, all too often regulations are designed by businesses themselves, so as to prevent competition (rent seeking). Also compare this with cap–and–trade, where a source of carbon credits may well allow heavy polluters to continue, just because they have deep pockets. A lot of money will not allow someone to avoid paying a carbon tax.
  • Carbon taxes drive both individuals and companies to use less energy. Cap–and–trade is usually done by businesses, and efficiency regulations only impact new products (unless old ones are mandated to be destroyed).
  • According to the editorial, a carbon tax is far cheaper than efficiency standards once a global view of costs is taken into account.
  • Carbon taxes (especially those on fuel) make people drive less and live in denser environments. On a per capita basis, cities are more energy–efficient than suburbs. For example, recycling and public transit are more feasible in densely–populated areas. And people who drive less are less sedentary and therefore healthier.
  • It is possible that cap–and–trade and efficiency standards alone will not do enough to mitigate climate change.
  • A carbon tax is easier to offset as part of a green tax shift than other methods. It can even lead to lower tax levels overall, such as here in British Columbia (cite).
  • Efficiency improvements are subject to the rebound effect, where the decreased cost of using a resource partially offsets gains from using it more efficiently. A carbon tax does not generate perverse incentives.
  • A carbon tax is easier to adjust. If too many pollution permits are issued, cap–and–trade will not have much of an effect since it is harder to eliminate privately–owned pollution permits.
  • Many countries that export oil are rentier states, which means that they earn most of their revenue from natural resource royalties. Those royalties pay for oppressive paramilitary forces that enforce authoritarianism in those countries. A carbon tax will eventually reduce revenues received by those countries, improving freedom there and those countries’ human rights situations.

Hence, for all of the above reasons, a carbon tax is the way to go. My preferred offset is to payroll taxes. But such has virtually no chance of being enacted in the United States (a better chance in Canada [I hope]), due to the extreme polarization and total irrationality (and far worse!) of a number of politicians there. And since climate change is a major danger, Christian conservatism’s climate change denialism makes it, in the long run, the world’s most dangerous ideology.

Some random stuff

In no particular order:

  • What were you doing 1954/04/11? For me, that was decades before I was born, but if you were alive back then you weren’t doing much, as that day was the least exciting day in the twentieth century. I wonder what that Turkish academic and those Belgian voters think about having that day to themselves. Today, with the amazing democratization of information the internet provides, you can find out about some public figure’s sneezing fit two minutes after it happens. Clearly, the idea of an uneventful day is so last century.
  • The United States Department of Defense has released its report on the consequences of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Guess what? It will be a complete non–event. Other countries have gays and lesbians in their militaries with no ill effects, and the same will happen to the United States. About two–thirds of personnel think that repeal will have no ill effects or no effect at all. A strong majority support repealing DADT.
    • Unsurprisingly, the only group opposed to repeal is American evangelicals. They continue to deprive their country’s military access to badly–needed personnel and specialists, a pretty funny way of “supporting the troops”.
  • The 2010 Pacific hurricane season ended yesterday, and was the least active season since the weather satellite era began in 1971. Despite that, it was pretty eventful, with hundreds of people killed and a Category 5 hurricane forming. This record low inactivity does not disprove global warming or climate change, not the least because the Atlantic was very active this year, and the fact that climate models do not predict that there will be a greater number of tropical cyclones.
  • If you see bits of white falling down when you view my blog, you are not seeing things. Rather, that is a snowfall decoration to celebrate the holidays. It will remain visible until January 4.

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