federalcarbontax.org and climatehealth.org


“Climate Change: The Urgency of Emission Reduction, and How to Reduce Emissions of Heat–Trapping Gasses

by scientist/businessman Sylvester Johnson, Ph.D. Applied Physics


For an opportunity to take direct personal political action that does not require your money, see this link to the closely related Initiative for local governments’ resolutions in support of a federal carbon tax.

Accelerating Changes

Consumers drive change. Growing numbers of leading consumers are saving money by increasing energy efficiency, as well as paying a reasonable premium for renewable energy sources to support the transition to renewables, demonstrating that the market is growing. As the market grows, more businesses invest in production of renewables, with larger scale production increasing efficiency and reducing cost for even greater numbers of further consumers. But what’s the urgency for transitioning?

Several probable repercussions of climate change listed below have been worsening for three decades. During the last few decades these trends have been accelerating beyond any known likely natural cause. 

Human-Induced

Based on analyses of these trends, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (www.ipcc.ch) has reported that human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gasses “very likely” are contributing to climate change. The inspiration for the studies leading to that report was the rough correlation between rises in human population, carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere, and average global surface temperature over the last 150 years. Correlations do not show causation, but such observations can inspire hypotheses for further investigation.

The IPCC therefore compiled the results of many worldwide climate computer simulations. The simulations were run two ways. One set of runs included only variations in climate induced naturally, such as by the sun. The other set also included human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gasses. Only with human-induced emissions did the results correlate roughly with the rise in average global surface temperature. The temperature has risen steeply enough in the last three decades to support strong statistical significance culminating in the statement that human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gasses “very likely” are contributing to climate change.

Urgency

Reasons for urgency include acceleration of trends leading to losses from weather-related disasters ($200 billion in USA in 2005), acceleration of glacial melting, rising sea level that will likely force mass migrations from coastal areas, 25% decrease in volume of Arctic sea ice since 1979, collapse of Antarctic ice shelves, increasing oceanic acidity, accelerating rises in temperature that increase the spread of insect-borne diseases, increasing evaporation leading to increased water stress, crop failures, and loss of rain forests that have previously retained reservoirs of carbon from the atmosphere, and increasing release of methane from melting permafrost tundra and hydrates (methane has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over 100 years). Children will likely have to cope with impacts that have exacerbated beyond those we’re already experiencing.

Case Study: Methane Hydrates

The possibility of release of methane from frozen methane hydrates (ice) is of considerable import. Worldwide many reservoirs or “occurrences” of hydrates have been identified. (Figure 1.) The methane is so dense in the hydrates that a chunk exposed to the atmosphere burns with a visible flame if lit by a match. Hydrates are mainly located in two types of regions, high latitudes and the continental margins in the oceans, because of the temperature and pressure requirements for stabilization, and because of the relatively large amounts of organic matter available for bacterial methanogenesis. Permafrost also can contain hydrates.


Figure 1. Worldwide reservoirs of hydrates (Source of map: U.S. Geological Survey).


Figure 2. The approximate locations of reservoirs of methane hydrates in the sediments beneath the Arctic ocean (in red) were estimated by the author from the global map of figure 1. Also shown is the extent of the sea ice in September for 1979 and 2003. (Source of maps: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment www.acia.uaf.edu).


Over 100 billion tons of methane are locked in hydrates embedded in sediments beneath the coastal waters of the Arctic Ocean (Figure 2 and Milkov 2004.) A fraction of those hydrates is shallower than most of the reservoirs of hydrates elsewhere in the world. The global warming potential of the methane in Arctic hydrates is over 2100 billion tons of CO2, or about 80 times the total human-induced annual emissions of CO2.

For reasons including the feedback of melting ice and decreased reflectivity that allows the sun to warm water, and the role of the Arctic as a “heat sink”, the extent of sea ice in September has been decreasing substantially for three decades. The increasing distance of the ice from the coast during the summer months reduces the significance of the moderating effect of the melting ice on the temperature of the coastal waters, making them more vulnerable to temperature increase. Projections of the temperature increase in those waters and the sediments below are difficult to make accurately, since models also need to include the effects of the worldwide climate on the relatively narrow regional strip of coastal waters. The detail required is too fine.

The only benefit of sea level rising is that it increases the pressure on hydrates. As pressure increases, the temperature required to destabilize (melt) them rises, with the increased pressure acting to stabilize them against the increasing temperature. However, the timing of increases in pressure and temperature is critical and difficult to predict. This race between the effects of pressure and temperature on hydrates has already begun.

If hydrates destabilized, they wouldn’t burn. Instead, the methane would diffuse into the water, then the atmosphere. In addition, hydrates are distributed through thick layers, so that it would take many years for all the layers to warm sufficiently.

If human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gasses get reduced soon enough, it’s possible that the temperature in the sediments will remain low enough so that only the uppermost layer of hydrates might destabilize, if that. Increasing pressure could follow up to halt further destabilization. This race could be stopped by human restraint regarding emissions of heat-trapping gasses.

The reservoirs of hydrates worldwide contain double the energy of fossil fuel reservoirs. To meet people’s demand, energy suppliers are beginning to mine the hydrates. However, in addition to the methane in hydrates, free methane exists in caverns in the frozen sediments. Mining could crack the enclosures, releasing the trapped methane. Pits dug in the hydrates would also tend to destabilize neighboring hydrates. Consideration of the global warming potential of the methane possibly released by mining hydrates implies a need for restrictions on such mining.

Legacy to the Children

Civilization has survived storms, droughts and floods before. But the world now faces a warming trend unseen since civilization began 10,000 years ago. Our high global population using fossil fuels is likely in the process of triggering worldwide changes that will transform the Earth, leaving a legacy of a damaged world. These changes could challenge civilization and the biosphere to the utmost, meaning substantial losses to both.

For every degree of ultimate temperature increase, it’s possible to guesstimate the extent of damages such as flooding and loss of species. The watchword now is damage control, limiting the temperature increase and damage.

“Vicious cycles” such as the ice-reflectivity feedbacks tend to increase temperature once they’ve been initiated by increases in temperature caused by increased levels of heat-trapping gasses. It may turn out that such feedbacks are like fires made with slightly wet wood that sputter and die out without constant fanning. Although the world is at risk, if we reduce emissions of heat-trapping gasses, the levels may decrease naturally over time, so that the feedbacks that people have set in motion may sputter and stabilize, leaving average temperature at a more livable level than if we continue increasing emissions.

By burning fossil fuels, it’s possible that we’ve lit a fire of feedback cycles that threaten to overheat the Earth. For that fire to have a chance to sputter and go out we need to stop fanning it. Therefore we need to roll up our sleeves and take steps individually, nationally and worldwide to reduce emissions. Clearly we in the USA need to take serious steps in improving efficiency for China and India to feel pressure to take steps themselves.

Fortunately, just as every emission of heat-trapping gasses increases warming, every reduction reduces warming that otherwise would have occurred, reducing the fanning of the fire. That sentence is the “No Escape Clause”. It means that every step that one takes to reduce emissions makes a difference, from making the effort to caulk or foam seal the cracks in the attic floor around vents and wiring penetrations, to boarding the train or bus instead of driving or flying to travel those “Love Miles” to visit that relative.

It’s up to us.

Tremendous Need for Change Brings Tremendous Opportunities

Let’s harness the most powerful social and economic engine in history to transitioning, namely the freedom to vote and choose renewables, the freedom to innovate and prosper from meeting a need. And now the need is to transition to renewable energy sources.

Political Opportunities

The political will for transitioning is growing, which means political opportunity. This issue merits bipartisan support, since it concerns national security as identified by the Pentagon regarding prospective impacts on the USA and allies. Energy independence would enhance national security as well as reduce risk of impacts. Installing renewables creates jobs, stimulating the economy (with the potential to add 2 million jobs according to www.ApolloAlliance.org). The USA could export renewable energy devices, instead of importing them as now. Jobs provide political opportunity.

Leading climate scientists have stated that the more severe repercussions from warming could be avoided by making an 80% reduction from the heat-trapping emissions of 1990 by 2050, reducing a few percent every year. Bills have been introduced that would mandate such a reduction; the legislation is discussed in an article on this website at Article, Carbon Trading and Offsets Counterproductive Compared to Politically Possible Carbon Tax. A political compromise for a lesser reduction may be seen as a political success, but could be a climatological failure, delaying the necessary levels of cutbacks for an unknown number of years as impacts accelerate, creating a need for an even more severe goal for 2050 than 80%. Meanwhile, the country would likely be awash in expenses arising from impacts, enervating the ability to invest in efficiency and renewable energy sources.

Governance involves a flurry of scattered conflicting activities that occasionally coalesce into compromise. Yet this issue demands action as soon as possible to enact the 80% goal. Scientists’ published predictions are based on the more conservative results of computer modeling, but modeling is extremely difficult to do for accelerating glacial sliding and calving, for ice sheet crumbling, and for methane release from decomposition of melting permafrost tundra and from vast reservoirs of methane hydrates. Impacts will possibly accelerate more rapidly and with more severity than predicted. Even if the 80% goal gets met by 2050, the world will be fortunate if the damages are limited to published predictions. The stakes for the future may include survivability (Ward 2006). To increase the chance of avoiding the more severe damages, it would be judicious to enact laws that have not been compromised from the 80% goal.

To eventually stabilize climate change, European nations have been manufacturing renewable energy devices that are now being exported. The USA needs to take steps to transition not only to begin manufacturing renewable energy devices, but also to set an example and to encourage similar actions in China and India. A worldwide agreement regarding the climate has already been reached, limiting production of chlorofluorocarbons that damage the ozone layer that’s critical to life (the Montreal Protocol of 1987). The stakes included near-term survivability. The economy benefited from installing retrofits to accommodate chlorofluorocarbon substitutes. Now the USA could make transitioning a worldwide effort.

For several decades, despite occasional recessions, the world’s economy has seen unprecedented growth. In China the average standard of living is higher than ever before, with most people achieving adequate necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter, health care.

In the U.S., abundance has fed illness. Due to pollution and a diet and lifestyle that in general do not support robust health, rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity are creating crises, not only in health but also in “human resources” necessary to maintain the economy.

Now that the threats of climate change to the health of the world have become clearer, it’s obvious that the world economy is not likely to sustain its growth indefinitely. Increasing sea levels that flood cities from Houston to Shanghai may disrupt international trade as refugees from coastal areas migrate.

Economic strength has been used to build military might. Yet no tank can hold back the sea.

With society disrupted by coastal refugees, the military may get used to restore order rather than to conquer neighbors. How valuable would neighboring seafaring countries be in any case, with the coasts flooded? It’s in the national security interest of every nation to redirect expenditures oriented to military conquest to building dams and reducing heat-trapping emissions. By these means nations can be more secure.

International protocols to reduce emissions have been undermined by an “alliance of unfairness”. Each country can cite reasons why it would be unfair for it to sacrifice any small percentage of economic growth by redirecting effort to reducing usage of fossil fuels. How ironic and unfair to the world, because that alliance ultimately could bring about the destruction of the economy.

If abundance feeds illness and the sickening of the planet with flooded coasts, let us focus on the future rather than unfairness. Let’s agree on an international protocol to reduce emissions.

As a beginning in each country building codes could be upgraded to mandate that new buildings including residential be made extremely energy efficient, meeting at least the certification requirements of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. Since heating systems would be installed more cheaply at lower capacity for more efficient buildings, the overall increase in price could likely be held to under 10% of total construction price. When older buildings get renovated, building codes could mandate inspection to certify that the contractor met high LEED standards for implementation of energy efficiencies. More efficient, high performance buildings can save a substantial fraction of energy expenses.

Over 500 Mayors have pledged their cities to meet the goals of the Kyoto Protocol: www.usmayors.org/climateprotection. If your city has not yet made that commitment, citizen pressure may motivate it.

Business Opportunities

Consumers are already leading market change. Growing markets mean growing businesses such as local startups installing renewable energy sources, and Energy Service Companies supplying electricity from renewables.

Major conventional businesses are urging strong legislation. The Climate Action Partnership is an alliance of environmental groups and businesses that have come together to call on the federal government to enact legislation, businesses such as Alcoa, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, Pacific Gas and Electric, DuPont, General Electric, and Lehman Brothers investment bankers. Why are they taking this initiative?

Institutional investors are demanding climate risk disclosures, providing concrete motivation for businesses to act to reduce risk. To establish a framework for defining industry standards for equitable treatment of competitors, businesses need to support strong legislation to limit heat-trapping emissions with a well-defined timeline for goals and market-based incentives such as tradable emission permits, legislation such as that mentioned above. Industry standards will reduce the concern among shareholders about the uncertainty and risk that currently surround planning regarding climate change.

Energy cost volatility hampers strategic planning. Businesses can simultaneously increase their own energy independence and that of the USA by improving energy efficiencies and installing renewable energy sources, reducing energy cost volatility for increased cost control and profitability.

As in private homes, investments by business to reduce carbon footprint can pay for themselves over time, then pay dividends in energy savings, investments such as improving facilities performance efficiency of the furnace, insulation, and reducing air infiltration. By complementing fossil fuel with renewable energy sources, companies can use the same or more power. Governmental rebates, low interest loans, and tax incentives are often available for installing renewable energy sources.

Companies can do well doing good, prospering by transitioning. Businesses could consider the “Triple Bottom Line: economically viable, socially responsible, and environmentally sound”. (This section was excerpted from an article on this website addressed to the concerns of businesses: Article, Do Well Doing Good: Profiting in a Sustainable World.)

Paths to Transition

Not So Fast Fixes

One hears it said that futuristic technology will save us. Proposals have been made for pumping CO2 into the oceans, blasting sulfates into the atmosphere, or launching a Space Solar Shield. But it’s a problem of scale: The cost of the infrastructure to burn carbon has been many $trillions. Although capturing and storing concentrated CO2 from smokestacks is necessary, the infrastucture needed to separate sufficient diffuse CO2 from the atmosphere would have to cost $trillions.

The disk that the Earth presents to the Sun is over 100,000,000 km2. A Space Solar Shield blocking 1/2000th of that disk would require an area over 50,000 square kilometers with a staggering installation expense. The shield would need to be maintained at the distance of equilibrium gravitational forces between the Earth and Sun, against the force of solar radiation. 

There will always be many competing demands for funding, not only for the current challenges, but also for increased struggles over resources, and new needs to cope with impacts, such as building extensive irrigation systems and lengthy high dikes, or funding emigration due to sea level rising. Impractical futuristic fixes distract from the urgent work at hand. It’s far more feasible to reduce emissions now.

Beyond Fossil Fuels

Nuclear energy is unfortunately beset with safety issues: malfunction, human error, sabotage or attack leading to release of radiation, and waste disposal. Yucca Mountain Repository, in south-central Nevada (a US Department of Energy storage facility for spent nuclear reactor fuel and other radioactive waste), would be more than filled with the waste already available. If the US builds more nuclear power stations, other countries would be inspired to build more, generating more worldwide nuclear waste that could be made into dirty bombs in the wrong hands.

However, the potential of renewable energy sources such as solar photovoltaics, wind turbines, hydroelectric, tidal, and wave power is enormous, to meet all of our demand for electricity. Geothermal heating, and solar thermal for heating water via lightweight evacuated panels can also reduce usage of fossil fuels. Any of these renewables can pay for the investment over time, then pay dividends in economic savings and renewable power.

Heat Recovery

Chemical hoods and “clean rooms” often get vented directly to the outside without having the air first pass through a heat exchanger. Even newer factories and research facilities in many cases have been built without heat recovery, since they were designed when energy was cheaper. The relatively minor extra expense of heat recovery got shaved from the construction budget. Unfortunately, it may cost as much as say five times as much to retrofit for heat recovery than to install it during new construction. Nevertheless, with the increased cost of energy, that retrofit may pay for itself in 5 or 6 years.

To get a coarse idea of the extra expense being paid for venting without heat recovery, the heating/cooling expense of the building can get compared to the expense for a building of like square footage, but without the need to vent chemical hoods and clean rooms. The difference would be the expense due to venting. That expense multiplied times the efficiency of the proposed system for heat recovery gives the potential savings from the retrofit. The annual savings divided into the estimate for retrofitting gives the number of years to recover the investment.

Personal Energy Expenses

The seals on the refrigerator, freezer and oven doors can be tested by leaving a lit flashlight inside a closed appliance. If light escapes around the gasket, heat and money will also, so that the gasket or appliance needs replacing. Vacuuming dust from the coils of the refrigerator and air conditioner increases the efficiency of heat transfer by removing insulating dust. Coils at the back of the refrigerator need to have at least an inch or two clearance from the wall to allow warmed air to easily flow up from the coils.

Replacing a clogged filter in a forced air heating system improves efficiency.

Replacing older appliances, especially the furnace or boiler, clothes washer/dryer, air conditioner and refrigerator with Energy Star certified can save over 20% of the energy previously required (www.getenergysmart.org). Avoid buying a furnace that’s bigger than needed, since it’d cycle on and off more frequently, wasting fuel, according to Consumer Reports Nov. 2007 page 54. Furnace capacity can be calculated by a contractor based on building size, design, construction, and climate. If several rooms are likely to get closed off during the winter, the calculation can be for the occupied rooms only.

If American households simply switched to more efficient refrigerators they would eliminate the need for 20 to 30 power plants. Since refrigerant has over 10,000 times the Global Warming Potential of CO2, with the usual 3/4 pound of refrigerant equivalent to 7500 pounds of CO2, it’s worth checking that the refrigerant gets removed from the old refrigerator before disposal at the dump. 

Placing a vapor barrier on the dirt floor in the basement crawl space reduces the flow of vapor into the basement, reducing usage of the dehumidifier.

How about trying a clothesline instead of the clothes dryer, when possible, or using the dryer during off-peak hours, during the evening? Drying clothes too dry can cause static cling. The moisture setting could be decreased from medium dry to less dry.

Plugging all entertainment equipment into a power strip makes it convenient to switch them all off at once, to prevent keeping built-in transformers warm 24/7. Otherwise, it’s equivalent to leaving electric “faucets” dripping, since 40% of the electricity used to power home electronics may be consumed while the products are turned off. Also, keeping rechargeable batteries in the powered charger, after the batteries have been fully charged, reduces the lifetime of the batteries.

Substituting compact fluorescent for incandescent bulbs saves over 2/3 of lighting energy; fluorescent bulbs may last up to 10 times longer than incandescent, meaning that over the life of one fluorescent bulb, a consumer may avoid replacing up to 10 incandescent bulbs. The cost benefit is greater for much–used fixtures. Take care removing the bulb from its packaging. When installing it, grip the lamp by its firm base, not by the spiraling glass. Click for more information about fluorescent bulbs.

Washing laundry in cold water saves 90% of energy, with possibly indistinguishable results for cleansing, and with less damage to clothing. The water heater could get turned down to 120°F. On-demand water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank, avoiding the standby heat losses of storage water heaters.

Electric and gas meters could get placed so that they’re more easily read on a day-to-day basis. Monitoring energy usage, especially usage of individual appliances via built-in meters, could result in reductions in usage.

Housing performance can be made more efficient by plugging air leaks and improving insulation, resulting in substantial savings, since cooling and heating comprise the majority of home energy usage (Figure 3). Piping between the boiler and water heater could get insulated, as well as heating pipes readily accessed in the basement. An example of leakage may be found around the clothes dryer vent. A plastic collar could get installed around the vent, and sheet–rock used to complete the wall enclosure behind the dryer, filling in any missing insulation. Other vents, chimneys and flues may need collars. Rubber gaskets could get installed behind outlets and switch plates on exterior walls.

Priority needs to be given to sealing the floor of the attic, since warmer air rises into cooler. Even a 1/16th–inch crack can let significant warm air flow into the cold attic. Holes drilled for electric or plumbing installation may not have been sealed with foam. [Mineral–based foam is available that’s supposed to do little toxic out–gassing.] If a room has been added to the house, the interior wall at the junction of old and new roof-lines may be open into the attic, requiring sealing to prevent air infiltration.

Fiberglass or blown cellulose insulation by themselves, even if thick and blown evenly, are useless for blocking air flow since air passes through them. For fiber-based insulation to be effective, air flow needs to get blocked by seals made with spray foam, air tight foam board, caulk, plastic sheets, or dry wall. The seals need to be on the inside of outer walls in cooler latitudes, since condensation would occur on the outer layer if the outer layer of walls were sealed. In warmer latitudes the seals need to be on the outside of outer walls, since condensation would occur on the inner layer if the inner layer of walls were sealed. In other words, the insulation is toward the cooler layer of the wall, the seal on the warmer, since condensation is minimal on the warmer layer.

Foundation walls often allow air leaks. Attaching foam board can seal them.

Often items stored in an attic get ruined by dust, moths, or mold. Therefore, the attic could be viewed as an opportunity for insulation rather than for storage. So much heat escapes from many attics that several feet of insulation would make a good investment, after thorough sealing of the attic floor.

Existing windows may not need replacement unless the wood’s rotting. Storm windows can get placed on the outside of windows. For double–hung windows, paint may have dripped between the halves, preventing the sash lock from joining them tightly and flush. The chemical “Multi–Strip” makes it easier to strip paint. It’s supposed to be minimally toxic. “V-Strip” weather–stripping is practical for filling gaps between and around windows. Even the plastic version is more durable than foam weather–stripping. “Caulking Cord” is a dense putty in strip form that lets gaps get plugged quickly, but it leaves a film on the glass. “Seal and Peel” is not supposed to leave a film. Air flow through the pulley cavity can get blocked by a pulley seal housing.

Far more information on building improvements is on the website housing.cce.cornell.edu.

As well as taking care to eliminate leaks around windows and improve the insulation of the sides of our dwellings, how about the attic? Often blown insulation is spread unevenly, or small gaps around ducts and at the tops of walls can let air actually flow upwards into the attic. Even fiberglass insulation won’t prevent that flowing warm air from rising between the joints in the blocks of insulation. Hundreds of dollars could be lost each heating season to such “small” leaks in the attic floor or uneven insulation.

Remarkably, infrared scanning of the attic floor from below the attic reveals cool and warm regions as shown in a colorful picture on the scanner. A contractor who performs energy audits (providers) may have a scanner, as well as be able to point out further steps for efficiency.

As insulation rolls out, savings roll in. Heating ducts could also get insulated. Internal fans use much less energy to maintain comfort during hot weather than air conditioners. However, in just an hour exhaust fans can remove a houseful of warmed or cooled air.




Figure 3. The dominance of heating and cooling among energy expenses for homes implies that interventions such as reducing air infiltration and improving insulation could result in substantial savings. Replacing older appliances with Energy Star certified ultimately pays dividends. Source of data: the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (www.getenergysmart.org).


Buildings can become power producers via renewable energy sources. In particular, installing household solar heating and electric power can pay substantial dividends through reduced energy payments.

Transportation is a major source of the USA’s emissions. Inflating tires to optimum increases miles per gallon, as does a tune-up and clean air filter. Hybrid vehicles store energy during braking to use less fuel.

Above 55-60 mph mileage decreases substantially (Figure 4). But how can one feel macho while driving, with most vehicles passing by? Instead of trying to be the fastest jackrabbit on the road, one can feel the satisfaction of sending less money to the treasure troves of the Middle East, and sending fewer young people over to get the oil, by driving a little slower.



Figure 4. Mileage as a function of speed www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/FEG2007.pdf.

Water vapor is a direct by-product of combustion. Jet travel contributes far more to warming than travel by train or bus due to the water vapor that forms part of the jet’s exhaust, persisting at the top of the atmosphere long after the jet has landed. That vapor, including jets’ contrails, causes substantial net warming, with the total for jets estimated at 2.7 times the warming from the carbon dioxide released by the burning jet fuel (The Environmental Effects of Civil Aircraft in Flight www.rcep.org.uk/avreport.htm).

One could excuse travel by the rationale that the jet was going to fly regardless, with or without one more passenger, evading the moral dilemma. Another way to view it however, is that each passenger is responsible for an equal proportion of the warming caused by the flight, confronting the moral dilemma.

Depending on the length of the flight, that warming may counteract much of one’s other efforts to reduce emissions and warming. For a 3000 mile non–stop fully occupied flight, it can be estimated that warming occurs equivalent to over 200 gal. of gasoline per passenger (200 gal. ~ 2.7X3000miles/40mpg if jet engines fairly efficient www.tgws.org.uk). It’s time to consider ways to reduce transport by aviation. (For a Boeing 747-400 “Jumbo Jet”, the maximum number of passengers is 524, with a fuel tank capable of holding 57,285 U.S. gal. www.boeing.com/commercial/747family/pf/pf_400_prod.html)

Calculation of the relative contributions to warming of various modes of travel depends on the efficiency of the make of vehicle, the distance between stops, the number of passengers, speed, inflation of tires, among other factors. As a coarse guideline, for vehicles filled to capacity, light rail, subways and trams contribute less than 1/60th as much as jets, busses 1/30th jets, heavy inter–city trains 1/25th jets, a hybrid car (getting just 45 mpg) with five passengers 1/15th jets (http://tgws.org.uk/docs/web-trva.pdf). The bottom line is to avoid jet travel as much as possible.

What does an inexpensive sound-dampening headset have to do with saving the world? It works much better to dampen the noise of bus or train travel than an expensive headset with speakers built in. And in combination with iPod earbuds, it makes for home quality stereo. Moreover, the ultra-chic earbuds plus the clutsy headset give you that “nouveau nerd” look. So yet another advantage of public ground transportation is the opportunity to sport the latest fashion.

While staying at a hotel, one could ask what it is doing to increase energy efficiency and reduce fossil fuel usage.

Virtual Travel

Boarding the train or bus is a way to visit relatives using a lesser carbon footprint instead of high impact driving or flying to travel those “Love Miles”. However anyone with a computer can replace some travel by video-conferencing over the internet. Many computers have cameras built-in. For a crisper image, excellent attachable cameras are available for about $100, only a fraction of the cost of one long-distance trip. The effect is the same as a video-phone, and the per-minute cost is already absorbed in the fee for internet service.

For the audio from the conference to be more audible to the remote participants, conference microphones need to get hooked to the computer’s input for transmission to the remote participants. Presenters need to speak into the microphones.

Energy savers on the computers need to get reset to never during a presentation to a conference made from a remote location, then reset afterward to a short period. To insure echo-free audio, it's be worth having sets of earbuds on hand for the usage of participants remote from the conference.

Sylvester reduces travel by using videoconferencing.



by Eric Stewart of The Ithaca Journal

Consumer Power

Consumers could call the electric company to find out about Energy Service Companies that supply electricity from renewable sources. An article describing how to direct 100% of payments for the supply of electricity to renewables is on this website at Article, How to Redirect All of the Payment for Electric Supply to Renewable Energy.

Carbon offsets get sold on the supposition that they balance out fossil fuel emissions. While donating to tree-planting and funding renewable energy sources needs to be done anyway, such donations cannot substitute for critical reductions in emissions at the sources as soon as possible. A full article on problems with the deceptive financial game of offsets that greatly overstate impact is on this website at Article, Carbon Trading and Offsets Counterproductive Compared to Equitable Carbon Tax.

Climate change education has a multiplier effect as more people, more voters, learn about the urgent reasons for transitioning. Donations could be directed to educational projects such as the Global Change Education Project of the Museum of the Earth at Paleontological Research Institute of Cornell University (www.priweb.org). The components of the museum’s new Global Change exhibit will be communicated to sister museums, so the multiplier effect of donations will be substantial. The tax-deductible amount donated to such non-profits could be large, to compensate for a lifetime of fossil fuel usage with unintended consequences. “Unintended” since this isn’t about guilt or perfection; it’s about making a difference.

Food Choices Affect Resources Used

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock farming generates more heat-trapping gasses than transportation, since the emissions include gasses with many times the Global Warming Potential of CO2. Because the production of plant-based foods also consumes far fewer resources, it would be worthwhile considering the health benefits of increasing consumption of those foods, while reducing consumption of animal products to a serving a day, that is a deck of card’s worth or less.

Such personal changes could eliminate over a ton of CO2 emissions per year, saving almost as much warming emissions as switching to a hybrid car. If hundreds of millions of people reduce animal-sourced foods, the savings will be substantial.

My free ebook Healthspan, including a health-supporting daily dietary regimen, as well as books by MDs that describe the scientific basis for the health benefits of plant-based foods are listed on www.climatehealth.net/Healthspan.html. Free downloads of audio interviews with leading nutritionist T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. are available from the non-profit website www.climatehealth.net/Interviews.html. The first interview covers research about food’s impact on cancer.

Supporting the Transition, for the Children

Everyone has used fossil fuels, unintentionally contributing to global warming. It’s worth considering that everyone could support the transition to renewables with personal effort and resources.

One hears it said that future generations can deal with it. However, they’ll be preoccupied with many of the problems that we face as well as coping with the expensive and painful challenges listed above.

Occasionally throughout history a generation is faced with a crisis. We, not the children, are the generation faced now with this rapidly emerging crisis in which each of us can make a significant difference by reducing emissions to reduce and delay the damages. For the vibrancy, hope and joy of children, and for a stronger, more energy independent USA, it’s up to us.

Outreach

    If you’re interested in spreading the word about this non-profit educational resource, please copy and send out the suggested text on the Outreach page to email lists.

       Further Information and Presentations

       For a listing of the contents of this website: Site Map, for further articles, for slides taken from Sylvester’s donated presentations, and for his resumé.

More references on Climate Change and how to reduce emissions on the page References

Further Reading

Milkov, A.V. 2004. Global estimates of hydrate-bound gas in marine sediments: how much is really out there? Earth-Sci Rev 66 (3-4): 183-197

Johnson, Sylvester. 2006 Article, Carbon Trading and Offsets Counterproductive Compared to Politically Possible Carbon Tax, on this website