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Difference between revisions of "Measures to stop global warming"

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:''This page is an experiment in "issues" style content. It has begun as one person's view, but will hopefully become more informed and balanced as other contributors add information and sources. Please contribute respectfully, and don't enforce a single [[Appropedia:POV|POV]]. If you delete something other than vandalism (e.g. if something's false or out of place) then it may be best to move it to the comments section at the bottom, or on the [[Talk:Measures to stop global warming|talk page]].''  
 
:''This page is an experiment in "issues" style content. It has begun as one person's view, but will hopefully become more informed and balanced as other contributors add information and sources. Please contribute respectfully, and don't enforce a single [[Appropedia:POV|POV]]. If you delete something other than vandalism (e.g. if something's false or out of place) then it may be best to move it to the comments section at the bottom, or on the [[Talk:Measures to stop global warming|talk page]].''  
  
Affordable options for fixing or reducing global warming (climate change).
+
==Reducing GHG emissions==
 +
=== The financial cost of addressing climate change ===
 +
According to the Stern Review,{{w|Stern Review}} the cost of reducing [[greenhouse gas emissions]] today is much less than taking corrective action later on.
  
==How easy is it to reduce carbon emissions, using markets?==
+
According to [http://http//scienceblogs.com/cortex/2006/08/easterbrook_on_global_warming.php an article by professor Easterbrook], [[global warming]] is likely to be a lot cheaper to fix than people think, based on past experiences with [[pollution]] control. The Stern report ie estimates that only 2% of the national GDP is needed.
  
According to the article quoted here, [[global warming]] is likely to be a lot cheaper to fix than people think, based on past experiences with [[pollution]] control:
+
A criticism of Easterbrook's argument is that [[carbon]] is central to power generation (and hence modern society) in a way that other pollutants are not. So it will be far harder to reduce total carbon output than it has been to reduce other pollutants, even relative to the scale of the problem.
  
:[http://http//scienceblogs.com/cortex/2006/08/easterbrook_on_global_warming.php Easterbrook on Global Warming] - discussed on ''The Frontal Cortex'' blog.
+
Another argument against Easterbrook's thesis is that although [[carbon dioxide]] emissions are not as potent as other GHG's (ie methane) they can not be decomposed. For example, introduced gases as [[sulfur oxides]] decompose easily to a less harmful form (e.g. sulfur and oxygen). But there is no alternative form for carbon dioxide. The only solution is to lock it away (ie using [[carbon capture and storage]] (CCS), by planting trees (locking it inside trees), ...
  
A criticism of Easterbrook's argument (in one of the comments on the blog) is that [[carbon]] is central to power generation (and hence modern society) in a way that other pollutants aren't. So it will be far harder to reduce total carbon output than it has been to reduce Climate changeother pollutants, even relative to the scale of the problem.
+
The logical place to start is in the area where potential gains are greatest and costs are lowest. This involves reducing energy demand and increasing '''[[energy efficiency]]'''.  
  
Another argument against Easterbrook's thesis is that [[carbon dioxide]] emissions are very large compared with (most? all?) other pollutants. If we emit a small amount of [[sulfur oxides]], for instance, then we can imagine converting the sulfur oxides to some less harmful form (e.g. sulfur and oxygen) at moderate cost. But there is no alternative form for carbon dioxide: to convert it to carbon and oxygen would require energy comparable with what its combustion provided in the first place.
+
=== What needs to be done at national levels ===
 +
There is no consensus over the best solutions to addressing global warming. As there is no consensus, civil government politicians are uncertain of the popularity of taking certain (effective) measures, and thus decide to not implement the measures at all.
 +
For example:
 +
* Preventing the carbon of escaping from fossil fuel power plants is not implemented ([[carbon capture and storage]]
 +
* the role of [[nuclear energy]] is endorsed by some, but opposed by many others and implementation has thus not happened at a very large scale.
 +
* the implementation of effective population management<ref>restricting the size of the population to 2 billion people</ref> has not occurred
 +
* the forbidding of inefficient food production (ie raising mammalian species for food) has not occured
 +
* Another measure which has still not being implemented sufficiently is the creation of more [[renewable energy]] power plants. Some types of these are more attractive in some locations than others. Ie solar energy may be the most cost effective sources of electricity in a sunny isolated location, and solid biomass is perhaps the most cost-effective form of renewable energy in most locations{{fact}}). It should be noted though that the creation of some renewable energy power plants could cause undesirable ecologic effects, ie particular in the case of [[hydroelectric]] plants.
 +
* Make it more attractive to citizens to set up an own power generation system. George Monbiot's{{w|George Monbiot}} [http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2006/10/06/small-is-useless/ argues that distributed energy production is the wrong place to put our efforts]. However, distributed generation can in fact make enormous cuts in the energy sources that they are competing against. For example, solar photovoltaics installed on half the average roof do provide enough energy for the average home throughout the year. They do not, however, provide base power because they are intermittent. However, the energy produced is clean, and much less energy is wasted between the point of creation of the energy and the consumption (ie via the resistance in the wires, ...).
  
==The most affordable changes==
+
The most important, pressing actions to be taken can be taken immediately without economic penalty, with suitable planning. Financial planning is an important aspect of this, as investment now may be required to gain long term benefits; it may be important to have programs such as [[light bulb]] exchanges or loans for energy efficiency measures (perhaps paid off through electricity bills<ref> If the energy company benefits from people using more energy, there may be a conflict of interest, so different reward models need to be explored; when the energy company is a government-owned corporation, this may give more flexibility to apply a different model in order to encourage uptake.  (See [[Incentives for sustainability]] and [[Incentives to pollute]].</ref>)
  
There are many possibilities for reducing global warming impacts and they the most attractive and achievable are those which provide an economic benefit, such as energy efficiency and [[solar hot water]], but not enough that people are taking them up in droves (or perhaps they're just not well known enough yet). Secondly there are additional options which are of approximately equal cost or marginally more expensive than current technology, such as [[wind power]] (in the right locations). These are the "low hanging fruit":
+
Another way to improve the practice of sustainable actions without compulsion, and taxes which some will find a burden, is through '''[[choice architecture]]'''. This is about how to design the context in which people make choices, in such a way that more sustainable choices become easier and more attractive.
  
* Reducing usage by greater efficiency (choice of [[car]], light etc) to provide exactly the same service with less [[greenhouse impact]]. This option is available now, typically at a lower net cost, but [[electricity]] is cheap enough that people don't bother.  
+
For example: Require energy companies to ask all new clients (e.g. when getting a new electricity or gas service for new home or business premises, or changing suppliers) to make an active choice when registering. At the same time as they answer questions about name and methods of payment, they must be offered a choice between green energy and regular energy options, as well as for carbon offsets, with a clear estimate of how much it will cost.
* More [[efficient lighting]]. [[CFL]] lighting is one solution<ref>It's interesting to note that incandescent globes are virtually never seen in [[Indonesia]] - energy efficient compact fluorescent lights being the standard, even in poorer areas. This is presumably due to the cost of electricity, particularly the much higher cost of having a connection that allows greater usage.</ref> and can be cheaper in the long run,{{fact}} but some find the light quality unpleasant. Ordinary sized fluorescents with an electronic ballast are more efficient and can give a better light.{{fact}}
+
 
 +
When it's that easy, many more people will say yes to the wiser choice (in this case, the green option). (Studies have been quoted to support these findings{{fact}} and this is central to choice architecture.)
 +
 
 +
===What YOU can do===
 +
{{Main|Green living}}
 +
{{Main|Autonomous houses and neighbourhoods}}
 +
At this stage the majority of the population in [[developed countries]] have access to renewable energy through "[[green energy]]" offered by electricity companies (which is often not truly "green", but it varies in degree). The cost premium for such energy is very modest compared with most people's overall living costs (and modest compared with the money that most people spend on luxuries or entertainment). ''See [[How to increase the uptake of green energy]].''
 +
 
 +
There are many possibilities for reducing global warming impacts and they the most attractive and achievable for private people are those which provide an economic benefit,<ref>See [[Sustainability and economic growth]]</ref> such as [[energy efficiency]] and [[solar hot water]]<ref>It seems that people are however not taking them up in droves (or perhaps they're just not well known enough yet)</ref>. Secondly there are additional options which are of approximately equal cost or marginally more expensive than current technology, such as [[wind power]] (in the right locations). Some options are:
 +
* Eating less [[meat]]
 +
* Reducing usage by greater efficiency (ie choosing a more efficient new [[car]] or [[Green tuning|adapting your existing car]], implementing [[efficient lighting]], ...) to provide exactly the same service with less [[greenhouse impact]]. More efficient lighting includes [[CFL]] lighting, ... and can be cheaper to use in the long run,{{fact}} but some find the light quality unpleasant. Ordinary sized fluorescents with an electronic ballast are more efficient and can give a better light.<ref>Lighting is responsible for only a very small percentage of emissions, so this measure has almost no influence whatsoever</ref>
 
* [[Passive solar]] design and [[insulation]] in [[building]]s.
 
* [[Passive solar]] design and [[insulation]] in [[building]]s.
 
* Use of [[renewable energy]] in settings where it is known to actually provide an economic benefit:  
 
* Use of [[renewable energy]] in settings where it is known to actually provide an economic benefit:  
** [[Solar hot water]] (at least in some climates),
+
** [[Solar thermal]] energy (in some climates); ie by using solar thermal collectors
** [[Low Head Water power]] Almost all water power sources with under 1 meter fall in the world are unused. That a lot of power! [[Pulser pump]]s can use use that power directly for pumping water. Pulser pumps can also provide low pressure air. That in turn can easily be used to wash clothes and dry them. Pulser pumps could also be used to run a wide variety of low powered machines. Pulser pumps are extremely low tech, and low cost. If designed properly, pulser pumps could probably capture a lot of silt clay and sand from rivers too.
+
** PV systems (and or related systems, ie LSC, ...). [[Photovoltaics]] are popular and often [[subsidized]] by [[governments]]. However this is the least competitive form of renewable energy in terms of cost, in an urban setting.
A medium tech use for low head hydro is a [[ram pump]] which is for pumping water. Ram pumps are probably more for smaller (by volume)  power sources, are more expensive  but give higher efficiencys.
+
 
** [[Wind power]]
 
** [[Wind power]]
** [[Solar thermal]] energy (in some climates)
+
** [[Biofuel]] from waste sources
** waste-derived [[biofuel]]
+
* Reducing the [[CO2]] equivalent load of the output (energy or other product) by more efficient engines/heaters, less HC leaks, and finding alternatives to [[greenhouse gases]] such as [[methyl bromide]] (used for fumigation).
* Reducing the [[CO2]] equivalent load of the output (energy or other product) by cleaner burning, less HC leaks, less cow farts, and finding alternatives to [[greenhouse gases]] such as [[methyl bromide]] (used for fumigation). These are fairly significant - but I'm not sure exactly how significant.
+
* Downshifting, or  [[simple living]]{{w|simple living}} - this may or may not mean radical changes. It can be practiced more or less, in combination with other measures, and can result in an improvement in quality of life.
* Current building practice reflects the fact that home buyers typically don't properly account for ongoing costs and livability, so builders don't factor it in. Spreading knowledge, e.g. with a booklet aimed at first home buyers which explains the cost of quality-of-life benefits of sustainable design,<ref>Note that passive solar and good insulation makes a house more pleasant to live in.</ref>
+
* Locking the carbon away ([[carbon sequestration]])
+
* Strict fuel consumption standards for cars - taking into account the embedded energy of the car itself.
+
** Encourage small cars, with cheaper registration to reflect the lower cost to road maintenance, lower impact on traffic congestion and less parking area requirements. It should be remembered that cars like the Citroen 2CV have been getting similar fuel economy to the Prius for 60 years, with ''much'' less embedded energy.
+
** Efficient [[diesel]]s.
+
* Eating less [[meat]].
+
* Downshifting, or {{WP|simple living}} - this may or may not mean radical changes. It can be practiced more or less, in combination with other measures, and can result in an improvement in quality of life.
+
  
==Alternatives to reducing emissions==
+
[[Simple living]] offers various ways of reducing impact as well. To have a serious impact, these need to be actions which appeal to a large number of people, which may be very difficult without changes at the community level. The self-sacrificial aspects of simple living are unlikely to appeal to many people, based on past patterns.
  
 +
Other aspects do improve [[quality of life]] and are at least possible. These include promotion of behavior changes, and changing infrastructure in ways that encourage lower-energy behavior. Building of [[cycleways]] rather than highways, making communities more walkable, making [[public transport]] a more attractive option, and introducing congestion charges (as in London) are supported by many sustainability advocates and organizations.
 +
 +
Ensuring that buyers of houses and other buildings have access to all appropriate information about energy costs, livability (which improves with good [[passive solar]] design) and environmental impact, could make a big difference to the building industry, and ensure that sustainability is taken more seriously by more builders. Current building practice reflects the fact that home buyers typically don't properly account for ongoing costs and livability, so builders don't factor it in. Spreading knowledge, e.g. with a booklet aimed at first home buyers which explains the cost of quality-of-life benefits of [[sustainable design]],<ref>Note that passive solar and good insulation makes a house more pleasant to live in.</ref>
 +
 +
== Other measures ==
 
Reducing carbon emissions is not necessarily the only or best way to prevent global warming. Other approaches include:
 
Reducing carbon emissions is not necessarily the only or best way to prevent global warming. Other approaches include:
  
 
* Removal of carbon from the atmosphere, after emission
 
* Removal of carbon from the atmosphere, after emission
** [[Reforestation]] (unlikely to be practical?) Forests remove carbon only while growing, so this is not a long-term solution.
+
** [[Reforestation]]. This takes decades to take effect - worth starting now, but will be enough, or fast enough, to have a major impact. Forests remove carbon only while growing, so this requires periodic harvesting{{fact}} (albeit periods of decades).
** Encouraging growth of [[fish]], probably by adding nutrients to oceanic deserts. Fish can be harvested commercially (though many oceanic deserts are outside exclusive economic zones, hence a free-rider problem). Fish not harvested die and fall to the bottom, where some of their carbon is sequestered.
+
** Encouraging growth of [[plankton]] and thus [[fish]], probably by adding nutrients to oceanic deserts. Fish can be harvested commercially (though many oceanic deserts are outside exclusive economic zones, hence a free-rider problem). Fish not harvested die and fall to the bottom, where some of the carbon in their bones is sequestered as limestone.
* Reduction of [[sunlight]] being absorbed by the earth. This only reduces global warming: it won't affect other consequences of elevated carbon dioxide levels in the air (e.g. [[acidification of oceans]]). On the other hand, doesn't prevent increased carbon dioxide levels from encouraging plant growth.
+
* Reduction of [[sunlight]] being absorbed by the earth. This only reduces global warming and won't affect other consequences of elevated carbon dioxide levels in the air (e.g. [[acidification of oceans]]). On the other hand, it doesn't prevent increased carbon dioxide levels from encouraging plant growth.
** Mirrors or dust at metastable [[Lagrange points]] between Earth and sun. (Probably too expensive.)
+
** Mirrors or dust at metastable Lagrange points{{w|Lagrange points}} between Earth and sun. (Probably too expensive.)
** Injecting aerosols (sulfur oxides?) into the upper atmosphere. (Surprisingly cheap, deserves more attention than it is getting.) Needs to be maintained continuously which is an issue if you fear [[social collapse]].
+
** Injecting aerosols (sulfur oxides?) into the upper atmosphere. (Surprisingly cheap, deserves more attention than it is getting.){{fact}}{{expand}} Needs to be maintained continuously which is an issue if you fear [[social collapse]].
** The "painting roads white" approach, to reflect light rather than trap it as heat.<ref>I'm sceptical about the "painting roads white" approach. I've read that the urban heat island effect is not a significant contributor to global warming, so I doubt that enough roads could be painted white to actually make a difference. If the current practices of urban sprawl and of roads taking up 25% of urban land were changed through better planning and transport provision, and if more trees were planted to overshadow roads, that would have a lot of positive effects (including less energy use in transport and cooling of buildings), but I doubt that the reflectivity of the road surface would be a big factor. Any sources on this?{{sp}}</ref>
+
** The "painting roads white" approach, to reflect light rather than trap it as heat.<ref>Reasons for scepticism about the "painting roads white" approach: the urban heat island effect is not a significant contributor to global warming,{{fact}} so it's unlikely that enough roads could be painted white to actually make a difference. If the current practices of urban sprawl and of roads taking up 25% of urban land were changed through better planning and transport provision, and if more trees were planted to overshadow roads, that would have a lot of positive effects (including less energy use in transport and cooling of buildings), and would probably include a slight positive effect on reflectivity and thus global warming. Any sources on this?{{sp}}</ref>
 +
** Encourage businesses, governments, municipalities and organizations to participate in the [[Fossil Fuel Divestiture]] movement.
  
==Avoid changes that are purely "feel good" ==
+
All proposals for large-scale environmental alteration (e.g. release of chemicals into the oceans or atmosphere) are likely to cause collateral environmental damage (which may not be discovered until it is difficult of impossible to repair). As such, many environmentalists oppose such measures.  
[[User:Vinay Gupta]] is going to add content here (hint, hint). In the meantime, you can contribute your ideas. See {{WP p|George Monbiot|George Monbiot's}} article [http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2006/10/06/small-is-useless/ Small is Useless] for starters.
+
  
Careful with the [[small is useless]] article -- highly misleading. Distributed generation can in fact make enormous cuts in the energy sources that they are competing against. For example, solar photovoltaics installed on half the average roof do provide enough energy for the average home throughout the year. They do not, however, provide base power because they are intermittent. Every kW-hr they produce does mean one less produced by [[coal]] so there can be significant impacts if installed in MANY locations. That is the key -- if it is small it has to be many.
+
== Notes and references==
 +
More efficient electric appliances, lighting is available now and allow some savings on electricity use but [[electricity]] is so cheap that people don't bother.
  
== Comments ==
+
It's interesting to note that incandescent globes are virtually never seen in [[Indonesia]] - energy efficient compact fluorescent lights being the standard, even in poorer areas. This is presumably due to the cost of electricity, particularly the much higher cost of having a connection that allows greater usage.
:''This section allows a bit more POV, speculation and questions.''
+
  
Is [[organic food]] a realistic option? I've read (can't remember the source) that the amount of [[nitrogen]] in the [[protein]] consumed by people worldwide (directly through crops and indirectly through meat) is more than can be sustained by the land without nitrogen [[fertilizer]]. This begs the questions:
+
Many actions that are promoted by green sites and activists could be described as "[[shallow green]]," and not necessarily effective - e.g. see [[Should I clean my refrigerator coils]].
* Does this assume that people continue eating as much meat as they do now?
+
* Does this account for the potential of [[leguminous crops]] to fix nitrogen?{{sp}}
+
  
==Notes==
+
Note that the cost balance may appear different if [[externalities]] are accounted for - e.g. deaths due to vehicles, including emissions; improved health from cycling and walking acting to reduce health costs and improve  productivity. Another (possible) benefit is the increase in social cohesion as a result  of people mingling on cycle, foot, and public transport, instead of traveling by car.
<small><references/></small>
+
  
==External links==
+
The relative importance of climate change as opposed to directly addressing poverty are open to debate.<ref>[[Bjorn Lomborg]]{{w|Bjorn Lomborg}} and the Copenhagen Consensus.{{w|Copenhagen Consensus}} </ref>
 +
 
 +
{{reflist}}
 +
 
 +
== External links ==
 
* [http://wwf.org.au/publications/lower-emission-future/ Options for moving towards a lower emission future] - "a pragmatic economic evaluation of how to achieve emission reductions in the Australian electricity sector." By AGL (the Australian natural gas company), Frontier Economics and WWF-Australia.  
 
* [http://wwf.org.au/publications/lower-emission-future/ Options for moving towards a lower emission future] - "a pragmatic economic evaluation of how to achieve emission reductions in the Australian electricity sector." By AGL (the Australian natural gas company), Frontier Economics and WWF-Australia.  
 +
* http://www.globalwarming360.net/
 
* [http://www.eere.energy.gov/industry/energy_systems/pdfs/reduction_roadmap.pdf Technology Roadmap for Energy Loss Reduction and Recovery in Industrial Energy Systems (pdf)], report prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy, [[Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy]] (EERE) - see ''Top Twenty Opportunities'', p 24, which lists top potential energy savings, with cost savings, in US industry. Total potential cost saving from these 20 opportunities is more than $18 billion.
 
* [http://www.eere.energy.gov/industry/energy_systems/pdfs/reduction_roadmap.pdf Technology Roadmap for Energy Loss Reduction and Recovery in Industrial Energy Systems (pdf)], report prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy, [[Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy]] (EERE) - see ''Top Twenty Opportunities'', p 24, which lists top potential energy savings, with cost savings, in US industry. Total potential cost saving from these 20 opportunities is more than $18 billion.
 
* [http://www.help-stop-global-warming.com Help Stop Global Warming] - Global Warming is not a question of if, but when? The answer depends on you and the actions you take. Small changes make a big impact. Discover a new small change you can make each day to help stop global warming.
 
* [http://www.help-stop-global-warming.com Help Stop Global Warming] - Global Warming is not a question of if, but when? The answer depends on you and the actions you take. Small changes make a big impact. Discover a new small change you can make each day to help stop global warming.
 
* [http://www.environmenthub.com/global-warming.aspx Environment Hub Global Warming Guide] - Member contributed articles, facts & quotes on global warming.
 
* [http://www.environmenthub.com/global-warming.aspx Environment Hub Global Warming Guide] - Member contributed articles, facts & quotes on global warming.
[[Category:Climate change]]
+
* [http://www.holisticpolitics.org/GlobalWarming/ Stop Global Warming: a How To Guide] - The United States needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 75% just to break even as the developing world catches up. Ideas on how to do so without wrecking the economy.
 +
 
 +
[[Category:Climate change mitigation]]
 
[[Category:Policy ideas]]
 
[[Category:Policy ideas]]
 +
[[Category:Economics]]

Latest revision as of 02:44, 7 March 2018

This page is an experiment in "issues" style content. It has begun as one person's view, but will hopefully become more informed and balanced as other contributors add information and sources. Please contribute respectfully, and don't enforce a single POV. If you delete something other than vandalism (e.g. if something's false or out of place) then it may be best to move it to the comments section at the bottom, or on the talk page.

Reducing GHG emissions[edit]

The financial cost of addressing climate change[edit]

According to the Stern Review,W the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions today is much less than taking corrective action later on.

According to an article by professor Easterbrook, global warming is likely to be a lot cheaper to fix than people think, based on past experiences with pollution control. The Stern report ie estimates that only 2% of the national GDP is needed.

A criticism of Easterbrook's argument is that carbon is central to power generation (and hence modern society) in a way that other pollutants are not. So it will be far harder to reduce total carbon output than it has been to reduce other pollutants, even relative to the scale of the problem.

Another argument against Easterbrook's thesis is that although carbon dioxide emissions are not as potent as other GHG's (ie methane) they can not be decomposed. For example, introduced gases as sulfur oxides decompose easily to a less harmful form (e.g. sulfur and oxygen). But there is no alternative form for carbon dioxide. The only solution is to lock it away (ie using carbon capture and storage (CCS), by planting trees (locking it inside trees), ...

The logical place to start is in the area where potential gains are greatest and costs are lowest. This involves reducing energy demand and increasing energy efficiency.

What needs to be done at national levels[edit]

There is no consensus over the best solutions to addressing global warming. As there is no consensus, civil government politicians are uncertain of the popularity of taking certain (effective) measures, and thus decide to not implement the measures at all. For example:

  • Preventing the carbon of escaping from fossil fuel power plants is not implemented (carbon capture and storage)
  • the role of nuclear energy is endorsed by some, but opposed by many others and implementation has thus not happened at a very large scale.
  • the implementation of effective population management[1] has not occurred
  • the forbidding of inefficient food production (ie raising mammalian species for food) has not occured
  • Another measure which has still not being implemented sufficiently is the creation of more renewable energy power plants. Some types of these are more attractive in some locations than others. Ie solar energy may be the most cost effective sources of electricity in a sunny isolated location, and solid biomass is perhaps the most cost-effective form of renewable energy in most locations[verification needed]). It should be noted though that the creation of some renewable energy power plants could cause undesirable ecologic effects, ie particular in the case of hydroelectric plants.
  • Make it more attractive to citizens to set up an own power generation system. George Monbiot'sW argues that distributed energy production is the wrong place to put our efforts. However, distributed generation can in fact make enormous cuts in the energy sources that they are competing against. For example, solar photovoltaics installed on half the average roof do provide enough energy for the average home throughout the year. They do not, however, provide base power because they are intermittent. However, the energy produced is clean, and much less energy is wasted between the point of creation of the energy and the consumption (ie via the resistance in the wires, ...).

The most important, pressing actions to be taken can be taken immediately without economic penalty, with suitable planning. Financial planning is an important aspect of this, as investment now may be required to gain long term benefits; it may be important to have programs such as light bulb exchanges or loans for energy efficiency measures (perhaps paid off through electricity bills[2])

Another way to improve the practice of sustainable actions without compulsion, and taxes which some will find a burden, is through choice architecture. This is about how to design the context in which people make choices, in such a way that more sustainable choices become easier and more attractive.

For example: Require energy companies to ask all new clients (e.g. when getting a new electricity or gas service for new home or business premises, or changing suppliers) to make an active choice when registering. At the same time as they answer questions about name and methods of payment, they must be offered a choice between green energy and regular energy options, as well as for carbon offsets, with a clear estimate of how much it will cost.

When it's that easy, many more people will say yes to the wiser choice (in this case, the green option). (Studies have been quoted to support these findings[verification needed] and this is central to choice architecture.)

What YOU can do[edit]

At this stage the majority of the population in developed countries have access to renewable energy through "green energy" offered by electricity companies (which is often not truly "green", but it varies in degree). The cost premium for such energy is very modest compared with most people's overall living costs (and modest compared with the money that most people spend on luxuries or entertainment). See How to increase the uptake of green energy.

There are many possibilities for reducing global warming impacts and they the most attractive and achievable for private people are those which provide an economic benefit,[3] such as energy efficiency and solar hot water[4]. Secondly there are additional options which are of approximately equal cost or marginally more expensive than current technology, such as wind power (in the right locations). Some options are:

  • Eating less meat
  • Reducing usage by greater efficiency (ie choosing a more efficient new car or adapting your existing car, implementing efficient lighting, ...) to provide exactly the same service with less greenhouse impact. More efficient lighting includes CFL lighting, ... and can be cheaper to use in the long run,[verification needed] but some find the light quality unpleasant. Ordinary sized fluorescents with an electronic ballast are more efficient and can give a better light.[5]
  • Passive solar design and insulation in buildings.
  • Use of renewable energy in settings where it is known to actually provide an economic benefit:
    • Solar thermal energy (in some climates); ie by using solar thermal collectors
    • PV systems (and or related systems, ie LSC, ...). Photovoltaics are popular and often subsidized by governments. However this is the least competitive form of renewable energy in terms of cost, in an urban setting.
    • Wind power
    • Biofuel from waste sources
  • Reducing the CO2 equivalent load of the output (energy or other product) by more efficient engines/heaters, less HC leaks, and finding alternatives to greenhouse gases such as methyl bromide (used for fumigation).
  • Downshifting, or simple livingW - this may or may not mean radical changes. It can be practiced more or less, in combination with other measures, and can result in an improvement in quality of life.

Simple living offers various ways of reducing impact as well. To have a serious impact, these need to be actions which appeal to a large number of people, which may be very difficult without changes at the community level. The self-sacrificial aspects of simple living are unlikely to appeal to many people, based on past patterns.

Other aspects do improve quality of life and are at least possible. These include promotion of behavior changes, and changing infrastructure in ways that encourage lower-energy behavior. Building of cycleways rather than highways, making communities more walkable, making public transport a more attractive option, and introducing congestion charges (as in London) are supported by many sustainability advocates and organizations.

Ensuring that buyers of houses and other buildings have access to all appropriate information about energy costs, livability (which improves with good passive solar design) and environmental impact, could make a big difference to the building industry, and ensure that sustainability is taken more seriously by more builders. Current building practice reflects the fact that home buyers typically don't properly account for ongoing costs and livability, so builders don't factor it in. Spreading knowledge, e.g. with a booklet aimed at first home buyers which explains the cost of quality-of-life benefits of sustainable design,[6]

Other measures[edit]

Reducing carbon emissions is not necessarily the only or best way to prevent global warming. Other approaches include:

  • Removal of carbon from the atmosphere, after emission
    • Reforestation. This takes decades to take effect - worth starting now, but will be enough, or fast enough, to have a major impact. Forests remove carbon only while growing, so this requires periodic harvesting[verification needed] (albeit periods of decades).
    • Encouraging growth of plankton and thus fish, probably by adding nutrients to oceanic deserts. Fish can be harvested commercially (though many oceanic deserts are outside exclusive economic zones, hence a free-rider problem). Fish not harvested die and fall to the bottom, where some of the carbon in their bones is sequestered as limestone.
  • Reduction of sunlight being absorbed by the earth. This only reduces global warming and won't affect other consequences of elevated carbon dioxide levels in the air (e.g. acidification of oceans). On the other hand, it doesn't prevent increased carbon dioxide levels from encouraging plant growth.
    • Mirrors or dust at metastable Lagrange pointsW between Earth and sun. (Probably too expensive.)
    • Injecting aerosols (sulfur oxides?) into the upper atmosphere. (Surprisingly cheap, deserves more attention than it is getting.)[verification needed]please expand Needs to be maintained continuously which is an issue if you fear social collapse.
    • The "painting roads white" approach, to reflect light rather than trap it as heat.[7]
    • Encourage businesses, governments, municipalities and organizations to participate in the Fossil Fuel Divestiture movement.

All proposals for large-scale environmental alteration (e.g. release of chemicals into the oceans or atmosphere) are likely to cause collateral environmental damage (which may not be discovered until it is difficult of impossible to repair). As such, many environmentalists oppose such measures.

Notes and references[edit]

More efficient electric appliances, lighting is available now and allow some savings on electricity use but electricity is so cheap that people don't bother.

It's interesting to note that incandescent globes are virtually never seen in Indonesia - energy efficient compact fluorescent lights being the standard, even in poorer areas. This is presumably due to the cost of electricity, particularly the much higher cost of having a connection that allows greater usage.

Many actions that are promoted by green sites and activists could be described as "shallow green," and not necessarily effective - e.g. see Should I clean my refrigerator coils.

Note that the cost balance may appear different if externalities are accounted for - e.g. deaths due to vehicles, including emissions; improved health from cycling and walking acting to reduce health costs and improve productivity. Another (possible) benefit is the increase in social cohesion as a result of people mingling on cycle, foot, and public transport, instead of traveling by car.

The relative importance of climate change as opposed to directly addressing poverty are open to debate.[8]

  1. restricting the size of the population to 2 billion people
  2. If the energy company benefits from people using more energy, there may be a conflict of interest, so different reward models need to be explored; when the energy company is a government-owned corporation, this may give more flexibility to apply a different model in order to encourage uptake. (See Incentives for sustainability and Incentives to pollute.
  3. See Sustainability and economic growth
  4. It seems that people are however not taking them up in droves (or perhaps they're just not well known enough yet)
  5. Lighting is responsible for only a very small percentage of emissions, so this measure has almost no influence whatsoever
  6. Note that passive solar and good insulation makes a house more pleasant to live in.
  7. Reasons for scepticism about the "painting roads white" approach: the urban heat island effect is not a significant contributor to global warming,[verification needed] so it's unlikely that enough roads could be painted white to actually make a difference. If the current practices of urban sprawl and of roads taking up 25% of urban land were changed through better planning and transport provision, and if more trees were planted to overshadow roads, that would have a lot of positive effects (including less energy use in transport and cooling of buildings), and would probably include a slight positive effect on reflectivity and thus global warming. Any sources on this?[Suggested project]
  8. Bjorn LomborgW and the Copenhagen Consensus.W

External links[edit]