Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Time magazine part III

Ok I've decided to skip past all the great things anyone can do to save the world from warming up as given by Time magazine, but will tell you of a few doosies:

11. Wear Vintage Clothes
15. Move to a high rise building
16. Pay your bills on time
21. Coze up to your water heater
22. Skip the steak - go vegetarian
26. Plant a bamboo fence
27. Fly by plane in a straight line
29. Don't wear a tie and suit
31. Wear green eye shadow
34. Use a rake instead of a leaf blower
45. When driving, turn right instead of left

As you can see all the above are absurd useless things to do. Have a look through the list and determine if any of the steps will actually make a difference. Answer is that all of them will make extremely minimal differences.

But it's the point number 51 that I want to look at more closely. Lets see what it says:

there is an older path to reducing our impact on the planet that will feel familar to Evangelical Christians and Buddhists alike.

Excellent, I'm glad they brought up religion.

Live simply.

Ok, and what will that do?


Give me one good reason why meditation will make any significant difference at all to global temperatures. Just one.

Consume less.

This is sounding very anti-capitalist instead of anti-warming.

Think more.

Well everyone always thinks. I presume they mean thing more productively. Maybe I can close my eyes and just think hard about temperature decreases and it will work.

Get to know your neighbors.

You've got to be kidding? If getting to know your neighbors will decrease global temperatures then we are all doomed. Is this seriously for real?

Borrow when you need to and lend when asked.

Ok, I am starting to realise that this is not about reducing global temperatures at all, but rather certain people telling others how they should live their lives.

E.F. Schumacher praised that philosophy this way in Small Is Beautiful: "Amazingly small means leading to extraordinarily satisfying results.

Yep, my thoughts are confirmed. You see this post is the main reason why any critic would be, in fact, critical. For many, protesting about global warming and the effects that man have on it, is not about reducing the global temperature but is rather a way to get people to consume less, live a simple life like we did 100 years ago and cripple the American economy. It is a purely anti-capitalist movement. A movement, which as described by Time itself, a religious endevour.


ILJAY said...

Spot on, Mate. It is funny how being pro-environment in reality means being against capitalism, free trade, USA, technological progress, red meat, children and humans in general. If only they actually wanted to help the environment half as much as they want to hurt the humans...

Anonymous said...

You really can't see that any of the things listed by Time are positive?

Some examples:

11. Wearing vintage clothes means re-using, cutting the amount of industrial effort required to keep up with demand. If a large number of people did this, it would make a difference. Small, but these things are incremental.

22. The land area required to support 1 person on a vegetarian diet is smaller than that required to support a diet including meat. Not only that, but the water usage is around 7 times lower. Further, you cut out the excessive manure runoff into local water systems (it fertilizes in small doses and is toxic in large amounts). Even better, there's much less methane produced.

26. Bamboo fences place no demand on logging. Further, they are living fences, providing plant respiration.

29. People tend to only wear suits and ties to work. If people don't wear them, then the production will exceed demand and production will have to slow. Reduced industry pollutes less and uses less natural resources.

34. Leaf blowers generally use electricity or petrol to run. Compare this to a more efficient rake. Also, rakes are simpler and more environmentally friendly to produce. And a plague on those people who hose down pavements because they can't be bothered using a broom.

I can find good justification for all bar one of the listed items.

To quote your interpretation: "... is rather a way to get people to consume less, live a simple life like we did 100 years ago and cripple the American economy. It is a purely anti-capitalist movement."

A simpler life doesn't mean reverting to 100 year old (or older) technology or understanding. It is using what we have learned to live with less impact than 100 years ago. To "unclutter" and appreciate being human and having a planet to live on. Living simply may be familiar to evangelists and buddhists, but that doesn't make it religion.

You say these measures will only make small differences. If everyone made a small change, the result would be a large change.

I used to think that this blog was about critical thinking. It seems that as time has passed it has become merely critical.

A petty-minded attack on Time magazine does nothing for your credibility when you eventually return to examining weather data. Is your scientific eye unbiased? I think not. Do you appraise suggestions about technique or meaning by readers and pass considered comments? I haven't seen it.

This blog has turned into "just another" quasi-religious rant.


Jonathan Lowe said...

Hi Jon,
i take your comments on board, but the fact is, is that these little things that we can do will make no difference to the global temperature at all.

You say that "If everyone made a small change, the result would be a large change." With these simple changes they are all but tokens. My analysis into changing light globes i remind you would cause a change in temperature of less than one billionth of a degree, and this is assuming that 100% of all recent warming - 100% - is due to an increase in CO2.

The examples that I listed would no doubt be comparable and some a lot less impact than changing light globes.

The fact that Time Magazine has a "feel good factor" associated with each one is testament to the fact that they will make insignificant differences to the climate, and will only make differences to one's own heart.

Time magazine labeled the article: "51 Things We Can Do to Save the Environment" and continued to say that any one person can slow global warming.

The fact is that the methods that they list will not slow global warming. they are trivial and merely tokens. My analysis of changing light globes clearly proovs this.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply. I have to say though, the light bulb argument was hardly thorough...

Power usage of incandescent versus compact fluorescent bulbs is available (say, the Osram catalogue).

Firstly, a typical domestic light has a 60-100W incandescent bulb. Taking the 100W bulb as an example, the equivalent luminosity compact fluorescent has a power concumption of ~20W. That's one fifth.

Further, the lifetime of the compact fluorescent (CF) is ~15000hrs compared with ~1000 for the incandescent. So there's 15 times less bulbs need to be manufactured (which easily offsets the increased unit production cost).

So if we look at only domestic lighting in Australia, there's ~20million people, and let's imagine that they each use 10 bulb-hours of lighting per day (quite conservatively). Using the little web-tool (http://www.sustainable.energy.sa.gov.au/pages/fluro_calc.htm) made available by the SA government (to save me some time), we find out that this saves ~280kg of CO2 per person per year.

That's 280*20 million = 5.6 billion kilograms (5.6 million tons) of CO2 per year. That's a conservative estimate based on changoing domestic bulbs. Since moves are also afoot to change people's attitudes (and turn off unused lights), that should also help. Similar effects will be expected as public expectation leads businesses to more energy efficient practices. This is somewhat different to the "analysis" you presented.

BTW, "Legislation to gradually restrict the sale of the old-style bulbs could reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 4 million tons by 2012" would indicate that the ANNUAL emissions would be reduced by 4 million tons (similar to my estimated 5.6). Now imagine this change (being introduced in some US states/localities) were to be introduced across the US and western Europe too.

Is that a negligible effect?

Let's not melt the snowflake before it has a change to form a giant rolling snowball.


Jonathan Lowe said...

I'm all good with your analysis Jon,
so given that we make 350 million tonnes a year, and can save 5 million tonnes, this equates to saving about 1.5% of our greenhouse gasses.

Again assuming that 100% of all warming is due to CO2 (highly unlikely), and that we produce 1.5% of the worlds CO2 levels and that we've had 0.6 degrees increase in the last 100 years, we will save

0.00000135 degrees per year by changing every single light globe in Australia. Of course this doesn't include the cost of actually changing the light globes, and many other factors like their disadvantages to normal light globes.

So the difference it will make it insignificant. Of course, as you say, if EU and US join in on the act, then you might be able to multiply the above figure by 100 - still insignificant.

I could do the stats on what effect growing a bamboo fence will make, but is there any point?

Anonymous said...

The point being that by doing the estimate for Australia (just by a simple act of changing light globes) properly, we have an estimate an order of magnitude larger than your stated effect. Including North America and the EU would, as you say, maybe multiply that by another factor of ~100. That's already 1000 times higher than your estimate. Now getting China and India onboard would be difficult, but the effect of another 3 billion people (add a few more zeros) making an "insignificant" change would certainly make a difference. But this is just light globes.

It's an attitude thing... if you accept that you can make a positive difference (however small, individually), then you won't just stop at a light globe. That's why I don't think ridiculing the suggestion is constructive.

Anyway, that was my point. It's good to see some more weather data too... are there publications/presentations underway? When that happens, links to them would be appreciated.


Gindah Ratu said...
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