Politically Uncorrect Guide To Carbon Abatement

Many of the folks who are the strongest supporters of global warming theory could not actually explain the theory well if you put a gun to their head.  They became global warming believers not because they were compelled by the science, but because widespread acceptance of man-made catastrophic global warming theory seemed to give a boost to their pet policy proposals.  That is why socialists, anti-globalists, anti-capitalists, zero-population crusaders, limits-to-growth Malthusians and back to nature Rousseau-ists have all greedily latched onto the cause.

As a result, proposed solutions to global warming are sometimes an odd fit.  To this end, Wired has an interesting article that says, what if you really started from science, rather than activists pre-existing pet projects, to get to approaches for reducing CO2.  They get a very different list of approaches than one usually sees:

  • Live in Cities:
    Urban Living Is Kinder to the Planet Than the Suburban Lifestyle

  • A/C Is OK:
    Air-Conditioning Actually Emits Less CO2 Than Heating

  • Organics Are Not the Answer:
    Surprise! Conventional Agriculture Can Be Easier on the Planet

  • Farm the Forests:
    Old-Growth Forests Can Actually Contribute to Global Warming

  • China Is the Solution:
    The People’s Republic Leads the Way in Alternative-Energy Hardware

  • Accept Genetic Engineering:
    Superefficient Frankencrops Could Put a Real Dent in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  • Carbon Trading Doesn’t Work:
    Carbon Credits Were a Great Idea, But the Benefits Are Illusory

  • Embrace Nuclear Power:
    Face It. Nukes Are the Most Climate-Friendly Industrial-Scale Form of Energy

  • Used Cars — Not Hybrids:
    Don’t Buy That New Prius! Test-Drive a Used Car Instead

  • Prepare for the Worst:
    Climate Change Is Inevitable. Get Used to It

The fourth point is one that I have made myself, that if you really care about carbon sequestration, what you want to do is cut down old growth trees, which are sequestering little incremental new carbon, bury them deep, and plant lots of new, fast-growing trees.  Now, there may be good reasons not to do this for other reasons, but we should adopt a clarity about carbon processes that is unfiltered by pre-existing notions.

  • Patrick Hadley

    Your fourth point about cutting down old forests and burying the wood so that the CO2 is not released as it rots makes even more sense if before burying the wood you convert it into pulp and then into paper.

    Every time that someone re-cycles paper they make it less profitable for another person to plant a tree which could take CO2 out of the atmosphere while it grows before it is chopped down as a mature tree it is changed into paper and finally buried in landfill. Recycling paper also creates nasty toxic waste as the paper is chemically cleaned and the ink removed, whereas making paper from wood pulp is relatively kind to the environment.

  • jep, Kansas USA

    Hybrid cars have always been a marketing gimmick. Yes, the vehicles may use less gas, but it takes quite a lot more energy to build a hybrid instead of a normal car. We’ve probably all seen the analysis of a Hummer being more economical than a hybrid when all the energy required for production is accounted for.

    Has anybody seen an econo-hybrid? Why is that hybrid cars come fully-loaded, with all the extras? If saving the planet is really the point, shouldn’t hybrid cars be stripped down to the bare essentials with no A/C, a basic radio, manual transmission, manual windows, etc., etc.?

    BTW: It’s been scientifically proven that hybrid cars cause excess smug, which is bad for people.

  • Chris Christner

    There’s a lot more people can do! The average human exhales 166,440 liters of CO2 annually.

    Alex Sherman, a geographer with the Population Reference Bureau in Washington, a private, nonprofit educational and research organization, suggested that the carbon dioxide exhaled by the 5.3 billion people on earth might have a considerable effect on the total amount of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

    If all 5.3 billion of us cut our wasteful breathing in half, just imagine how much we’d be doing for Gaia!

  • Corky Boyd

    Despite the prevailing thought, mature steady state forests are carbon neutral. As trees die they go through a fungus cycle where their hydrocarbons break down into CO2 (aerobic decomposition) or methane (anaerobic decomposition). Dying trees are replaced by new ones where more carbon is sequestered through photsynthesis. But the carbon content per acre stays the same. Carbon from wood will stay sequestered if kept in a dry insect free state, such as furniture and frame houses.

    If you want to freak the ecofreak out, suggest we cut down the redwoods to save the planet.

  • Corky Boyd

    Somehow it’s expected for conserviatives, like me, to find things wrong with the Prius. My problem with Prius owners is they are trying to make statements of political and ecological superiority. But I leased one this past year, not to make a statement, but to reduce the amount of money I spend with Hugo Chavez. It didn’t save me money, the Prius costs me over $100/month more than the Trailblazer I replaced and almost the same as the Cadillac SRX that I lease also.

    But the feeling from putting less than 10 gallons in the tank after 500 miles makes it all worthwhile. I am sure there is a reason WIRED says a used car is better, but I can’t figure out why.

    Try one!

  • If you want to spend less on gas, a BMW 520d and a Polo BlueMotion both have better real-world fuel economy than a Prius (in Europe, anyway).

  • I read the Wired article. From what I recall, their point was that ultimately it takes far fewer resources to drive a 10 year old used Toyota – or a Geo Metro – than to manufacture a brand new Prius. According to their web site http://blog.wired.com/cars/2008/05/the-ultimate-pr.html

    “hybrids get great gas mileage but it takes 113 million BTUs of energy to make a Toyota Prius. Because there are about 113,000 BTUs of energy in a gallon of gasoline, the Prius has consumed the equivalent of 1,000 gallons of gasoline before it reaches the showroom. Think of it as a carbon debt — one you won’t pay off until the Prius has turned over 46,000 miles or so.

    There’s an easy way to avoid that debt — buy a used car. The debt has already been paid. But not just any used car will do.

    It has to be something fuel efficient. Like, say, a 1998 Toyota Tercel that gets 27 mpg city / 35 mpg highway miles. The Prius will have to go 100,000 miles to achieve the same carbon savings as the 10-year-old Tercel. Get behind the wheel of a 1994 Geo Metro XFi, which matches the Prius’ 46 mpg, and the Prius would never close the carbon gap, Power writes.”

  • Amy

    People exhale CO2 so I wonder what ideas global warming believers have to reduce that. However I have read that the government is trying to find ways to reduce CO2 from natural sources, like breathing.

  • Mhaze

    “The fourth point is one that I have made myself, that if you really care about carbon sequestration, what you want to do is cut down old growth trees, which are sequestering little incremental new carbon, bury them deep”

    Bury them? Nonsense, just build cities with those trees.

  • “They became global warming believers not because they were compelled by the science…”

    They were probably compelled by the easy, compelling narrative:

    1. Our industrial activities put CO2 into the atmosphere.
    2. CO2 traps heat.
    3. The more CO2 in the atmosphere, the more heat it traps.
    4. The more heat you trap, the more CO2 escapes from the oceans.
    5. And look! All these icecaps are melting, including these handy CGI glaciers I stole!
    6. We’re All Gonna Die!

    It’s an easy narrative to understand, whereas the true story of the climate–and CO2 and information cascades and the perfidy of some scientists and how doomsday sells better than Nothing To See Here (especially in the world of grant proposals)–is not easy to comprehend, especially when the information is hard to come by.

    It’s also hard to explain, because you have to sit there and describe so many different elements that contribute to the problem, and it’s also not anywhere near as interesting as We’re All Gonna Die.