GUEST BLOG ENTRY: Climate Change Counter-Point

The topic of climate change is hot right now with the release of the new UN report. I believe that climate change is occurring. Mainly because we consume like drunken sailors and leave so much behind. All that byproduct of manufacturing, cars, etc is unnatural and can’t be good. This week as I watched coverage of the new report and climate change in general, I saw a “mob-mentality” set in. Basically any dissenters were basically labeled “bad dishonest people.” I found this irritating. I’ve been having an email exchange on this topic with good friend and former co-worker, Jordan. He’s a journalist by training and we disagree on climate change. Below are his thoughts on why he disagrees with the main-stream opinion on climate change. I would love for those of you who agree/disagree to post your comments. I’ve seen a lack of honest debate on this topic.
-surya
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I would like to re-open the topic of global warming for discussion on this blog. Here’s why …

Global warming policy is one of the biggest issues of our generation with far-reaching consequences. Yet, as I have written previously on this blog, it is an issue where I am convinced we are not getting the whole truth. So I think it might be healthy to have an open debate on the subject to see if I can quiet my doubts — or strengthen them.

I should start by saying that I am a global warming skeptic, and that I am a journalist by training, not a scientist. However, there are certain parallels I feel qualify me for this debate. Journalists, like scientists, are trained to be skeptical. They question things others simply accept. In journalism, this translates into there being ‘two sides to every story.’ So when one side is trying to spin a story by claiming ‘everyone agrees,’ journalists know there is valid dissent out there, and that the dissent itself could be the real story.

Consider the recent release of the IPCC “Summary for Policy Makers.” The one side of the story is that everything has become more solid than before. In 2001, “the panel said the confidence level for its projections was likely,’ or 66 to 90 percent,” according to a New York Times report. “That level has now been raised to ‘very likely,’ better than 90 percent.”

The other side of the story is that the IPCC has downgraded several of its previous projections. (This information cannot be found in mainstream media reports. I found it in a report from Lord Christopher Monckton at http://ff.org/centers/csspp/pdf/20070201_monckton.pdf.)

* In the 2001 IPCC report, the high-end best estimate of the rise in sea levels by 2100 was three feet. In the upcoming report, the high-end best estimate is 17 inches by 2100. Bob Giegengack, a geologist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, says, “For the catastrophe of flooded cities and millions of refugees that [the worst-case scenario] envisions, sea levels would have to rise about 20 feet.” At the present rate (17 inches per century), that’s 14 centuries from now.

* In the 2001 IPCC report, there were 12 factors in climate “forcings” identified. These are the factors the IPCC uses in its computer models that predict future warming. In 2001, the IPCC said the level of scientific understanding for seven of the 12 factors was “very low.” In the upcoming report, the factors have been consolidated to nine, and the level of scientific understanding for six of the nine are considered “low” or “medium-low.”

* In the 2001 IPCC report, the worst-case prediction for global temperature increase was half a degree Celsius higher than in the latest report (3.5 degrees Celsius vs. 3 degrees Celsius).

* In the 2001 IPCC report, the estimate of human influence on global warming was one-third higher than in the latest report.

It’s also worth noting that in the 2001 IPCC report, Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” graph was Exhibit A. It showed a spike in global temperature during the last 50 years, and led many to the conclusion that the earth is warmer today than at any other point in the last thousand years. Since then, Mann’s graph has been called into question by scientists and non-scientists alike. The main criticism is that it erases a medieval warming period and little ice age. A second criticism showed the model used is biased toward producing “hockey stick” shape graphs no matter what data you input. In any case, the graph is not included in the latest IPCC report.

That is just the tip of the (perhaps non-melting) iceberg. There is an entire body of research out there that runs contrary to the so-called consensus on global warming, yet we seldom hear about it. Dissenters have been ‘dissed and dismissed.’ But science is all about dissent (think Galileo). Consensus, or groupthink, is antithetical to it.

That’s just one reason why I continue to be skeptical of global warming claims. Another is that since the 1980s, when the concept of global warming was first introduced, it has been a cause célèbre – a pet issue of Hollywood celebrities (from Robert Redford to Leo DiCaprio) and grandstanding politicians (Sen. Gore, for instance). Journalists know that when celebrities get involved, it will be hard to separate the facts from the hype. When politicians get involved, it will be hard to separate the facts from the spin. And when both get involved, you will get Oscar-nominated movies like “An Inconvenient Truth.” You will not, however, get an accurate depiction of the truth.

Finally we have the environmentalist groups. When you scratch the surface of the global warming issue, you find environmentalists galore. They are even providing scientists to testify before Congress these days. Environmentalists are passionate people with a clear agenda, and there is nothing wrong with that – unless truth-getting is your game. It amazes me how quickly people dismiss scientists and research associated with Big Oil while swallowing whole whatever environmentalists feed them. I suppose this is a triumph of marketing on their part, but thinking people should know better.

Jordan

2/28/13 – I have nothing to add here, except that Jordan is still a close friend. In fact, he edited my book for me. Lifetime loyalty for that one! – surya

19 thoughts on “GUEST BLOG ENTRY: Climate Change Counter-Point

  1. Jordan & Surya,

    Great way to frame this debate. Skepticism can really be a useful analytical tool, especially when you're dealing with a hot-button issue with potentially disastrous consequences, and emotions that are runing high on both sides of the argument. A few thoughts on why the issue is so problematic:

    First of all, we can't "prove" without a shadow of a doubt that humans have exacerbated climate change. That's just not the way that scientific studies work. We can show a very strong degree of correlation, and highlight elements of causality, but the scientific method is designed in a way that researchers can only point to the answer, but can't claim it to be the absolute truth. The downside to this is that detractors will use rhetoric to point out that valid scientific claims "cannot be proven."

    The way these issues are framed in the media has a huge impact on popular opinion as well. I would guess that the vast majority of people who follow a particular scientific issue in the news won't dig much deeper than the latest headlines to find out how valid or statistically significant the findings are, or whether the researchers were impartial or possibly biased in either direction. I was pretty amused when I first saw headlines trumpeting the IPCC declaration that humans were "likely" to have caused global warming, because "likely" sounds like such a watered-down word to describe the situation. When I read further and saw the 66% to 90% statistic, I decided to pay attention and re-read the article. I wonder how many people are willing to read past the sound bite, though…

    Additionally, it seems to me that many corporations don't yet see the financial benefit to going green. Public corporations are beholden to their shareholders and need to increase profits, or risk losing value on the stock market. These organizations will tend to implent change in a very slow and ponderous way, and will want to make sure that such a major undertaking is really in their best interest. It's highly unlikely that an emotional argument is going to change a large company's behavior–and there seem to be a lot of people speaking out about the human impact on global warming, but doing so from a highly emotional and only partially-informed position.

    Personally, I weigh in on the side of the argument that says that we need to take much, much better care of our environment, and to foster healthy and constructive dialogues to eliminate wasteful and damaging practices.

    Warren

  2. Warren: I disagree, in part, with your first point (although I catch your drift). Correlation is not causation. What if it just so happens we are pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere at the same time there's a natural increase in temperature – an increase that's typical for this period on the geological time scale? What if CO2 is actually having a cooling effect, and it should be hotter? Both are hypotheses that have been examined.

    I do agree that there cannot be "absolute truth" in science. There can only be falsifiable hypotheses and reigning paradigms. The question is whether we have enough truth/proof to act with confidence in a certain direction. I'm not convinced we do, especially considering the negative economic consequences of regulatory action and the better uses to which our time and money might be put.

    I also agree with your media critique. I've taken to describing it as peeling an onion. Every piece of public information, whether media-generated or not, must be peeled. Whenever I start peeling, I'm always amazed at how many layers of misinformation there are on top of the truth. The other day I even found a Wikipedia entry that contained misinformation! (Oh well. Another trusted source that must be approached with a healthy dose of skepticism.)

    On the environment, I agree again. I hate pollution — if only because it lessens our quality of life. I also think we're on the same page with regard to business-friendly ways to reduce that pollution. I favor incentives over regulation. Speaking of which, I love Branson's idea! ( http://www.ft.com/cms/s/cf5c6c94-b8ab-11db-be2e-0… ).

  3. I'm glad you caught my meaning, because for some random reason I've been saying "correlation" all day, when I really do mean "causality". I did it during another conversation last night, and got taken to task by my friends…

  4. Jordan, without widening the debate in this blog too much, I would like to pose one question. I understand your positioning of being in favor of economic incentives vs. regulation when it comes to enforcing cleaner industy, and I as well understand your healthy scepticism of human related climate change. What I wonder is, what in your mind would be "enougth" or "conclusive" evidence and/or data to cause you to change your position and believe we as a race need to regulate how we impact our environment. All of the debate between Surya and yourself has certainly caused me to examine my own positions more deeply. My concern with this entire issue is the potential severity of lack of action. Perhaps some of the many computer models are wrong, perhaps the issue has been overhyped, but none the less, what is the trigger point that wakes everyone up to take real action if they are not wrong? What is the tipping point to use and overused term? I would be interested in your opinion on this.

  5. AFett: To answer your question directly, I am unlikely ever to believe that "we as a race need to regulate how we impact our environment." That is, if by "regulate" you mean government regulation. It has nothing to do with evidence or data. I simply believe in keeping our free market free.

    History has shown that the regulatory "cure" is often worse than the “disease.” To cite one example: We banned DDT based on evidence it was causing a holocaust among birds (see Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”), and millions of people died of malaria for lack of a cheap mosquito killer. Thirty years later, we learned that we were wrong about DDT. Rather than banning it, shouldn’t we have left it up to the market to consider the evidence and decide if saving human lives outweighed the potential harm to birds?

    Government regulation is also illogical. A great example is Kyoto. Which nations are projected to be the worst emitters over the next 50 years? Developing nations, such as China and India. Which nations are exempt from Kyoto? Developing nations, such as China and India. It’s estimated that even if our emissions were cut in half over the next few decades, places like China and India would easily pick up the slack.

    Using market-based incentives to solve problems is a much better idea. For example, Milton Friedman came up with the idea of pollution permits. According to Wikipedia: “By selling permits to the public, the public [would be] able to demonstrate a price for the harm or benefit caused by pollution … [allowing for] better flowing information rather than the masking of current information to the market. If people really do value clean air, the information [would] be felt in the market and companies [would] react more quickly to be environmentally friendly.”

    There is also a case to be made for inertia. The basic argument here is: In 100 years, when all of this bad stuff is supposed to happen, we won’t be using fossil fuels any more. Your house will be powered by a fuel cell the size of an iPod. The market seems to want these technologies, too. Look at how well hybrid cars are selling despite the fact that the effect on the environment is cancelled out by flatulent cows (this is an actual UN report) and the cost savings at the pump are cancelled out by the higher price tags these cars command.

    Lastly, I think your question may rest on a false premise because it implies the answers we’re getting are generally correct, and all we need to decide is how certain we should be before acting. But what if our assumptions are all wrong? What if we should be asking: Is a warmer globe a net positive or a net negative?

  6. Jordan, great response. Let's start with where we agree: First, I'm totally for free markets, vs. regulation for nearly every issue I can imagine (with this potentially being the exception, but I'll get to that). Next, I agree that Kyoto is severly flawed. Third, I'm all for incentive programs as well (until they are not enough).

    Now, to address where I see flaws in your logic. From the beginning of your posts on this subject here at Surya's site it's appeared (perhaps I misinterpret) your logic on the idea of climate change is that if we cannot put solid values behind the variables, then we're making a false assumption that the answer's we're getting are generally correct, when in fact they may not be. If I extrapolate this logic, it appears you're saying – if we can't exactly define the variables that "may" be causing climate change, then we have no right to say climate change is happneing nor to take action to prevent it. This in my mind is illogical because it ignores a vast amount of research as well as empiracle information.

    Some simple facts cannot be disputed, only 2 of which include:
    -CO2 levels are increasing and will continue to based on our energy consumption (unless we get to the iPod fuel cell soon);
    -significant changes are occuring in our climate (glacial and ice cap melting, migration of species, etc)

    Whether or not these are true indications of a "catastophic" level of climate change to come, they certainly beg us to give the idea of that potential our full attention. Perhaps it has been overhyped, or perhaps we're addressing the issue early enough such that free market pressures will solve any future problems to come. However, with an issue such as this which has the potential to essetially alter life as we know on earth, if it comes to it, I believe government regulation would be warrented.

    This leads to an entire other discussion of do we need protection from ourselves (I Robot). In no way do I claim to have the answer to this, but I do believe that the information available to us today, both statistical and empiracle, tells us that we need to address this issue seriously and not regard it as simply another item that the markets will regulate.

    Open to all other thoughts and enjoying the discussion…..

  7. Hi everybody,

    I am Surya's cousin and wanted to put my 2 cents in on this very lively debate. Let me first say something about "Kyoto". Developing countries like India being exempt from the treaty should not be a reason for the U.S to not follow it. India is a developing country and imposing pollution limits in India's industries would severly hamper growth in a country just trying to be self-sufficient. Developing countries should be cut some slack because they are trying to deal with the basic needs of the people, this should not stop developed countries like the US from following the treaty.(Full disclosure: I am an Indian citizen)

    The US refusing to follow the treaty can be analogized as follows,

    The richest guy on the street refusing to have his maids clean the street in front of his house, because the peasant who lives down the street won't clean the street in front of his house as he will miss work to do it and his family will starve to death without the paycheck.

    Raja

  8. We can argue the point about how much (if any) impact humans have on climate change, as well as how fair the Kyoto Accord is, but the bottom line is – as has been said – we are a hugely consuming society and we do not give back. That is and will be the root cause of most of our long term problems. You can't keep taking and taking without reaching a point where there is no more to take. I am in full support of ANY program that gives us a net gain. Almost all programs will have both benefits and negative impacts. It is the net result that counts. Technology was supposed to make things better – but it does not appear as if we are using it to make things better – just more convenient for us in the short-term.

    We all need to start thinking about changing attitudes about material possessions and consumerism if we want to start 'paying back' our debt to this planet.

    If we do not – the debate about cause and blame will be somewhat irrelevant.

    I also agree that we should be more concerned about what WE CAN do, instead of judging others for what they DO or DO NOT do.

  9. AFett: Thanks for your thoughts. I understand and respect the points you are making. I'm just left wondering what you’re suggesting. What regulations are you advocating? And at what point should those regulations be enacted?

    Taking the problem seriously is all well and good. Seeking to limit our pollution is a noble goal. I don't think very many people would disagree with these sentiments. The question is, “How, and at what cost?”

    I also must take issue with something you wrote:

    "[S]ignificant changes are occurring in our climate (glacial and ice cap melting, migration of species, etc)."

    Two points here:

    1. How do you define "significant"? I go back to my earlier posts. I don't think we have a good grasp on whether this is normal climate variability or something directly caused by us. If it’s the former, the issue is much less urgent and we should focus our resources on other pressing problems, such as disease, hunger, poverty …

    2. Although it's commonly believed that glaciers and ice caps are melting, the truth is that this is in dispute and many scientists have reached the opposite conclusion: that the ice is actually growing. I refer you to Lord Monckton's report for more information. I can't speak to species migration as I have read very little about it.

    There are facts in this debate, to be sure. We know that human CO2 contributions have increased a lot, and will continue to increase. We also know that the global temperature is rising, although the reasons are much in dispute. (Some even say that if you control for El Nino, satellite data shows the last several years have been constant.)

    The debate is over: a) whether correlation is causation and, if so, b) whether we can reasonably do anything to correct the problem.

  10. Douglas: I agree with you for the most part as I am a conservationist at heart. But I am also a believer in freedom in the purest forms possible.

    In practice, this means I support people who want to change the world via mechanisms such as marketing, innovation, the free exchange of information and private property ownership. But I do not support people who want to change the world via government regulation and/or the oppression of the many by the self-righteous few.

    The latter point is my main critique of the mainstream environmentalist movement today, and the players involved in this debate certainly fit the bill.

  11. Raja: I think you have to take net effect into consideration. If India and China do not clean up their acts as well, then the US could cut its emissions and there would be no net effect. It makes the whole exercise pointless because we share the same planet.

    To borrow from your analogy, let's say the town water supply is polluted and everyone — rich and poor — relies on it for water. The richest guy on the street is half the problem, but the peasants who live down the street are half the problem, too. In fact, their families are growing so fast that even if the richest guy stopped polluting the water, the peasants would make up the difference in a few short years. Now, does it make any sense to ask only the richest guy to stop polluting?

    (Full Disclosure: I am a proud US citizen and patriot whose blood runs red, white and blue!)

  12. Jordan: I agree that Government regulation is not the ideal answer. As one of the "few" that appear to be growing – I'm not sure that I consider myself self-righteous or that working to try to make things better is oppression from my point of view. I think that actually underlines a big issue here – the constant drive for materialism at a huge cost down the road. We are so used to being a consumer society that we have forgotten how to give back. Giving back does not have to mean suffering.

    You say: "In practice, this means I support people who want to change the world via mechanisms such as marketing, innovation, the free exchange of information and private property ownership."

    I agree if changing the world means striking a better balance between give and take with long term improvements to our environment. Unfortunately, I don't think most people see it that way. I believe they think changing the world means being more comfortable, rich or successful.

    There are no easy answers – but healthy discussion is better than complacency.

  13. The Journal editors have an interesting piece today titled, "An Inconvenient Pool." I think the link is free (I'm a subscriber): http://online.wsj.com/article_print/SB11727168920

    The editorial comments on a recent report that Al Gore's spacious home in Tennessee uses more energy in a month than the average home uses in a year. The Journal, a capitalist newspaper, doesn't begrudge Gore his luxuries, of course. They simply want to point out how he's rationalizing that "inconvenient truth" (not to mention his private jet's greenhouse gas contributions).

    They write: "The Oscar winner has a clear conscience because he makes sure he pays a premium for electricity from 'renewable' sources and claims that he purchases 'carbon offsets' to make up for his rampant energy use … [which means] to fund projects elsewhere that may reduce the total carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. So, one might burn up hundreds of dollars worth of natural gas to keep one's poolhouse toasty, but then do penance for this carbon sin by paying someone else to put up solar panels."

    I always find the hypocrisy of the Glitterati to be amusing, but this editorial raises some deeper questions that should be seriously addressed. It starts with, How much would we need to sacrifice to really "do something” about global warming? How would we force people to make those sacrifices? And – more on point with this editorial – how would we avoid creating a greater divide between the affluent and the rest of us? For instance, a society where the affluent get to preach to us about our dangerous energy habits and influence policy while buying their way out of the tough consequences of that advocacy?

    Based on the figures I've seen, the answers aren't pretty. Serious sacrifices would have to be made. A majority would have to turn in their SUVs for a smaller car (preferably a hybrid). HOVs lanes would have to become EVERY lane, and those flying solo would have no choice but to take mass transit. The trend of people buying bigger and bigger homes would have to end (by law), perhaps leading to us limiting the size of homes based on the number of people living there. (Of course, this would severely impact the housing boom, upon which our recent economic prosperity rests.) In other words, we're talking some pretty severe restrictions by today's standards that would have to be imposed by the government – a form of tyranny to be sure. Unless you’re rich …

    Bottom line: Until Al Gore buys a smaller house and flies coach, I’m disinclined to take any of his preaching seriously. Who’s with me?

  14. Wow. I've stayed away from this conversation for a variety of reasons: I've been travelling, busy, distracted and fascinated to watch it happen. But I wanted to chime in with some of my thoughts. Great discussion.

    1) On Al Gore. This stuff is ridiculous. Al Gore is the poster child for the debate over Climate Change– but Al Gore is not Climate Change. Ripping into Gore only serves to take our discussion into the gutter and severely disappoints me. There is a point of honest debate around what it will actually take to attack Climate Change and whether or not as a society we have the stomach to make the sacrifices necessary. Gore's case is relevant here, because clearly he believes it's occurring yet still consumes massively. I'll get to this more below.

    2) At What Cost. This to me is one of the most interesting of all discussions about climate change and something that we can all think about, regardless of our level of science understanding (mine is non-existent). How far are -YOU- willing to go to combat climate change tomorrow? As Jordan said, are you willing to ban SUV's? Outlaw bottled water? Require a massive toll for cars with under 1 passenger? Make every lane a HOV lane? This list could go on and on. Which of these are you willing to implement -tomorrow-in your life. If the Gores' don't turn off the lights/heat in the room everytime they leave — then this says a lot about our ablity to change, because I don't think -anyone- believes that Gore is disingenuous in his views on CC.

    3) Government Intervention. Say you lived on a nice street with your family. White fence, dog that runs around and kids who play in the backyard everyday. Then a factory moves in down the street. Subsequently you notice that the water has a strange color and odor to it. Also, the air seems to have an odor to it and the stream that runs through your backyard doesn't look the same anymore. Now your kid gets sick. The doctor says that it's chemical poisoning. You're against gov't intervention because you believe the market will account for it. And I suppose it would– over the long term, the firm would have difficulty if it sold directly to consumers because of the ensuing publicity from killing kids like yours. But is it the government's responsibility to take care of you so that your kid doesn't have to be the victim? I think you seem my point. This is a clear(er) cut example, but the larger point holds true: externalities exist in markets, and it is a fundamental duty of the government to regulate these.

    4) Rich v. Poor. What is the responsibility for action of a poor entity vs a wealthy one? If you measure it purely from an economic standpoint– they are both equal. Anything that one does, the other should do. Exceptions shouldn't be made. If you look from a social equality standpoint, you could say that there should be allowances made for a poor entity to ensure that they have bare minimums before you subject them to the standards of their wealthier peers. In this case the poor(er) entity would be the developing world and the wealthy(ier) would be the developed. Since we're calling China/India, etc the developing world, why don't we create an analog of them as a child and the developed world as an adult. (this shouldn't be a stretch for those who study global foreign policy). If you were running out of air, would you expect the baby to hold his breath in the same way that you, the adult, are holding your breath? Or would you maybe say that at this delicate stage in the baby's development this could kill him. Would you instead do what you could to curtail your breathing to the maximum of your ability, while trying to find a way out of the room and safely limiting the baby's breathing in whatever way you could? Now would that be an apt metaphor for the limiting of carbon emissions in the 3rd world vs developed nations? I don't know…but I wanted to work small babies into my analogy. Sweet. Everyone likes babies. Especially since they're made cute so that their parents will want to love and take care of them (happy A-Fett?)

  15. I am enjoying this discussion as well. Thanks for weighing in, Surya.

    I will only address the points with which I disagree. On the rest, I concur wholeheartedly.

    First, Mr. Gore. Of course ripping into him is fair game. He is the most sanctimonious of all the global warming advocates, and he is the guy who’s winning Oscars and getting nominated for Nobel Peace Prizes. Pointing out his glaring hypocrisy is only fair (and fun). It’s not putting the debate in the gutter; it’s taking out the self-righteousness and personal glory that’s distorting the discourse. To your point, if the poster child for global warming activism can’t even practice what he preaches, how and why should we expect anyone else to?

    Incidentally, the plot thickens. The Tennessean reports that Mr. Gore buys his “carbon offsets” through a firm called Generation Investment Management, which invests in renewable energy projects like solar and wind power. Guess who’s the founder of chairman of the firm? Guess who benefits in the form of salary, return on investment or both? Al Gore. He’s buying offsets from himself!

    Next, government intervention. I think the questions we have to ask are: What is the best mechanism to ensure your scenario does not occur and, when it does, what is the best mechanism for providing a remedy? Is it government regulation? If your answer is yes, we ought to examine the track record of the government at handling such matters. I think you’ll find the government is a dismal failure. Enforcement is spotty, illogical and often does more harm than good. Well, how about a remedy? Do the people harmed actually get the money levied in fines against polluters? Or is the money squandered in an inefficient system that only “trickles down” relief to the people harmed? I think you’ll find the latter case. I think of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Federal Trade Commission, that multi-state tobacco litigation, and on and on and on. Money goes in and it disappears. The people on whose behalf the government is acting are seldom aided. We can’t even do disaster relief (Katrina) effectively. And sometimes the government even colludes with businesses to profit from the people they are supposed to be protecting. Take smokers. The states sued for millions on behalf of these poor addicts who are unable to stop killing themselves, then turned around and started basing their budget increases on steeper taxes levied against — those same poor addicts!

    Free-market solutions and remedies are much more efficient and effective. To use a popular example, think like Erin Brockovich – sue them and make them pay punitive damages. Ruin their name and kill their stock price with bad PR. Or use your right to free assembly. Or become a shareholder and agitate from within. All of these are much more effective and efficient strategies that produce the greater good, and they don’t invite the government into areas where it does not belong and will do more harm than good.

    I don’t get your last point, but I have a baby on the way, so I just want to say that I like small babies, too.

  16. The Journal again, from today's paper: "According to a 1999 report by the Alliance to Save Energy, the 'federal government, consumes about 32% more energy per square foot than the nation's building stock at large.' " (Kudos to Sen. Boxer for noticing this.)

    This poses another challenge to the idea that government can effectively regulate our "carbon footprint."

  17. I agree – great debate. Thanks Surya for your thoughts. I don't know Al Gore personally so I can't really defend what he does and does not do, and I agree that focusing too much criticism on him or anyone else tends to take away from the issue itself. I do however think it is more than fair to take a close look at what he does and question it. Yes – he has a large house and could move into a small one. On the other hand he does buy offsets. I used to think that offsets were just an excuse to consume irresponsibly, but we also need to understand the reality of things. People are not going to sell their house, car etc and change their lifestyle drastically because it is the right thing to do. Any act that has a positive NET effect is worth something no matter how small. The key is NET effect, as most inititatives have both positive and negative effects. Electric cars may qualify as zero emissions and do not directly pollute, but where is the electricity coming from as an example? On my blog I wrote about emission credits – http://globespotterdotcom.blogspot.com/2007/02/em

    If we accept that all people and companies are not going to meet caps or targets or regulations then emission credits can be beneficial as indicated in the article mentioned in my blog. I never looked at them that way and always thought they were wrong.

    So Al Gore could do more – Yes that is true, but then again what about what I do and my neighbours do?

    Compared to what Al is doing on the positive side vs negative and looking at the net result, if I took say 10 of my neighbours including myself, I am willing to bet that we do a lot more taking and not much giving.

    I guess my point is that instead of looking at what we do wrong or don't do or looking at a big problem that will not be easily solved by government regulation – and like most people not do anything to help solve the problem, I believe we need to educate and work to get people to start to do what they can.

    I totally agree that government regulation is not a great answer. In this case it will probably be too little too late and end up costing way more than it ever saves 🙂

    The problem is our attitudes as affluent consumers. How to change that is not easy – who wants to give up and suffer while the guy next door still drives his Lincoln Navigator and does not care?

    Eventually nature will take care of itself – we will be forced to do things differently. My fear is that in the meantime we may cause ourselves more suffering while trying to live our 'convenient' lives.

  18. Thanks everyone for the amazing discussion. Due to over 200 comments from spammers, I'm closing the section. I can start a new post if you want– just email me. Thanks, again.

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