Friday, August 12, 2005

-Six Easy Steps to Combat Global Warming-

Ok, so yesterday I posted a rather dire article about the urgency of taking action to combat global warming. I listed a couple of things (three links) you could do to offset the greenhouse gases produced by your lifestyle. These options allow you to continue without really changing your current lifesyle, albeit, while paying a bit extra ($40.00 to offset the emissions from your car, $5/month extra to purchase wind power etc.).

Here are some more easy things you can do to make a difference, these involve making small changes to your lifestyle to minimize your impact (something we ought to do as well). These have the added bonus of usually SAVING you MONEY (through reduced energy bills etc). Courtesy of the Japanese govt (who are pressing citizens to take small actions to help meet the nations Kyoto protocol targets) comes these six simple steps to reduce greenhouses gases:

1) "Set air conditioners at 28 degrees Celsius." OK thats about 80 degrees F so Im not so sure that's too comfortable. However, the idea is simple and good: space conditioning (heating and AC) are HUGE energy users so tick up your AC/down your heater by a few degrees and you'll make a big difference. Don't overcondition/overheat. Change what you are wearing before you head to the thermostat. Its easy, comfortable (you get to wear your comfy shorts in the summer, warm pajamas in the winter etc), and saves you money.

2) "Avoid wasting water at the tap by not letting it run unnecessarily." Ok, so this one is, I assume, because it takes electricity to get that water to your sink - in the form of electric pumps, power to run water treatment plants, etc. This is especially important with hot water as again, hot water is a kind of space conditioning (as is your refrigerator) and takes a TON of electricity. Save hot water, save electricity, save money AND reduce CO2.

3) "choose and buy eco-friendly products". This one is pretty self-explanitory. It may costs you a bit extra but often times if you take the time to look, you'll find competitavely priced 'green' products. Check out for online green product shopping (buy green products and they donate 10% of profits to green non-profits).

4) "Stop car idling." Umm... I dont know exactly what this one means (can anybody help explain this?). I guess it means to reduce time in grid-lock, at stoplights idleing or something similar. Not sure thats too easy to do. Probably better to say 'reduce driving time as much as possible.' Live near your work/school. Bike to the store/campus/work if you can, etc. Carpool. All that same old stuff.

5) "Say no to excessive packaging." This one reduces waste which then goes to landfills and decomposes, producing methane gas, an extremely potent greenhouse gas. Manufacturing and assembling the packaging likely consumes unneeded energy as well. With this one you not only save electricity but you of course reduce waste as well, which is always good.

6) "Unplug any devices not being used." Not too many people know it, but when your appliances are "off", they are in reality still consuming electricty. "Off" is really a standby mode on most appliances (TVs, microwaves, stereos, etc). They have to be ready to turn on at the flick of a switch or respond to a remote and often dont turn all the way off. This "energy leakage" can amount to a sizable chunk of your energy bill (I think I recall reading something like up to 15%). Unplugging appliances when you arent using them, or attaching them to power strips that you can switch off (my suggestion, its as easy as turning off the tv, just flip the switch on the power strip) will again save electricty/save money/save the world. Also, look for EnergyStar rated appliances. This tag not only designates an overall energy efficient appliance, but also means that it meets stringent standards about its standby/off energy consumption (note, all Apple computers are EnergyStar approved).

Thats it. Six simple steps to do your part. Cheers...


Dave said...

Just to play Devil's Advocate for a second: though it seems pretty likely that the world is getting gradually warmer, no-one is sure if human beings are the cause. Keep in mind that we have only been reliably recording temperatures for the last 150 years (at most), which is a very very small amount of time geologically speaking. Also, while CO2 production and world temperature have more or less risen concurrently since the 1970s, there is no clear causal link between the two figures.

Also: if CO2 really a cause of global climate change, the simple things you mentioned would have almost no impact on the situation, even if they were universally adopted.

Finally: to echo a sentiment I've expressed many times, there is no need to 'save the earth'; the earth is not something we can really hurt, and it is arrogant to assume that us driving some cars around is going to affect a satellite which has been struck by forces which we can scarecly begin to immagine. In 50,000 years, the earth is going to continue floating through space, eternally cleansing itself and supporting life, all but oblivious to humanity, which by then could very likely be a small footnote in its vast history.

Of course, I'm going to do my best to not pollute and be wasteful, because it's better than nothing; if we don't know how much it will help, we do know that it won't hurt. And though the earth doesn't need any saving from us, we certainly have the power to make it inhospitable to human life. Which would be bad, because that's where all my friends live.

Just to be Devil's Advocate for a second.

Thomas said...

I am not ultimately sure global warming exists, or at least that CO2 is the cause. The asphault zoning effect is what many scientists attribute the temperature increase to, i.e. all this concrete on highways and buildings absorbs heat and re-emits it. That's why lizards sleep on highways in the desert at night, to stay warm. So, I'm far from sold on CO2 being the cause and kyoto being the solution, especially when there are easy ways to avoid enacting it and the clear economic trade-offs that come with it. Just my .02

WattHead said...

OK folks. I guess there is enough skepticism out there about global warming still that I ought to devote a few posts to making the case. Stay tuned for a series of posts addressing the concerns raised here as well as others and documenting the evidence that convinced me (always a skeptic until I see convincing evidence myself) that global warming is real.

T-Mac said...

Oh, and I also think that an argument can be made that IF global warming were occuring, that it would be a good thing since it would mean longer rainy seasons due to faster and more frequent evaporation of water and there being more of it via melting ice caps. That means that there will be fewer resource warms in places were water is scarce, like in west Africa for example.

So, you've got a series of questions to answer in your upcoming posts:

First, does global warming exist at all? If if doesn't, then enacting any changes that might cause any harms would be a bad idea because they would be seeking to solve something that doesn't exist.

Second, if it were to exist, would it be good or bad? If it's good, then we would want to let it happen and your efforts to combat it would be harmful. If and only if it's bad should we try to solve it via your solutions.

Third, assuming you prove that it exists and it's harmful, prove that it's worth the economic harms that would likely be severe, and that your solutions could work in the first place.

WattHead said...

T-mac (and others):

Sorry for the delay in writing a response. Thanks for the challenge; I will certainly rise to meet it. I do however actually have to do some work here and haven't had time to write a sufficient response. I want to write a well developed series of posts answering just those questions. Thanks for laying out the questions you want answered. I'm also planning on adding to that list whether or not it is human caused or not (which is Dave's question). So as it stands, the questions I will seek to answer are:

1) Is the earth in fact getting warmer? And if it is, is it simply a cyclical occurance or something more drastic?

2) If it is getting warmer, are human activities the cause? If so, what ones? (we're going to need to know which activities to curtail for step 4).

3) If it is getting warmer, is it necessarily a bad thing? What are the consequences and costs? (we're going to need to know the consequences to do step 4)

4) If it does exist and is bad (i.e. has costs), what actions can we take and will their costs be justified.

Forgive me for starting at step 4 with my last post.

Finally, as to Dave's "there's no need to 'save the earth'; the earth isnt really something we can hurt", George Carlin-esque philosophy: George-y boy is a COMEDIAN. He's trying to get laughs and while he has stumbled across some bit of truth, he's missed the point.

No, we cannot destroy the earth. There will be a ball of magma and rock spinning around the sun for millions of years to come. It will likely have some kind of life on it. The question is what kind and how rich healthy and diverse will it be?

As one who would like to limit his impact on other beings as much as possible, I recognize that human activity has a TREMENDOUS impact on the other denizens of this planet. While our actions may ultimately spell humanity's own self-caused destruction (and this would be fair, we have noone else to blame but ourselves), I consider it a travesty that our self-destructive nature will also likely destroy countless other species - ENTIRE SPECIES, not just single organism - in the mean time.

Yes, species go extinct all the time naturally. Survival of the fittest etc. But we are human beings and have (rightly I believe) held our selves to higher standards. We are sentient beings who are aware of our actions and while I don't think it is wrong that we compete with other species for survival, destroying other species to maintain some unecessarily harmful level of affluence is just that: unecessary and therefore a senseless wrong!

We DONT need to cause the level of damage that we do in order to enjoy a perfectly comfortable existence: being a vegetarian for example drastically decreases the environmental footprint necessary to grow your food (not to mention avoids the domestication of entire animal species for your enjoyment); driving more fuel efficient/less polluting cars wouldnt hamper out ability to travel around this planet but would drastically decrease the environmental footprint necessary to do so; recycling our waste and limiting unecessary additions to our waste stream doesnt impact our quality of life (except positively) and decrease our footprint; the list goes on.

So, yes, the earth will still be here long after we are gone. No, it is not arrogant to assume that "driving some cars around is going to affect" the planet. It WILL affect it; it may not destroy it. We can alter its landscapes, destroy its species, change its climate, melt its ice caps and pave over its surface with strip malls and highways. All these things DO affect the planet - and especially the other denizens that share it with us - and its time we start recognizing that.

Limit your environmental footprint. Do your best to enjoy your life without unduly hampering the ability of other people and other species to do the same. Again, its what a responsible citizen of this planet would do, and thats what I hope we all can be. Cheers...

Heiko said...

On 1) and 2) I basically buy the IPPC consensus opinion on this wholesale.

It's 3) and 4) where I am rather unconvinced.

Thanks for your kind words over on ergosphere. I don't have a blog, I do have a website, but that needs updating. As you say, sometimes one's got to do some actual work, which in my case is on biomass fast pyrolysis (such things as monitoring a 5 kg/h reactor unit, doing mass balances, chemical analyses, writing reports etc..).