Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cool It

I just finished reading "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming" by Bjorn Lomborg.  This book is a rare instance of someone crossing lines in the Global Warming battle, resulting in "friendly fire" from his fellow environmentalists.  I will provide a quick summary, provide my review, and then provide an alternate solution.
Quick Summary

Here's the book in a nutshell:
  1. Global Warming is bad, but not nearly as bad as people are saying.
  2. Rather than spend money to stop Global Warming, the money would be better spent prioritizing the problems we fix (HIV/AIDS, malaria, malnutrition, sanitation and water supply).
  3. We should also spend money on R&D to fix Global Warming.
  4. This approach will result in the world being stronger and more capable of fixing Global Warming when it starts to become a real problem.
 Whether these solutions cause the knot in your stomach to tighten or loosen is an indicator of which side of the battle you are on.  Since I am trying to be more civil, open and objective, I recommend that you resist the temptation to either brand Bjorn a traitor or fist pump and think "Yes! One more point for the AGW skeptics!". 

My Review

  1. I agree with Bjorn that the estimates of Global Warming are exaggerated, however this is based on my own analysis [1]
  2. I agree that focusing on solvable social problems makes more sense.
  3. I disagree with Bjorn's analysis on the cost-benefit analysis of these fixes.  As with any attempt by political scientists to "fix things", the hidden costs are ignored.  There are many issues he didn't address, for example the environmental impact of the oceans absorbing CO2. (I remember an experiment in my college Chemistry class where we put a digital acid meter in a cup of water.   When we stirred the water or blew bubbles in it with a straw, the acidity increased).
  4. I was glad to see someone willing to have a conversation about what to do.  It is much more palatable than "The debate is over.  We have to pass Cap and Trade now or else the oceans will boil, all the continents will turn into deserts and all animal life will die!!!".
Bonus Material - Alternate Solution

Congratulations!! You made it this far, so you get to hear my solution. 

By the year 2100, the world's population will grow to over 18 Billion (at current growth rates) which is 300% growth from the year 2000.  By 2100, each person would need to reduce their CO2 emissions by about 80% (Our current CO2 emissions need to be 40-80% of our current levels.  In 2010, each person's share is 1/3 or 13-27% of current levels, or a 73-87% reduction).  Breathing represents around 6-10% of all CO2 emissions, so there isn't much more to cut.

The real problem is not how much CO2 each person emits but how many people are on the earth!  Since it is politically unacceptable to reduce the number of living people while at the same time acceptable to reduce the number of births (abortions and China's one child policy), we need to provide incentives to reduce the population.

  1. Create CO2 tax on fashion and cosmetics.  Attractive people = more babies = more CO2 = bad.
  2. Create CO2 tax on alcoholic beverages.  Just reducing the attractiveness of people is not enough.  We also need to reduce the alcohol induced attraction.  I once saw a bumber sticker that read "Beer - Helping ugly people have sex for over 100 years".  Alcohol Consumption = more people = more CO2 = bad.  
  3. Create CO2 tax on automotive industry.  Any car shown to be a "chick magnet" should be slapped with a CO2 tax (This is also a nice payback to Japan for Kyoto and Europe for the Copenhagen Climate Summit).  Sexy car = more couples = more babies = more CO2 = bad.
  4. Create CO2 tax on Hollywood.  Any movie or TV show that shows people having sex or that show lavish lifestyles is a stimulus for irresponsible CO2 emissions.  Sex/Luxury = more babied and energy consumption = more CO2 = bad.
These solutions are of course silly, but I challenge anyone to show how Cap and Trade or other policies are more effective over the long run.

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