Sunday, April 8, 2007

Ten Recommendations to deal with global warming

There are many things we can all do to reduce our contributions to global warming. Here are ten things politians can do now to make a difference:

1. Tax energy supply that adds extra heat to global warming and use the money to subsidize energy supply that doesn't.

2. Stop supporting conventional power plants. Don't give them research grants or subsidies. Don't give them regulatory privileges or allow them to monopolize a market. If they go broke under the new regime of taxes, then good riddance. Instead, support renewables such as wind farms, solar power, hydro-electricity and wave power.

3. Sign the Kyoto Treaty and make a firm commitment to reduce emissions by a lot more. Work on a new global Treaty beyond Kyoto, using these ten points as a basis.

4. Support lifestyles that are more environmentally-friendly. Encourage use of the Internet as an alternative to travel and commuting. Encourage homeschooling and working from home. Deregulate taxi services.

5. Ban incandescent light bulbs. Set a date for a national ban. Actively promote a global ban.

6. Support energy that doesn't add extra heat more actively in regulations and government policy. Encourage competition and diversity among suppliers of such energy. Encourage interconnection and overlap of electricity grids, so that households can choose which grid to sell electricity to, if they generate a surplus in their backyard.

7. Plan communities without roads and with footpaths and bikepaths instead. Plan houses close together, around a local center of shops and restaurants. Redesign existing cities so that people have to travel less.

8. Tax the sale of meat and use the money to support vegetarian restaurants, bicycle shops and other environmentally-friendly outlets in communities without roads.

9. Make government act more environmentally responsible. Ask for ideas. Have more staff work from home. Look at ways to offer services over the phone, over the Net, etc.

10. Disclosure. Make that government departments and large companies publicly disclose their emissions of greenhouse gases. Make products display on their packaging the amounts of greenhouse gases needed to produce it.

Sam Carana

Editor's note: This is a duplicate of the April 8, 2007, post that followed Ten Dangers of global warming. The post was followed up by Recommendations to deal with global warming and by Comprehensive Plan of Action.  


Sam Carana said...

1. The principle stated here is: Tax heavy polluters most and give that money to supply that doesn't add extra heat. It's a market-oriented solution in the sense that it leaves it to a large extent up to the market to choose what to do, as opposed to government regulation, prohibition, nationalisation and subsidising political friends. By taxing polluters and giving that money to supply that doesn't add extra heat, it works both ways and becomes doubly effective, minimising risks that the money is spent on the wrong purposes. Since we're talking about investments that span over decades, there should be bi-partisan support to firmly stick to this principle, without making compromises to advance one ideology or another or to assist political friends. All sides in politics should accept this as an emergency plan, to be given as much (or more) urgency as was given to the war in Iraq.

2. We should NOT give coal-fired plants tax deductions or shelters, subsidies or credits for promises to change their way and to conduct research, say, into capture and sequestration, since this just compromises the principle under point 1. What if these promises turn out to be just a smokescreen? What if at best they can only partly reduce emissions, while it takes a lot of extra energy to capture carbon, transport it and put it into the soil, with questions remaining as to leakage and safety? Why not give that money instead to people who install solar panels and wind turbines in their backyards to generate electricity and perhaps put a surplus back into the power grid, without adding any extra heat?

6. Net metering should go both ways, as Al Gore advocates with his Electronet. We also have to ensure that competition and diversity will be encouraged. Where networks are monopolies, they should be structurally separated from energy suppliers (especially from coal-fired power plants). We should create more dynamic, market-oriented networks that do NOT focus on building power plants, but instead focus on buying energy from a market of suppliers and transporting it to customers, preferably in competition with other networks.

8. Tax on sales of meat. One can of course have ethical objections against eating meat. A second argument is that it takes a lot of fertile land to put meat on the table. Global warming threatens supply of food, while using more land for bio-fuel will only increase prices for food. A third argument to tax meat is that animals release methane, a gas that's twenty times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon-dioxide.

If such taxes were merely used to help the poor pay higher prices, then little will be achieved for the environment. Instead, such taxes should be used to support environmentally-friendly developments, such as communities without roads, as suggested under point 7. We should start building such communities without roads on university campuses, designing small houses for staff and students to live around shops and restaurants. Small houses need less heating and air-conditioning. If we leave out roads, garages and other car-parking spaces, they can be built closely together, so anyone can easily walk or bike their way around. That would be more healthy as well!

These ten points come as a package. Tax proceeds should go to sale of energy that doesn't add extra heat. So, if electricity or hydrogen is sold, it should be disclosed (point 10.) how much greenhouse gases were emitted in the production. If there's a way to produce hydrogen that doesn't add extra heat, then it can be sold as such and the supplier can collect a subsidy.

Sam Carana said...

Let me also add some further thoughts on communities without roads. We should seriously reconsider public transport, in fact, we should look at redesigning the entire way cities are built. Many people go by car to the railway station, because they live too far from the station to walk. Look at how many cars are parked around any suburban railway station! All the space needed for car parking further isolates railway stations from the houses around them, just like railway tracks and highways cut up communities into isolated parts.

Already now, a taxi can be much more efficient than public transport, since buses and trains follow a set route, stopping only at set points. Many buses and trains remain virtually empty at off-peak hours, consuming huge amounts of energy in vain. Many people avoid public transport for the long waiting in inhospitable environments wit high crime risks and lack of service. If taxi services were deregulated, there would be far less need for public transport.

The idea of communities without roads is that there is very little need for public transport, but it doesn't mean that people are locked up inside their homes. Terms like homeschooling and working from home may give that false impression. In fact, most homeschoolers I know love to go out (e.g. to see other homeschoolers) and they are more outdoors than kids who go to school. Similarly, working from home means that one spends less time commuting, time that can be spent at exhibitions, conferences, in restaurants, shops, etc. New technology more and more allows people to work when and where they want, while greater efficiencies mean that one can achieve moe results in less time.

Also, many people are currently locked up inside their homes because they have nowhere to go. This is especially a problem for elderly people who are afraid to drive a car and who are afraid to walk the empty streets in the suburbs. Town planners have designed urban nightmares, with most activities centralised in specialized buildings, e.g. medical care and education preserved for schools and hospitals. Shopping is concentrated in malls and
most offices are centralized in the CBD of each city. This kind of design and zoning results in suburbs stretching out further and further along railway lines that bring people daily into the city. Suburban houses are occupied by few people during the day, people literally go there to sleep.

Communities without roads is an exciting concept that allows people to live within walking distances of colleages, customers, friends, medical and educational facilities, shops, restaurants, etc. Again, this doesn't mean people are to be locked up inside. The sedentary lifestyle of many people is a result of the way cities are currently designed. Instead, we should facilitate the opposite, i.e. people coming out of their houses, offices, etc, meeting other people, getting more healthy food and becoming fitter.