We Are What We Eat: What Can I Do? (5)

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 3:38 AM GMT on April 30, 2013

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We Are What We Eat: What Can I Do? (5)

Revised: May 9, 2013

This is the continuation of a series in response to the question, “What can I do about climate change?” Links to the previous entries are listed at the end.

Last week I made a list of categories to classify the types of actions that we can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The second item on that list is food. But first, I want to start with some more sets of categories.

When we think of fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas come to forefront. We often think of coal as dirty and natural gas as clean, in terms of air quality, climate change and general environmental damage. All of these forms of fossil fuels emit carbon dioxide when they burn, and that carbon dioxide is for practical human time in either the atmosphere or ocean permanently. Therefore we can’t simply replace coal and oil with natural gas and declare that we will avoid global warming.

If we examine how we use energy, then those uses can be divided into three categories: power generation, transportation and direct use for heat. For the past few decades, coal has dominated power generation and petroleum has dominated transportation. All three contribute to direct use for heat. Recently in the U.S., natural gas has been replacing coal for power generation, but worldwide, coal is still the dominant fuel (natural gas and coal, TON, NPR). Oil dominates transportation.

Taking another cut through our energy use, we can categorize use as residential, commercial, industrial and for transportation. Industrial uses create products from raw materials: manufacturing, cement making, mining and agriculture. Commercial uses include shops, government buildings and where governments spend money. Residential and commercial uses include a large part of electricity, heating and cooling of buildings, and heating of water. An interesting point: next to the burning of fossil fuels, cement making is the largest nonagricultural source of carbon dioxide emissions. It’s on the order of 5 percent.

If we return to the question of “What Can I Do?,” then the items discussed in the previous entries on efficiency focus primarily on the better management of buildings (residential and commercial) as well as on +choices in transportation. In fact, an alternative way to categorize use is for buildings, transportation and industry. If one were to think about government regulation, then emissions from coal-fired power plants are relatively easy to target because there are not that many power plants and they don’t move around. Transportation is harder to regulate because there are, globally, billions of cars and trucks and they do move around. The different categories I have described demonstrate both the easy opportunity for regulation, power generation, and the challenges of climate policy – that there is no single thing to fix the problem of greenhouse gas emissions.

Now to food – If we were to make a special food and agriculture category, then agriculture is responsible for about the same amount of emissions as, say, transportation or heating. Now, however, we have to become more holistic about what we mean by emissions. For agriculture, we have carbon dioxide emissions, which come mostly from deforestation. Cutting and burning forests to make new rangeland for cattle make up about 10 percent of the total annual carbon dioxide emissions. There is some emission from the use of fossil fuels for tractors and irrigation, and about half of the agricultural carbon dioxide fossil fuel emissions come from the manufacture of fertilizer. There are also other land use and soil management decisions made in agriculture that affect carbon dioxide emissions.

Beyond carbon dioxide, agriculture is responsible for about a third of methane emissions and close to two-thirds of the nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. These are greenhouse gases that are more potent than carbon dioxide; they are in much lower concentrations in the atmosphere.

So, what we eat can make a difference. When I was in college in the 1970s, I was introduced to Frances Moore Lappe’s book, Diet for a Small Planet. What I remember from that book was that if you took all of the calories needed to grow a pound of beef and instead feed those grains to people, you could feed many more people than you could with a pound of beef. It was my first introduction to sustainability. It takes much land and energy to make the well-marbled porterhouses that my father fed me in one-pound servings. No matter how you count, livestock production, in particular, beef production, releases a lot of greenhouse gases.

There are many marketing appeals in food and food supply. These appeals are to make personal decisions that affect the world, and individual choices the public makes about food and food supply do affect the world. We have appeals to buy grass-fed beef, organic meat and produce, locally produced and sustainable agriculture. We are faced with issues of packaging, preprocessing, natural, raw and prepared. There are no easy algorithms. In February, an apple from Chile might take less energy in transportation than an apple from Virginia takes in cold storage. We demand fresh fruit, vegetables and meat all winter. We demand exotic spices, fine coffee, tea and chocolate. The global demand for meat and nonlocal food increases as the world’s wealth increases.

So what rules of food selection matter? My personal evaluation is that reducing meat consumption is at the top of the list, and at the top of the meat list is beef. Pasture-raised might be better than feedlot, but life cycle studies show that beef is a relatively inefficient use of energy. Chicken is far more energy-efficient. Should we choose sustainable, local or organic meat and produce? From an emissions point of view, I hear sustainable advocated as best if there are actual standards and certification of sustainability--then local, then organic. I have made the controversial claim that since our current practice of organic, local and sustainable agriculture demands high payment for produce and meat, and since most of our generation of money requires high fossil fuel energy use, there is a hidden cost to the climate that comes from high-value crops.

It’s not easy, but what we eat does make a difference to the environment. We usually think of this difference in terms of pesticides, herbicides and erosion, but there is also a climate impact. And as is often the case, the connection is indirect, far in the future and difficult to know how to value.

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Note: The source of much of the material in this entry is based on Livestock’s Long Shadow a 2006 publication of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. There has been much criticism of this report, especially in its calculation of the emissions of the transportation sector. The original authors did modify their specific statements about transportation. As noted in the next blog in this series, there is substantial controversy about the impact of agriculture. My evaluation is that the agriculture numbers in this report are as robust as any I know. My opinion would be that the agriculture emissions in this report are more likely an underestimate than an overestimate. As for comparisons to other sources of emissions, when fossil fuel emissions are broken down as described in this blog, the different sectors, residential, commercial, transportation and industrial, are all large and no single one is dominant. Therefore, the conclusion that agriculture is comparable to these sectors seems reasonable.


Previous Entries in the Series

Setting Up the Discussion Deciding to do something, definition of mitigation and adaptation, and a cost-benefit anchored framework for thinking about mitigation

Smoking, Marriage and Climate Behavioral changes and peer pressure

Organizing and Growing Individual Efforts A little detail on efficiency and thinking about how individuals can have more impact than just that of a single person

The Complete List Eight categories of things we can do to reduce greenhouse gases


Moderation of comments: I have been getting more and more complaints about what is going on in the comments. WU and I will be addressing this. To start, here is a modified version of Dr. Master’s Blog Contents Rules.

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Chia - Food for Thought

wiki on Chia (salvia hispanica)

Huffington Post Article
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I thought this needed to be posted again.
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Quinoa - Food for Thought.

wiki on Quinoa


Downside for exporting countries


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Amaranth - Food for thought.

wiki on Amaranth
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Buckwheat - Food for thought.

wiki on Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum)(related to sorrel - not a wheat or grass)

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Quoting NRAamy:
Thanks Snakey.....

I was just really interested in the new topic...food....it's why I brought up the Paleolithic Diet ...... hunting/gathering only..... I would think that would be better for the earth.....
Play out that scenario a little. How many people could the earth support if everyone went to hunting/gathering? On the other hand, how would it work if the foods in that diet were produced commercially for people to buy? What kind of economic disruption would result if everyone stopped eating wheat and corn and rice and sugar?

These are straight questions, because that's the kind of analysis needed for any major change in lifestyle.
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Reflections on Climate Justice from Santiago, Chile

We recently travelled to Santiago, Chile, a sprawling city of six million people just beyond the Andes. Our purpose was to attend the first sub-regional workshop of the Climate Justice Dialogue, a new initiative led by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Mary Robinson Foundation—Climate Justice (MRFCJ). But before we even made it inside the conference center, we were confronted by a poignant, real-life example of climate justice.

Upon arrival in Santiago, a taxi took us to a charming and quirky family-owned hotel. As we were welcomed at the concierge desk, we were surprised to find Chile’s Second National Communication among the tourist books and magazines.

National communications are reports submitted by countries to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). They provide scientific information about national climate mitigation and adaptation measures, as well as project proposals that help increase a country’s resilience to the impacts of climate change. They’re important documents for climate negotiators and policymakers because they hold countries accountable for their commitments under the UNFCCC. They are not, however, something you would expect to find as recommended tourist literature.

We asked the hotel owner why he displayed this document so prominently . He responded with a wise smile, “Because it is important.” He then explained how climate change is already affecting Chile’s tourism industry: The retreat of Andean glaciers affects the availability of freshwater for irrigation and domestic use, mountain recreation, and for the animals and plants that depend on glacier-melt for survival. It also makes the glaciers—as well as the related fauna and flora—less accessible to tourists, affecting his revenue. He also expressed his concern over the inadequate response to climate change from the international community, the national government, and a Chilean middle class that’s engaging in unsustainable consumption patterns. He concluded that climate change is part of Chile’s current and future reality, and therefore should matter to anyone who cares about his country—including tourists.

Read more »
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2 Big Issues to Watch at this Week’s Bonn Climate Talks

It’s been almost four months since the last UNFCCC negotiations in Doha, Qatar (COP 18). Countries decided in Doha to finalize the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, wrap up a series of decisions on the Bali Action Plan, and outline a plan to establish an international climate agreement by 2015. Countries will gather this week in Bonn, Germany, for the first formal conversations since the Doha meeting.

This week’s intersessional is a low key, but important session. Negotiators will discuss two critical issues: How to substantially step-up the level of ambition by countries, companies, cities, and civil society; and how to ensure a strong international climate agreement by 2015. Progress on these two issues could bring the world one step closer to strong, international action to curb climate change.

Increasing Ambition

The final decision by all countries at COP 17 in Durban recognized that current GHG-reduction pledges are not adequate to keep global average temperature below 2 degrees C (the limit science says is necessary to prevent climate change’s most disastrous impacts). In Bonn, experts will put forth new ideas on how to ratchet up ambition in the short-term. Country representatives will also highlight best practices and success stories, in particular, the role that land use could play for enhanced mitigation and adaptation policies.

WRI recently completed an assessment of the current international initiatives and identified the need for more “transformational clubs.” Multi-country or industry-specific clubs could ratchet up ambition in a way that complements the international UNFCCC process and helps close the emissions-reduction gap. The criteria we identified for such clubs are a common bold vision, a set of benefits or incentives for those countries which join the club, and an entry ticket that would show the country’s seriousness in its action (e.g. a renewables club could have a national renewables policy as an entry ticket).

5 Issues to Watch in the 2015 Agreement Discussions

The April Bonn session is scheduled to discuss more specifically the core elements for establishing an international climate action agreement by 2015. We’ll be looking for clarity and answers across five key elements:

“Spectrum of commitments”: This is an approach that a number of countries are advocating for. What exactly does it mean? Are there criteria to determine what the commitments might be? How could ambition be ensured in such an approach?


Ratchet mechanism: How can the 2015 agreement include a ratchet mechanism to increase ambition over time? Will countries be able to increase their ambition levels any time, as they now can in the Kyoto Protocol? What regular reviews should occur?


Equity:Equity is a key component of the negotiations. A number of experts have identified the idea of a benchmark on equity (an Equity Reference Framework) that could be applied to country commitments. The Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, WRI’s partner for the Climate Justice Dialogue, will present and make the case for a dynamic, holistic approach to equity.


Architecture of the Agreement: There are different perspectives on how to construct a 2015 agreement, with some countries focused on a centralized or top-down agreement and some focused on a decentralized or more bottom-up agreement. As is often the case, there is a “sweet spot” somewhere in middle where the integrity of more centralized approaches is mixed with some flexibility to reflect national circumstances. Listen for that “sweet spot.”


Legal form: Which parts of the 2015 agreement will be legally binding and which will be voluntary?


Countries urgently need to shift their talks from pure brainstorming to identifying key elements and decisions for establishing an international climate agreement. The December 2015 deadline for creating this agreement will be here before we know it. So let’s keep hopes high in Bonn. Sometimes the most low-key meetings are the most productive.
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Quoting cyclonebuster:
So any other solutions to the warming problem folks? I need to hear them all..
Sorry, CB, nobody here tonight thinks global warming is a problem except me*, and I don't think anything can be done about it, given the current political and cultural situation. You'll have to wait for the "alarmists" to show up; maybe one of them will be more optimistic.

Edited to add: *and JohnL. Thanks for the articles; I hope someone is listening to Lord Stern, but I am not optimistic.
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Lord Nicholas Stern Identifies 3 Obstacles to International Climate Action

Six years after the release of the landmark Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, Lord Nicholas Stern revealed yesterday the most challenging hurdle ahead for international climate action. Overcoming this obstacle is not a matter of figuring out the scientific or policy pathways needed to curb climate change—nor is it determining what technologies to adopt or what investments must be made. “What’s missing is the political will,” said Stern.

The famed economist elaborated on this problem during an address yesterday hosted by WRI and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), “Fostering Growth and Poverty Reduction in a World of Immense Risk.” Dr. Andrew Steer, WRI’s president, and Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, provided opening remarks, articulating the serious economic and human risks climate change poses. Stern focused on the main hurdle to mitigating these risks—political will.

The problem, according to Stern, reflects a lack of understanding in three main areas: climate change’s real risks, the benefits of an alternative pathway, and the need for collaboration and mutual understanding.

The Real Risks of Climate Change

By Stern’s own admission, the Stern Review greatly underestimated climate change’s risks and impacts. “Emissions are at the top or above the projections we talked about six or seven years ago. Some effects are coming through faster,” he said. “We didn’t say enough about the interactions between climate and ecosystems.”

Dr. Steer outlined how these risks are already presenting themselves today—and are poised to worsen in the future. “Insurance companies tell us that weather-related catastrophes have tripled since 1980,” he said. “The United States last year experienced 11 extreme weather events each costing more than $1 billion. And the current drought may turn out to be the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history.”

Stern believes that a key component of mobilizing political will, then, is a stronger risk narrative driven by a new breed of scientific models. These models should not only reflect the severity of climate risks, but the human and environmental costs that are typically ignored in data-driven models—like the thawing of permafrost and extreme weather events’ impacts on development.

The Benefits of an Alternative Path

According to Stern, the world needs to view the next several years as a new era, the “New Energy Industrial Revolution.” Like the eras of innovation that preceded it—the industrial revolution, expansion of steam and railways, the information and telecommunications technology revolution, etc.—this period will be full of growth, investment, creativity, and emerging markets. It’s important to see it as a time of economic opportunity rather than a time focused solely on scaling back greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s also a time to adopt win-win-win strategies that integrate development, adaptation, and mitigation into one package. For example, decentralized solar power brings affordable electricity to poor communities, reduces emissions, and is less vulnerable than traditional, grid-based power. These are the types of solutions that will drive economic growth and climate stability.


Notable Quotes


Yesterday’s event featured some of the leading voices in the environmental and development spaces: Andrew Steer, president of WRI; Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF; Lord Nicholas Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute; and Rachel Kyte, vice president of sustainable development at the World Bank. Here are a few notable quotes from their discussions:

“Most of the effects of climate change will happen in the future, but most scientists believe they are already beginning. You might feel that March was a bit chilly, but it was actually the 336th month in a row where global temperatures were above 20th-century averages.” –Andrew Steer, WRI


“If climate change issues are not adequately addressed—if we keep running those nice energy subsidies, if the price on carbon is not adequately set, if policymakers don’t have it on their radar screens—then financial stability in the medium and long-term is clearly at stake.” –Christine Lagarde, IMF


“We can’t represent this as an artificial horse race, with economic growth on the one hand and climate stability on the other.” –Lord Nicholas Stern


“Climate change is the rug that’s going to be pulled out from under every one of our clients unless we get our arms around it. And it’s going to be pulled out unevenly—it will be the poor and the vulnerable who suffer the most.” –Rachel Kyte, World Bank



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Leave It in the Ground, Climate Activists Demand


XBRIDGE, Canada, Apr 28 2013 (IPS) - Nearly 70 percent of known reserves of oil, gas and coal must remain in the ground to avoid dangerous climate change. So why did the energy industry spend 674 billion dollars in 2012 looking for more?

A moratorium on investments new fossil fuel infrastructure is the obvious thing to do about this, said Asad Rehman, head of international climate at Friends of the Earth in the UK.

The United Nations is the place to get countries to begin a serious conversation about imposing such a moratorium starting Monday in Bonn, Germany, Rehman told IPS.

The 195 parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are meeting next week in Bonn on a new climate treaty that would go into force in 2020 and discuss ways reduce emissions from fossil fuels prior to 2020.

The World Bank, International Energy Agency and a new report from economist Lord Nicholas Stern all say that close to 70 percent of known reserves of fossil fuels are “unburnable” to have a chance of global warming staying below two degrees C.
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Thanks Snakey.....

I was just really interested in the new topic...food....it's why I brought up the Paleolithic Diet ...... hunting/gathering only..... I would think that would be better for the earth.....
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So any other solutions to the warming problem folks? I need to hear them all..
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Quoting NRAamy:
I thought we were supposed to be talking about food.....


Roods Rules of the Road:

#4. Stay on the topic of "climate change" or "the entry topic".
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Quoting FLwolverine:
#157 - Belief in the "end times" is usually based on the Book of Revelation plus a handful of Old Testament prophecies and Gospel sayings. There are theological and historical arguments for not accepting the fundamentalist conservative interpretation of these passages, but such arguments won't get you anywhere with a hardcore "believer". But an interesting approach is to point out to the "believer" that the Bible specifically says we cannot know the times or the seasons when the end will happen. So the second coming could happen now, in our 21st century civilization, or it could happen years from now when population is much reduced and the survivors have reverted to some hunter-gatherer lifestyle, or at any stage in between. The earth may be preserved until that time, but there's no guarantee in the Bible of what condition humanity will be in when it happens. Which is actually a good argument for acting as good stewards of the earth now, but I'll bet that doesn't go over well with a hardcore "believer".

I'm using "believer" in quotes to limit the reference to the folks described in the linked article. I'm well aware that there are a lot of different attitudes among Christians. And before you ask, I'm a practicing (and unapologetic) Episcopalian.


Never once in his entire career as a preacher did my father use the Book of Revelations as the premise for a sermon. He grew up in Kansas during the Depression while the surrounding farm country was being ravaged by the Dust Bowl. He had vivid memories of the Tent Revival Meetings where, on the last evening, the preacher would use Revelations and the threats of Hellfire and Brimstone as a pretext to instill fear into the audience, causing them to increase their donations into the offering plate.

Fortunately, one of my fathers professors of Theology, in seminary, had written a very controversial book about the true interpretation of the Book of Revelations. As it turns out, the Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelations in the Greek Chiastic style of poetry. When read as a poem, it takes on a completely different meaning. The only prophetic parts of the book was more than likely in reference to the fall of Jerusalem which occurred in 67 A.D. Much of the rest of the poem was actually focused of the varying roles of church and state. (Imagine That!)

Unfortunately, I no longer have that book in my library as I gave it to a recovering Jehovah's Witness many years ago.

Extreme fundamentalists of every religion have used fear to maintain control of their followers. To all of them, secular education and critical thinking skills are an anathema.

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Quoting NRAamy:
I don't eat beans anymore..... I guess that helps.....


You eat cabbage?
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RE:173
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:






They burn them down many times faster then they can grow..
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I don't eat beans anymore..... I guess that helps.....
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RE:172
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


Yep they chop the trees down faster than we can plant them..
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20393
I thought we were supposed to be talking about food.....
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So any other solutions to the warming problem folks?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20393
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Quoting NRAamy:


Is the Amazon Forest still being mowed down? I don't think so, cause Sting hasn't done a benefit for it since the 80's......must be ok then.....


Soon it will be the Amazon desert.. I don't think this idea will work for us...We need those trees now to build more houses..
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Quoting SouthernIllinois:

Plant a tree. You'll feel AMAZING!!!


Is the Amazon Forest still being mowed down? I don't think so, cause Sting hasn't done a benefit for it since the 80's......must be ok then.....
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Quoting SouthernIllinois:

Plant a tree. You'll feel AMAZING!!!


I did that but it did not help... How can we plant more trees in expanding deserts?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20393
I say we all take a trip to Antarctica in June and just see how cold it really is on Earth! What do you say?
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Quoting SouthernIllinois:

Tunnels. Duh.


I know that already but I am talking other solutions...What are they?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20393
What is the solution to the warming problem folks?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20393
Quoting FLwolverine:
#157 - Belief in the "end times" is usually based on the Book of Revelation plus a handful of Old Testament prophecies and Gospel sayings. There are theological and historical arguments for not accepting the fundamentalist conservative interpretation of these passages, but such arguments won't get you anywhere with a hardcore "believer". But an interesting approach is to point out to the "believer" that the Bible specifically says we cannot know the times or the seasons when the end will happen. So the second coming could happen now, in our 21st century civilization, or it could happen years from now when population is much reduced and the survivors have reverted to some hunter-gatherer lifestyle, or at any stage in between. The earth may be preserved until that time, but there's no guarantee in the Bible of what condition humanity will be in when it happens. Which is actually a good argument for acting as good stewards of the earth now, but I'll bet that doesn't go over well with a hardcore "believer".

I'm using "believer" in quotes to limit the reference to the folks described in the linked article. I'm well aware that there are a lot of different attitudes among Christians. And before you ask, I'm a practicing (and unapologetic) Episcopalian.


I can speak from formerly "inside" - I was raised by a set of fundamentalist penticostals who still believe the second coming will be any day now. Those who believe in the end times can see certain signs from the bible and will not be convinced othewise. In our church, you were not permitted to save for retirement or read science fiction, because these actions showed a lack of faith since you were looking towards a future that would never happen. I used to get lectured by the pastor for watching Star Trek, for pete's sake.

There really is no defense in that face of that (non) logic.
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#157 - Belief in the "end times" is usually based on the Book of Revelation plus a handful of Old Testament prophecies and Gospel sayings. There are theological and historical arguments for not accepting the fundamentalist conservative interpretation of these passages, but such arguments won't get you anywhere with a hardcore "believer". But an interesting approach is to point out to the "believer" that the Bible specifically says we cannot know the times or the seasons when the end will happen. So the second coming could happen now, in our 21st century civilization, or it could happen years from now when population is much reduced and the survivors have reverted to some hunter-gatherer lifestyle, or at any stage in between. The earth may be preserved until that time, but there's no guarantee in the Bible of what condition humanity will be in when it happens. Which is actually a good argument for acting as good stewards of the earth now, but I'll bet that doesn't go over well with a hardcore "believer".

I'm using "believer" in quotes to limit the reference to the folks described in the linked article. I'm well aware that there are a lot of different attitudes among Christians. And before you ask, I'm a practicing (and unapologetic) Episcopalian.
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#157 - In all fairness - a search of environment (plus) religion brings up a number of "hits". Groups / People that think we should be practicing good "stewardship" instead of "dominion".
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Belief in biblical end-times stifling climate change action in U.S.: study

RawStory.com

The United States has failed to take action to mitigate climate change thanks in part to the large number of religious Americans who believe the world has a set expiration date.

Research by David C. Barker of the University of Pittsburgh and David H. Bearce of the University of Colorado uncovered that belief in the biblical end-times was a motivating factor behind resistance to curbing climate change.

The fact that such an overwhelming percentage of Republican citizens profess a belief in the Second Coming (76 percent in 2006, according to our sample) suggests that governmental attempts to curb greenhouse emissions would encounter stiff resistance even if every Democrat in the country wanted to curb them, Barker and Bearce wrote in their study, which will be published in the June issue of Political Science Quarterly.



"I can't be kind about this, because these people are watching The Flintstones as if it were a documentary" - Lewis Black (comedian)
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Quoting RevElvis:
What if We Never Run Out of Oil?

AlterNet.org

snip........ “The one path is a boon. The other—I’ve used words like catastrophe.” He paused; I thought I detected a sigh. “I wouldn’t bet on us making the right decisions.”
Excellent article. But taken together with #154, it makes me even more pessimistic about the possibility of avoiding disastrous results from CC/AGW.
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UK government failing legal duty on air pollution, supreme court rules
The UK faces European fines and British cities may have to ban cars to dramatically reduce harmful effects of air pollution


"The UK government has failed in its legal duty to protect people from the harmful effects of air pollution, the supreme court ruled on Wednesday.

The ruling by five judges – the first time a UK court has recognised that the government has failed in efforts to meet European air pollution limits – delighted air pollution campaigners.

It means the government faces stiff European fines and British cities may have to ban cars and limit the entry of heavy good vehicles to dramatically reduce air pollution.

But because the court also ruled that the European court of justice will have to step in to clarify some legal issues, the government may be able to delay acting for up to a year.

"This landmark decision … paves the way for the European commission to take legal action against the UK," said James Thornton, ClientEarth chief executive. "The ruling marks a turning point in the fight for clean air and will pile the pressure on the environment secretary, Owen Paterson. He must now come up with an ambitious plan to protect people from carcinogenic diesel fumes. Until now, his only policy has been lobbying in Europe to try and weaken air pollution laws.""
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Global CO2 Levels Set to Pass 400 ppm Milestone
Published: May 1st, 2013

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached 399.72 parts per million (ppm) and is likely to pass the symbolically important 400 ppm level for the first time in the next few days.

Readings at the U.S. government's Earth Systems Research laboratory in Hawaii, are not expected to reach their 2013 peak until mid-May, but were recorded at a daily average of 399.72ppm on April 25. The weekly average stood at 398.5 on Monday.

...

"I wish it weren't true but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400ppm level without losing a beat. At this pace we'll hit 450ppm within a few decades," said Ralph Keeling, a geologist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography which operates the Hawaiian observatory.


Read the whole article (with links and graphs on "climate central")

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Record cold in Alaska and it's probably coming to the lower 48. This AGW is freezing us out:

Link
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What if We Never Run Out of Oil?

AlterNet.org

If methane hydrate allows much of the world to switch from oil to gas, the conversion would undermine governments that depend on oil revenues, especially petro-autocracies like Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Unless oil states are exceptionally well run, a gush of petroleum revenues can actually weaken their economies by crowding out other business. Worse, most oil nations are so corrupt that social scientists argue over whether there is an inherent bond—a “resource curse”—between big petroleum deposits and political malfeasance. It seems safe to say that few Americans would be upset if a plunge in demand eliminated these countries’ hold over the U.S. economy. But those same people might not relish the global instability—a belt of financial and political turmoil from Venezuela to Turkmenistan—that their collapse could well unleash.

On a broader level still, cheap, plentiful natural gas throws a wrench into efforts to combat climate change. Avoiding the worst effects of climate change, scientists increasingly believe, will require “a complete phase-out of carbon emissions … over 50 years,” in the words of one widely touted scientific estimate that appeared in January. A big, necessary step toward that goal is moving away from coal, still the second-most-important energy source worldwide. Natural gas burns so much cleaner than coal that converting power plants from coal to gas—a switch promoted by the deluge of gas from fracking—has already reduced U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions to their lowest levels since Newt Gingrich’s heyday.

Yet natural gas isn’t that clean; burning it produces carbon dioxide. Researchers view it as a temporary “bridge fuel,” something that can power nations while they make the transition away from oil and coal. But if societies do not take advantage of that bridge to enact anti-carbon policies, says Michael Levi, the director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change at the Council on Foreign Relations, natural gas could be “a bridge from the coal-fired past to the coal-fired future.”

“Methane hydrate could be a new energy revolution,” Christopher Knittel, a professor of energy economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told me. “It could help the world while we reduce greenhouse gases. Or it could undermine the economic rationale for investing in renewable, carbon-free energy around the world”—just as abundant shale gas from fracking has already begun to undermine it in the United States. “The one path is a boon. The other—I’ve used words like catastrophe.” He paused; I thought I detected a sigh. “I wouldn’t bet on us making the right decisions.”
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150. yoboi
Quoting greentortuloni:
Gore is a Dem, by the way, as you know, as the rest of the world knows by his struggles to protect the environment.



I wonder how much he struggled when selling his tv station to the evil fossil fuel industry?????????
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In an interview on CatholicOnline, Dr. Roy Spencer stated:

"Current solar and wind technologies are too expensive, unreliable, and can only replace a small fraction of our energy needs. Since the economy runs on inexpensive energy, in order to grow the economy we will need to use fossil fuels to create that extra wealth. In other words, we will need to burn even more fossil fuels in order to find replacements for fossil fuels."

In today's Guardian, Dana Nuticelli, examines Spencer's claims.

Scientist Roy Spencer is wrong: fossil fuels are expensive
Fossil fuel prices are artificially depressed by the trillions of dollars of subsidies they receive every year.

The salient points of Nuticelli's op-ed are:

Fossil fuel subsidies

Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) put together a report (PDF) quantifying global fossil fuel subsidies, including indirect costs from climate change damages. They estimated that $480 billion is spent annually on direct fossil fuel subsidies, mostly in developing countries, while an additional $1.4 trillion is spent on indirect subsidies. These include about $800 billion per year in climate change subsidies, and that may be a very conservative estimate.

Cost comparisons

Of course, renewable energy also receives subsidies, so which type of energy is really cheaper? A study published last year by economists Laurie Johnson of the National Resources Defense Council and Chris Hope of Cambridge University sought to answer this question by comparing energy generation costs (not including direct subsidies) while accounting for carbon emissions costs.

They found that wind energy has already become cheaper than coal, even without considering climate damages. Energy from solar panels may also be cheaper than coal, depending on the estimated cost of climate damages, which is still very uncertain. Likewise, wind energy may be cheaper than natural gas, depending on the estimated climate costs.


Our choice

In short, it's just plain factually wrong to argue that renewable energy is too expensive, especially when all costs are taken into consideration. It's fossil fuels that really come with the high costs; they're just hidden behind trillions of dollars of annual subsidies.

Right now we're choosing to spend trillions of dollars every year to fund our harmful fossil fuel addiction. We're paying the dealers when we should be paying for rehab.
Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 3147
Quoting MisterPerfect:


wow! the atmosphere affects things 6.2 miles under water. that's incredible.


That's correct..
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20393
Quoting MisterPerfect:
warming temps and oceans are causing the release of methane, due to [natural occurrences combined with] human activity.


There's more info here: Link

and you are correct- the effect of methane is still not certain, but it is known methane is a potent GHG.
Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1224
warming temps and oceans are causing the release of methane, due to [natural occurrences combined with] human activity.
Member Since: November 1, 2006 Posts: 71 Comments: 20135

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About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.