While there is no doubt from a statistical standpoint that that humans are major contributors to global climate change, the exact extent and mechanisms are unknown. Pundits would have you believe otherwise, but just look at how terrible the climate models are at prediction. There is a lot of guesswork and complexity. Acknowledging our lack of understanding is no weakness, but it appeals to our ego to think we can have this sort of control on the world, so assumptions are made.
What if we wanted to make meaningful changes to address climate change? Shaving a few percentage points of green house gas emissions is not meaningful. We’d need to approach a 50% or greater drop in total emissions. This would require changes on a massive scale. Partial implementation wouldn’t have any meaningful impact.
So what could we do?
- Cut red meat and milk consumption by at least 50%, especially from cows. Cows emit tons of methane, one of the worst greenhouse gasses. Likelihood: Slim to none.
- Worldwide ban on private jets and general air travel restrictions. Prohibit night flights to eliminate contrails. Likelihood: Not going to happen.
- Expand nuclear power*. Safe with almost no emissions. What’s not to like? Likelihood: Not in my backyard.
- Eliminate yards. Mowing generates tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Suburban lawns are also a primary cause of habitat and wildlife destruction (bees anyone?) in some areas. Proper replacement native plants and trees are superior for carbon sequestration. Likelihood: Not my backyard!
- Replace dark roads and dark roofs with light colored ones. Likelihood: $$$$$
- Raise fuel economy standards by a meaningful amount. Likelihood: Insignificant.
- Turn the heat down to 65 in the winter. You don’t need it to be 75. Wear more clothing. And don’t use AC in the summer. Open windows. Wear less clothing. Stop whining about how hot and/or cold you are to everyone else. Likelihood: Nope.
- Eat less, don’t get fat. Likelihood: No.
- Eliminate Standard Time and go with Daylight Saving Time year round. Is there any energy benefit? Who knows, but it is probably minimal. But at least you’ll have fewer heart attacks twice a year. Likelihood: Possible, but pointless.
- Eliminate our dependence on oil and use at least 50% clean alternative energy.** Likelihood: Hell will undergo global cooling first.
Most of these ideas, while they might be effective***, are not going to happen because it would result in great personal sacrifice by the majority of the population. People like complaining, but meaningful change? That’s for somebody else.
So what is the resounding political choice of most liberals and some conservatives? Raise taxes! Yea! We have conquered climate change. Because carbon credits are such an obvious first choice solution: Right up there with doing nothing and letting “market forces” solve it.
* We could eliminate the internet instead. That would drop our power usage significantly.
** Don’t worry, by 2025 we’ll have dropped carbon emissions by a mere 10% by using alternative energy. Too bad that’s nowhere close to enough. In the meantime ethanol production will continue to have a negative benefit. Wind power will also continue its net negative benefit as well as killing birds.
*** These suggestions are simplified. Some might actually make the problem worse. And the actual implementation is less likely to succeed than the already formidable hurdle of deciding to do it. But they are some of the best ideas we have.