Worth a minute of your time: just plug in the headphones and be grateful that you are sane enough to watch it via a computer screen. Eddie would go.
When promoting renewables, politicians have shifted their rhetoric to three main points:
1) We should reduce dependancy on foreign oil
2) We can invigorate the “Green Job” sector
3) We will discover more affordable energy
In his recent article, Severin Borenstein reminds us that the real issue is global warming, and that each of these is a political ruse.
When we discuss renewables, we are primarily concerned with electricity, and until storage improves, we are really talking about replacing coal. A quick look at the EIA’s projection of coal output is clear: there ain’t no coal shortage here. Numbers 1 and 3 are nearly ridiculous claims.
All great romances must eventually turn their eyes away from each other and look toward the bleak face of reality to ask the question:
How is this relationship impacting the environment, anyway?
These can be trying times, and that is a complex question, for any two people to answer. A process based carbon footprint may be too complicated, its scope too focused, its data collection too time consuming. Fortunately, there is another way.
Economically based Input Output models (IO) are useful tools that generate carbon footprints for complex systems with minimal amount of data collection and minimal amount of time. IOs use sector based carbon data to generate a complete, albeit fuzzy picture of a carbon footprint.So, this Valentine’s Day, I completed an input output based carbon footprint of my relationship. I have allocated capital goods (such as my car) according their application within the relationship, and I have included some approximations based on annual average uses within my geography (such as therms/household). I considered my relationship to be the overarching process, with four smaller processes as inputs: travel, wine and dine, gifts and food. The result is right around 8,000 kg of CO2e-right around double the average annual per person emissions of China. As you can see, travel is a major carbon contributor to my romantic endeavors, and is certainly worth some scrutiny if I wanted a more granular footprint.
This economically based approach to carbon footprinting and life cycle assessment does not give a microscopic view of each process, but does provide an accurate summary of operational impacts. This model serves as a great baseline for corporations to identify their largest impacts, and they can iteratively refine their data with more precise numbers as is appropriate. For my Valentine’s Day footprint, it looks as if I should investigate my travel and food sourcing more carefully (The largest contributor in this sector happens to be a plane ticket to South America where my girlfriend was studying sustainable aquaculture this summer.) Tools like this can provide heat maps for supply chains and could possibly remediate problems that retailers such as Tesco have had in generating life cycle data for their vast product inventory.
So, this Valentine’s day remember: you can’t buy love, but you can buy carbon credits to offset it.
End use management is an important part of sustainability. Check out these beautiful pictures of boat recycling in Bangladesh.
Have you taken out your Apocalypse Policy? As the much anticipated end of the world begins, the Goddard Institute has released an interesting study that explains the actual collapse of the Mayan Civilization: not enough trees.
The study reveals that widespread forest removal may have brought the empire to ruin. As the Mayan population entered a phase of rapid population growth, much of Central America was deforested, presumably to increase food production for the expanding empire. This widespread removal of trees intensified the drought cycle that ultimately proved a destructive factor for the Mayan civilization. If only the Mayans had listened to Joni Mitchell: with environmental goods and services, you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.
What the Mayans didn’t realize, and what we are only beginning to understand, is that the natural environment provides many benefits that are difficult to recognize and even more difficult to quantify: Purification, carbon sequestration, disease control and pollination are all components of ecosystem services and, by and large, free of charge. But the lack of market value for ecosystem services has led to careless treatment and over-extraction of certain resources, as in the case of the Mayans.
However, some innovative NGOs and corporations are helping to bring these natural processes and provisions into the economic fold. One such organization is Environmental Incentives based in South Lake Tahoe. They facilitate ecosystem service credit trading as a component of Tahoe’s Lake Clarity Program. On a larger scale, the Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) employ ecosystem service credits as a method for avoiding climate change.
Locally deployed ecosystem service programs benefit from a key element of any sustainability initiative: transparency. But globally interconnected exchanges encourage innovation and can decrease the potential for leakage (if they are universally adopted and strictly adhered to). I believe that we will see widespread market integration of both methods as we move toward more sustainable economic development.
So, how much was a tree worth to a Mayan? There was obviously an exchange of utility between the need for food and the need for trees, and identifying the efficient extraction rate of a limited resource is a tricky business. At the end of the day, there is no guarantee that saving the forest would have solved their problems anyway, and besides: having a hamburger today is always better than having a dollar tomorrow.
Which is why we buy…insurance:
I always wanted to be one growing up…learning how they made the photo is about as amazing as the pictures themselves!
With an oil embargo pending, Iran would conceivably need to begin planning a temporary stop to some of its oil fields to adjust for the July deadline. After all, it took BP over a month to stop production in the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field, in an emergency shut-down situation.
But as steadily as Iran has increased production over the last two decades (see the graph above), it seems doubtful that they are actually considering a major reduction of their current export. Here are the major recipients of Iranian oi last year.
Any guesses as to which country(ies) gets cheap gas in 2012?
"I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live..."