A Climate Realist’s (not so) short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change. Question 3 (of 16) Is there anything I can do?

NOV. 28, 2015 gave his answers to 16 questions in the N.Y. Times regarding Climate Change. This Climate realist added his answer.

 Answers to Question 1: How much is the planet heating up?

Answers to Question 2. How much trouble are we in?

Justin Gillis answer to Question 3. Is there anything I can do?

Fly less, drive less, waste less.

You can reduce your own carbon footprint in lots of simple ways, and most of them will save you money. You can plug leaks in your home insulation to save power, install a smart thermostat, switch to more efficient light bulbs, turn off the lights in any room where you are not using them, drive fewer miles by consolidating trips or taking public transit, waste less food, and eat less meat.

Perhaps the biggest single thing individuals can do on their own is to take fewer airplane trips; just one or two fewer plane rides per year can save as much in emissions as all the other actions combined. If you want to be at the cutting edge, you can look at buying an electric or hybrid car, putting solar panels on your roof, or both.

If you want to offset your emissions, you can buy certificates, with the money going to projects that protect forests, capture greenhouse gases and so forth. Some airlines sell these to offset emissions from their flights, and after some scandals in the early days, they started to scrutinize the projects closely, so the offsets can now be bought in good conscience. You can also buy offset certificates in a private marketplace, from companies such as TerraPass in San Francisco that follow strict rules set up by the state of California; some people even give these as holiday gifts. Yet another way: In states that allow you to choose your own electricity supplier, you can often elect to buy green electricity; you pay slightly more, with the money going into a fund that helps finance projects like wind farms.

In the end, though, experts do not believe the needed transformation in the energy system can happen without strong state and national policies. So speaking up and exercising your rights as a citizen matters as much as anything else you can do.

My answer to Question 3. Is there anything I can do?

First let us look at the so called carbon footprint. These feet are from 2010.

I would like to acknowledge Stanford Kay Studio; a version of this graphic first appeared in Miller-McCune. Thank you, Stanford! Copyright Stanford Kay 2010. China has the largest carbon footprint in the world, followed by the United States, but when it comes to carbon footprint per capita Gibraltar is number one, followed by the U.S Virgin Island.  How can that be? Everything in Gibraltar must be imported, and nearly everything is imported to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The solution to lower the carbon footprint is to produce and buy local, and eat things produced in season.

Pipelines has less than half the carbon footprint of the same substance transported by rail.

Transport by rail has much smaller carbon footprint than transport by truck.

Electric cars make no sense as long as electricity is produced by fossil fuels. The extra energy consumed in manufacturing the batteries will never be repaid if transmission and conversion losses are taken into account.

Make food from scratch rather than eating processed food.

If possible plant a garden and eat fresh vegetables. Even a window pot with chives makes the sour cream tasty. A rosemary pot is wonderful. I could wax eloquent, but you get the point.

Don’t ever buy CFL light bulbs again, and don’t throw the old bulbs in the trash. Sometimes in the future we will have to mine the landfills.

A lot of stuff is flown in from abroad, very energy inefficient. Work to make it locally.

Answers to Question 4. What’s the optimistic scenario?

Answers to Question 5. Will reducing meat in my diet help the climate?

Answers to Question 6. What’s the worst-case scenario?

Answers to Question 7. Will a tech breakthrough help us?

Answers to Question 8. How much will the seas rise?

Answers to Question 9. Are the predictions reliable?

Answers to Question 10. Why do people question climate change?

Answers to Question 11. Is crazy weather tied to climate change?

Answers to Question 12. Will anyone benefit from global warming?

Answers to Question 13. Is there any reason for hope?

Answers to Question 14. How does agriculture affect climate change?

Answers to Question 15. Will the seas rise evenly across the planet?

Answers to Question 16. Is it really all about carbon?


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Retired engineer, graduated from Chalmers Technical University a long time ago with a degree in Technical Physics. Career in Aerospace, Analytical Chemistry, computer chip manufacturing and finally adjunct faculty at Pennsylvania State University, taught just one course in Computer Engineering, the Capstone Course.

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