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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 3:21 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
Posts: 1323
Savarel wrote:
A concerted effort by our government leaders could begin to mitigate future damages. This is a worldwide problem and not something any one munincipality or even nation can solve.


But it's also a problem that every one of us can contribute toward solving through our daily actions and decisions.

It's like voting: one person doesn't make a difference. If everyone felt that they couldn't make a difference, nobody would vote.

In fact lots of individuals and municipalities around the world are taking action to reduce their emissions. Together they're having an effect. It's not as big an effect as what you'd get if there were world leadership on this, but it is definitely having an impact: emissions are lower than they would be under business as usual.

Shifting to a low-carbon economy is going to take decades and require enormous shifts in infrastructure. There's no point in sitting around and waiting for that to happen.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 4:02 pm 
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brad wrote:
Even though I agree with you, and I think we all should conserve, I think doing so is more complicated than it sounds:

1. EPA's Energy Star program saves Americans $18 billion/year on their energy bills, which is something like twice EPA's entire operating budget. What's not to love about that?

That's probably true but it also depends on how "savings" is measured. As mentioned in a previous thread, the energy star program encourages buying larger appliances. Sure, if one reads the fine print and delves into the math, it is obvious. But I think the average consumer looks for the biggest numbers (savings, star rating) and buy's accordingly. So they end up with a 25 cu ft refrigerator that that uses more energy than a 19 cu ft unit they could have bought. Then the EPA measures the savings on the 25 cu ft with ES vs without. Everyone is happy and pats themselves on the back while more CO2 gets pumped to operate the bigger unit. ES is not a bad program and EPA is not a bad agency. But I'm not convinced the numbers are as they seem.

2. There is no doubt that riding a bike to work saves energy and improves health. There is nothing wrong with that. But it's not practical for everyone. And, why the heck do Prii have air conditioning?

I personally think that approaching things from the consumer side will never be effective unless we do it with dramatically higher prices, which I'm not in favor of.

I think what we need to do is attack the problem on a grand scale. We need to develop sustainable energy production that does not require using up nonrenewable resources. Solar and wind are great but they'll never get us where we need to be in the long run. We can't build fast enough to get ahead of the curve. Nuclear is an option only if we can build plants very fast. We need something that can be done at truly large scale.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 4:55 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
Posts: 1323
DoingHomework wrote:
As mentioned in a previous thread, the energy star program encourages buying larger appliances.


I'd love to see the evidence of that. I work with one of the co-founders of the Energy Star program and have been buying Energy Star equipment and appliances ever since the label was launched; I've never heard of this before. My Energy Star washer and fridge and dishwasher are no larger than standard models, they just consume less energy. There's no incentive to buy a "larger" fridge or clothes washer because you know it'll use less energy.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 5:28 pm 
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brad wrote:
DoingHomework wrote:
As mentioned in a previous thread, the energy star program encourages buying larger appliances.


I'd love to see the evidence of that. I work with one of the co-founders of the Energy Star program and have been buying Energy Star equipment and appliances ever since the label was launched; I've never heard of this before. My Energy Star washer and fridge and dishwasher are no larger than standard models, they just consume less energy. There's no incentive to buy a "larger" fridge or clothes washer because you know it'll use less energy.


Th evidence is in the calculation methods published on the program's own website. The ES rating essentially requires a certain % reduction in energy consumption adjusted for size. So, with refrigerators for example, the size use is volume, which scales as the cube of a length dimension while heat transfer depends on the square of the length dimension. The result is that, for a given size the ES reading is meaningful. But a larger unit can waste more energy for the same rating. If you dig into the actual standards documents its not hard to find that.

Now, that by itself does not make it a bad program. In fact, I think it is a good program. But if you go look at actual refrigerators you would be led to believe by the ratings that larger units are better when in reality they use more energy.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:58 pm 

Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2011 6:33 pm
Posts: 1132
Location: Illinois
Savarel wrote:
Anyone who claims that humans are not influencing the planetary climate is an idiot, its simply a matter of degree and how to mitigate any damages.

Starting your argument by stating anyone that disagrees with you is an idiot really isn't very persuasive nor conducive to civilized dialogue.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 2:26 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
Posts: 1323
DoingHomework wrote:
The result is that, for a given size the ES reading is meaningful. But a larger unit can waste more energy for the same rating.


Yes, but this is exactly how Energy Star is designed to work: it identifies the most energy-efficient models in every size class. It's not designed to identify the most energy-efficient model overall. That's what the EnerGuide label is designed to do.

The Energy Star label is designed to be a blunt instrument that simply identifies models that consume less energy than a specified threshold. It doesn't distinguish between models that consume way less versus those that consume just a little less. The EnerGuide label lets you sort all that out, but comparing EnerGuide labels across multiple models takes time, and most people won't take that time. The Energy Star label makes it easy, it's like a "made in the USA label" on clothing or a "Marine Stewardship Council" label on seafood. The people who developed Energy Star spent months talking with store salespeople and consumers to understand purchasing behavior, and concluded that a simple label would be most effective. The EnerGuide label provides a lot more information but as simple as it is, it's still overwhelming to most consumers and there's no practical way to know which model is most efficient without spending an hour walking around the showroom floor comparing EnerGuide labels. People don't have that kind of time.

If you're shopping for a big refrigerator but you want one that'll save you energy compared with other big refrigerators, you just look for the models with the Energy Star sticker. If you're shopping for the most energy-efficient refrigerator you can buy, you look at the EnerGuide label (which is available for all appliances regardless of whether they're Energy Star or not) to see how much electricity the unit consumes over the course of a year.

Energy Star recognizes that the vast majority of consumers don't go out shopping for "an energy efficient refrigerator." They go out shopping for a refrigerator that's big enough for their family, and that provides all the features they're looking for (ice and cold water dispensor, etc.). The Energy Star label just helps people find the more energy-efficient products in the size class that they've already decided they want. Again, there's no sacrifice involved: Energy Star isn't telling you that you should buy a smaller refrigerator if you want to be "green." It recognizes that we all face different realities and constraints. It just says "if you have to buy a huge refrigerator, you can save money over the life of the product by buying one with our label."

As for why the Prius comes with an air conditioner, that again is a demonstration that energy efficiency is not about sacrifice. If you sell a super-green car with no air conditioner but nobody buys it because it doesn't have an air conditioner, what's the point? To make energy-saving attractive, you want to show that energy efficiency can involve getting the SAME experience with LESS energy.

Energy conservation requires sacrifice: you turn down the thermostat in winter, put on a sweater, and shiver. Energy efficiency requires no sacrifice: you keep the thermostat set where you've always set it, but you use less energy because you've added insulation and energy-efficient windows to your home. There's an up-front expense but it's paid back quickly in energy savings. The paybacks are so well documented that there are companies that will actually perform energy efficiency upgrades to your home or business for free, and then you pay them back out of your energy savings.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:19 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
Posts: 1323
DoingHomework wrote:
I think what we need to do is attack the problem on a grand scale. We need to develop sustainable energy production that does not require using up nonrenewable resources.


I agree, but it's not an either/or decision: you can attack it from the bottom up while working on a long-term top-down transformation.

If you're getting ready to go on a backpacking trip tomorrow morning and you're trying to figure out how to reduce the weight of your pack, you don't start by trying to design a lighter camp stove. You start by taking the labels off the teabags.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 7:47 am 

Joined: Fri May 04, 2012 2:23 pm
Posts: 810
brad wrote:
Bichon Frise wrote:
What modern convenience are you willing to give up to save mother earth? Most blab on about solar/wind energy but never give me a straight answer. I want action today! Most will not offer up a sacrifice and mumble that they are only a drop in the bucket. They only wish others to sacrifice.


"Sacrifice" is the wrong way of looking at it. I've spent years reducing my greenhouse gas emissions to where our emissions are about 80% below those of the average U.S. household, but I've never really made any sacrifices that I can think of. I'm cheating because I happen to live in Québec, where almost all our electricity comes from hydropower, which doesn't produce greenhouse gases, but I used to live in places where my electricity use did contribute to climate change, and I was able to reduce my emissions with no real pain and some financial benefit.

Forget renewable energy for now, you can get a long way toward reducing your emissions just by following the points below:

The keys are:

1. Improve energy efficiency in your home and office. As Amory Lovins says, energy efficiency is not only a free lunch, it's a lunch you're paid to eat. There are very few energy efficiency improvements you can make that will not pay for themselves in a few years or less, and after that it's all profit. Lawrence Berkeley Lab even did a comparison years ago of investments in energy efficiency and investments in the stock market, and ROI of energy efficiency improvements beat the market indexes in most cases. EPA's Energy Star program saves Americans $18 billion/year on their energy bills, which is something like twice EPA's entire operating budget. What's not to love about that?

If you rent and don't own your home, you can still save. I got my electric bill down to $35/month while living in rented apartments and cottages in New England, one of the regions in North America with the highest electricity prices (well, nothing like Hawaii, but still).

There are zillions of websites telling you how to improve energy efficiency in your home or office. Google is your friend. You can start here: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/.

2. Transportation: You don't need a Prius to save the world, but it helps to think long and hard about how much car you really need, and whether you even need a car in some cases. My Toyota Matrix is 8 years old and only has 45,000 miles on it. I used to drive that much every two years. Now I take public transport or ride my bike. No sacrifice, and in many cases fewer headaches (it can take 20 minutes just to find a parking place in my city) and better health (biking is good exercise).

3. Waste: Recycling is all well and good, but the biggest benefits come from source reduction (reduced packaging, not buying stuff you don't need) and reuse. All the benefits of "frugality" apply here, and don't necessarily involve sacrifice unless you see frugality as a sacrifice in itself.


I think these are some good ideas for small scale starter conservation. If people realized leaving their computer on or leaving the printer plugged in drains energy, they may change their behavior.

But the micro scale needs to go beyond crushing a few cans, buying an appliance with an energy star rating and planting a garden. The alter of environmentalism requires more. Give up the vehicle, give up the air conditioning, give up the yard with green grass, give up the multiple room home/apartment. Show us the way to the promised land.

The slothful scientist servants neither work hard nor efficient enough to please the almighty mother herself. Mush, Mush you indolent fools! For it is you that must save us! I cannot be bothered to unplug my modern contraptions nor go a summer without air conditioning nor take public transport. You should raise up the technology to make me feel green. I shall reduce your food rations until I feel a slight tint of green.

An so it goes...

_________________
Bichon Frise

"If you only have 1 year to live, move to Penn...as it will seem like an eternity."


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 7:55 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
Posts: 1323
Bichon Frise wrote:
The alter of environmentalism requires more. Give up the vehicle, give up the air conditioning, give up the yard with green grass, give up the multiple room home/apartment. Show us the way to the promised land.


Yeah, well, there is the point that if everyone in the world lived as we do we'd all be dead in a New York minute because the planet can't support 7 billion folks living American lifestyles.

But I'm a technological optimist even if I'm pessimistic about our long-term prospects. We don't have to change our lifestyles if we switch to sustainable energy sources and switch to equipment that uses less energy, produces less waste, etc. I'm just not optimistic we can pull it all off quickly enough, nor am I optimistic that we'll find leaders willing to make it happen. But I think it's possible.

Remember, take the labels off the teabags. It's not the ultimate solution, but it's a start.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 8:58 am 
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brad wrote:
Yeah, well, there is the point that if everyone in the world lived as we do we'd all be dead in a New York minute because the planet can't support 7 billion folks living American lifestyles.

But I'm a technological optimist even if I'm pessimistic about our long-term prospects. We don't have to change our lifestyles if we switch to sustainable energy sources and switch to equipment that uses less energy, produces less waste, etc. I'm just not optimistic we can pull it all off quickly enough, nor am I optimistic that we'll find leaders willing to make it happen. But I think it's possible.


I'll turn off my computer and printer when the manufacturers make it so that it starts up quickly when I need to use it! (Yeah I know macs do that). But, it's a point that applies in many areas. Consumers do what is easy. No regulation or grassroots effort will change that in any meaningful way. So any solution must make it easy. If it's easier to shut down the computer than leave it on, people will shut it down. No one leaves their TV on all the time because it's easy to turn off and it comes right back up when you want it to.

Public transportation is a great and efficient idea in areas of high population density. I love it in Europe. But where I live it would take me 2 hours to get to work vs 7 minutes to drive. So what are we doing? We're spending $200 million of YOUR tax dollars to build a light rail that goes 2 miles between two points that no one actually travels between now. And there are lots of idiots who think that somehow this is going to save energy.

And many environmentalists get way too bogged down in idealism and ignore that pragmatic solutions. Solar sounds great, but very simple math leads to the conclusion that it will never be anything but a marginal solution. Energy production is limited by available area and insolation. Efficiency is limited by Carnot considerations. A couple of taps on the calculator tell you the rest. Would I put solar panels on my home? Sure, if they were cheap enough. But they will never be the solution for the grand problem. Yet we have coal, natural gas, and methane hydrates that can last centuries. If we focus our efforts on cheap extraction and efficient burning of those fuels we're far more likely to come up with a viable long term solution. But environmentalists tune out as soon as they hear the words "extraction" (think mining) and "burning."

So, we're stuck!


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 9:30 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
Posts: 1323
DoingHomework wrote:
Consumers do what is easy. No regulation or grassroots effort will change that in any meaningful way. So any solution must make it easy.


I would add that any solution must also be "invisible," in the sense that consumers don't even notice the change. Dishwashers, refrigerators, and clothes washers today are much more energy-efficient than they were 15 years ago, but do you even notice that when you buy one? No, because those improvements were required by new energy standards set by DOE. And DOE strengthens the standards periodically. We're all improving our energy efficiency without even being aware of it.

DoingHomework wrote:
Public transportation is a great and efficient idea in areas of high population density. I love it in Europe. But where I live it would take me 2 hours to get to work vs 7 minutes to drive.


But you're not really the problem. Starting in 2008, more than half of the world’s population was living in towns and cities. By 2030 this number is projected to climb to almost 5 billion, concentrated in Africa and Asia. Providing low-impact transport for those people is where the big opportunities for sustainability lie.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:05 am 

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I think DH and Brad highlight my point that we all want today's modern conveniences, but with a green feeling. Very few are willing to make changes which matter. Myself included. Sure, I ride a bicycle everyday, my water consumption is a fraction of the houses in my neighborhood, I recycle, etc But I am not willing to turn off the AC, or getting rid of my car, turning off the computer every night, unplugging appliances which aren't being used, installing solar panels etc. Most of the things we do to conserve energy/reduce waste is either driven by monetary reasons and/or our own pleasure. Doing good for the environment is almost always a tertiary reason.

As my crotch gets increasingly sore straddling the fence on the issue of human induced climate change and remain somewhat skeptical, it is interesting to note that in typical American brat-like style, we all want to in some degree be green, but there is very little action.

_________________
Bichon Frise

"If you only have 1 year to live, move to Penn...as it will seem like an eternity."


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:31 am 
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And when your crotch gets sore enough you'll get off the fence. But I think I know which side you'll end up on...


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:33 am 

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Bichon Frise wrote:
I think DH and Brad highlight my point that we all want today's modern conveniences, but with a green feeling. Very few are willing to make changes which matter.


But I don't think you're getting it. You cannot live, even in the most eco-harmonious way imaginable, without having an impact on the environment. The only way to eliminate your impact is to commit suicide. Short of that, the best you can do is reduce your impact. You seem to assume that being "green" involves ditching all modern conveniences and luxuries. But you're just defining "reduce my impact" at an arbitrary, exaggerated level to support your contention that nobody really cares about the environment.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:51 am 

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Location: Ottawa, Canada
brad wrote:
You cannot live, even in the most eco-harmonious way imaginable, without having an impact on the environment.


Obviously, by existing, you are impacting your surroundings. But are you saying that that impact is, by assumption, negative? Couldn't someone's impact on the environment be positive? Isn't it possible for a person to exist and leave the environment in better condition than before they existed?

Every living thing impacts the environment. For the millions of years before humans showed up, were all those animals all "negatively impacting" the environment? Was the environment perfect before mammals arrived, and ever since then, has it been slowly degrading (rapidly accelerating after humans showed up)?

I think it's possible for living things to live in symbiosis with the environment. We consume things that were going to rot and spoil arable land. Our waste nourishes other living organisms. We take excess oxygen out of the air and exhale carbon dioxide that plants need to live.

The problem is simply that there are far too many of us.


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