Climate Change and Individual action.

Can individual/household curtailment of carbon emitting activities actually make any significant difference to projected climate change?
I see alot of products touting their green credentials in advertising and am curious whether it would make any real difference switching to green/sustainable consumption. Are developed economy levels of consumption really maintainable if they’re tweaked a little bit?

Well, the short answer to your question is yes.

The slightly longer rendition is that quite literally, every little bit counts for something. Slow change preceeds permanent change.

I happen to work in the Green Industry and can tell you without a shadow of doubt in my mind that the trickle down effect of you recycling or composting is making a difference. Will you get to take credit for some solid identifiable part when global warming appears to be reversing itself? Probably not. But your recycling along with 10,000,000 other recyclers in a region certainly can have a decent impact on the environment…a measurable one even.

I try to limit my carbon footprint by doing several things that I’ve simply adapted into the way I live. If you’d like to talk about those we can…

It’s too open-ended a question. Of course one person doesn’t make any difference whatsoever, but 10,000,000 one persons do. And the sum of all those little actions results in a significant amount of difference. Somewhere you may find a post where I revealed that the total US energy drain from set-top cable TV boxes was at least equal to an entire medium-sized coal power plant. Or a thread where I calculated the tons (or large fractions thereof) of CO2 per year I saved by installing a programmable thermostat.

Run the numbers yourself and see what it takes for several different scenarios.

I read often about there being an emerging consumer middle class in various developing countries who want cars, nintendo wiis, microwaves and the like. Small changes that 10,000,000 individuals make would be more than cancelled out by 100,000,000 or 1,000,000,000 people significantly increasing their consumption, would it not?

I’m not trying to argue that individuals shouldn’t do anything I just don’t know that “anything” is good enough if we’re serious about curtailing carbon emissions. There again I don’t know what would do any good.

FTR I don’t own a car, I’m a vegetarian. My main vice in relation to carbon would be several flights a year. This is largely because I am in a long distance relationship.


So maybe, because of you (and the other 10,000,000 like you who skimp) we break even on carbon output, instead of skyrocketing. It’s still not good, but it’s better than the alternative.

Sorry for the hijack, but I have to ask…

Back in the '80s our cable came out of the ground, came into the house, and went directly to the TVs. No box required. This was back in the days when you could fine-tune individual channels, and we could get HBO and Cinemax without a decoder box. When the signal was eventually encrypted I think a box was required. (But the encryption messed up the regular signal so they took the filter off.) When I moved to L.A. even basic cable required a box.

I think nowadays one can receive basic cable without a box, but I’m not sure. I think that if cable companies don’t provide that service, then it must be to stop people from pirating the signal without paying for it. (Hm. That sounded redundant.) But what about premium channels? Can cable companies provide signals, including premium channels and DVR and Internet access, without a box? How would that work? If it’s possible, it seems that cable companies would save money by not having to buy and repair boxes, and by not having so many trucks and people to install them. Consumers would save a tiny amount by not having to power them. (Of course any savings to the company would not be passed on to the consumer.) They might also save money if the government gave them tax breaks for being ‘green’.

Apparently China is now the number one emitter of CO2. Good luck convincing your average Chinese person to trade in his SUV for a Prius.

I went to an ‘Earth Day’ fair today.

I’m not even that ‘green’ myself, but what a depressing sight.

The PG&E truck had energy efficient things on display in a diesel-pusher RV. It had towed in a trailer with two tiny solar collectors and a wind generator on it… and nothing to call attention to any of it. The solar panels were pointing north, and the wind generator was locked down, even though it was windy enough to run it. They didn’t come to show that off. The diesel generator in the RV was running. They had ‘energy star’ appliances and rebate information. And an old guy was standing in the doorway complaining about how the lamp in his DLP TV burned out, and nobody ever told him that this would happen.

90% of the booths were just selling cheap trinkets or baubles (I can’t tell the difference) that will end up lining the landfills. Giving away leaflets and pamphlets that by in large won’t be recycled, either. Children’s activities, too.

There was an electrical contractor guy who had a solar display of sorts. Two tiny five watt trickle charge panels on a folding table, not connected to anything. When I asked why not a more elaborate display that actually DID something, he claimed this stuff was too expensive, and a kid almost wrecked a more elaborate display once. What a stunning testimonial. Not a marketing genius IMHO. Maybe bring a 100 watts of panels, a deep cycle battery, a charge controller, an inverter and 60 watts’ worth of load. An LCD TV and a DVD player playing something educational about renewable energy would do nicely. That’s less than a grand worth of things to show off, and would have had people TALKING about solar. Nope, instead sit on your hands all day complaining to anybody who asks about how unbearably expensive and fragile the things you’re trying to sell are.

I use solar. It rocks. You can’t expect the sun and moon of it, but if you have a well balanced capacity and load, it works well enough that you forget it’s even there.