What is the best way to dramatically lessen greenhouse gas emissions?

One of the main things which has made me, and I’m sure many other people nervous about accepting Anthropogenic Global Warming, is the consequences. It seems like this is an extremist environmentalist’s dream now because there is and will continue to be more and more pressure to dramatically transform society.

AGW advocates discuss how mankind has to change to a more local method of agriculture, and end suburban living as well as other drastic changes.

I’ve read the data on Global Warming and accepted that indeed it is happening. That debate still occurs a lot on the dope, but I’d like to hear about what the best answer to reducing greenhouse emissions will be. If we could reduce emissions by 90%, how would we do it, and how many degrees would we save in the long run. Will a longer period of still having some emissions kill us as surely as a shorter period of concentrated emissions?

My long term plan focuses on the fact that political realities will make it very hard for people to accept mass restructuring of society. In order to make new solutions to energy independence and alternative energy storage and production possible, I would support assessing an increasing tax on activities and commodities that lead to CO2 emissions.

Vehicles could be inspected for emissions quality like they already are in many states, and then taxes based on emissions. Companies could be also taxed on that basis. The idea would be to have a sufficient tax to push towards changes, with all revenues from the tax going into research and development of alternative technologies.

The tax could be based on estimated annual pound of CO2 or any other measurement and could be assessed incrementally starting at a low level and increasing after a certain number of years. But unfortunately that also is a proposal that would be very hard to bring up, however with a democratic president and congress, it may be possible.

However that might not lead to a quick enough reduction in emissions. What is your plan and how quickly do emissions need to be reduced to preserve quality of life.

Since the construction industry’s in the crapper, it seems to me that a “New Deal”-type program to retrofit old buildings would be a win-win.

Also there should be much more stringent energy codes for new construction.

Also (tip o’ the hat to Jimmy Carter), it would make a big difference if we culturally decided to address indoor comfort differently (as they have in other countries).

Just to show how not up-to-speed I am here, how does mankind’s contribution to greenhouse gases compare to, say, volcanic activity? According to the USGS, Mt. St. Helens has released millions of tons of sulfur into the atmosphere over the past 20 years.

A report I read back when Mt. Pinatubo went up said that mankind’s addition to the mix was a drop in the bucket as far as any decent volcano was concerned.

Mankind’s contributions are far more than volcanoes. This has been studied:

I’ve wondered whether requiring all new autos to be 100% electric would help all that much. It seems that doing so would do as much for lowering GH gasses as it would for fuel savings.

Who do you mean by “we”? Americans? Westerners? The entire world?

I think a cap-and-trade policy is an excellent idea that is supported, at least nominally, by both US Presidential candidates.

You can read about it here, here, and here.

In short, if we are going to have any government program at all, this is likely to be the most efficient. There are two major alternatives: a carbon tax and mandated technology. The latter is an extremely inefficient option. So most of the debate centers over tax vs. cap-and-trade. Both have their advantages. I prefer cap-and-trade because I don’t think governments are very good at setting tax rates at the ideal level and because it is more politically feasible.

Some of my California-based tree-hugging friends had a couple ideas on this that are not particularly practical, but would fit the bill, then.

  1. Ban private ownership of cars. Make everybody take the bus, train, taxicabs, walk, or ride a bicycle. We’d be healthier, too.

  2. Make everybody ride motorcycles for a month, 1/12th of the population at a time. We’d burn a lot less fossil fuel for that year, there’d be lots more parking, and we’d kill off a lot of stupid people (i.e., people who chose to ride the bike rather than take a bus…).

This couldn’t happen in practice but theoretically…

Ban all trade with nations that aren’t doing enough(Or even anything)to seriously restrict all forms of environmental(Not just G.W)pollution whether as a side product of industry,farming or even just consumerism.

Apply this to EVERYBODY,Russia,China,India etc. and accept no sob stories from the third world.

Then they either buy their own crap themselves,clean up their act or the polluting businesses go OUT of business because theres not enough market to sustain them.

And while I’m at it if only everyone loved each other and we had world peace and I could get off with Jennifer Anniston…

Political feasability is always a valid point. I prefer a carbon tax because it seems to me a much less game-able system.

How so?

Reducing your energy use is the best way. Change your lightbulbs to CFL, buy energy efficient appliances, buy ceiling fans and reduce the use of your air conditioning, use more natural light if possible, seal outlets and windows and other places that rob your home of energy.

This would be a great step to the ultimate solution of halting manmade global warming. That is, by killing of man. We could make it a law that everyone has to drive crotch rockets and drive like frat boys without helmets on.

If you want a dramatic solution to dramatically lesson greenhouse gas emissions, I can offer a way to eliminate it overnight. (or at least by the end of a year)

Basically, each human on the planet accumulates a certain amount of carbon tallies based on their activities in the course of a year and are responsible for paying off this carbon debt at year’s end. Using electricity from the grid, buying gasoline for your car, or taking a flight on an airplane would increase your carbon tally. When you make purchases, there’s a line under the sales tax that indicates carbon tally.

At year’s end, if you cannot pay your carbon debt, you are put to death. Hope you had a Merry Christmas. It is recommended you accumulate twice the carbon credits needed in the first year to keep a safety buffer in place, if you value your life.

For example, suppose I am a regular American, and I value my life, so I put in solar panels on my rooftop, energy efficient bulbs and appliances, and drive an energy efficient car or moped. At year’s end, I may owe 3 tons of carbon. So, I gather up accumulated grass clippings and leaves from my lawn, and maybe some tree branches that were trimmed. I take these to a drop-off site, where they’re sealed in an underground hole, thereby sequestering an equivalent 3 tons of carbon. Done!

If I was a more wasteful american, I’d have to come up with 20 tons of carbon. This may require chopping down a small tree in my backyard and planting a new one to take its place.

Make the price of fuel and energy reflect real world costs in terms of pollution and global warming. I think this will drive innovation and also allow people to make their own choices on energy usage and driving styles…instead of trying to dictate these things by government fiat.

Continue to educate the public on the impacts of our energy use, by all means…but I think innovation comes not by the government TELLING us what to do, but by making the costs of our energy and fuel use reflect real world costs and then having people drive the market for solutions. When gas prices soared (in the US) there were drives for more fuel efficient cars…which drove the auto manufacturers to bring out new lines of hybrids as well as push research about several alternatives. If energy costs to the home were higher as well (due to reflecting their real world costs) and if fuel prices stayed high (same) then I think you’d see people voluntarily changing their lifestyles and driving habits, voluntarily adopting energy saving measures around their houses (better insulation, disconnecting vampire appliances, more energy efficient appliances, etc etc).

-XT

Go float this idea in the various tax threads going on. You will be told that these taxes will hit the poorest among us the hardest, for myriad of reasons. You’ll be told that rich should have to pay more as they can afford it. After all, if a rich guy can afford a 2007 Toyota that puts out half the emissions that the 1987 Toyota owned by the poor guy does, he should pay twice as much tax because it wont hurt as much.

Precisely. The question is how, right?

You would allow carryover? Why do you hate the planet?

I think on a governmental level, the main thing that needs to be done is the implementation of a cap-and-trade system (or maybe a carbon tax?)…I.e., the market externality needs to be corrected so that the market can work to develop and bring to market the innovation that we need to transition away from a carbon-intensive economy. Some government investment in this regard could also be good…but I agree with those who say that the government should not for the most part picking the technologies…The government should be mandating results and let the market decide the best technologies to achieve those results.

In terms of what technologies will actually get us there, there is no one magic bullet but here is an article that explains how, by adopting a whole host of currently available technologies, we can get there: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/sci;305/5686/968 Of course, eventually the development of new technologies may make use of some of these currently available ones less desirable.

Whack-a-Mole already addressed the contribution of volcanoes to CO2 relative to man. It is true that volcanoes put a fair amount of sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere…and big enough eruptions like Mt Pinatubo can inject them high enough that they get into the stratosphere where they hang around for months to a few years. However, these cause a cooling effect not a warming effect. In fact, the warming that occurred in the first half of the 20th century (from roughly 1910 to 1940) is believed to be due in some part to a lack of major volcanic eruptions. Here is a simple model that demonstrates how this volcanic lull coupled with the greenhouse gas forcings can do a pretty good job explaining the 20th century temperature trend. (Of course, this doesn’t prove that these are the only two major factors that were involved in the actual trend…and indeed there are presumably also contributions from changes in solar irradiance and from manmade sulfate aerosol pollutants.)

implement a cap and trade system for offspring.

A couple who wants to have 2 children is doubling their carbon footprint, therefore prior to being allowed to procreate they have to cut their footprint in half or buy credits from a childless couple, or from 2 single child couples.