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Stopping climate change in ten (not so) easy steps

I know I've said it before once or twice, but I don't believe in climate change. I don't disbelieve either. I just spend too much of day delving into the literature for what I'm actually supposed to be doing to want to come home and start looking through the peer-reviewed literature to find out whether scientists are genuinely seeing signs of climate change, and on what scale. And it doesn't matter how many journalists, politicians and other entertainers tell me that scientists say the debate is over and scientists all agree. I just don't know. However, in a nice "put up or shut up" moment, I'd like to remind my readers that there is still a comments section, and people are welcome to send links or references to peer-reviewed scientific literature in the comments section. I favour informed debate just so long as I don't have to do the research behind it...

But regardless of whether climate change is real or otherwise, I think cutting down on emissions of carbon dioxide is a good thing. So I thought I would give a couple of handy suggestions for people who are concerned.

Number one, don't go to any rallies or engage in any stunts aimed at "raising awareness". These are a waste of time, effort and hypothetical emissions quotas. Anyone who isn't aware now isn't going to turn around and say, "wow, a whole lotta people turned their lights off for an hour. Global warming is real, we gotta do somethink." Short term, easy fix, awareness-raising measures aren't worth the time it takes me to write this sentence.

Number two, give money to Al Gore. That's what he does, and it seems to make him the great green saviour. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, paying money to offset your emissions relies on a fair bit of false accounting. Paying money to yourself, moreso. Paying money to me on the other hand...

Number three, look at short term expenditure to cut down on long term consumption of gas, electricity and water. Insulate the house. Use low-energy light-bulbs. Use natural light. Buy a water tank. Buy a jumper - don't just wear shorts and a t-shirt in the house in the middle of winter. Install solar panels for hot water. Install solar panels for electricity generation. There are lots of little things you can do, most of which will save you money in the long run.

Number four, cut down on luxuries, waste and unnecessary consumption. Do you really need a fountain in the back yard? Do you need a TV screen that's so big you need to knock down a wall to get it in? Do you need fresh tomatoes flown half way round the world in the dead of winter?

Number five, buy local food, and in season. Besides generally being nicer, there's no particular reason why you need any given vegetable right through the year. Have it when it will grow, and have other stuff when it won't. This doesn't mean having lots of stuff from greenhouses though.

Number six, do some of the things in number three for someone else, particularly if they can't afford it. As long as you check with them first, I'm sure most people would be more than happy to have someone insulate their house or install solar panels for them. And it is far more effective than "offsetting". Rather than pay someone to not emit CO2 so that you can emit more, help them emit less and save money at the same time.

Number seven, eat more lamb. No, I know it won't actually help stop CO2 emissions, but I like lamb.

Number eight, move either your house or your job. No, it is not an easy option. But if you are able to stop commuting to work by car, you'll be a lot happier and a lot healthier. If you can walk rather than drive, you'll seriously cut down on emissions.

Number nine, stop smoking. Let me know if this needs explanation.

Number ten (credit where due, thanks to Joan for this one), switch your energy usage away from coal to more environmentally friendly solutions. Like nuclear fission (my addition).


Comment from Revi

7. In line with #5 you should only be eating local lamb and in season, or weren't you talking about fruit?

8. How does this work when both partners work in different cities?

10. Nuclear power is only environmentally friendly when carefully regulated and without critical mass.

I respond

7. Of course lamb must be eaten in season. The chop varieties in summer and the curry varieties in winter.

8. Hence the "move job". As I said, it isn't easy.

10. Looking at number of incidents, and even scale, I reckon, without having done any research whatsoever, that you'll find nuclear outdoing pretty much any other form of energy per kilowatt hour, particularly over the last 15-20 years.

Comment from Todd Fraser


A quick note on #7. While eating lamb won't reduce CO2 emmisions it will help reduce Methane emmissions (yes cows fart a lot) Methane is a much more effective greenhouse gas then CO2 anyway, so it will make a difference.

And yes good lamb is super tasty.

By the way does lamb ever go out of season?... I suppose lamb will but when the ewes aren't lambing we could always replace it with mutton.

Comment from gelfen

there's a lot of good reasons for doing those things that have nothing to do with "climate change", but a lot to do with saving money, good health and preserving finite natural resources. in my opinion, those issues are far more compelling.

I respond

I don't know whether those issues are more compelling. They are easier to prove. Given that a weather forecast for sun in a week isn't going to stop me bringing a raincoat, I'm loathe to instantly believe everything written about climate scientists' models on change or otherwise. There are other reasons why I won't be bringing an umbrella though.

Speaking of which, I welcome the announcement by Phillip Morris that they will soon start selling smoke-free cigarettes. I'm all for big, evil, multinational corporations using ideas from my site.

Comment from gelfen

i would say they are more compelling. if i choose not to drive to work and take the train, there are three immediately apparent benefits:

1. i save money on petrol, tolls and car wear and tear.

2. i get more exercise from the extra walking

3. i have more petrol for a time when i genuinely need it (this one perpetuates, since scale it conserves oil resources and allows more time for the development economically feasible of non-oil dependent personal transport).

for mine, these benefits outweigh the ill-defined consequences of a disputed theory which may or may not be (a) remotely accurate, or (b) truly detrimental.

I respond

Remember that it isn't an either/or for why you do something. If you have 3 good reasons for doing something, and 1 reason that may or may not be a good reason, that 4th reason doesn't diminish the other 3. Reasons for doing things are (weighted) additive, not averaging or even maximal.

Comment from gelfen

the fourth reason doesn't diminish the other three, but if given enough attention it can distract from them and be (mis)used to justify other actions which may or may not be beneficial.

i also noticed i should have better proof-read my last entry after fiddling around with it so much before posting.

I respond

Firstly, apologies for taking so long to post your comment. One day, I will make the system a little more automated, so that it doesn't wait on my getting around to it.

Secondly, it depends on whether the three good ones would get any attention otherwise. As an example, would I write about otherwise common-sense choices if climate change wasn't in the news?

Thirdly, I'd like to give a pretentious, self-hattip. I got in early with my cynical view. Even before I found out that people who jet-set kids from all parts of the world would be playing.

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