Sunday, April 02, 2006

Raising the Median - Global Warming

For those who remain uncertain about global warming this news item just in: Canada shatters record for warmest winter ever recorded.

Canada shattered the record for the warmest winter ever, blowing away it away; its winter temperatures were some 7 degrees (Fahrenheit) above normal, and in the more northern parts of the country, it was closer to 12 degrees above normal. This is just as I have read since the mid-1980s, when the then feeble computers and climate science predicted that the far northern reaches of the planet would experience the most extreme shifts in weather.

I don't think I need to re-hash the debate from the fake science side, nor to get into a debate about other potential causes. Whatever might be contributing to the warming, it is occurring and we do know how to do something about it. We can have an influence on the rate of warming, at the very least, and at best, begin implementing long-term strategies aimed at reversing the damage.

Now, I know many of you are stock market aficionados, often with an interest in the underlying business fundamentals that makes picking stocks so interesting. I think that if many of you were looking at "The World, Inc.", what you'd see is a "deep value" investing situation. On the surface, there's lots of things wrong with the business - and perhaps it's on the verge of bankruptcy - but underneath, you believe that there's a very viable "turn-around" situation. However, an experienced turn-around CEO would probably be needed to review all the existing systems and to plan strategies for the survival of the business.

Environmentally, the litany of problems is well known, so I'll just focus on how some issues relating to global warming might be overcome.

Firstly, let's face it, national governments haven't shown much stomach for implementing some of the necessary remedies. Some of these would include national mass transit systems, city-to-city, that make rapid transit alternatives like bullet trains a real alternative to ozone-destroying and massive-polluting airplanes. I mean if people must commute back and forth between cities for business, let's build some environmentally-friendlier ways. Others would include very high standards for vehicle gas mileage, and national solutions for drastic reductions in global warming gases of all sorts.

But I digress. My focus is much more what can be done on the local (city) level and the state/provincial level. Here, taxes of all sorts could act as a disincentive to single-occupant vehicles and particularly the larger vehicles that produce 2-5 times as much warming gases as smaller efficient vehicles. The taxes could then be used to build out great transport systems, that could act as a real, viable, convenient, alternative to the single-occupant car.

Next, what about all our buildings? Of course, there's the usual array of energy-saving devices that could be outfitted - yes, some are more costly initially, but we need to think long-term here. Mandating a certain level of energy-efficiency in every new building on a local building code level - and backing it up with mandatory testing - could go a long way to producing a lower level of energy use.

And what about all the wasted space of building walls and roofs? How about mandating on a local building code level, that every building is required to produce 20, 30, 40, or even 50% of its own power usage, on site? This means making all those spaces more functional, equipping them with solar panels, mini-windmills, or other energy-creating devices - perhaps some yet to be invented. And of course the state governments would mandate that the surplus power created could be sold back "into the grid", thus further helping reduce other fossil-fuel use.

How about mandatory geo-thermal heating for all new buildings, which cuts heating costs in cold climates, and air-conditioning costs (and the associated global-warming gases too) in hot areas?

How about further mandating green roof systems in local building codes, where those systems make sense?

If we don't start acting very, very, very soon, the price will be too high - warm winters in Canada, and more of these things cleansing the Gulf Coast and Eastern US Seaboard of humanity and habitable areas ...

More resources: I highly recommend that you check out the following sites for practical ideas ...

  1. The respected Rocky Mountain Institute founded by Amory Lovins (full of practical ways to better respect the earth's capacity); and
  2. Greenpeace's climate change pages
In short, there's a whole lot that could be done, immediately, on local and state levels, without waiting for the inertia of national politics to be overcome by perennial disastrous occurrences.

As one final comment, we - as a society of peoples - need to recognize the reality of the last 100 years. That is, that we are more like the world's largest colony of ants and take advantage of that fact, rather than act like we're all single solitary foraging bears - the way we've built-out a lot of our systems to date.

Environmentalists - Raising the Sustainability Median!


The Confused Capitalist

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