Global warming: the end of the beginning

The recent Paris accords on global warming marked a milestone: the end of the beginning. Finally most nations agreed that global warming is real, is man-made, and that they are responsible for doing something about it.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the pledges made to reduce greenhouse gases go only about half-way to solving the problem. Worse, their pledges are only to try to make things better. That is, fingers crossed behind their respective backs. Still,  they did undertake to provide an annual, transparent assessment of their individual progress toward reducing greenhouse gases. This way the slackers can allegedly suffer the disapprobation of the high achievers.

In short, although the various governments agree that something must be done, it seems clear that other types of organization have a lot of work to do if we are actually to keep atmospheric CO2 at, or below, the currently acceptable level of 450 parts per million and avoid crossing the 2 degree C barrier that gets us all into uncharted territory. We’re about half-way to that point already and the rate of warming is accelerating. For details, see Just Facts.

So time’s a-wastin’!

It seems that we can’t wait for governments to act, or to act soon enough. It’s down to business and individual efforts to come up with the innovations and/or life style changes necessary to meet the 2 degree goal. Starting today.

First the innovations. Carbon capture figures prominently as one of the methods to use fossil fuels while eliminating their global warming side effects. The captured carbon would either be pumped underground or used in industry in some non-warming way. The trouble with this approach is that currently it’s way too expensive to be practical. Like so many approaches, we might have to wait for more innovation or a change in the comparative price structure for it to be truly effective and widely adopted. So what about approaches that exist today and are low or no cost to the participants?

As an example, how about telecommuting? In the United States, transportation energy use accounts for about one-quarter of all energy use. Automobiles use about half of that or one-eighth of all energy use. Commuting accounts for about half of that. At least it did in 1973 when I first did the calculations. And transportation energy comes largely from oil! So one way of reducing the amount of  global warming gases is to reduce transportation and the use of oil in transportation. Telecommuting does just that. The more we telecommute — or telework over longer-than-commute distances — the more we avoid producing CO2. Not only do we save transportation costs but some of the side effects of teleworking — increased productivity and reduced demand for office space — actually increase profits.

So do your bit to help save the world! Increase your telecommuting!

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