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March 01, 2007

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Unless they are implemented under a cap-and-trade system, these sorts of environmental efforts are plagued by something called the rebound effect, which is to say that using more efficient technologies causes the price to fall, which causes people to use more of the carbon-emitting substances in question.

And this has happened in the U.S. exactly when?

And this has happened in the U.S. exactly when?

What has happened? A cap-and-trade system (which I advocate) or a non cap-and-trade system?

Anything that supports that contention. After looking at Cowen's post, who posts about his rebound effect economic model, complete with bad assumptions (as pointed out in the comments), and no actual mathematics, an actual instance of the rebound effect would be nice.

Gotcha, Tim. I'll note that my endorsement of Cowen's post is in the sense that he correctly identifies a theoretical problem with a non-cap carbon-offset program that, as he himself concedes, will occur only in certain circumstances. Economic theories are generally trustworthy, but actual evidence is also required before a firm conclusion is drawn.

The answer to the question about Reynolds is that hhe has not interested in solving problems, only in obstructing the solving of problems.

The Economist is different. I'm prepared to assume that their writers are well informed annd have done their homework. It is so important to have a discussion about what to do, and so imperative that the discussion be free of the spitefulness and kneejerk obstructionism of the right wing.

Reynolds himself seems halfway to mental breakdown. They way thhe MSM still allows itself to be played by the Noise Machinne is more dangerous to us than any individual saboteur like Reynolds.

I'd like to know how to reduce my footprint. Paul and I are doinng the obvious things: good insulation, the next car will be a hybrid. We can't have solar panels here unless we cut down a lot of trees.

So. Reynolds is in favor of an energy-consumption cap? Duly noted.

This faux flap is absolutely infuriating to me. The people making the loudest noise about Gore's carbon offsets are largely the same people who've been disputing evidence for anthropogenic climate change in the first place. They've whined and resisted change for years, and now they have the golden-plated nerve to complain that Gore's personal attempts to encourage one imperfect, gradualist solution (among other, better solutions!) are insufficiently sweeping.

This is another version of "if you really were against this war, you'd defund it entirely and leave the troops to swim home under machine gun fire!" Ridiculous.

Cowen's post is hardly an endorsement of Reynolds' position. Cowen makes two points: that the effect is ambiguous and it's hard to say how it nets out as a matter of theory; and that even things that have a rebound effect in the short term might be very beneficial longer term.

This is another version of "if you really were against this war, you'd defund it entirely and leave the troops to swim home under machine gun fire!"

It reminds me more of "if you think this war is so unjust, you should have volunteered to go to Baghdad and serve as a human shield for Saddam." But yeah, same rhetorical gimmick either way.

This is a good illustration of why Gore doesn't seem to want to run for President. The right wing already has this reflexive urge to oppose and mock anything he does, which stops us from having a real dialogue. If he ran for President, the need to vigorously oppose anything and everything relating to solving climate change would be that much greater, because they can't possibly be seen to agree with anything Al Gore says.

I'm grateful to von for cutting through all the partisan BS to give us some genuinely useful information. I suspect, though, that we're not really the audience which needs to be sold.

"The Economist is different. I'm prepared to assume that their writers are well informed annd have done their homework."

Wouldn't count on it. Megan McArdle is an editor there, and, in my experience, she's been thick as p*g*sh*t on climate change and CO2 mitigation.

It's sister publication, the Financial Times, is much, much more on top of the issue.

Thanks for keeping the discussion honest, von.

"wouldn't it make sense to point out that a true carbon-offset program (one that Gore isn't doing) would be effective? Indeed, a legitimate carbon-offset program -- a cap and trade system "

Isn't Gore advocating a cap-and-trade system? And in the absence of a cap-and-trade system in the US, what's he supposed to do?

Also, the significant item here is overall CO2 emissions per capita. As we don't know, and aren't going to know, how many people live and work in the Gore household (the Secret Service is touchy about that), we don't know whether or not Gore's house on a per-capita basis is an energy hog or not. But I'd bet it's more than 20.

Also, Gore's air travel is probably the major source of his CO2 emissions. I take two transatlantic trips per year, and that's 50% of my carbon emissions. And he offsets that travel.

Also, I'll note the lack of outrage about revealing details on Gore's house from folks who thought the NY Times talking about Cheney's house was treasonous breach of security.

And in the absence of a cap-and-trade system in the US, what's he supposed to do?

Maybe he'd have to actually cut back on consumption.

But that would suck, probably.

And in the absence of a cap-and-trade system in the US, what's he supposed to do?

Run for President. Win - again. This time, actually take office, forewarned against the Republican dirty tricks. Set up a cap-and-trade system in the US.

Seriously. I can't see a flaw in that. Aside from the problem of actually persuading him to run.

Well, it'd probably be hard to do while remaining an effective public advocate for his causes (travel, and employees, and maintaining office space all imply carbon emissions, but are all necessary to be an effective public figure). It's like blaming a rich guy for advocating for poverty-related causes rather than just giving all his money away -- the political leverage he gets from being rich probably allows him to do more to alleviate poverty than giving his money away would.

But that would suck, probably.

Gore is expressly refraining from urging people to make lifestyle changes that they would find unacceptable, because the ultimate solution has to be political, anyway.

There's very little point in making a grand gesture if you're not even asking people to make that grand gesture for themselves. It certainly doesn't make him much of a hypocrite.

Gore is expressly refraining from urging people to make lifestyle changes that they would find unacceptable, because the ultimate solution has to be political, anyway.

Therefore devoid of unacceptable lifestyle changes?

Boy, are you in for a surprise.

Really, this is more about humor than anything else. It's slightly reminiscent of the uproar over William Bennet's gambling debts, for me.

That aside, I'd like an explanation of how carbon offsets, as purchased by Gore, actually offset anything.

You could look it up.

There are several useful sites.

Even a directory of ecobusiness links.

And if you looked it up, you could then have the fun of saying "I wondered how this worked, so I looked it up! Now I understand it, and I'm going to explain it to you guys!"

Bah. I apoligize. I have been dealing sweetly with people who wanted me to supply them with information they didn't want to google for all day long without once saying GTFI! but truly, Slarti: google carbon offsets and you'll find more interesting information than you can shake a stick at. Or click on one of the links provided.

Is it even true that Gore uses so much more carbon than he ought to? My understanding was that his house uses the level of carbon it does because he and a whole lot of other people work there. If that's the case, then surely you have to break down the energy usage on a per-person and per-hour-of-occupancy basis. If you spend half of each day in an office building, then your home electric bills don't accurately measure how much energy you're using.

Slartibartfast: Maybe he'd have to actually cut back on consumption.

1) Hasn't he?

2) Isn't this still subject to the rebound effect? That's why the solution has to be political, right?

I work from home. When I do drive, I drive a hybrid car. I use CF bulbs where I can in my home. This reduces my carbon footprint somewhat. But these behaviors also drive the price of energy down, making it easier for price-driven consumers to consume more. That's the idea behind the rebound effect, right?

None of this is to say that it is foolish to do these things, but there is only so much that can be done without collective action.

Isn't this still subject to the rebound effect? That's why the solution has to be political, right?

Not necessarily. This rebound effect business seems a little shaky to me. It looks like it would only apply under some moderately restrictive conditions. Until I see more than I've seen about it I tend to think that while it's legitimate in some circumstances, there is probably less there than the Gore-a-phobes would like.

making a quick appearance... an evil and ignorant far-right winger like myself has replaced ALL bulbs inside and outside my house with CFL bulbs.

This includes scaling a 24 foot ladder in order to replace 6 of them on the outside of my house.

As hard as I try, I find myself leaving them on longer than I would if I hadn't replaced them.

Don't get me wrong, I am glad I did. I "know" they are providing more light at a cheaper cost.

But, this is such a human thing to do. I have really tried to make a concerted effort not to leave them on longer becasue I know that they use less energy. But it is more difficult than one would think.

And Jes, can't we move beyond the AGW debate. These guys are shooting blanks. Their estimated highs have decreased by 30% in 5 years. Man-made CO2 is only 0.002% of our atmosphere. Increases in CO2 don't typically proceed increases in temperature. Most of the time it is the opposite. Temp increases preceed CO2 increases. Can't we just change the discussion and focus on energy effciency and reduction of pollution?

It's ashame Gore isn't a republican. Then we could all admit he wants to have his cake and eat it too. So he is rich and can afford carbon offsets. Who cares? If he was afraid of AGW, then he would "stop" his contribtuion of CO2. When I found out I had high cholesterol I stopped eating foods high in cholesterol. The threat was real and I took real steps. I gave up food I loved. I haven't had a stinkin' lobster in 3 years. Gore isn't making the "hard" choices and that says everything to me. Anyone who truly cared would.

BTW, Hilzoy I see your "Culture of Corruption" redeemers have switched from steak to smoked salmon at their parties.

Thank goodness for those new rules. Salmon is so much better for you than steak when you are being wined and dined.

Lobster has a lot of cholesterol? Couldn't you eat it without (the delicious) butter sauce? I don't mean to make light of the rest of your post, but, man, I'm sorry you haven't been able to eat one of your favorite dishes.

I just got back from the parallel universe where Gore moved into a smaller house and took drastic steps to cut his CO2 production. The haters were all like, "See, I told you, Gore wants us all to give up the rewards of capitalism. Even if you work hard and succeed, Al Gore says you have to give it all up in the name of global warming."

When I find the parallel universe where right-wingers actually give Gore credit for something, I'll let you know. It might be a while.

J,

Sadly shrimp, lobster and crab are all up there in cholesterol.

All my favorites.


Steve,

Why should we give Gore credit? He made a movie that was misleading and lives a lifestyle mostly opposite of what he preaches. Polar bears are increasing in population. Ice sheets in Antarctica are increasing. Hurricanes decreased in activity. He burns CO2 like all get out.

I know, bril. It was all a colossal lie, just like the five-day work week in Congress. Truly, it's sad that we must tolerate such mendacity.

And if you looked it up, you could then have the fun of saying "I wondered how this worked, so I looked it up! Now I understand it, and I'm going to explain it to you guys!"

You might consider that I'm aware of what carbon offsets are supposed to do, and that I was asking if anyone knew how Gore's use of energy was actually being offset.

NLUSA: Also, the significant item here is overall CO2 emissions per capita.

This is the larger point to which I was (incoherently and somewhat frenetically) alluding in the previous thread, von and Gromit. The point is to not simply allow the market to set the price because what's important is not just individual emissions but total emissions. For that matter, another important factor total emissions in a localized sphere -- it's far worse to dump 10 tons of waste in one spot than a half-ton of waste in twenty spots. Any market-based solution must necessarily involve some inherently limited number of "credits", however defined, or what will happen is that emissions won't decrease, they'll simply redistribute to those with sufficient wealth -- which will thus also tend to localize the emissions, potentially worsening the problem.

Anarch: Any market-based solution must necessarily involve some inherently limited number of "credits", however defined, or what will happen is that emissions won't decrease, they'll simply redistribute to those with sufficient wealth -- which will thus also tend to localize the emissions, potentially worsening the problem.

Isn't that the "cap" part of "cap and trade"?

xbril: Ice sheets in Antarctica are increasing.

Increasing in surface area, or increasing in thickness? The Antarctic ice sheet is expected to increase in thickness as global temperatures rise, as moisture from around the globe is deposited at the South Pole in the form of snow. Without the Antarctic land mass there to capture some of the excess moisture, we could expect sea levels to rise even faster than is currently predicted.

Or, at least, that's my understanding.

Isn't that the "cap" part of "cap and trade"?

The cap, as I understand it, is a cap on the overall volume of emissions that are permitted. Anarch's point, as I understand it, was that there also ought to be a limit on the number of credits any individual participant can purchase, because if Bill Gates decides he wants a really huge palace and buys up all the offsets for the entire US, then all the pollution gets concentrated over his house rather than being evenly distributed.

Apparently, lobsters are not as high in cholesterol as once thought.

There's also a bit of a category error, in that shrimp have twice the cholesterol of lobsters. There's a lesson there for those who are willing to see it.

I'm afraid I'm a bit suspicious of anyone citing the scientific literature who says they're "conservative"; from my experience in the intelligent design/evolution wars, they tend to think in terms of rhetoric and not scientific methodology, and tend to use the literature accordingly.

Gromit,

This is what I was referring to:

Summary of differences between arctic and antarctic sea ice characteristics


Arctic
Antarctic

Maximum Areal Extent
15,000,000 km2 (9,320,568 mi2)
18,000,000 km2 (11,184,681 mi2)

Minimum Areal Extent
7,000,000 km2 (4,349,598 mi2)
3,000,000 km2 (1,864,114 mi2)

Typical Thickness
~ 2 m (6 ft)
~ 1 m (3 ft)

Geographic Distribution
Asymmetric
Symmetric

Snow Thickness
Thinner
Thicker

Trend
decrease of 3% per decade (200,000 km2, 77,220 mi2)
Increase of 0.8% per decade (about 100,000 km2, 38,610 mi2)

lj,

Yes, the lesson is that lobster is still high compared to other foods and that I don't have the same passion for shrimp as I do lobster. So if one truly cares about reducing their overall cholesterol footprint, then they would do whatever they can to reduce it.

Personally, I choose the mussel offset to make up for my reduced lobster, shrimp and crab footprint.

Fyi, most cholesterol is actually produced by the body not the food you eat. Only about 30% comes from food. But if one really "cares" they do whatever they can to make a difference in their overall cholesterol footprint.

Well, atleast that's what I do. I can't speak for others.

If AGW is really life threatening... like heart disease is in my family... you do what it takes to prevent it, regardless of what you have to give up.

Other lesson one can take away... consensus does not a fact make.



The thing about the 'rebound effect' is that in most cases it operates up to a limited extent.

For instance, people might drive more if they buy more efficient cars. But there's only so much time in the day/week/year to spend driving, so there's a hard limit on how much drive-time can increase. At some point, people are going to get out of their cars to work and live. And it's not like a person can drive even more by using additional cars.

Likewise, lighting might get more efficient. People might increase wattages and use more lights. But there's going to be a limit on that out of sheer practicality, because there's a limit to how many lights the typical person is going to want to have in their homes. Even if it's cheap and economical to use the future equivalent of 5 billion lumens of track lighting in your living room, and leave it on all the time, people aren't going to want to.

There wil be edge cases, because some kook will always exist who wants to put up million-lamp lighting displays for Christmas, President's Day, Arbor Day, and Walpurgisnacht. But those will be rare, and most people will reach a point of lighting satisfaction pretty early on.

So it seems the key is to work to raise efficiencies beyond those limits.

Could you gorge yourself on lobster once a year or every couple years? I can imagine an occasional regime consisting of a couple of weeks of sensible eating beforehand, and then a trip to a seaside where the lobster will be fresh and local. Could you see that in your future?

This is sort of the way I approach energy consumption, btw. I'm rather poor, and I live in a city, so my footprint is very very small. But every once in a while, I go on a long drive because it's glorious to drive in America's landscape. Or I give a party and leave on every single light in the house for hours. But I turn off the lights and turn down the appliances and heat most days.

I'm afraid I'm a bit suspicious of anyone citing the scientific literature who says they're "conservative"; from my experience in the intelligent design/evolution wars, they tend to think in terms of rhetoric and not scientific methodology, and tend to use the literature accordingly.

I'm afraid I'm a bit suspicious of people that tend to overgeneralize. Liberals tend to do that quite a lot.

Yes, I'm pulling.

Could you gorge yourself on lobster once a year or every couple years?

Speaking of which, we're planning on touring Maine and Nova Scotia this summer. Dunno why that made me think of it, though.

My impression is that dietary cholesterol, such as that in shrimp and lobster, is not a major contributor to blood cholesterol levels, except for some people (20%?) who have an unusual response to it.

The much more significant dietary factor is intake of saturated fat, like butter and animal fats.

I could be mistaken, like lots of people who make poorly-informed statements about scientific matters.

we're planning on touring Maine and Nova Scotia this summer. Dunno why that made me think of it, though.

I didn't see this before I posted. Stick to Maine lobster if you can, slarti. The Nova Scotia type is not as flavorful IMO.

Thanks for the tip, Bernard. I'm sure both of them are loads better than Florida lobster, but we'll try to load up on the Maine stuff even if we have to get the occasional McLobster.

Much like other issues that we are currently trying to understand... cholesterol is much more complex than what one might think:

Have you ever seen a family member die of a heart attack?

Have you ever seen a family member after they have had a quintuple bypass?

Have you ever seen a family member after a quadruple bypass?

Did you make have a cow when you were growing up?

Where you raised on butter?

Do you think eating lobster without butter is a sin?

Do you have the personality that would rather do it right or not do it at all?

Is your passion for fish as great as your passion for lobster?

Is your desire to eat what's better for you stronger than what you prefer?

Do you trust your Doctor's opinion?

Is being a far right winger compatible with a vegetarian lifestyle?

So many variables to consider?

Slarti,

Bernard and I agree on the Maine Lobster. (I think it's also lower in cholesterol than other lobster.)

We could go on and on all night.

xbril: This is what I was referring to:

Summary of differences between arctic and antarctic sea ice characteristics

Here's what I assume is the page that summary comes from. The parts of the summary you quoted describe a net decrease of 100,000 square km of sea ice per decade between the Arctic and the Antarctic, meaning the increase in the Antarctic is offset twice over by the melting Arctic sea ice. The parts you didn't quote describe the decrease in the Arctic as "significant" and the increase in the Antarctic as "not significant". What point are you trying to get across?

xbril, with questions like this

Did you make have a cow when you were growing up?

Where you raised on butter?

I think you are letting your passion for telling us liberal what we think get away from you ;^). I'm not sure why you think people here don't believe that health in general and cholesterol in particular isn't a complex subject. I feel that because it is a complex topic, I don't think you have to completely swear off lobster. My own personal opinion is that dietary choices in relation to health aren't all or nothing (though tobacco seems to be another story, though I understand how people can be addicted to it) I may be a wishy-washy liberal who can't really make the tough decisions, so it's lucky you tough as nails conservatives who are going to do what is necessary to keep the world safe from arterial blockage are around.

Bril; if you loved your bacon or your salami you'd have a problem ;). But fatty fish might well be good for people prone to heart diseases. I have two friends on low-cholesterol diets and they are recommended to eat fish twice a week (one of those times fatty fish like salmon) and as long as they eat moderate portions add shellfish on occasion.

Slarti: You might consider that I'm aware of what carbon offsets are supposed to do, and that I was asking if anyone knew how Gore's use of energy was actually being offset.

You might consider that if this is the question you wanted to ask, it would have been simpler for all if you'd asked that question - rather than proving, once again, that you are expert both at making the Ambiguous Blog Comment and then at attempting to cast blame on others for not immediately understanding the Ambiguous Blog Comment.

But, as Bril points out, some debates are past their best: we know Al Gore won in 2000, and we know you make ambiguous comments and then blame others for misunderstanding your ambiguity.

Moving on...

If you'd go back and look, Jesurgislac, that's pretty much what I did ask: whether Gore's carbon offsets are actually offsetting anything.

attempting to cast blame on others for not immediately understanding the Ambiguous Blog Comment

Blame? Wow. Maybe it's not all my fault, after all, if you managed to read blame into that.

Slarti- No it is definitely your fault.

Slarti: that's pretty much what I did ask

*sigh* In your head, perhaps. Just as in your head I suppose lecturing me on how "I might consider" what you meant, rather than what you wrote, isn't "laying blame" on me for misunderstanding you, rather than accepting that you've got a talent for being ambiguous.

xbril: Is being a far right winger compatible with a vegetarian lifestyle?

Famously, Adolf Hitler thought so.

whether Gore's carbon offsets are actually offsetting anything.

From Taylor Marsh at http://www.taylormarsh.com/archives_view.php?id=24416
(HT: Tim Lambert at Deltoid):

"An Inconvenient Truth: "An Inconvenient Truth" is the first carbon neutral documentary ever . Paramount Classics and Participant Productions have worked with Native Energy to offset 100 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions from air and ground transportation and hotels for production and promotional activities associated with the documentary. In addition, with the book "An Inconvenient Truth," Rodale became the first publisher to produce a carbon-neutral book. The offsets for "An Inconvenient Truth" will support New Native American and Alaskan Native wind turbines and new family dairy farm methane energy projects will deliver clean, renewable energy to the power grid and displacing power that would otherwise come from burning fossil fuels.

Generation Investment Management: In addition, Gore co-founded Generation Investment Management, which invests in companies that are part of the climate solution. Not only does Generation offset the carbon emissions of its London and DC offices and business travel through purchases on the Chicago Climate Exchange to permanently retire carbon credits, it also offsets the personal home and travel emissions of all its employees through the CarbonNeutral Company. These offsets support two projects: 1) a dam-less, "run-of-river" hydro power project in Bulgaria forecast to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 10,000-13,000 tons per year, and 2) a rural solar electrification project in India and Sri Lanka to replace the use of dangerous kerosene lamps that produce high levels of CO2 emissions to light homes with solar powered lighting systems that produce no CO2."

So apparently, in absence of cap-and-trade, what Gore is doing is offsetting his carbon through specific projects that will clearly reduce carbon dioxide production.

If you'd go back and look, Jesurgislac, that's pretty much what I did ask: whether Gore's carbon offsets are actually offsetting anything.

Sorry to double post, but I would disagree - in your initial question you placed emphasis on the general (the carbon offset, with Al Gore's carbon offset as an example), rather than the specific (Al Gore's carbon offset). Jesurgislac's links (leaving aside her other comments), addressed this question accurately. However, now that we're clear on what exactly you wished to know, I hope my quotes above answer it sufficiently.

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