Monday, December 14, 2009

Copenhagen

First, I just presented my thesis and it went really well. I had a bunch of tough questions at the end because in reality this project is more than a master's thesis. I'll write about it in the next few days but I'm going to talk about something else today.

Global warming. In Copenhagen they are having a big multinational meeting to set limits on emissions for the future. A corollary to this is the money that rich nations will give to poor nations to reduce emissions or for that matter how rich nations are going to reduce their emissions. There are a lot of protesters basically saying that the governments aren't trying hard enough. In fact over 1000 protestors have been arrested during this summit.

Global warming is something that I am passionate about. It didn't start with me caring about global warming. It started because I went hiking and backpacking in the mountains. I saw the wilderness first hand and learned about invasive species and ecosystems and the effect of hot dry summers on northeastern New Mexico. The moral of the story is that forrest are being killed by beetles because of the dry climate the trees are more vulnerable and there have been no fires to thin the forests because we have put out all forrest fires the past 100 years.

The problem is that the problem is not life threatening right now and the solution is not cheap. Well, I guess riding your bike and walking instead of driving is cheaper. Also, buying less stuff is cheaper than buying a bunch of stuff that takes fossil fuels to process. Unfortunately, buying a car that doesn't need gas is nearly impossible and not economical. But what is economical? How do you quantify an investment in life? I wrote about this in my ebook. Who thinks about the world in 2100? There is a real chance that my kids (assuming I have some) will be alive in 2100. There is no way my 23 mpg van will be around then, except in a museum or classic car show. I think in 30 years less than 100 mpg will look fuel inefficient.

The world now is about 1 degree Celsius above where we were the last 2000 years on average. Now that was a generally cold time so maybe we are only a half degree above a nice average but we have upped the temperature rather rapidly.

Suggestions:
  1. Solar panels on every upward facing man made surface. Roofs, cars, even roads.
  2. Wind turbines in places where people won't complain about how they look. First I think they look cool. Second there are a lot of places miles and miles from "population centers" where land is cheap and wind blows. For example, the oceans, the 300 miles East of the front range of the Rock Mountains, Canada, Alaska, Siberia, Australia, or even Antarctica.
  3. Capturing rain water for whatever use. Use it in toilets or purify it and use it for everything. In stead of trying to get rid of the water on your roof how about try to keep it? When wells go dry it will be a much better alternative.
  4. Spend one minute a day plugging your car in. People that live in the far north have to plug heaters into their cars at night to keep the battery warm. Why not plug the whole car in?
  5. Recycle as much as you can. Not everything recycles well. Plastic is kind of depressing with only 25-40% of the plastic actually getting recycled. Aluminum is great! It takes like 5% of the energy to recycle Aluminum as it does to extract it from ore.
  6. Globalize some things. This is already happening but it could be much better. Is there a problem with tech support in India? It probably only depends on how well you understand their English.
  7. Localize more things. How often do you need bananas? Where does that jacket come from or how many countries did it go through before it you put it on?
The problem is that these things cost money. They cost money today. They also don't match the current capabilities. I mean I could build you a solar powered car that drove 50 miles a day just about every day that you never have to plug in. But let me guess, you want an unlimited range, like a gasoline car. While that barrier has been conquered by a remote control airplane we aren't very close at the level of a practical car yet.

Will we figure it out before the arctic glaciers flood the world? Will we learn before a heat wave kills crops and famine kills millions? I don't know. As a master of science most of what I know is that I don't know things.

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