Signs of the (NY) Times

The Times has two interesting environmental stories today.  Both are worth reading.  They relate in different ways to climate change, but they’re both interesting even if climate change isn’t an issue that excites you.

Researching Methane Releases

The first and most important story is about melting of permafrost in the Arctic.  Huge amounts of carbon are locked up in the permafrost. Current estimates are that carbon releases due to warming of the permafrost could equal 10-30% of current human CO2 releases, depending on the extent of warming.  But there are major uncertainties about these figures, about the pace of the releases, and about the extent to which the releases be CO2 or methane (a much more potent greenhouse gas).  The article also has a lot of useful information about how the carbon got to be there in the first place and about the release process.

One of the lessons of climate science is how interconnected the world is.  Emissions in LA and Beijing help lead to warming, which causes melting in Canada and Siberia, releasing gases from ancient frozen grasses that in turn help change the climate in Brazil.  It truly is a small world after all.

Modern Lighting Technology

The second story is about the effort of the House of Representatives to keep energy-wasting light bulbs on the market.   An appropriations rider delays enforcement until October 1.  It turns out, however, that the delay makes little difference. According to the Times, “the delay hardly matters” because the “looming possibility of the new standards, signed into law by President Bush in 2007 — and the fact that places like Europe, Australia, Brazil and China have already put similar measures in place or intend to do so — has transformed the industry.”

The effort to make the U.S. a haven for an obsolete technology is very peculiar.   Clinging to the past in this way seems at odds with America’s historic role as a technological innovator.  In keeping with the California slogan that “the future starts here,” we have already made the transition here.  I actually hadn’t noticed, and it turns out that’s fairly typical. “January 1 came and people were able to go out and buy light bulbs,” according to a spokesman for the California Energy Commission. “There was no light bulb apocalypse.”

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Reader Comments

6 Replies to “Signs of the (NY) Times”

  1. Hi Dan,

    First, thank you for your excellent contributions to Legal Planet . . . your posts are usually excellent.

    I must take issue however with your assertion that Los Angeles is currently increasing its GHG emissions. On the contrary, the City of Los Angeles signed-on to Kyoto, and, in fact, met its 2012 target four years early.

    Los Angeles is also reducing GHG in the following ways:

    – LADWP achieved 20% RPS in 2010, and is moving off coal — the transition plan will be announced shortly;
    – On transportation, Measure R commits $40 billion in new rail construction and other transit projects; new TODs are being built; and bicycling has increased 33% over the last two years.

    Could LA do a better job in reducing GHG? Hell, yes. Many of us are in the trenches trying to make that happen.

    But next time you need a poster-child, a bad-GHG-actor city, there are other towns that better fit the bill.

    JP

  2. Hi Dan,

    First, thank you for your excellent contributions to Legal Planet . . . your posts are usually excellent.

    I must take issue however with your assertion that Los Angeles is currently increasing its GHG emissions. On the contrary, the City of Los Angeles signed-on to Kyoto, and, in fact, met its 2012 target four years early.

    Los Angeles is also reducing GHG in the following ways:

    – LADWP achieved 20% RPS in 2010, and is moving off coal — the transition plan will be announced shortly;
    – On transportation, Measure R commits $40 billion in new rail construction and other transit projects; new TODs are being built; and bicycling has increased 33% over the last two years.

    Could LA do a better job in reducing GHG? Hell, yes. Many of us are in the trenches trying to make that happen.

    But next time you need a poster-child, a bad-GHG-actor city, there are other towns that better fit the bill.

    JP

  3. JP said;
    “… the City of Los Angeles signed-on to Kyoto, and, in fact, met its 2012 target four years early…”

    Dear JP,
    All the GHG emission reductions in Los Angeles and California, and throughout the world have done absolutely nothing to mitigate, reduce, control or effect in anyway carbon releases from melting permafrost. The most likely explanation is other factors such as solar radiation, atmospheric water, normal weather cycles, etc.

    Melting permafrost is similar to premature deaths because there is much uncertainty about the total amount of permafrost, how much of it actually melted, and whether melting is actually caused by carbon dioxide “pollution.”

    We now know that the carbon dioxide emission reduction strategy under the defunct Kyoto protocol, is a worthless and ineffective methodology for controlling climate change. The City of Los Angeles wasted a lot of public money and accomplished nothing.

  4. JP said;
    “… the City of Los Angeles signed-on to Kyoto, and, in fact, met its 2012 target four years early…”

    Dear JP,
    All the GHG emission reductions in Los Angeles and California, and throughout the world have done absolutely nothing to mitigate, reduce, control or effect in anyway carbon releases from melting permafrost. The most likely explanation is other factors such as solar radiation, atmospheric water, normal weather cycles, etc.

    Melting permafrost is similar to premature deaths because there is much uncertainty about the total amount of permafrost, how much of it actually melted, and whether melting is actually caused by carbon dioxide “pollution.”

    We now know that the carbon dioxide emission reduction strategy under the defunct Kyoto protocol, is a worthless and ineffective methodology for controlling climate change. The City of Los Angeles wasted a lot of public money and accomplished nothing.

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About Dan

Dan Farber

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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