Global warming and the vision thing

Concrete images of a greener society

Global warming activists have often advocated policies based on numerical goals or painted scary scenarios of the future. But there is a third way to advocate for long-term policies: propose solutions that contain a positive vision of a fossil fuel-free society. The importance of this approach was underlined to me when I heard Betsy Rosenberg of the radio show Ecotalk interview Chip Heath, an author of the business-oriented book, Made to Stick. She asked Heath what he thought of the phrase "20% by 2020," that is, reducing carbon emissions by 20% by 2020. She thought it had a nice ring to it ... until Heath responded, well, no, nothing turns people off like a bunch of numbers. Instead, the author advised environmentalists to use "concrete images." Therefore, instead of talking about numeric targets for carbon emissions reductions in order to avoid hell on earth, I'd like to try to paint a picture of how to create a society that might be better than the one we live in now. In that spirit, let me propose the following scenario:

File under: dubious accomplishments

New York Times Magazine manages the somewhat astounding feat of conducting a thoroughly boring interview with Bill McDonough, one of the most interesting people on the planet.

What "bike friendly" looks like

Is your town?

What if cities had no sidewalks and everyone walked on the road? Or, for urban recreation, they walked on a few scenic trails? What if the occasional street had a three-foot-wide "walking lane" painted on the asphalt, between the moving cars and the parked ones? Well, for starters, no one would walk much. A hardy few might brave the streets, but most would stop at "walk?! in traffic?!" Fortunately, this car-head vision is fiction for most pedestrians, but it's not far from nonfiction for bicyclists. Regular bikers are those too brave or foolish to be dissuaded by the prospect of playing chicken with two-ton behemoths. Other, less-ardent cyclists stick to bike paths; they ride for exercise, not transportation. Bike lanes, in communities where they exist, are simply painted beside the horsepower lanes. People react reasonably: "bike?! in traffic?!" And they don't. "It's not safe" is what the overwhelming majority say when asked why they bike so little. (As it turns out, it's safer than most assume -- on which, more another day.) So what would cities look like if we provided the infrastructure for safe cycling? What does "bike friendly" actually look like?

Gas price roundup

Do gas prices affect behavior or not?

Despite record-setting gas prices, U.S. drivers haven't changed their gas-guzzling habits, says AP. Not only are we consuming as much as we always have, new vehicle sales seem to be tilting even more in favor of trucks than cars. But wait, USA Today disagrees. They say that drivers are, in fact, starting to cut back on how much they drive -- a clear sign that higher gas prices are starting to bite. Who's right? Who cares! Either way, the consumer response to massive increases in gas prices over the last five years has been teensy-tiny.

Efficiency and market failure

A new report says regulations are needed

A while back I mentioned a McKinsey Global Institute report showing that efficiency is the fastest, cheapest way to cut global GHG emissions. Now McKinsey’s got a new report out, making a heretical claim: even …

Pictures of the world’s dirtiest cities


Put one of these babies on an electric bike

A123 introduces new battery

From the Energy Blog: A123 Systems today introduced its 32-series NanophosphateTM Lithium Ion cells, specifically designed for Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) use. The 32-series cells are designed with abuse-tolerance in mind. A123 Systems Automotive Class cells take advantage of lessons learned from the mass-production of ANR26650M1 cells, used in DeWalt's and Black & Decker's power tool lines, in order to deliver 10+ year and 150,000 mile projected life requirements in engineered automotive battery packs. The cells have shown minimal power degradation and impedance growth after 300,000 cycles. The battery is able to operate at a temperature range of -20 F to 140 F (-29 C to 60 C). Personally, if I owned a plug-in hybrid that could go thirty miles on a charge, I would fill my tank about twice a year.

Clinton foundation energy efficiency plan: An offset by any other name ...

New financial instruments may one day plug cities’ building codes into global carbon market

The William J. Clinton foundation has arranged billions in financing to help a coalition of sixteen cities cut urban emissions by applying a range of energy efficiency measures to aging buildings. Efficiency measures tends to get lumped in under the heading of conservation, but they really deserve to be their own full-fledged category of solutions to global warming. If conservation is simply doing less of a polluting activity, efficiency is doing the same activity with less energy. Turning off the lights is conservation. Screwing in a compact fluorescent light bulb is efficiency. Efficiency measures deserve their own category because they are among the most important strategies for reducing emissions. Emissions reductions from efficiency projects are immediate (which is good), they are often cheap or even free (which is great), and they don't require individuals to make significant changes to behavior (which is important to quick adoption, no matter how much we might wish otherwise).


Not long ago, our own JMG lamented the fact that online map services don’t include transit-oriented directions. Well, lookee here: HopStop, your city transit guide. OK, it’s only for NYC, but still, sounds pretty cool: …

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