Thursday, December 24, 2009

A letter to the President

I sent the following the the President. I encourage everyone to contact our government.

Mr. President

Tonight look at your girls and ask yourself "what kind of world am I going to leave them?" Are you going to leave your children and me my grandchildren a world with nations drowning, or are we going to invest in repairing what we have done to the climate? Are we going to leave them with a world without glaciers, or are we going to accept our liability to the world.

You alone do not have the power to change our direction before it is too late. But, you do have the power to tell the people the truth. You do have the power to believe in our system of government; that a well informed public will make the right decisions. You can name names. You can point out that Hill & Knowlton, hired by Exxon to raise doubt about climate change, was hired in 1953 to counteract the claims that tobacco was dangerous. You can tell the world that they hire "Nurse Navirah" to present concocted testimony to congress leading up to the first Iraq war. You can point out that the studies raising doubt about climate change are being done by the same groups that raised doubt about the dangers of tobacco. Tell the world how many people have died from their actions. You have the stage.

As a child I remember singing in church James Russell Lowell's words:

Once to Every Man and Nation,
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with false-hood,
For the good or evil side

Written with diminishing hope:
Stanford Smith

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Hard Rain's A-gonna Fall

In 1962 Bob Dylan performed A Hard Rain's A-gonna Fall for the first time one month prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1963 in response to a question about if the hard rain was a reference to nuclear fallout. He answered with this.

"No, it's not atomic rain, it's just a hard rain. It isn't the fallout rain. I mean some sort of end that's just gotta happen... In the last verse, when I say, 'the pellets of poison are flooding the waters', that means all the lies that people get told on their radios and in their newspapers."

The Copenhagen Climate Summit has come to an end with a weak non-binding agreement. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change the agreement attempts to cap the warming to two degrees Celsius, though a leaked document from the same organization states that it could lead to a three degree rise.

Here is what was done to get this accord. 1. Invited participants from environmental groups were blocked from entering the conference, and in many cases were arrested because there was a suspicion they might break the law. 2. Developing and third world countries reported that they received extreme pressure from the U.S. and other developed nations to accept higher limit to CO2. This included Hillary Clinton offering a $100 billion fund to help developing nations, but only if a particular accord was accepted (the funding source was undefined). 3. Poor nations were not included in the final negotiations.

So, what do we have? Amy Goodman of Democracy Now reported this.

"In an all-night session that followed Obama’s announcement, delegates from around the world denounced the US-led deal as an undemocratic sham that sacrificed the interests of poor countries. Ambassador Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, who chairs the largest grouping of developing countries called the G-77, though it represents more than 130 countries, condemned the agreement as 'extraordinarily flawed.'”

This agreement sentences nations to extinction. Maldives will cease to exist if we do not do more. Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands: the same. The number of climate refugees will increase as large parts or all of nations drown. The glaciers around the world will melt, turning off the tap for millions. History has told us that this will lead to more regional conflicts.

Unless the United State accepts that our use of fossil fuel is a form a genocide, selectively killing millions of people based upon national origin; unless the United States invests in improving the world rather than attacking sovereign states; unless the citizens of this country force our government and industry to change, if humanity survives my grandchildren will witness the greatest extension of species since the Ice Age.

Literally with tears in my eyes I give you this.

A Hard Rain's A-gonna Fall, Bob Dylan

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains,
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways,
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests,
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans,
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it,
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin',
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin',
I saw a white ladder all covered with water,
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken,
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin',
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world,
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin',
Heard ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin',
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin',
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter,
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony,
I met a white man who walked a black dog,
I met a young woman whose body was burning,
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow,
I met one man who was wounded in love,
I met another man who was wounded with hatred,
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Oh, what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And, what'll you do now, my darling young one?
I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin',
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest dark forest,
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
Where the executioner's face is always well hidden,
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the color, where none is the number,
And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin',
But I'll know my song well before I start singin',
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The sources of CO2 Emissions
(The United States)

I had questions about the sources of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), and attempted to find an answer on the Internet. My first question was what are the sources of CO2 emissions by percentage. In addition I had heard that driving a car produces less CO2 than flying. I wanted to confirm that, and also get an idea of how much more CO2 flying produces.

While looking for answer I found very good in-depth studies, and I found single issue studies. What was hard to find was an easy to follow summary of CO2 emission sources. This is my attempt.

My second part will be a single issue look, comparing driving versus flying. It is not in-depth.

Sources of CO2(1)

The most common CO2 reduction targets I hear are 20% by 2020 and 40% by 2020. Because the goals are in percentages I wanted to know, in percent where our CO2 emissions come from. Also because the goals are for CO2 only I will only examine the sources of CO2. There are other emissions that contribute to the green house effect, with methane being the second greatest.

CO2 emissions are almost completely from human activity. 94.0% come from fossil fuel combustion. (Graph on left)

eaking down the number further electrical generation and transportation are the major producers of CO2. (Graph below)

This graph is of the direct sources of CO2 emissions. For example, non-electric household heat is included in residential sources as it is burned on site, but electrical household heat is included in electrical generation.

Similarly the electrical generation does not include the secondary CO2 sources such as the mining, processing, and transportation of the fossil fuel.

Our emissions of CO2 are still increasing. Between 1990 and 2007 the emissions from electrical generation and transportation have increased. All other sources have remained almost stable. Stated another way, the only reason our CO2 emissions are increasing is our increases from transportation and electrical generation.

Electrical generation produces 38% of the total CO2 emissions. If we only look at fossil fuels, our electrical generation accounts for 36% of our fossil fuel consumption, yet it produces 42% of the (fossil fuel) CO2 emissions.

This next graph shows that the vast majority of the CO2 released in electrical generation is from coal powered plants. Coal is very dirty, and very high in CO2 emissions when burnt.
By rebuilding our electrical infrastructure from the generators to the end user we could meet the 20% CO2 reduction goal and almost meet the 40% reduction goal. (Please see my very important correction added as a comment.)

Plane vs. Car (2)

The chart to the right provides the total CO2 generated by different classes of transportation. The largest classes are, in descending order of the CO2 emitted, passenger cars, light-duty trucks, other trucks, and commercial aircraft. I will examine two classes in more detail; passenger car and commercial aircraft.

Passenger cars produce 33% of the CO2, and commercial aircraft produces only 8%. That does not account for the number of people carried. Taking that into account plane travel emits 0.000260 Teragrams (Tg) of CO2 per passenger mile while a passenger car emits 0.000249 Tg of CO2 per passenger mile. So, on average it is better to drive.

Planes produce more CO2 on takeoff than for cruising. A more accurate measure would be to compare a particular trip. http:\\ compared 100 people chartering a plane to fly from
Philadelphia to Boston with all 100 people driving alone in a medium-sized car. The cars each produced 104 kilograms (kg) of CO2 for a total of 10,400 kg. The plane emitted 18,400 kg of CO2. It was better for each 100 people to drive alone.

Journalist Pablo Päster calculated if it would be better to drive a family of 4 in a medium size car from San Francisco to Boston, or take a non-stop flight. He included all greenhouse gases, and included the extra detrimental effect of releasing the gases at altitude. Driving turned out to be better. Flying produced over 8 tons of emissions and driving (including stops in national parks) produced less than 2 tons. Comparing a single driver, flying would produce more than 2 tons of emission, and driving would be less than 2 tons. So, even driving alone would have been better than flying.

There are many more studies, and every one I found confirmed that it is better to drive a medium sized car than to fly.

To put this in personal terms, the 1955 Chrysler gets about 16 mpg on the highway. Other owners of cars like the Mercedes 300SEL 6.3 have found that mileage can be in the high teens, but the mid teens would be a better highway mileage figure. A mid sized car gets about 30 mpg highway. So, for these comparisons driving these classic cars with 2 people is about the same as driving a mid sized car alone. (The time to get there is not included in the calculations, nor the fun factor of driving.)

Foot notes:
(1) The data used for the first section came from the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory - 2009 which covers 1990 to 2007. All graphs are my own except for the Emissions Allocated to Economic Sectors which came from the inventory. On Dec. 3, 2009 a report was released covering 2008, but I did not see the extra value in rewriting what I had already done.
(2) CO2 data comes from the Greenhouse Gas Inventory. Passenger mileage date comes from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics .