Answers to Climate Questions That Never Get Answered–Fifty 2% Solutions

My thanks to everyone who responded to my call for suggestions on how coping with different levels of anticipated warming could be addressed. Your answers matched some of my own opinions and, well, preconceptions about the issues.

The skeptics among you advocate no special actions, a reasonable position given your beliefs and attitudes about climate change. If you are correct, then we would save money and other resources that would be used to address climate change.

As I disagree with you about the subject, I’ll press on if you don’t mind.

Some of you who I think of as lukewarmers made concrete suggestions, including staged conversion of coal-fired energy plants to first natural gas, then nuclear. You also advocate smaller scale solutions such as increased (and mandated) telecommuting, dramatically higher CAFE standards, etc.

Almost Iowa, a frequent commenter here, did the most detailed assessment which I reproduce here:

1) The president goes on television and announced a goal of having 10% of the workforce telecommute. The ripple affect would be tremendous, anyone who lives in a metro area knows the difference between summer (vacation time) driving and the traffic when school is in session.
2) Conversion of all coal-fired power plants to natural gas. accelerated roll-out of nuclear.
3) CAFE standard of 70 MPG (Yes, it is doable).
4) Energy standards for all devices powered by electricity.
5) Beefed up funding for alternative energy R & D.

1) Workforce telecommuting goal of 30%
2) Conversion of all coal-fired power plants to natural gas. accelerated roll-out of nuclear.
3) CAFE standard of 70 MPG (Yes, it is doable).
4) Modification of protection for specified patents, like hybrid technology, to allow licensing but not competitive advantage.
5) Energy standards for all devices powered by electricity.
6) Beefed up funding for alternative energy R & D.

1) Restriction on all unnecessary travel. Workforce telecommuting goal of everyone who can. Banning of all unnecessary air travel.
2) Conversion of coal-fired power plants to natural gas, accelerated roll-out of nuclear.
3) CAFE standard of 70 MPG (Yes, it is doable). Removal of all vehicles that do not comply with CAFE standards within 5 years.
4) Modification of protection for specified patents, like hybrid technology, to allow licensing but not competitive advantage.
5) Incorporation of solar technology into building materials.
6) Energy standards for all devices powered by electricity. Restrictions on air conditioning.
7) Manhattan project-type funding for alternative energy R & D.

Almost Iowa’s prescriptions are for U.S. responses, although they could be extended throughout the developed world. As I wrote in response, I agree with most of what he wrote, although I would add to his list. What I especially like in Almost Iowa’s proposals is that with some of them he involves the entire population, which offers scope for wider engagement with environmental policies overall, and may extend beyond climate change, which I think is extremely important. Our major impacts on the planet at present–habitat loss, introduction of alien species, conventional pollution and over hunting/fishing, still dwarf the current impacts of climate change and we need the populace to enter into efforts to reduce each of them.

Although I hope to address what the developing world can contribute to mitigation efforts in another post, it seems clear to me that for an exercise like this we in fact should focus on the developed countries. We are the ones most exercised about this, we have the wealth to adopt mitigation strategies, with most of that wealth being in part due to our current and past consumption of fossil fuels.

It seems apparent that for lower levels of anticipated warming that the actions that are most appropriate do not consist of blanket, high impact changes. For example, Almost Iowa’s prescription to move from coal to natural gas and nuclear is already being undertaken piecemeal, which serves to lessen the impact.

His other suggestions for mitigating 2C or 3C warming are what I have in the past labeled “2% Solutions.” Even his most ambitious, the doubling of CAFE standards for automotive efficiency, if adopted throughout the developed world would only reduce emissions by about 2%. I haven’t run the numbers on telecommuting, but it would at best approach 2%.


I think this is perfectly okay–if we can find 50 of them. Almost Iowa has started the list. I would add some more:

  • Uprating of turbines in hydroelectric facilities to increase generation from existing plants
  • Introduction of best of breed technology and best practices to air traffic control systems, allowing large savings of jet fuel
  • Institute a Cash for Clunkers program for commercial aircraft, retiring planes that are not fuel efficient
  • Homogenize permitting and regulation for installation of solar and wind power to make it easier to gain approval. Maintain current levels of subsidies and RPS.
  • Increase utilization of Combined Heat and Power facilities in the U.S. from its current 7% of primary energy production to the world average of 9% and then by steps in northern regions to benchmark levels found in Denmark, Holland and other northern European countries.

I hope readers will volunteer other suggestions. If we get to 50 we have a program.

With regards to mitigating temperature rises of 4C, Almost Iowa offers a more draconian set of suggestions. I hope to deal with them in another post.


10 responses to “Answers to Climate Questions That Never Get Answered–Fifty 2% Solutions

  1. My son works as an energy analyst for a Fortune 500 company. He has two mottoes (one of which he can credit to his father): “We are burning money” and “The cleanest kilowatt is the one not used”.

    I neglected to address the refitting of lighting to more efficient standards and the monitoring of energy usage. His company has saved several hundred million dollars doing just that.

    But beyond that I am stunned at how much energy is wasted. See this energy flow graphic

    At least in my mind, the crucial question is, how much of that wasted energy can be economically recovered?

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  4. Let me throw out one.
    States should subsidize or pay for energy-efficiency upgrades for apartments. The owner has no incentive to do it when he is not paying the bill, and the tenant will not reap any savings.

  5. On your travel restrictions: That is a non-starter.
    Who decides whose travel is “unnecessary” ?
    I think all climate hype promoters should be forced to walk or telecommute to any climate conference.
    And their power should only be derived from what they can peddle off of their personal leg powered generators.

    • Hunter,

      I have a collage of pictures my wife put together of my grandfather from his time on a wooden sub chaser. He worked with Tomas Edison trying to find a way to track and sink German subs in the North Atlantic. When I spoke to my mom about the pictures and what life was like then, and during WWII, she said the family got used to life with rationing. Grandpa decided that most of my mom’s proposed trips in the Plymouth were “unnecessary”.

      Grandpa used to have a saying that went something like this- “When you’re used to living with limited resources you have to prioritize their use.” Being an engineer he was rather direct in communicating his displeasure with wasted resources. Your comment got me to thinking what gramps would say, make that do as he was an action orientated guy, in regards to unnecessary travel. The boob tube didn’t show up until gramps was in his 60’s- I can still recall that he liked to use the commercial breaks to add some context to the various news stories being reported.

      I get annoyed watching live telecasts by our local news crews at locations where something happened in the past- (example 1) a person was shot on the street corner two days prior and crew goes back to the location and shows us the street corner that the event took place to give an update on the story that could have been done in studio with a shot taken from the scene days before, (example 2) three days earlier the board of supervisors of a water district voted to limit outdoor watering to 2 days a week, a news crew drives 30 miles to give a live news update outside of the district headquarters and the building looks just like it did when they were there months earlier except it’s rather dark- so I use the remote to change channels.

      I can’t believe anyone responsible for a budget (i.e. resources and the efficient use of them) would ever approve a crew traveling 30 miles one way to get a live shot of a street corner where something happened days before. Grandpa didn’t have a remote control when I watched TV with him way back when. He would of written a letter to the head of the local studio(s) and the local newspaper stating his displeasure with the “wasteful” use of “travel” related resources and he would have likely said that he will no longer be watching (buying) their product until they started thinking about how they use their resources. If the travel adds value do it, if it doesn’t don’t travel.

      No one writes letters much these days, me included. I have used the remote to express my annoyance of the wasted use of $, time and carbon based fuels. Grandpa would do something a bit more effective at changing the behavior that leads to my annoyance. If I had to nominate anyone to decide what is necessary as far travel goes it would be someone like Grandpa.

      • kakatoa,
        It sounds like your grandfather was cut from a similar mold as my grandfather. Mine was a bit younger, MIT class of 1927. He taught me how to analyze and how look at costs *and* benefits, and to question everything, especially the consensus. He was quite successful.
        That said, I don’t think your system, while interesting anecdotally, is at all apprporiate systemically.

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