environmentalism


The disconnect between economics and the environment is a common theme among the schemes promoted by environmentalists and politicians. Take curbside recycling:

Unlike commercial and industrial recycling — a thriving voluntary market that annually salvages tens of millions of tons of metal, paper, glass, and plastic — mandatory household recycling is a money loser. Cost studies show that curbside recycling can cost, on average, 60 percent more per ton than conventional garbage disposal…

“There is not a community curbside recycling program in the United States that covers its cost,’’ says Jay Lehr, science director at the Heartland Institute and author of a handbook on environmental science. They exist primarily to make people “feel warm and fuzzy about what they are doing for the environment.’’

Voters evidently support this stuff since the guys that propose it seem to get re-elected. It is ironic though that caring about the environment is reduced to just another consumer good, one that is actually forced upon us by politicians and environmentalists. I thought consumerism was what environmentalists abhor.

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What is it with leftist politicians that they feel compelled to load up even the most mundane project such as a homeless shelter with superfluous amenities such as a green roof/smoking area?

Toronto’s auditor general released a report Thursday saying this new city shelter at 129 Peter St. will cost $11.5 million, double what council approved for the project. And when it finally does open its doors, it’ll be more than two years past the original May 2008 completion date.

[…]

Decisions were made to add a green roof and rooftop smoking area but the 1920-vintage building required “significant structural changes” to support the weight. The final tally for the green roof and smoking area is about $1 million.

There is nothing green about a $1 million green roof for a 40-bed homeless shelter. The resources that went into building it far outweigh any environmental benefits, including carbon reduction, that are likely to be derived from it over the life of the project. Meanwhile, the taxpayer is once again stuck with the bill.

With the U.S. housing market meltdown and the global recession chopping down the Canadian forest industry in size, what choice did it have?

Some of the country’s biggest forestry companies will agree to freeze logging on parts of the northern forest. In return, environmental groups will pull marketing campaigns denouncing logging practices and will even go so far as to give the companies a green endorsement.

[…]

Over the years, Greenpeace has pressured forestry companies to focus only on areas that were already fragmented. Without divulging specifics of the new deal, a spokesman from the group called it “globally significant.”

While details of the agreement have been scant, the industry side of the negotiations have been led by the Forest Products Association of Canada, which represents some of the giants of Canadian forestry, including AbitibiBowater, Canfor Corp. and Weyerhaeuser Co.

“Essentially, it has no choice, but it’s co-operating,” Mr. Kelertas said. “The environmental groups get what they want for now and the industry looks like good citizens.”

Greenmail obviously works.

Knee-jerk opposition to nuclear power among environmentalists has never made sense, particularly when taken to the point of advocating for the scrapping of existing nuclear facilities. Yet in Spain, the reality that nuclear is an important piece of the energy puzzle is beginning to sink in:

(Reuters) – Spain may join Germany in relaxing a pledge to scrap nuclear power and let plants run on for decades, softening an anti-nuclear stance that was one of the firmest in Europe.Less than a year ago, Spain ordered the aging Garona nuclear plant to close rather than renew a 10-year operating permit, in line with a 2008 electoral pledge to replace nuclear power with its successful renewable energy sector.

Permits for another three of Spain’s eight nuclear plants expire in June and July 2010, and the government is legally entitled to let them close, too.

However it may allow the Alamaraz I, Almaraz II and Vandellos II plants to run for another 10 years.

Undoubtedly, nuclear power has its issues as does every other potential source of energy. But Spain, once the standard bearer for renewable energy, is now cognisant of its enormous cost. With unemployment in the country reportedly at 20%, now is not the time to be scrapping working nuclear power stations.

…unless they’re Irish.

The Guardian newspaper picked this up recently, and it also makes an appearance in the most recent issue of Conservation magazine: people who purchase green products might be, on the whole, more likely to steal and cheat when given the chance.

This claim comes by way two researchers at the University of Toronto, who were probing a more widely known psychological phenomenon in which people who pat themselves on the back for a good deed often feel entitled to a bit of selfishness later on.

And also be careful with leprechauns.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Apparently, my dog is worse for the planet than an SUV. Despite the extreme lengths to which the climate alarmists are willing to go, Jonah Goldberg argues that Americans are no longer buying such fear mongering.

The notion that America will sacrifice its sovereignty and treasure — and dogs! — to reduce warming by a fraction a century from now is absurd.

If you cannot afford — politically, morally or economically — the solution to a perceived problem, then it’s not a solution. We cannot afford to end the use of carbon-based energy, so a better strategy is to develop remedies for the bad side effects of carbon use.

That’s the case Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner make in their book, “SuperFreakonomics,” which is already being torn apart by environmentalists horrified at the notion they might lose their license to Get Things Done as they see fit.

Is the atmosphere getting too hot? Cool it down by reflecting away more sunlight. The ocean’s getting too acidic? Give it some antacid.

The technology’s not ready. But pursuing it for a couple of decades will cost pennies compared with carbon rationing. Moreover, you just might get to keep your dog.

 

Nathan Myhrvold responds to baseless attacks by Joe Romm on his views about solar energy and geoengineering as presented in SuperFreakonomics. Not surprisingly, he laments how politics interferes with rational debate on climate change.

One of the saddest things for me about climate science is how political it has become. Science works by having an open dialog that ultimately converges on the truth, for the common benefit of everyone. Most scientific fields enjoy this free flow of ideas.

There are serious scientific and technological issues in studying our climate, how it responds to human-caused emission of greenhouse gases, and what the most effective solutions will be for global warming. But unfortunately, the policy implications are vast and there is a lot at stake in economic terms.

It seems inevitable that discussions of climate science would degenerate to being deeply politicized and polarized. Depending on which views are adopted, individuals, industries, and countries will gain or lose, which provides ample motive. Once people with a strong political or ideological bent latch onto an issue, it becomes hard to have a reasonable discussion; once you’re in a political mode, the focus in the discussion changes. Everything becomes an attempt to protect territory. Evidence and logic becomes secondary, used when advantageous and discarded when expedient. What should be a rational debate becomes a personal and venal brawl. Rational, scientific debate that could advance the common good gets usurped by personal attacks and counterattacks.

 In explaining his position, Myhrvold notes the limitations of a massive buildup of renewable energy capacity such as solar PV:

The net result is that we may not get much CO2 benefit from the solar plants until we are past the rapid-growth phase of building out new plants. If we go hell-bent for leather in building solar plants for the next 50 years or so, it is entirely possible that we won’t see much small benefit for 30 to 50 years. In the long run, we still get benefit from the solar plants — lots of benefit (hence the “great carbon-free infrastructure”) — but in the near term, we may get little or no benefit. I say “may” because the details matter, and it is beyond the scope of what I can do here to calculate and explain them all; but the basic effect is that the time to get real benefit is delayed. A large part of this is due to the energy it takes to make them, and some is due to their blackness.

This is one of the dilemmas we face as a society. If we rapidly invest to make a new renewable-energy infrastructure, the very fact that we are making that investment can delay the onset of the benefit. It’s really hard to cut emissions quickly unless you cut consumption quickly, which society doesn’t seem very keen to do. So when people say “Let’s build out solar massively between now and 2050 in order to cut emissions,” I say yes, we’ll get the emissions cut, but in the short-term there may be less benefit than you think.

The rest of his commentary is definitely worth reading.

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