Thu Jan 11th, 2007 at 07:58:15 AM EST
There has been a lot of debate here on how to reduce GHG emissions, at times quite acrimonious. The two hottest points of contention have concerned nuclear power and the related question of whether one can have meaningful reductions without drastic changes to Western lifestyles. I have been saying that we can, and while I am lukewarmly in favour of greater use of nuclear power and strongly supportive of large increases in renewables, the key to reducing GHG emissions is conservation.
From the diaries -- whataboutbob
Let us imagine the US cutting its use of gas for personal transport by half, and doing the same with electricity. I think we can all agree that that would qualify as a substantial reduction, though not necessarily enough in the longer term.
Currently the average personal vehicle in the US has a mileage rating of about 20mpg (cars and light trucks combined). Given current technology and using smaller cars one could easily double that, reducing gasoline use by half without the slightest change to the 'American Way of Life'(TM). We're even producing cars like that at this very moment.
What about electricity you might ask? How can we cut that in half? Well, right now Californians have a per capita electricity consumption only one half that of the rest of the country. (About 6700 kWh in California, about 12,500 kWh for the country as a whole, including California). The difference has its roots in a longstanding policy of promoting conservation that began in the late sixties and is continuing to this day. Yet, somehow, the Californian way of life remains a pretty typical suburban centered American one.
So, with no renewables, no nuclear, no lifestyle changes you can cut GHG emissions by an enormous amount. It's safe to say that one could even cut it by more - 40mpg is not the upper limit for cars, nor has California run out of ways of improving its electricity consumption efficiency. Once we start adding in non-GHG emitting energy sources and some modest lifestyle changes the potential for reducing GHG emissions is enormous.
As fun as it might be to bash the Greenpeacy anti-nuke folks, those who are serious about climate change should perhaps devote some of their scientific and ranting skills to conservation. And the doomsayers saying the only solution is a return to huddling in huts living off subsistence agriculture should relax a bit, and maybe even consider what a few billion extra peasants would do to the environment (yum, food!, yay, heat!)