Thursday, August 14, 2008


a recent back and forth in science is worthy of note. liu and diamond published a policy forum back in january on china's environmental conditions attempting to answer the question about how to fundamentally alter the system such that environmental quality is improved.

they propose the consolidation of china's disparate environmental agencies, and the establishment of a new, higher level, agency. this agency would presumably coordinate high efficiency/low pollution measures--green gdp, among others. other "fundamental changes" include things like "changes in attitudes towards the environment." okay buddy. if only.

the fundamental problem with these types of institutional/attitudinal reform arguments is that they don't question consumption or development--a point raised in a letter by ellis, in response to liu and diamond. he notes, correctly, that the same criteria guide the governments of china and the US (namely economic performance) and that the only reason the US seems green is because much of its impacts have been exported to other places and are not accounted for when the US does its environmental accounting. he concludes that a good policy would involve the internalization of costs, regardless of geographic location.

this all seems very good. unfortunately, liu and diamond had to respond in a typical scientific (pompous) manner with a letter of their own. in it, they don't refute any of ellis's points but simply highlight the fact that chinese administrators seemed to take note and completed some institutional reform as a result. far from reedeeming themselves, their response indicates to me that they're still stuck in a techno-optimistic framework where governments can policy themselves out of environmental degradation without addressing root causes. and i thought jared diamond was cool.

Monday, August 4, 2008

good ole' richard branson

from drudge report: branson's bogus eco-drive.

while drudge undoubtedly posted this as yet another illustration of green hypocrisy (see past culprits al gore and live earth). the next jump he'll want you to make is that climate change is bogus or that nothing should be done to stop it because all of these eco-crusaders are burning fossil fuels like there's no tomorrow.

i agree with part of this argument although i'd make a distinction between folks like branson and those like gore. i'd call the hypocrisy exhibited by a richard branson, greenwashing. he's taking a stance on climate change in general, then assuming all of his ventures (virgin galactic? ZOMG WTF) take on a green shade. flying jets on 20% biofuel, empty, is not going to solve the climate crisis.

al gore, on the other hand, is actually engaged in activism on a day-to-day basis. flying around is something he needs to do to get this message out. even the more hardcore peakists (heinberg, kunstler, etc.) all have raised issues with continuing to use commercial flights. quoth heinberg:
I fly to educate both general audiences and policy makers about fossil fuel depletion; in fact, I’m writing this article aboard a plane en route from Boston to San Francisco. I wince at my carbon footprint, but console myself with the hope that my message helps thousands of others to change their consumption patterns. This inner conflict is about to be resolved: the decline of affordable air travel is forcing me to rethink my work. I’m already starting to do much more by video teleconference, much less by jet.
so there you have it, to educate folks, right now, we need to travel. as the availability of cheap fuel declines, we will simply fly less. i think (hope) that al gore understands this. branson on the other hand, is an idiot, but drudge takes it one step too far.