a thoughtful web.
Share good ideas and conversation.   Login or Take a Tour!
comment by steve
steve  ·  50 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Pubski: September 9, 2020

    Which can either be a crushing thought, or at least give you a little peace when you switch off the AC and turn on the furnace.

I appreciate that perspective a lot actually... thank you for the reminder.





wasoxygen  ·  49 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    actual, abnormal, non-cyclical climate change

List of Weather Records Record extreme temperature differences

Various current records have been standing since 1943, 1972, 1911, 1885, 1892 and 2020. When we measure so many things, we should not be surprised to observe new extremes, like the record 11-year hurricane drought.

Today's record levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide aren't random variation, though. I think it's fair to look at commercial activity.

Here are the top ten "Carbon Majors" and the percent contributions to cumulative emissions from 1988 to 2015.

  14.3% China (Coal) 

4.5% Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco)

3.9% Gazprom OAO

2.3% National Iranian Oil Co

2.0% ExxonMobil Corp

1.9% Coal India

1.9% Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex)

1.9% Russia (Coal)

1.7% Royal Dutch Shell PLC

1.6% China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC)

Source PDF: CDP Carbon Majors Report 2017

If you have ever bought products manufactured in China, or purchased gasoline, you do have some responsibility for carbon emissions. ExxonMobil doesn't profit by releasing carbon dioxide, they profit by selling you gas. The report distinguishes "Scope 1" direct operational emissions and "Scope 3" emissions from the use of sold products:

    Scope 3 emissions account for 90% of total company emissions and result from the downstream combustion of coal, oil, and gas for energy purposes.

But of course Scope 1 wouldn't exist if we were not buying the products. The best explanation for corporate behavior is customer demand.

WanderingEng suggests voting; I was going to say that a single individual voting to mitigate carbon emissions is in fact meaningless. I think it's likely, in fact nearly certain, that after an election you can look back and conclude that your vote did not change the outcome. "Civic duty" and "making my voice heard" and "being part of something bigger than myself" are valid considerations, but my goal in voting would be to get the best candidate in office, and it seems clear that my vote won't in fact make that happen. I also don't have a reliable way to know which candidate will actually perform best, since campaign promises are often abandoned.

On the other hand, your purchasing behavior does make a difference. You are a miniscule amount of ExxonMobil's total demand, but you control 100% of the demand that you are responsible for. Any time you walk instead of drive, you are reducing your contribution, and every step counts, every decision moves the needle. You don't have to be perfect, either. If you are concerned about animal welfare and reduce your consumption of animal products by half, which is pretty easy, you create half as much benefit as eliminating all use of animal products, which is very difficult. Be the change!

TL/DR: If you're going to abdicate personal responsibility, skip voting, and no one will notice. Your behavior as a customer counts, and small choices over a lifetime add up to a significant part of your total personal contribution, which is all you should be held responsible for anyway.

WanderingEng  ·  48 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    but you control 100% of the demand that you are responsible for

You're talking about Exxon, but I'll start with an easier counter example of electricity (for obvious reasons). I have little to no control over the energy sources that respond to my electric demand. My refrigerator will definitely kick on here in a bit. That isn't usage I can eliminate by biking or walking. When it does, fossil fuel plants will increase output and add to carbon emissions because all the zero emissions generation is already at max output. Having government support for zero emission, dispatchable energy sources can change that, but I as a user cannot. I can't vote with my money because I need my food to stay cold.

For transportation, I think there are similarities. I need to drive places. Food is again an obvious one, and work is another. Is it possible for me to live near work and groceries so I could walk or bike most of the year? Maybe. Is it practical? Not really. Is it possible for everyone to do? Probably not. So I think it again falls to governments to support things like public transportation and electric car infrastructure.

Further, we're talking about this and aware our actions and usages have impacts. But most people don't. How do we get them to do better? I argue it's again government to educate and provide means to have them change without even knowing (such as cleaner electricity, cleaner supply chain, and EVs as convenient as gas).

    ExxonMobil doesn't profit by releasing carbon dioxide, they profit by selling you gas.

I can't agree with this more. But I look at it kind of like using drugs. Arresting drug users has little effect on stopping drug use. Acting to push out suppliers while also providing individuals with means to not get sucked into drug use (e.g. social programs) sees better results. We're the drug users, and even if some of us get clean too many others won't.

wasoxygen  ·  48 days ago  ·  link  ·  

My main point is that blaming the corporations is a cop-out. The corporations do what they do because of customer demand. As long as people offer money for gasoline, there is a strong incentive to produce gasoline, even if Exxon is persecuted. We are the ones burning the fuels and releasing the carbon.

A carbon tax would be a more efficient way to reduce carbon emissions, but people don't want to pay the price to achieve the goal, they want someone else to pay.

There are familiar ways to reduce consumption, whatever the composition of the energy source. Good old Energy Star is a starting point. You can combine trips, make your next car a more efficient model, eat less meat.

    Having government support for zero emission, dispatchable energy sources can change that, but I as a user cannot.

But do you have a way to change government? It's easy to imagine the way things should be, just as we can imagine a world running on solar power. I think you have a better chance of changing a few people's minds here than changing government behavior.

    Further, we're talking about this and aware our actions and usages have impacts. But most people don't. How do we get them to do better? I argue it's again government to educate and provide means to have them change without even knowing (such as cleaner electricity, cleaner supply chain, and EVs as convenient as gas).

You may have heard of the National Energy Education Development Project; I hadn't. How about energy.gov or the Center for Energy Education or The Fourth Generation. The information is out there, but it's hard to get people to pay attention. A carbon tax would get people's attention and provide incentive aligned with the goal.

    Arresting drug users has little effect on stopping drug use.

Do you have evidence for this claim? "In the United States, legalization has been associated with increased use by adults, but not by youth." one source

I have a strong presumption that when something costs more, people buy less of it. A carbon tax isn't ideal, but in my view it has fewer disadvantages than alternatives, and has the advantage of probably working if the goal is to reduce carbon.