Is It Easy To Be Green?

If you’d read New York Times columnist Paul Krugman in the past week, you might find conflicting answers to the question, “Is it easy to be green”? Economist Krugman, who received the Nobel Prize in Economics last year, maintained in his September 24th column that It’s Easy Being Green. His argument is that saving the planet would not kill the economy, as many opponents of climate change legislation maintain. Instead, he says, studies suggest that by eliminating practices that waste huge amounts of fossil fuels but don’t add to our standard of living, consumers could actually save money. Secondly, he reports, analysis shows that restrictions imposed by the House’s cap-and-trade climate bill, the Waxman-Markey act, on greenhouse gases would cost the average family only about $160 a year in 2020.

A few days later, however, Krugman was feeling despair over the fate of the climate. One scientific report after another predicts imminent environmental catastrophes linked to global warming and the effects of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. “In a rational world, then”, he postulates, “the looming climate disaster would be our dominant political and policy concern. But it manifestly isn’t. Why not?” Because as Al Gore said, the truth is too inconvenient. Climate change warnings are inconvenient for all of us with our all too human lifespan short-sightedness and particularly for the megaindustries with armies of lobbyists in place to protect the status quo.

While the climate threat is worse than we care to admit, the economic cost of addressing the issue is lower than we fear.  “So the time for action is now. O.K., strictly speaking it’s long past. But better late than never.”

One thought on “Is It Easy To Be Green?

  1. Peter Wirth

    The PS reported on Sept. 25 that “climate change is happening faster and on a broader scale than the world’s scientists projected in 2007”, according to a report released Thursday by the United nations
    Environment Program. On. Sept. 28 an AP article (Pg. C-3) in the PS stated “The research found that 81 of the 111 Greenland glaciers are thinning at an accelerating, self feeding pace.” “To some extent it’s
    a runaway effect….” said the study’s lead author, Hamish Pritchard, of the British Antarctic Survey

    A few days after the Parade of Homes was printed inn the Post Standard I submitted the letter below to the PS (which they printed) because I felt that a “Green” 4,000 square foot home is a
    contradiction in terms. I think it is time that “Green” becomes more than a marketing tool.

    Can you have a “Green” 10,000 sq. ft. home or
    15,000 sq. ft. home ? If so, does “Green” become meaningless at some point.

    Letter to the editor.

    The timing of the Parade of Homes section followed a few days later
    by the Green Central New York section shows our true colors. “Green”
    is essentially window dressing in American culture.

    The size of homes featured in the Parade of Homes ranged from 3,000
    to 4,800 sq. ft with most near the 4,000 sq. ft mark. These homes
    are the models we all are supposed to aspire to. These homes are the
    signs of success. These homes are the cultural icons.

    In 1950 the average size of the American home was 983 sq. ft.; in
    1974 – 1,695 sq. ft and in 2004 – 2,349 sq. ft

    A 4,000 sq. ft home is like a “hybrid Hummer.”

    If you build it you have to heat it and my guess is many of these
    homes come with central air to cool them in the summertime. Even
    with “green” features such as high efficiency furnaces and low E
    glass windows every cinder block, window and piece of sheet
    rock requires energy to extract the raw materials, turn it into a
    product and transport it.

    If Americans believe that these homes are fine for us then the
    billion people in China and India have the same right to follow in
    our foot steps. If our cultural model of 4,000 sq. ft. becomes the
    norm global warming will be off the charts.

    It isn’t a question of living in a cave or a 4,000 sq. ft home. I amsure there are many homes much smaller that most of us would find
    more than adequate. I hope the next Parade of Homes will focus on
    smaller, quality homes. I hope more reasonably sized, energy
    efficient, quality homes will one day be the most sought after.

    Peter Wirth
    NASA data: Greenland, Antarctic ice melt worsening
    By SETH BORENSTEIN (AP) – Sep 23, 2009

    WASHINGTON — New satellite information shows that ice sheets in Greenland and western Antarctica continue to shrink faster than scientists thought and in some places are already in runaway melt mode.

    British scientists for the first time calculated changes in the height of the vulnerable but massive ice sheets and found them especially worse at their edges. That’s where warmer water eats away from below. In some parts of Antarctica, ice sheets have been losing 30 feet a year in thickness since 2003, according to a paper published online Thursday in the journal Nature.

    Some of those areas are about a mile thick, so they’ve still got plenty of ice to burn through. But the drop in thickness is speeding up. In parts of Antarctica, the yearly rate of thinning from 2003 to 2007 is 50 percent higher than it was from 1995 to 2003.

    These new measurements, based on 50 million laser readings from a NASA satellite, confirm what some of the more pessimistic scientists thought: The melting along the crucial edges of the two major ice sheets is accelerating and is in a self-feeding loop. The more the ice melts, the more water surrounds and eats away at the remaining ice.

    “To some extent it’s a runaway effect. The question is how far will it run?” said the study’s lead author, Hamish Pritchard of the British Antarctic Survey. “It’s more widespread than we previously thought.”

    The study doesn’t answer the crucial question of how much this worsening melt will add to projections of sea level rise from man-made global warming. Some scientists have previously estimated that steady melting of the two ice sheets will add about 3 feet, maybe more, to sea levels by the end of the century. But the ice sheets are so big it would probably take hundreds of years for them to completely disappear.

    As scientists watch ice shelves retreat or just plain collapse, some thought the problem could slow or be temporary. The latest measurements eliminate “the most optimistic view,” said Penn State University professor Richard Alley, who wasn’t part of the study.
    The research found that 81 of the 111 Greenland glaciers surveyed are thinning at an accelerating, self-feeding pace.

    The key problem is not heat in the air, but the water near the ice sheets, Pritchard said. The water is not just warmer but its circulation is also adding to the melt.

    “It is alarming,” said Jason Box of Ohio State University, who also wasn’t part of the study.

    Worsening data, including this report, keep proving “that we’re underestimating” how sensitive the ice sheets are to changes, he said


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