Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I'm sure that someone has already referred to this as "an inconvenient truth"

We try not to be bad baby seal clubbers, but sometimes our actions do not result in the intended result.

Caveat Bettor links to a John Tierney post at the New York Times.

Mr. [Chris] Goodall is a member of the Green Party in Britain and a devout environmentalist — he says he has ceased air travel because of its emissions. But he also questions how much good is being done by eliminating short trips by car. In fact, he says that in some circumstances it’s better to drive than to walk....

Mr. Goodall takes into account something that a lot of environmentalists don’t: the human energy expended in averting fossil-fuel use. “Walking is not zero emission because we need food energy to move ourselves from place to place,” he writes. “Food production creates carbon emissions.”...

If you walk 1.5 miles, Mr. Goodall calculates, and replace those calories by drinking about a cup of milk, the greenhouse emissions connected with that milk (like methane from the dairy farm and carbon dioxide from the delivery truck) are just about equal to the emissions from a typical car making the same trip. And if there were two of you making the trip, then the car would definitely be the more planet-friendly way to go.

These results would vary, of course, depending on exactly what kind of car you’re using and what kind of food you eat (or, if you’re going by pedicab, what kind of food your cabbie eats).

Caveat Bettor also links to a paper (heh) by Rachel Decker and Anders Graff.

In our era of ecological and environmental awakening, the question of paper or plastic bags should be taken, and considered seriously. Everyone uses bags; Everybody has this choice.

Well, unless plastic bags have been outlawed in your community. But I digress.

Paper comes from trees, and the pulpwood tree industry is large. It begins with logging, where select trees are found, marked, and felled. After they're cut, roads are built into the forest on which the large machinery, used to load and transport the timber, can be moved. This process creates a tremendous scar in the forests natural habitat(s), for both plant and animal. It can take over a century for nature to recover from even a small logging operation. Addedly, if the small operation clears only 10 acres, many hundreds of acres surrounding are affected due to the extreme interplay/interdependency in nature.

Let it be added further that a large amount of heavy machinery is used, all having its own story on how it came to be, all needing its own upkeep, and all needing its own fossil fuel, to operate....

Plastic comes as a by-product of oil refining, and uses only 4% of the total worlds oil production. It is a 'biogeochemical' manipulation of certain properties of oil, into polymers, that behave 'plastically.'

After this and other analyses, Decker and Graff conclude:

The making of paper can waste many thousands of gallons of water, as can the recycling of paper. The human and mechanical efforts and costs are very high, not forgetting the physical cost to loggers and those who work around the numerous chemicals. Plastic is, by comparison, efficient and low energy to produce, and, easily and efficiently recycled. Plastic reduces, recycles marvelously, and in that, is reused. After contrasting the efforts behind the making of paper and plastic, it is our unbiased opinion that plastic is indeed more beneficial to the environment, in that it is less harmful.

But if this has shattered our world, never fear. Reverse Vampyr has linked to National Public Radio. They'll set the record straight.

Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years....

This is puzzling in part because here on the surface of the Earth, the years since 2003 have been some of the hottest on record. But Josh Willis at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the oceans are what really matter when it comes to global warming.

In fact, 80 percent to 90 percent of global warming involves heating up ocean waters. They hold much more heat than the atmosphere can.

But then again,

Sea level rises when the oceans get warm because warmer water expands. This accounts for about half of global sea level rise. So with the oceans not warming, you would expect to see less sea level rise. Instead, sea level has risen about half an inch in the past four years. That's a lot.

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