It is said in France that we have to cut by a factor four our emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 compared to 1990, and in a global scale by a factor two.
It might seem impossible. But the more I am thinking about it, the more I believe it actually can be done if both public and political will were here.
After more than a year of blogging, I outline a summary of all the eleven ideas I came across. Hope you will enjoy this article !
The situation at hand :
The global energy needs are due to double by 2050, as developing countries see their energy consumption explode (+15% per annum in China last year)
Meanwhile, developed nations of Europe and North America see their consumption increase as well, yet much more slowly.
Decreasing our energy consumption can be done, we will see it below. Additionally, alternatives with much lower emissions also exist.
The combination of both is an exciting new prospect as it will create million of jobs worldwide and a real new world order that can actually benefit whole Mankind.
Some actions might enable us to reverse this phenomenon. Here are the eleven I thought of after more than a year of blogging on this matter :
The 11 solutions :
Massive campaigns of buildings insulation could enable us to save a lot of money and carbon dioxide emissions as it is estimated that insulated houses and buildings could decrease at least by a factor four their energy consumption.
This sector is responsible for 40 percent of the total energy consumption of Europe and around 25 % of its greenhouse gases emissions. It is high time for our governments to tackle this predominant issue. (more)
In parallel to the insulation of housings, getting us rid of fossil fuel heating should be done. Oil prices won’t stop there in their increase and so will natural gas’ prices since they are indexed on oil prices.
Furthermore, peak oil inexorably nears. Oil prices increased by 20 % since the beginning of the year. As this is most likely to continue, heating our homes with fossil fuels will be more and more a luxury. On the other hand, thermal renewables make a lot of sense with good insulation.
Banning purely and simply all incandescent light bulbs might enable coal intensive countries – ie. most of countries with Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom, but also China, India or Australia – to cut drastically greenhouse gases emissions as fluo compact light bulbs consume five times less electricity.
Similarly, replacing – and recycling – all old appliances like refrigerators and freezers with A+ efficient ones might also make us save huge amounts of energy. (more)
Putting less lights at night in the streets of our cities would also enable us to save a lot of energy and thus a lot of greenhouse gases emissions.
This would also save billions of Dollars and Euros to communities that are more in more in financial problems.
This would also protect fauna and flora and would enable the thousands of astronomers a better night sky quality. (more)
There is also a lot to do in transport. From improving the mileage of cars and trucks to giving more space to bicycles in our cities to promoting the train over the plane when applicable, many things have to be done.
Hybrid vehicules are also a great alternative as we now have a myriad of ways to produce low carbon electricity.
Fortunately enough a revolution begins slowly to take place. (more)
Solar PV and other electrical renewables are great as they emit more than 30 times less than coal fired plants.
So these polluting solutions would become only back up of the solar panels and other wind turbines and not the only solution to bring electricity.
it is time to embrace the 21st century and stop implementing coal fired plants as countries like Germany and Italy still plan to do . (more)
- Eating differently will also bring several improvements for the affluent countries as more and more people are obese.
The consumption of red meat leads to important emissions as bovines emit a lot of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas.
Eating less meat and more cereals, fruits and vegetables (as much as possible from local sources) would bring several other improvements for everybody.
- Sorting out a lot more our waste would also enable us to cut drastically our carbon footprint. Composting and recycling what can be composted and recycled would lead to lower needs of fertilizers and raw materials. This is another win win win situation as each and everyone would benefit from extended recycling.
It is high time for us to address the problems that landfills are for our environment and our countries.
- Not very popular, yet very efficient way to cut in large ways our greenhouse gases emissions, is nuclear power as it emits 50 times less than coal fired plants and 25 times less than natural gas ones over their lifetime.
With EPR technology and the likes, energy efficiency and security are increased while the amount of waste is significantly decreased. Of course other issues remain (waste disposal, security…) but there are no perfect solution. (more)
- Fighting deforestation in tropical countries and planting trees is another great way to avert climate change as trees literally absorb carbon dioxide over their lifetime.
Trees prevent soil erosion and are also a great way to reduce the importance of floods. Afforesting will have to be done once deforestation have stopped as well.
As I learned by reading Collapse, the civilization of Easter Island disappeared because it had cut all its trees. Let us not suffer the same fate. (more)
- Last but not least, a global change of behavioral models should occur. Explaining to people that the Earth is not infinite and that we have to take care of it should be fundamental. French people already hear they have to save energy as it is our future, but this should be pushed further much more. As I read last year in Le Plein s’il vous plait [Fr], we should go from ” always more and more ” to ” much less “. Let us embrace new values of quality over quantity…
Of course, all this won’t be easy and won’t be done overnight. Of course it will cost huge amounts of money… but inaction would cost us much more comparing to the soaring prices of fossil energies, the cost of climate change-related phenomena…
Once again, this shouldn’t be considered as a COST but as an INVESTMENT or as an OPPORTUNITY.
And you, dear reader, what do you believe it can be done ? Do you think I forgot some other ways that might enable us to put a term to the threat that is climate change ?
16 thoughts on “Why dividing by four our CO2 emissions can be done”
Really interesting article, great job Ed!
Thanks a million ColdFire, it’s always nice to read that one’s job is appreciated !
More to come tomorrow. This time, on biofuels and the riots of hunger. Or something lighter, I haven’t decided yet ! 🙂
edit at 9 pm : Well, since I got some news that popped up, it will be another subject… I publish the new article at midnight (French time)
really nice article with some direct and general figures ! Well done son.
For my part, i have always wondered : what would be the ecologic impact of a good management of professional buildings ? There are so many gigantic buildings with computers switched on 7 days a week, entire floors with lights on event at night when nobody’s working, dramaticly badly configured air con and so on….
Moreover, most of the time, the energy management is on the hands of people who don’t pay the bill…..so they don’t care about the cost and as a consequence avout the green cost (when they’re over using the air con for example).
Maybe an interesting article for you….i’ve never read anything about this. Would be nice to read it on this blog.
hahaha, son… How funny ! Thanks again for your comment. 🙂
I also would be very interested by that topic. If I get across something on that topic, be sure I will write an article on it.
With so many information sources I am tapping, I would be surprised if I didn’t get something at some point.
I don’t do some research on this topic right now as, most unfortunately my blog is not my only professional occupation.
But keep posted, and you will have your answer. 😛
un tour d’horizon (verra-t’on encore l’horizon dans 25 ans ?) complet
on devrait en faire un poster !
Merci ‘pa pour ton commentaire.
En faire un poster ? Oui, pourquoi pas, en attendant, je peux en faire un dossier en pdf…
On verra si j’avais oublié quelque chose dans 25 ans, je pense que oui. Ca m’étonnerai que cette liste soit exhaustive.
Yep, yep, un PDF.
Oops, sorry, what I am afraid of is that: people (I mean a lot of them) don’t want to change their comfortable life, and thus for any reason. Such as for example, look how many people turn really off their TV when they are done watching it? They just press the false Power Off button from the remote, rather than the switch on the TV itself.
It’s like in some working environment: when you have people with a certain position, they want to keep it, so, they would change very little bit their habits, just to keep this position.
Mankind madness or greed? Maybe little bit of both.
An example of something I am scared of, in mind I have… Hum… And speaking like Yoda I do, sorry.
You know that in Europe the cleaning products like Ajax, Mr. Proper/Propre and so on, are obliged to have a safety cap to prevent kid to open them too easily. So it is a good idea, even if sometimes we notice that kids are very skilled or smart, ok? And so we think that company like Johnson & Johnson is doing that all around the world to protect kids… Yep, but no: they just do that in countries were the law oblige them to do it. In Malaysia, any kid can open an Ajax bottle easily and drink from it. Pitiful, they just think about saving money a very little bit. And if you say something to them, they will say that the legislator didn’t ask them to do so…
So, I am afraid that the same may happen to environment and so on. Everyone is speaking about Global Warming, etc. Thus Europe, US and Canada do something, but in their country, while on the other hand, these exact same countries are making profit because environment laws don’t exist in Africa or in Asia, where the goods are produced.
China is one of the big CO2 producer, right? Who will push China to do anything for (well Tibet and Human Rights too, but it is not the topic) the environment? No one. Why? Look at your PC, look at the toys of your kids, look all around you, and probabilities are high that 50 to 75% of the goods around you are produced in China… Yes, they hold us (I mean our government especially) by the b*lls.
So if “our” leaders don’t want to act, if our co-citizens don’t want to change their habits, what will change? Nothing I am afraid.
That makes me think about the food… Good quality food is healthy, good quality food is expensive (or very expensive), I just read on the BBC website that since the prices of the food are rising, people in France, have to go to hard discounter for first price food. It’s maybe good for the wallet of the French people, but what about their health?
Edouard, I am scared of the future, for my kids… For all the kids, what Earth are we giving to them? I am trying with my wife to educate them the best Nature-friendly way we can, but what about people who cannot afford that?
Hum… Long post, sorry. Hope not too many mistakes.
Now that’s a long comment Rolyat ! Thanks for it. And yes, I’ll do this pdf.
You summed up the situation very well. As a matter of fact I just thought that I had forgotten the willingness of companies.
But Big Business is not always that bad. Read Collapse to convince you. If their shareholders want something like a cleaner environmnet, they’ll get to it… WE are our worst ennemy but our best ally on this. The situation is in our very hands.
I am afraid too, not for my children but for Mankind as a whole. And for us my friend, because global warming will impact our own very future. It is not only about them, it is about us.
But things are moving, a lot… The US are expected to move quite fast after the current administration. They already are at the local level…. Have a look at my previous article on the latest Al Gore’s presentation.
China moves right now quite slowly, but once they will get it… my… better not be on its way. Have a look at my articles on this country. They want to be the 1st producer of renewable energies. They will move really fast and big , and sooner that we expect. (at least, I hope). The situation there is worsening their living conditions every day.
China will move big… remember the way the restricted child birth…
Concerning food, I’ll get to it fast, as a matter of facts, I have a draft of article on that topic. So stay tuned ! (and many thanks for your long comment)
Interesting stuff, good to see someone getting started.
Unfortunately what you suggest isn’t going to knock off 75% of fossil fuel emissions. It’ll be substantial, but not 75%.
I won’t go through and tally up the numbers or the obstacles to each, but you may be interested in,
Can we be zero carbon?, and
The one-tonne CO2 lifestyle
Thanks Kiashu for reading and commenting ! 🙂
To me, it depends on how much we are willing to go with these 11 ideas. If we are going only lightly, it is true that we won’t go far, but if we go deep with them and on a global scale, it might actually work.
Do you think that I overlooked some solutions ? If yes, please, share the ideas and knowledge. I am always ready to learn.
Yeah, I know, I am dreaming again that we might actually succeed. 😀
Thanks for your links, I add them to my RSS feeds, and your blog as well 🙂
Well, I can look at a few of the things.
Making insulation requires energy and materials. The most common insulation materials are synthetic, and come from oil and natural gas. Thus, use fossil fuels. And fitting out hundreds of millions of buildings, well… it’s a lot. Certainly it’s a net gain compared to not insulating and burning fossil fuels, but they’re still being used.
Ridding ourselves of fossil fuel heating brings up the question, what are we replacing it with? What are the emissions from that? And what materials and energies will be used in replacing all that infrastructure?
Banning incandescent light bulbs is good, but consider: worldwide, about a third of electricity use is in people’s homes. And as you can see in this article, of all energy used in a home (they say “energy” since we use a lot of natural gas here in Australia – but it does the same stuff as electricity, heating water, etc) about 3% is for lighting.
So, one-third of all electricity used is in people’s homes, and 3% of that is for lighting. So by reducing lighting energy use by 80%, we save 2.4% of home energy use, or 0.8% of all electricity use.
By comparison, as I discuss here, world electricity generation capacity has increased at the rate of 2.79% annually (on average) from 1980-2005. So if the world’s homes all changed to CFL tomorrow, it would save the increase in capacity for just four months.
We generate about 2,000GW of electricity in the world, so the increase is about 56GW this year. So the CFLs would save about 19GW of those. 1GW is equivalent to 8.76 billion kWh over a year, so 19GW is equivalent to 163 billion kWh.
In the most polluting kind of electricity generation, coal, we get 1.325kg of CO2 for each 1kWh. So the 19GW saved, the 163 billion kWh, would cause at worst 216 million tonnes of CO2 in emissions. By comparison, the world emits 49,000 million tonnes annually, and it’s increasing by about 3% annually, or 1,500 million tonnes.
The CFLs make a difference, but globally they’re a mere pebble on the road. *thump* “What was that?” “I don’t know, but we’re still steady on our path, so keep driving towards Venus.”
Much the same goes for street lights, which are only a couple percent of electricity consumption.
Then we come to improving fuel efficiency. But if you look into things, what you discover is that when fuel efficiency improves, people just drive more. And the efficiency of cars has a limit. In the end, using 1,500kg of vehicle to move 70kg of person is never going to be as fuel efficient as using 20,000kg of vehicle to move 100 x 70kg of people. The more efficient and less polluting future lies in more mass transit, rather than better private vehicles.
It goes on like this. Essentially, none of your ideas are bad ideas, nor do any of them make the problem worse (well, except perhaps nuclear). But they’re simply nowhere near enough. In the West we cause about 12,000kg of emissions in our day-to-day activities, and there’s another 12,000kg again in things we can’t control directly (like streetlights, aluminium smelters, etc). Total, 24,000kg. And we need to reduce to about 2,000kg by 2050.
It’s a big task, and requires more bold solutions than the ones you’re offering. Again, none of them are bad. But you’re offering a little bandage like you use for a paper cut, and there is an arterial bleed.
As a side point, you don’t have to look back to Easter Island to get an example of deforestation causing starvation and social collapse. Just google “deforestation Haiti”. The Haitians are the people eating mud.
Kiashu : many thanks for this demonstration. You obviously have a lot of data.
Actually, I bet a lot on the 11th element on my list : people ! I have to keep on being optimistic…
On nuclear, I know that the vast majority of your country is seriously averse to that. But here, nearly 80 % of the total electricity is made from that and we don’t have much problem with it.
Concerning Haïti, I am aware of the situation as I read Collapse, by Jared Diamond, where this topic is tackled quite extensively. If you haven’t read it yet, you can have a look at my review of this great book ! 🙂
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You have enumerated good numbers of measures to bring down carbon emissions and these still need to be enforced strictly and regulate globally.
Many thanks Rupika for your comment. 😀
Some solutions are being implemented. Not as fast or big as they should but still, we are making progress ! 🙂
This article is getting old – I could add some fresh data and thinking – and the layout got some problems with the new design.
I will have to do a pdf version of this article as well. Rolyat and many others might find it interesting.