As the title suggests, the article explores the similarities and differences in public opinion towards climate change and climate change mitigation in four countries (the U.S., Great Britian, Sweden, and Japan). The big conclusion is that U.S. public opinion on energy and global warming is similar to the public opinion in Britain, Sweden, and Japan. This is remarkable when compared to the stated positions of the U.S. government compared to the positions of the governments in Britian, Sweden, and Japan. Jasanoff waives this away as an artifact of the U.S. form of government saying, "If you have an adversarial system, then the science will get picked apart." And, as we know, the winner sets the policy.
There are a couple of differences in public opinion that are worth pointing out. First, when asked about environmental policy preferences, about half of respondents to both the Swedish and British surveys ranked global warming as one of the top two environmental problems facing their country (55% in the Swedish survey and 49% in the British survey) compared to only 21% in the U.S. survey (ranking behind water pollution, ecosystem destruction, overpopulation, and toxic waste).
Also, possibly a window onto current policy choices, when asked how global warming should be addressed 17% of Americans chose "Global warming has been established as a serious problem and immediate action is necessary" compared to 41% British, 35% Swedish, and 54% Japanese. To the same question, 24% of Americans said "more research is necessary before we take any actions" compared to 18% British, 13% Swedish, and 8% Japanese.
The big similarities are on technology preferences. Solar energy, energy-efficient appliances, and energy-efficient cars are all public opinion winners garnering over 80% approval - with wind energy, terrestrial sequestration, and bioenergy close behind. Renewable technologies also placed high when respondents were asked about research priorities.
Just in case you missed the flyer, this year the Technology and Policy Program is celebrating its 30th anniversary. A schedule of events is posted on the program website. The events include two yet-to-be-determined lectures on Technology and Policy leading up to a very special "weekend" of events keyed around the 6th annual TPP Symposium on Thursday, June 8.
"Our nation is on the threshold of new energy technology that I think will startle the American people," Bush said. "We're on the edge of some amazing breakthroughs _ breakthroughs all aimed at enhancing our national security and our economic security and the quality of life of the folks who live here in the United States."
... unless his definition of the threshold is more like 50 years. Remember, fusion is always fifty years away from being successful!
I couldn't resist: One of the largest ski resorts in Vermont, Killington, is trying to secede from the state and join New Hampshire because the resort town thinks that property taxes to finance education are too high. Moving your credit card business to Delaware is one thing, but moving a mountain 30 miles to New Hampshire? I think that might cost more than it would save in property taxes.
Over at Slate, Daniel Akst has a thought-provoking article asking "What is the best way to spend $1 to make the world a better place?" (Bang for Your Buck)
He starts off the story outlining a discussion he had with his wife about the economic merits of purchasing a defibrillator for her office (she is a dentist). He says the $1,000 would be better spent - and would have a higher probability of helping someone - elsewhere. Where? Well, he proposes Doctors Without Borders.
But, that is not the point of the article, the point is to figure out the biggest bang for the buck - and I got interested and sidetracked at the first bullet. The environment. Global warming, in particular. Akst immediately throws cold water on the idea of purchasing offsets to address global warming with a quick anecdote about Harvard prof Robert Stavins:
I once asked Robert N. Stavins, director of the environmental economics
program at Harvard, about purchasing carbon offsets to negate my output
of greenhouse gases, and he argued that problems like global warming
can only be resolved by concerted international action, so anything I
could do privately is an exercise in futility, if not self-delusion.
So, there you go. Global warming is so big that anything you do privately is an exercise in futility. Is that right? What was the context of that quote? I have not read enough stuff from Stavins to know but the idea that private actions to help slow global warming are an exercise in futility is rather bleak. What of all those cheap energy-efficiency ideas we always hear about? Are those only really valuable if everyone in the entire world goes along? Talk about a challenge.
And if only international action can resolve global warming, then what of the regional initiatives in the northeast and on the west coast? Are they only valuable as warm up for a future international agreement?
Maybe I'm stretching this too far. Maybe Stavins was talking specifically about offsets, maybe he was talking about the incredibly small marginal impact of one person reducing his or her emissions. Maybe he doesn't believe in the market for personal-scale offsets.
I don't really have a conclusion. Just a bunch of questions. As I was typing this, I started to think about Bjørn Lomborg and, sure enough, the article links to one of his organizations (Copenhagen Consensus). I can't seem to shake that guy when I start going through these economic trade off ideas.
[For the record, Akst says he does not agree and points to an article he wrote on purchasing offsets for car emissions (Got SUV Guilt?).]
And now, a brief diversion from our regular (intermittent) posting.
OK, a shameless plug.
This Saturday, February 18, my brother-in-law, Nic DeCaire, is opening the doors of Fusion Fitness Center in Newark, DE. Nic has been training people in the Newark area for a while and has always wanted to open his own gym - Saturday is the big day.
Nic was featured is yesterday's Delaware News Journal (Get Fit). Check out the article to learn more about Nic. If you are ever in Newark, stop by Fusion Fitness Center and say hello - tell them Tom sent you (that and a $1.25 just might get you a bottle of water).
Yesterday, Pres. Bush announced an Advanced Energy Initiative. The initiative is aimed at increasing research and development of advanced coal, solar, cellulosic ethanol, batteries and fuel cells. While I applaud this initiative, I should also point out that this is still only a small step, but in the right direction. I am specially glad with the following paragraph:
America Must Act Now To Reduce Dependence On Foreign Sources Of Energy.
There are an estimated 250 million vehicles on America's highways, and
Americans will purchase more than 17 million vehicles this year. It
will take approximately 15 years to switch America's automobiles over
to more fuel efficient technologies. The sooner breakthroughs are
achieved, the better for America.
It is encouraging that the administration is urging some action NOW as opposed to some time in the future. It is also nice to see that there is some realization that the time scales to impact are quite long. The picture below represents the kind of time scales that I would think necessary for impact of advanced vehicle technologies to reduce fuel use.
This table (click for a larger version) indicates that time scale for impact of new vehicle technologies such as hybrids and fuel cells are of the order of a few decades. In case of fuel cell vehicles, no significant impact will be seen in the next 25 years or so. That is why the need for urgent action now to reduce fuel use of out cars and light-trucks is necessary. Unfortunately, Pres. Bush and much of the American population think that technology is going to solve all of our problems without us having to make any lifestyle choices.