Affordable energy isn’t only target of climate politics

Bob Tippee

In the rush to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, sharp increases in energy costs won’t be enough to meet targets now in place.

Yet even those aggressive and largely unmet targets, set by the expiring Kyoto Treaty, won’t have much effect on global average temperature, supporters and opponents of the effort agree.

More will be needed if changes in human activity are to influence climate measurably. Recent events show what might be in store.

In the UK, Lord Smith of Finsbury has proposed that citizens be assigned carbon rations and forced to pay for excessive use of products associated with the release of carbon dioxide.

According to the Telegraph newspaper, Brits would receive accounts against which carbon use would be credited for purchases of, for example, fuel, airline tickets, and electricity.

Above-ration users would have to buy credits, which below-ration users could sell.

An Environment Agency official assured the paper that costs would hit only persons with “extravagant lifestyles.”

Also in the UK, Lord Stern of Brentford, who wrote a controversial 2006 study on global warming, has reinvigorated suggestions that people quit eating meat.

“Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases,” largely from flatulence of sheep and cattle, he told Channel 4 News. “A vegetarian diet is better.”

He said he hopes climate change negotiations in Copenhagen next month yield increased meat prices.

The anticarnivorous response to global warming is a pet cause of Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (OGJ, Sept. 22, 2008, p. 80). He’s a vegetarian.

Now California, never to be outdone when there’s governance to be performed, has cracked down on outsize televisions. Tubes with screens above certain dimensions will have to meet tough new limits on energy use.

The California Energy Commission says televisions can account for 10% of a home’s electricity use.

But commissioners haven’t thought this through. What’s the effect on climate if Californians, denied the chance to watch ballgames on wide screens at home, drive their SUVs to sports bars instead and eat hamburgers with their (carbonated) beer?

This feature will appear next on Dec. 4.

(Online Nov. 20, 2009; author’s e-mail:

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