Some of the points they make are useful, some seem more like simple-minded misinformation.
1: Live in Cities
They offer 1% of the population as an example for commuting, then conclude that cities are less impactful. Suburbs are the only option they compare with. It's not mentioned that suburbs might be perfectly acceptible if there where a few billion fewer of us. Manhattan is noted as 30% more efficient than average American lifestyles, but it is not noted that this is still far more impactful than most people on the planet.
2: A/C Is OK
In the Northeast, a typical house heated by fuel oil emits 13,000 pounds of CO2 annually. Cooling a similar dwelling in Phoenix produces only 900 pounds of CO2 a year. Air-conditioning wins on a national scale as well.
An interesting point that could affect planning choices and increasingly come into play in personal choices as energy becomes more expensive. It doesn't scale well to the entire population however. We can't all move to Phoenix. Water supplies there and in similarly hot areas are challenged and will only get worse as the planet warms.
For today the economics aren't mentioned because air conditioning uses more expensive electric power. Does this point really boil down to an argument to use more electric power?
3: Organics Are Not The Answer
What matters is eating food that's locally grown and in season. So skip the prewashed bag of organic greens trucked from two time zones away — the real virtue may come from that conventionally farmed head of lettuce grown in the next county.
OK, but that's an argument against point #1. Can these points work together, or are they simply a mishmash of things not considered in depth?
4: Farm the Forests
Over its lifetime, a tree shifts from being a vacuum cleaner for atmospheric carbon to an emitter. A tree absorbs roughly 1,500 pounds of CO2 in its first 55 years. After that, its growth slows, and it takes in less carbon. Left untouched, it ultimately rots or burns and all that CO2 gets released.
Seems like creative math to assume that there's 100% decomposition, but even accepting their premise, with 98-99% of old growth forests in America logged in recent decades, the point is what? On a global scale, what percentage of cleared forests are then replanted? A logical, less implistic and more productive argument would be for more replanting, not more logging.
5: China Is the Solution
Will renovating the planet spur the first wave of homegrown Chinese tech innovation? Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, thinks so. "China has as much or more at stake than anyone," he said at a recent corporate summit. "Solar energy, carbon sequestration — we're going to be blown away by China's progress over the next couple of decades."
True, China is making the investments in innovation that the U.S. has delayed making due to decades of misinformation and foot-dragging. A few well-placed laws holding industries and lobbyists accountable for intentional misconduct would go a long way towards enabling the U.S. to catch up.
6: Accept Genetic Engineering
Advocating accepting the extreme risk ignores the reason that we're considering genetic engineering... too many people on this planet to feed, transport, etc.
7: Carbon Trading Doesn't Work
A few fun facts: All the so-called clean development mechanisms authorized by the Kyoto Protocol, designed to keep 175 million tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere by 2012, will slow the rise of carbon emissions by ... 6.5 days. (That's according to Roger Pielke at the University of Colorado.) Depressed yet? Kyoto also forces companies in developed countries to pay China for destroying HFC-23 gas, even though Western manufacturers have been scrubbing this industrial byproduct for years without compensation.
Looks like evidence that China and other developing countries must be included in all treaties, not a convincing argument against cap and trade in general.
8: Embrace Nuclear Power
Embracing the atom is key to winning the war on warming: Electric power generates 26 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and 39 percent of the United States' — it's the biggest contributor to global warming.1 One of the Kyoto Protocol's worst features is a sop to greens that denies carbon credits to power-starved developing countries that build nukes — thereby ensuring they'll continue to depend on filthy coal.
And developing nations would do what with the spent fuel rods? I suspect that a fair number would get dumped off the nearest coastline. How would their solution to the disposal issue scale with the 500+ power plants soon to be built in developing nations, it they were all switched to nuclear?
Of course the solution can't be as simple as asking them to have slightly fewer then the current 7 they have on average, dramatically increasing the need for more power. Why do we allow their growth in coal power plants to be grossly misrepresented as being for the benefit of the ultra poor, when it's actually simply powering the population boom in their cities? Is it reasonable to allow this growth while it threatens everyone else's survival? The answer may be nukes, but not the kind that produce power.
9: Used Cars — Not Hybrids
"Buy a decade-old Toyota Tercel, which gets a respectable 35 mpg, and the Prius will have to drive 100,000 miles to catch up."
I've often wondered about the tradoff between manufacturing cost and operational efficiency, but this works for one person, but doesn't scale to a whole society.
10: Prepare for the Worst
The Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, calculates that even if the US, Europe, and Japan turned off every power plant and mothballed every car today, atmospheric CO2 would still climb from the current 380 parts per million to a perilous 450 ppm by 2070, thanks to contributions from China and India. (Do nothing and we'll get there by 2040.) In short, we're already at least lightly browned toast. It's time to think about adapting to a warmer planet.
Perhaps it's time to stop supporting the economies in India and China? Of course they're just producing goods that we choose to buy. Wal-Mart and Target could go a long way towards resolving the problem by defining standards for their suppliers, without the involvement of any governments.
It's certainly time to stop entering into treaties like Kyoto that provide the illusion of favorable change while actually funding economic development in the nations with the worst impact.