Monday, April 30, 2007

Carbon Footprint: Ride the Bus

Is not driving to work going to affect my carbon footprint? Let's see...

I drive 17 miles round trip at an average of 25 miles per gallon. That is .68 gallons per day (which at current Seattle pump prices would amount to $2.15/day) According to the Energy Information Administration, the number of gallons of gasoline is multiplied by 8.87 to get kg of CO2, which is then multiplied by 2.2046 to convert to pounds CO2.

For me, that is 13.3 lbs of CO2 per commute. If I commuted by car every working day (n=5 per week), I would contribute 1.75 tons of CO2 per year. If I decided to atone for my carbon sins, it would cost me $15-25 per year at CarbonNeutral, amounting to a paltry 3.5% of the actual gas prices.

Are biking and busing carbon neutral activities? (Anyone out there want to chime in?) If so, I save almost 2 tons of CO2 emissions by getting in exercise (bike) or reading time (bus).

But lets talk practicality. As part of Seattle's Way to Go commuting program, I have already started changing my driving behavior. As a grad student who works 7 days a week off of my school's main campus, I now drive alone to work rarely on workdays a week and 1 weekend day a week. My current total of 1-2 days a week is down from 6 days a week last spring. It is less convenient for me to bus on the weekend due to reduced service, but you might argue that I have more time on the weekends, so could bike. Either way, it takes away from weekend time I could spend with my sweetie.

I think the moral of this story is that my thriftiness is driving my behavior change more than the threat of carbon emissions. That $3/gallon can instigate such good behavior change in me helps forward my own notion that gas should increase to $10. (And that $$$ should go to state government, not Big Oil!)

How much does carbon footprint guilt impact your decisions about driving?

Does Carbon Trading Help?

So you want to carbon trade away your sins of consumption?

I never quite got a handle on how carbon emissions trading worked, and after reading this article in the New York Times (Cartoon by Ron Barrett of NYT), I don't think I want to start anytime soon... My take-home from this article is that carbon neutrality is that,
“The worst of the carbon-offset programs resemble the Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences back before the Reformation.”
This quote refers to the worst, and I am sure there are legit operations out there, but frankly, I don't have the time or cash to seek them out. Methinks a better approach is to reduce the impact I personally make on the environment.

To hold myself accountable and to offer content of interest to you, my handful of readers, I will be making a weekly post about how to reduce one's carbon footprint. Do you have an idea? Feel free to make a comment on this post or email me.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Title vs. Content

The Prometheus Science Policy Blog alerted me to a story in Friday's New York Times titled, "Public Remains Split on Response to Warming."

The funny thing is, the only 'split' I could tell from the report was that an equal number of Americans think the government can do something about global warming as think our leaders are useless on this issue. (IMHO, that's because the most useful thing our leaders could do is jack gasoline prices up to $7.50 or $10 a gallon.)

Most notably,
Ninety percent of Democrats, 80 percent of independents and 60 percent of Republicans said immediate action was required to curb the warming of the atmosphere and deal with its effects on the global climate.
That seems like a consensus to me. This is a classic case of the media creating the impression that there are 'two sides' to the story when there really only is one...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Einstein's God

These days, people tend to be interested in Albert Einstein's philosophy more than his science. Walter Isaacson (who has written the first biography of Einstein since his sealed personal files were opened) published a nice little introduction to Einstein's belief in God in the On Faith blog of the Washington Post. Einstein was basically a deist:
I believe in a God who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.
A la Baruch Spinoza. Is deism still around? Not many I have spoken with openly subscribe to such ideas. I wonder if by taking this view, folks give a nod to a higher power that 'science' may never understand, but avoid orthodoxy, dogma and other difficult to accept practices of organized religion.

Project Steve

On April 24th, Project Steve logged its 800th signature. According to the National Center for Science Education, this represents 80,000 individuals that object to the replacement of science education with pseudoscientific instruction in Creationist science. Although I do not appreciate the way that NCSE and their loyal followers tend to use sarcasm and mockery to retort Creationism, I do think more scientists need to speak up for the proper instruction of science.

A couple of questions:
  • Why are there not any more Steves signed on to this?
  • The NSCE description says 1% of American names start with Steve. But wait a minute - Stephen Hawking was signatory #300. He's not American! Who are the statisticians on this job?
Are you a Steve, Stephanie, Stefan, or Esteban? Do you want to be part of Project Steve? See if you are qualified to join the club...

By the way, if you have been wanting to stick up for evolution, I recently reviewed an evolutionist's apologetic for a journal called Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. Titled, The Top 10 Myths About Evolution, this short book reads a bit like a print version of the Mythbusters TV show. I gave it three stars in my 'Recent Reads' panel because it mostly covered arguments I was familiar with. It does present the history and science of evolution quite well, and is a good start if you are not familiar with the details.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

still going...

So much for getting into the habit of blogging a couple of times a week. But if I want to defend in time to go back to medical school in the fall, something needs to give... Don't worry, I still am working to bridge science and society behind the scenes, but the blog has taken a bit of a hit. Oh - Check out my 'Recent Reads' panel... The Cloudspotter's Guide is the best science writing I have encountered in a long time.