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Beebo Brink

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I'm really interested in this, because it's a very complex thing. Giving up air travel is easy in some ways and not others.
Air travel is one of the best examples of how we've created an infrastructure obstacle to lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Long-distance travel is woven into 1st world business models and into our personal lives.

I work for a multi-national company and the management structure is dependent on significant air travel at the executive level. I'm located at a small branch office, but we get about a half-dozen high-level corporate managers visiting us every year. The U.S.-based corporate execs are constantly flying to Europe and Asia to oversee offices and cement relationships. Every year there's at least one (usually more) internal company conference that pulls in attendees from all over the world. Every year there are industry conferences that at least some of my co-workers are expected to attend, either to present as "thought leaders" or to staff a marketing booth of some kind. There's the training conference where we work in teams with employees from all over the U.S. as we complete job function exercises. And about 80% of the company's employees work as consultants, on-site with clients, which often requires air travel to get to the client office.

Video conferences are technically feasible, but they don't fulfill the very human need to build relationships with clients and with co-workers. There's a social aspect to business operations that would be badly affected by a moratorium on travel. As a sacrifice it is entirely feasible -- painful, but feasible -- but you can count on businesses to strongly resist the Stay Grounded movement.

And then there's the personal. The worse sacrifice I'll face giving up air travel is that I'll probably never see Scotland, at least not until retirement when I could get there by boat. A more expensive and physically draining journey, so probably realistically not an option I would select. All I'm giving up is a Bucket List vacation, but one of my co-workers is a Scots woman married to an American. She flies over to Scotland several times a year, and family of hers flies over to the U.S. Giving up air travel for her would mean rarely seeing her family (again, who has enough vacation time for boat travel?).

This level of sacrifice used to be just accepted, of course. Immigrants to another country knew they were leaving the old country behind and might never see family again. We could learn to sacrifice again, despite the emotional pain. We could reform businesses, scale-down multi-national corporate entities, do away with conferences and meetings that required travel outside the reach of trains. This would slow down the economy, and we would scale back instead of continuing our ponzi-scheme level of growth. We have no idea how to do that without economic collapse and yet more pain.

Eventually, this will happen, but -- given human nature -- not by choice. These conveniences will be wrested out of our grasping fingers by disasters and crumbling infra-structure, by famine, drought, and civil unrest.
 

Beebo Brink

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The hits just keep coming:

‘Sticker shock’ for California wildfire areas: Insurance rates doubled, policies dropped


From the article above (emphasis mine):
We know that CO2 concentrations have risen from pre-industrial levels of 280 parts per million (ppm) to approximately 410 ppm today, the highest recorded in at least three million years. Without major mitigation efforts, we are likely to reach 560 ppm by around 2060.

When the IPCC’s fifth assessment report was published in 2013, it estimated that such a doubling of CO2 was likely to produce warming within the range of 1.5 to 4.5°C as the Earth reaches a new equilibrium. However, preliminary estimates calculated from the latest global climate models (being used in the current IPCC assessment, due out in 2021) are far higher than with the previous generation of models. Early reports are predicting that a doubling of CO2 may in fact produce between 2.8 and 5.8°C of warming. Incredibly, at least eight of the latest models produced by leading research centres in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and France are showing climate sensitivity of 5°C or warmer.
 
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Sid

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Air travel is one of the best examples of how we've created an infrastructure obstacle to lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Long-distance travel is woven into 1st world business models and into our personal lives.
I can fly cheaper then traveling by bus, train or car to city destinations in Europe like, Barcelona, Berlin, London, Rome.
Totally rediculous of course. It is all because on plane fuel there are totally no taxes added.
 
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Beebo Brink

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A hot room won’t usually kill you, but a hot planet will.
Whatever point the OP is trying to make, I can't get past this careless condescension. Tens of thousands of people die every year from "hot rooms" across the world, not to mention the people who die of heat stroke because they didn't "acclimatize" to the heat as easily as the OP claims to have done. There are also millions of people who are elderly or ill who cannot make that metabolic adjustment at all, my wife being one of them. MS compromises the body's ability to deal with heat. In our home, AC is not a luxury, it's how we keep her out of the ER.

"Everyone else just mops the sweat from their brow and gets on with their lives." Because they have no choice, they're too poor. But most of them are suffering and would gladly take advantage of AC if they could afford the equipment and the energy. If their country had sufficient energy, which many do not.

We are caught in a bind where the use of AC can buffer us from the consequences of global warming, at the same time that it contributes to it. And I'm assuming that this partially the point the author was trying to make in a ham-fisted way. But turning off our residentails ACs is not going to make global warming go away, and it's somewhat disingenuous for him to sneer at this one abuse of energy out of so many others. A more nuanced discussion would be more persuasive.
 
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Katheryne Helendale

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I'm with Beebo on this one. I live in an area where 100+ (38C+) degree days are very normal during the summer months. Some means of cooling the air in cars and buildings is all but mandatory here. You're flirting with a heat-related illness otherwise. Now, it's usually a dry heat, so evaporative coolers are an option for us - usually. But they don't work well when it gets humid out, and they use a lot of water, which is a precious commodity in the desert southwest. Air conditioning uses more energy, but they're a lot easier on the water supply. Asking us to turn those off to delay climate change is pretty much no-go for us.
 

Brenda Archer

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I spent an entire month heat sick in Houston without AC in August. I really should have sought medical attention, but I was temping and had no insurance. If I tried this now I’d be calling an ambulance.

Phoenix would be unlivable without AC - people can die of it. I’m afraid the only solution here is to push for solar. Poor hot places like Baghdad that can’t build up reliable electricity are going to be deathtraps.
 

Beebo Brink

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A comment from one those people in the "Everyone else just gets on with their lives" group:
“It’s death,” says 17-year-old Muhammad, as he swelters behind the counter at the hardware store where he works in central Baghdad.

The temperature is 48C and there is no escaping it. The electricity is out in his neighbourhood and he can’t afford a generator to power an air conditioner. And it’s more of the same at home.

“I wake up during the night covered in sweat,” he says, in a low voice. “It’s exhausting. The heat makes you feel awful.”
 

Beebo Brink

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So I've finally figured out why I'm so annoyed by the "Ditch your air-conditioning" article; it's the second part of the title: "You'll be fine".

The author wants to scold coddled Americans for squandering energy on AC, without a realistic assessment of the price we'll pay for giving up that "luxury" as he has deemed it, because he personally can do without it. We may very well have to do as he says to reduce our carbon footprint, or simply because our energy grid can't handle the load, but let's be honest about the cost. Many people, perhaps most, will adjust to some degree, but there will be illness and death for those people -- the young, the elderly, the sick -- who can't regulate body temperature as well as a fit young man sitting at his desk writing articles.

There will also be lost productivity for those people who have more physically demanding jobs than writing facile articles, and death by heat stroke for those who try a bit too hard. There will be equipment malfunction and failures because computers don't have metabolic regulation that can adjust to heat; the AC is my company office is more for the equipment than it is for the people.

This isn't a painless solution. Stop pretending that we can get to where we need to be without sacrifice and hardship.
 

Innula Zenovka

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"Everyone else just mops the sweat from their brow and gets on with their lives." Because they have no choice, they're too poor. But most of them are suffering and would gladly take advantage of AC if they could afford the equipment and the energy. If their country had sufficient energy, which many do not.
Yes, I agree, but what should the world's reaction be if the government of countries like Iraq (and far more populous countries in Asia, like India, and many African countries) said that they couldn't see why their citizens shouldn't enjoy the benefits of air conditioning just as Americans do, and intended, just as the US has done, to pull out of the Paris treaty in order to work on achieving just that?

Is there not a big risk of being justly accused of telling people that they should do as we say, not do as we do?

Historically, after all, towns and cities have risen and fallen as a result of external environmental forces -- the water supply failed, or coastal erosion or whatever -- and people have to migrate.
 
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Fionalein

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You should only be allowed to say “ditch your air conditioning” and “you’ll be fine” after you have lived without it in Phoenix.

Then they can talk.
The descendants of the Pueblo Culture Indians might come back at you on that... :kittyball:
 
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Brenda Archer

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Mass migration has historically led to war. A more sensible approach would be for the wealthy countries to set up the poor ones with solar and a decent grid. I don't expect today's right leaning governments to be capable of this level of foresight. Building better, new housing would also help. If people can feed themselves, leaving them in place makes more sense.
 

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The descendants of the Pueblo Culture Indians might come back at you on that... :kittyball:
Except we're heating up. Nothing quite like this has happened before. If it wasn't for solar, Phoenix would have to eventually be condemned.
 
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Eunoli

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Mass migration has historically led to war. A more sensible approach would be for the wealthy countries to set up the poor ones with solar and a decent grid. I don't expect today's right leaning governments to be capable of this level of foresight. Building better, new housing would also help. If people can feed themselves, leaving them in place makes more sense.
I've been silently brooding and worrying about this for the past year or so. I can't help but look at the desperation of those already fleeing climate change and try to imagine that with completely uninhabitable regions where they are doing well enough, now. It isn't so far in the future as people like to imagine. When you start combining diminished food supplies and lack of affordable energy, the current surge at the US (and other borders) will seem like a babbling brook compared to sudden rapids.

So long as wealthy countries think to handle this by decrying immigrants and shutting them out without seriously helping to fix the issues, we are heading down a path that can only lead to genocide or war or both.
 

Beebo Brink

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Yes, I agree, but what should the world's reaction be if the government of countries like Iraq (and far more populous countries in Asia, like India, and many African countries) said that they couldn't see why their citizens shouldn't enjoy the benefits of air conditioning just as Americans do, and intended, just as the US has done, to pull out of the Paris treaty in order to work on achieving just that?

Is there not a big risk of being justly accused of telling people that they should do as we say, not do as we do?
As I understand it, part of the calculations of the Paris treaty goals are geared to allow 3rd world countries some of that parity. This is a thorny issue that complicates so much of the negotiations, especially with the U.S. and other 1st world countries who get mulish about taking "more than our share of the burden" so that under-developed countries can get a taste of the good life that we enjoy.

If you think that's a hard sell now, just wait. Qualms about injustice aren't going to last long in the days to come, as everyone starts to feel uncomfortable and we become far less generous to the less fortunate than we are already.

We're entering an era of uninhabitable zones, such as Syria, where heat and drought are driving migration out of the region. In the closing chapters of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond maps the political hot spots to climate disruptions. Inevitably, the stress of climate disrupts governments and leads to violent civil unrest, which short-circuits any solutions. Handing out air-conditioners -- even if we could somehow create a grid to sustain them -- isn't going to forestall drought and famine and the flare-up of old ethnic tensions in the face of diminishing resources.
 

Innula Zenovka

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Except we're heating up. Nothing quite like this has happened before. If it wasn't for solar, Phoenix would have to eventually be condemned.
Even if it wasn't for that, there's a pretty good reason why, historically, few cultures before now have built major cities in the middle of deserts.

Indeed, there's several examples of major historical cities that were eventually abandoned because the desert grew and swallowed them up.

I have to say that I've stayed in plenty of old houses and hotels in India that didn't have air conditioning but were, nevertheless, quite bearable because they'd been designed to keep out the sun, catch every breath of breeze, and so on. Plus people there (and in other hot places I've been, like Spain, Greece and the West Indies) live lives that take the climate into account and have siestas and so on.