October 31, 2008

Global Warming: A Generational Mission?

(a continuation) Global warming is a big problem, with many consequences. The question is, where should this fall on our priority list? Many people devote themselves to causes because they stumble upon them. Like a ballplayer who starts a diabetes fund because their kid gets it. The problem becomes real, because we see it. Global warming became real to us through news stories, celebrity spokesmen and movies. But, are there other problems, bigger than this, that we simply haven't stumbled upon yet? The 2004 Copenhagen Consensus sought to develop a comprehensive list of global challenges and opportunities, prioritized based on the amount of good that can be accomplished per dollar spent. Topping the list are HIV/AIDS control, providing micronutrients to the impoverished, making trade free, and malaria control. Climate control bottomed out the list, simply in terms of the amount of good done with the amount of resources required. For example, $1 spent toward HIV/AIDS treatment does about $40 worth of good in terms of fewer dead, fewer sick, and less social disruption. For every $1 spent on the Kyoto Protocol, we will do about 30 cents worth of good. Perhaps this a callous way to look at it? But, if our desire is to truly accomplish as much as we can with the resources we have, shouldn't we look to prioritized lists like these as our starting point for discussion, and prioritize our spending percentages to match these lists? So, that's where I'm at. Help me out. What do you guys think?

October 30, 2008

Global Warming: Kyoto Protocol?

(a continuation) If every country not only participated in the signing of the Kyoto Treaty, but actually adhered to it, we would delay the 4.7 degree Farenheit increase expected over the next century by five years. Instead of getting there at 2100, we'd get there at 2105. Some people argue that the treaty is more symbolic than practical, and that it's a great opportunity to get universal buy-in on this global problem, to start doing SOMETHING. So, that begs the question, is there a better something we should be pushing for? Proponents of Kyoto talk about how the treaty will encourage eco-friendly technology investments, while cutting down heat deaths, malaria outbreaks and floods. This is all true. At the estimated cost of an estimated $180 billion a year. If these are the real consequences we're trying to prevent, is there a way to be more efficient with our resources, and fight these fights directly? Preventing malaria through vaccinations and mosquito nets, preventing flooding through improved levee systems, preventing carbon-emissions by increasing eco-friendly R&D? All for much, much less money, and with much, much better results. Isn't a wealthier world going to be better prepared to tackle the real problems of global warming? For instance, in the 1920s, one of the malaria hotbeds in the world was Missouri. Today, it's gone. Wealth killed it.

October 29, 2008

Global Warming: Carbon Tax?

(a continuation) Companies aren't legally allowed to dump toxins in the ocean, because of the third-party costs associated with it. They'd be getting free disposal, while poisoning the water, affecting fish, other wildlife and humans. So, if carbon emissions are destructive in a similar way, shouldn't this bear a financial responsibility? A $2/ton carbon tax roughly estimates the damage caused by carbon emissions. Yet, some people suggest instituting a $140/ton tax on carbon emissions because this would help curb global warming faster. This is true, but: A) is it right to arbitrarily tax someone that much higher than what their output is causing? B) are the benefits worth it? for instance, we could lower the speed limit to 5 mph and drastically decrease traffic accidents, but there are costs associated with this C) how much easier will it be to get countries around the world on board with a $2/ton carbon tax as opposed to the larger one? Because frankly, not many countries are going to be willing to accept an economic penalty when countries they compete against aren't?

October 28, 2008

Global Warming: Prevent Warming?

(a continuation) Is our goal to maintain a consistent average global temperature? What should that number be? Let's focus specifically on human life. If the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is right, if we do not change our habits, the average global temperature will increase by approximately 4.7 degrees by the end of the century. In Britain, this would cause an estimated 2,000 more deaths in Britain, annually, through excess heat. It would also prevent an estimated 20,000 deaths from excess cold. This factor of 10 times more lives saved is slightly greater than the current factor of 7 times more people in Europe who currently die from excess cold over excess heat. So, what am I saying? Should we speed up the warming process in order to save more lives? Well, global warming isn't just about saving lives in a pure, numerical sense. It's about preserving a better quality for all life now and in the future. Not to mention that warming will surely affect people living near the equator more negatively than people living further away from it. But, we need to understand the consequences, and yes, even the benefits of global warming before we even try to determine our best solution for solving the problems caused by it.

October 27, 2008

What To Do About Global Warming

This week, we will be discussing the consequences of global warming, what our goals should be when determining solutions, and weighing the costs of these proposals in terms of the benefits gained from instituting them. We will begin from a standpoint that global warming is real, man-made, and will have serious effects on both humanity and the environment. Feel free to comment with any thoughts that can lead off our week.

October 24, 2008

A Valuable Hour

While you've probably read enough single-page articles, and watched enough television blurbs to be familiar with the vocabulary being used to explain the current subprime mortgage / credit crisis, do you really understand why it happened? Chicago Public Radio's This American Life has a terrifically sticky hour-long audio presentation that explains it with real-life examples of the people involved. Listen to this while at work today (click on the Full Episode button), and once you're done, see if your thoughts have changed regarding whether or not you thought the bailout was a good idea, or on what actions you think should take place now. Report your findings. Show your work.

October 23, 2008

Social Justice High

In Chicago, there is a proposal for the development of a gay-friendly high school that would ensure gay students have a safe place to learn. Shouldn't our focus be to reform anti-gay attitudes at our current high schools? If gay kids are feeling threatened at their current schools, I understand the desire they have to escape these harmful environments. But if the problem is the stigma, are we just prolonging the problem by separating ourselves? (post idea submitted by frequent contributor, Emily)

October 22, 2008

Unlearn Everything

If you go to a golf range, you'll see a lot of people with horrible swings they learned from their father. They've read some books, taken some lessons, and tried to emulate Tiger Woods, but there's still that base foundation of terribleness that's ingrained in their muscle memory because of the ignorant teaching of their father, who learned from his similarly ignorant father. And they can't get past it. Knowledge is the same way. You have to make a point to unlearn the garbage you've obtained over the years. Whether you know it or not, we all have faulty paradigms stuck in our head that influence our current decisions. Make it a point to assume you're wrong on everything. And start over.

October 21, 2008

Juneau? Of Coure I Know.

Let's say Alaska decided they wanted to secede from the Union. As Americans with a similar history of claiming independence from a country who controlled us from far away, wouldn't we have to be at least sympathetic to the argument? Choose a side and list your reasons.

October 20, 2008

Practice Does NOT Make Perfect

Example: golf Golf is something that many men play their whole lives, and don't get any better at it. Practice only makes perfect if you're practicing correctly. Repetition of horribleness does not create anything beneficial.