Is Anti-Technology More Important Than Reducing Emissions?

I wonder when it’s going to dawn on those who genuinely believe that carbon emissions are a threat to human existence that the only practical solution to the problem is carbon capture? The editors of the Washington Post come dangerously close to realizing that:

Climate change is usually associated with power plant smokestacks pumping out carbon dioxide. But a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions results from agriculture and related changes in the way people use land. A study released last month by the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank, found that if agriculture gets no more efficient before mid-century, humans will have to wipe out most of the rest of the world’s forests, kill off countless species and blow past dangerous global warming thresholds to feed the expanding population. Even if agricultural productivity rises at typical rates, humans will still need to clear land equivalent to twice the size of India. Meanwhile, reforesting land, not clearing it, is high on the to-do list for restraining global greenhouse gas emissions, since growing plants absorb and store carbon dioxide.

Environmentalists have stressed that meat-heavy diets tend to produce lots of emissions, since grazing animals require lots of cleared land, and they produce methane — a potent greenhouse gas — as they digest. One of the study’s authors found that the average European’s diet produces as many greenhouse gas emissions as her consumption of everything else. Unsurprisingly, the report recommends moderating — though far from eliminating — consumption of red meat.

But that is not the only answer. Humans have to get much better at growing more on less land. Raising cows more quickly, through better managing their feed and other measures, would mean less time grazing and emitting methane before they produce meat for market. New feed additives could also cut how much methane is emitted by grazing animals. Using new gene editing techniques could produce crops that boost farm efficiency and produce fewer greenhouse emissions. Employing new food preservation technologies on produce would prevent useless rot and waste.

A new and more accurate accounting method enabled one of the researchers, Princeton University’s Tim Searchinger, to calculate that biofuels are actually environmental villains: “Using ethanol or biodiesel contributes two to three times the greenhouse gas emissions of gasoline or diesel over more than 30 years,” he found. Government subsidies for biofuels should end. Meanwhile, governments should enforce strict protections for existing forests, keeping their biodiversity unharmed and tons of carbon dioxide sequestered in their plant growth. Agricultural lands on the margins of usefulness should be restored as forests or peatlands.

My guess is that it will still take awhile. Neo-Malthusianism will continue to hold sway for a while yet. That, uncomfortably, preaches that India and Nigeria and the other countries of sub-Saharan Africa need to lower their birthrates.

Every single measure proposed to reduce carbon emissions will produce carbon emissions: ending the consumption of meat, building electric cars, expanding the power grid to support electric cars, rebuilding and refurbishing all of the present buildings, wind and solar power. The only measure that doesn’t is carbon capture.

11 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    “Every single measure proposed to reduce carbon emissions will produce carbon emissions”

    Not sure why this has to bee an either/or situation. Some of these proposals will reduce, even if they dont eliminate, carbon emissions. That would help as capture is developed.


  • They might, they might not. We’re hearing a lot of “to make an omelet you’ve got to break eggs” these days without a lot of omelets to show for it.

    It will take good design and management to make those omelets and both are in critically short supply. If every resource had an infinite supply at zero cost throwing everything at the problem makes sense. But that isn’t the case.

    Not sure why this has to bee an either/or situation

    Quite a few of the most vocal proponents of reducing emissions are actively opposed to nuclear energy and carbon capture. And then there’s the issue of downside risk.

  • Carbon capture can be a key part of the solution over coming decades, as it will take us that long to develop renewables in some sectors. In the UK there is active work being done on switching the natural gas grid to 100% hydrogen by the 2030s. Initially this would be done by using hydrogen produced from fossil fuels, using carbon capture during the process. As long as this is done as a package of measures including building and refurbishing homes to be better insulated, air tight and well ventilated (reducing space heating demands by upwards of 75%) then it makes sense. Doing carbon capture in isolation, allowing everyone else to carry on as usual is not going to work in my view.

  • Since the sectors most responsible for carbon emissions are

    – power generation
    – transportation
    – construction
    – agriculture

    I advocate generating electrical power using small modular nuclear reactors (something I believe is also being started in the UK) and ending subsidies that promote sprawl. Our problems here in the U. S. are somewhat different than those in the U. K.—weather is much harsher and distances far greater.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    Until the Davos crowd embraces carbon capture and nuclear power, I will still believe man made climate change is a ruse for social control.
    Windmills, bicycles, and trolleys will do nothing to save the planet.

  • steve Link

    “Quite a few of the most vocal proponents of reducing emissions are actively opposed to nuclear energy and carbon capture.”

    Quite a few also support nuclear energy. Wind and solar have already been shown to reduce overall emissions even after accounting for manufacturing the components and putting them in place. Also, the data on electric cars is pretty good. We discussed this a few years ago when someone was citing older studies claiming that the batteries in electric cars were wearing out quickly and needed to be replaced every few years, then we found out they were lasting much longer than expected.



  • I think battery life will be a more complex issue than that. I strongly suspect it varies with temperature. In other words an owner in San Francisco will have a different experience than one in Minneapolis.

  • Jimbino Link

    You have to be kidding. Putting a stop to the rampant breeding will certainly reduce all the environmental negatives.

  • TastyBits Link

    You all really need to stop being so negative. In 12 years, there will be no more liar’s loans or racism.

  • steve Link

    In 12 years we will fully deregulate again and the banks will be passing out liars loans and worse, while telling us it isn’t possible anymore for real estate prices to drop. Half of us will believe the bankers and Don Jr will threaten to veto any attempts to stop the banks.


  • TastyBits Link

    And just like before, Democrats are calling for low interest loans for people who can barely afford the monthly note much less the ongoing upkeep, and there are mortgage companies wanting to extend mortgages to borrowers with no credit score.

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