Monday, November 05, 2012

Book Notes of Hot, Flat and Crowded - problems only.

Key takeaways: 
We need a completee revolution, even if we shut down all the transportation – it still amounts only 14%.  Saving the existing forests is essential. But conservation and consumption need not be opposite – eliminate waste.

First Section: The problems.

Chapter 1: Where birds don't fly

Pg 18  Denmark's reduced reliance on oil which created economic growth

Since 1981, Denmark's economy grew by 70%, while its energy consumption has been kept almost flat all these years. In 1973, Denmark gets 99 % of energy from Middle East, today is zero.

Denmark's early emphasis on solar and wind power has created a new export industry and created jobs. Today, 1/3 of all terrestrial wind turbines in the world comes from Denmark.

Chapter 2: Today's date: 1 C.E
Today's weather: Hot, flat and crowded

Pg 34 The sources of CO2
Deforestation in places like Indonesia and Brazil contributes more CO2 than all the world's cars, trucks, planes, ships and trains combined – that is, about 20% of total global emissions.

Pg 41 Why the law of the market has failed to address the problems of high prices of commodities?

In part because there has been massive subsidies for energy and food around the world.
  • Energy: China, India and Middle East alone spent $50 billion subsidizing fuel in 2007, according to the World Bank.  Indonesia in 2007 spent 30% of its budget on energy subsidies
  • Food: In 2007, Western countries spent roughly $270 Billion on subsidizing agriculture. Their farmers got rich, consumers got cheap food and Third World countries cannot compete.

Chapter 3:  Our carbon Copies (or, Too many Americans)

Pg 69
Carl Pope:

Every previous economic spurt and takeoff in history by one country or region was nurtured by an unexploited biological commons.  Biological commons refer to a region of vast untapped natural resources.

Northern Europe was taken into capitalism by the cod fishermen of the North Atlantic in the seventeenth century. Europe at that time didn't have many sources of protein until it discovered the Grand Banks fishing grounds. That is how they provided the proteins for all the people to live in cities. Britain's fleet was made possible by the virgin pine forests of North America and hardwood forest of India.

Industrial Revolution was in part fed by the American Midwest which provided grain and by Britain exploiting India to grow tea to sell to China to obtain silver and silk.  Parts of Africa were exploited for slaves to grow sugar in the Caribbean.”

Chapter 4: Fill ‘er up with dictators

Pg 79 Oil addiction also has the following effects:
Energy purchases has enrich conservative, Islamic governments in the Persian Gulf and that some of these governments share some of wealth with the charities, mosques and religious schools. Some of these then share part of it with anti-American terrorist groups.

Pg 82  Saudi Arabia with its enormous oil resources, and keeper of Islam 2 holiest mosques, Mecca and Medina, has both a unique legitimacy in the Muslim world and a unique level of resources to advance its ultraconservative brand of Islam around the Muslim world.

Oil and Freedom

Pg 93 Bahrain was the first Gulf state to hold a free and fair parliamentary election, in which women can vote and run. It was also the first Gulf state to embark on an overhaul of its labour laws.  The objective: to break the culture of dependence on the oil welfare state, and to put an end to the practice of starting a manufacturing business by importing low-wage workers from India or Bangladesh.

It is because Bahrain was not only the first to discover oil in 1932 but also the first to start running out of oil, around 1998.

The law of Petropolitics: In oil-rich states, the price of oil and pace of freedom tend to move in opposite directions:  

Basically, higher the oil prices, the more money these governments have at their disposal to build up domestic security forces, buy votes or public support.

Dutch Disease refers to the process of deindustrialization that can result from a sudden natural resource windfall. The term was coined in the Netherlands in the 1960s, after it discovered huge deposits of natural gas.

The influx of cash from sale of natural resources will raise the currency and the strong currency will make the country's manufactured exports expensive and imports cheap. So domestic manufacturing will fall as exports fall and citizens don't buy domestically produced goods.

What is worth noting is that entry-level work for poor and less educated women disappears as the country buys more imports and exports of the country falls. Meanwhile, oil booms tend to lead to more construction jobs, which means more jobs for men. So women get less employment opportunities while men get more.

Next question, why low prices or no oil incomes at all in the 1960's didn't lead to more democratization in the Arab World back then:

Answer: Between 1950 and 1989, the Cold War provided the “foreign aid” from either the Soviet Union or The United States provided the money for the Arab leaders to do what they are doing with their oil money.

Case in support of the above viewpoint that high oil means less human rights:
1 of the 23 countries whose economies are dominated by what Larry Diamond calls “the exceptional curse of oil” are democracies. From Algeria to Venezuela, he chillingly reminds us, “All of the oil-rich countries of the world remained under or returned to authoritarian rule after 1974 and the third wave of democratization.” When oil revenues surge, he writes, democracy declines.   “Sprit of democracy” by Larry Diamond:

Case in history how low oil prices may bring more human rights:
After all, it was the collapse of global oil prices in the early 1990s that brought down the Soviet Union. And Iran today is looking very Soviet to me. As Vladimir Mau, president of Russia’s Academy of National Economy, pointed out to me, it was the long period of high oil prices followed by sharply lower oil prices that killed the Soviet Union. The spike in oil prices in the 1970s deluded the Kremlin into overextending subsidies at home and invading Afghanistan abroad — and then the collapse in prices in the ‘80s helped bring down that overextended empire.
(Incidentally, this was exactly what happened to the Shah of Iran: 1) Sudden surge in oil prices. 2) Delusions of grandeur. 3) Sudden contraction of oil prices. 4) Dramatic downfall. 5) You’re toast.:) Source:

Chapter 5: Global Weirding – Climate change.

Pg 119 The amount of CO2 in the last 10000 years has been stable at around 280 ppm of CO2.

Pg 113 Why Global Warming should be called Global Climatic Disruption?
Rising global temperature = Higher Evaporation rate
Areas that are naturally dry will become dryer.
Areas that are near bodies of water, or areas where atmospheric dynamics favour precipitation will tend to get wetter. Because moisture that goes up must come down.

Chapter 6 The age of Noah – Biodiversity

Pg 152
Human are the only species in this vast web of life that no other animal or plant in nature depends for its survival and yet we depends on this whole web of life for our survival.

Chapter 7 Energy Poverty.

Chapter 8 Green is the new red, white and blue
Pg 172 Green becomes the smartest, most efficient, lowest-cost way – when all the true costs are included to do things. Green is going from boutique to better, from a choice to a necessity, from a fad to a strategy to win, from an insoluble problem to a great opportunity.

Pg 182 Why conservation is not enough
Establish protected areas for plants and animals, but then climate change shifts habitat temperatures and rainfall patterns, making some protected areas uninhabitable for the very creatures they were created to protect.

Pg 183
We put in efforts to east poverty while still maintaining a Dirty Fuel System that gives massive subsidies to American farmers to encourage them to grow corn for ethanol, a process that drives up food prices around the world. As long as we try to combat poverty within a system that is encouraging people to use food to power their cars rather than to drive less, we are never going to be successful.

Pg 191
McKinsey Global Institute February 2008 projected “The world could cut projected global energy demand growth between now and 2010 “ by at least half by capturing opportunities to increase energy productivity - the level of output we achieve from the energy we consume.” 

Pg 192

“Conservation is not the opposite of consumption. We can consume more and conserve more at the same time. We need to identify those places and resources that we need to protect and grow around them. We also need to identify the practices that are just wasteful- out of habit or ignorance, not necessity or design – and eliminate them.” Glen Prickett of Conservation International.

The clean energy system that does 3 things:
1.    Innovation and generation of the cleanest and cheapest electrons.
2.    Most efficient and productive use of those electrons
3.    Conserving our natural resources and educating people about their material, spiritual, aesthetic values.

Pg 207

All those easy green books have these 3 assertions:
1.    We should look for easy, cost-effective things to do in our private lives as consumers, since that is where we have the most power and control.
2.    The cumulative effect of these individual choices will be a safe planet
3.    Which is a good thing because we by nature ain't interested to do anything thing that isn't private, individualistic, cost-effective and, above all, easy.

To stop at “easy” is to say that the best that we can do is accepting an uninspired politics of guilt around a parade of uncoordinated individual action.

Pg 208:
People talk about the green issue in the total abstract, without any connection to the actual scale of the challenge we have to meet in order to significantly reduce CO2 emissions and become more energy and resource efficient.

Pg 210
Chevron's CEO, David O'Reilly:” People are overestimating the ability of the alternatives that are out there to get to scale.  Efficiency: If you shut down the entire transport system – every car, truck, ship and plane. You would reduce carbon emissions by 14 percent, globally. If you shut down all industrial, all commercial and all residential, carbon emissions will be cut by 68 percent.

Efficiency can help. But it is not enough.

Pg 211
Carbon Mitigation Initiative – risk of global weirding grows rapidly as CO2 approaches a double of the concentration CO2, that was in the atmosphere before the Industrial revolution, which was 280 parts per million. 

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