Sunday, December 6, 2009

Priorities and Targets

This is an excellent short article on climate change.

Only half of man-made global warming comes from CO2. The rest comes from a variety of sources, including hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), black carbon (soot)
Critics point out that the Kyoto protocol has achieved a great deal less than the Montreal protocol, which was designed to prevent the use of ozone-depleting CFCs. Montreal, implemented in 1987, was originally expected to cut half of its gases in 12 years. In the event it got rid of all of them in ten years.
Black carbon is a particular problem in the Arctic and the Himalayan glaciers; it melts snow and ice and thus increases the tendency to absorb heat from the sun. It contributes somewhere between an eighth and a quarter of global warming. Unlike CO2, which stays in the atmosphere for centuries, it disappears within weeks. Cutting emissions would therefore make an instant difference.
HFCs—industrial gases with 1,440 times the global-warming potential of carbon dioxide—are another candidate. Like CFCs, they are produced by a smallish number of industrial processes, and cutting emissions of them is cheap and easy.

This illustrates a fundamental truth about life.  The simpler the goals are, the easier they are to attain.  If you try to do everything, you usually end up doing nothing.  The way to change things effectively is to focus on the one thing that has the highest payoff, and then do that before moving on to anything else.

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