Why I Am Pessimistic About Global Warming Progress

Maybe it’s the jumping forward due to Daylight Saving Time still kicking in, but the problem in combating global warming is that the ‘zipless fuck’ solutions aren’t enough. Weatherizing your house and driving an electric vehicle aren’t enough. We’ll outsource this to Greta Moran at Grist (boldface mine):

Get rid of all the country’s coal plants, run the country purely on renewables, and we’ll still be left with the top source of greenhouse gas emissions: transportation.

Carbon-belching cars, trucks, and planes are now the greatest source of U.S. carbon emissions, a title held by power generation until 2017. It’s a sprawling problem that accounts for more than a quarter of yearly greenhouse gases.

Our transportation system is designed for long, interstate road trips; climate change isn’t a consideration. At least one critic has said the Green New Deal’s biggest failing is that it doesn’t address the country’s sprawl

We need more low-carbon trains, buses, and subways.

Putting more dollars into light rail systems, buses, and the like would obviously help get cars off the road. Arroyo noted that cities and states are leading the way on this, designing “complete streets” that are safer for pedestrians and bikers, and putting caps on greenhouse gas emissions. She highlighted California’s cap-and-trade program, which includes transportation, and the nine mid-Atlantic states that have developed collective transportation caps on emissions.

Arroyo said that the federal government should also help local governments by increasing federal matching funds for public transit systems. At the moment, the federal government matches 80 percent of local money spent on highways, but just 50 percent for public transit projects.

I think the problem is more severe than this: right now, in most cities–not metro areas, but actual cities–it is still far too difficult to improve housing policy and transit policy in the very places where it’s relatively easy to do so. As I chronicle routinely on this blog, mass transit is in sorry shape in the U.S. At the same time, cities still have too many obstacles to building more housing, and these obstacles are local, state, and federal. Worse, the feedback between transportation and housing isn’t exploited nearly enough. As some asshole with a blog has noted, the urban housing crisis is intertwined with the mass transit crisis.

If we can’t transform a city, it’s not clear to me how we’re going to we’re going to transform the rest of the country. A serious response does require that transformation (boldface mine):

Dense cities are green. The way to save nature is to stay the hell away from it. Automobile transportation is a huge driver of emissions and that is not compatible with “I want to live in the middle of nowhere with nature because nature is good.” Detached homes are more expensive to heat and cool. Large homes are more expensive to heat and cool. The entire country doesn’t have to look like Manhattan, but people should get that we’d get a lot closer to saving the world if it did.

I don’t know if U.S.-ians are ready for this at all–or if our political system will be able to respond.

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