How Climate Change's growth might be stopped sooner than we think.
It's not just Climate Change. In the past, there have been other widespread food, firewood, and pollution crises.
Your author thinks that, like the unanticipated advent of the mass automobile, carbon-neutral combustion biofuels made from renewable biomass instead of today's fossil fuels may stop Climate Change's growth.
Levitt and Dubner tell the horseshit story as a foreword to thinking about climate change.
Is there a quick fix for the climate? by Elizabeth Kolbert, November 16, 2009 - The New Yorker
"SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance" (William Morrow; $29.99);
Steven D. Levitt; Stephen J. Dubner;
"Our Choice: Plans to Solve the Climate Crisis" (Rodale; $26.99);
In the eighteen-sixties, the quickest, or at least the most popular, way to get around New York was in a horse-drawn streetcar. The horsecars, which operated on iron rails, offered a smoother ride than the horse-drawn omnibuses they replaced. (The Herald described the experience of travelling by omnibus as a form of "modern martyrdom.") New Yorkers made some thirty-five million horsecar trips a year at the start of the decade. By 1870, that figure had tripled.
The standard horsecar, which seated twenty, was drawn by a pair of roans and ran sixteen hours a day. Each horse could work only a four-hour shift, so operating a single car required at least eight animals. Additional horses were needed if the route ran up a grade, or if the weather was hot. Horses were also employed to transport goods; as the amount of freight arriving at the city's railroad terminals increased, so, too, did the number of horses needed to distribute it along local streets. By 1880, there were at least a hundred and fifty thousand horses living in New York, and probably a great many more. Each one relieved itself of, on average, twenty-two pounds of manure a day, meaning that the city's production of horse droppings ran to at least forty-five thousand tons a month. George Waring, Jr., who served as the city's Street Cleaning Commissioner, described Manhattan as stinking "with the emanations of putrefying organic matter." Another observer wrote that the streets were "literally carpeted with a warm, brown matting . . . smelling to heaven." In the early part of the century, farmers in the surrounding counties had been happy to pay for the city's manure, which could be converted into rich fertilizer, but by the later part the market was so glutted that stable owners had to pay to have the stuff removed, with the result that it often accumulated in vacant lots, providing breeding grounds for flies.
The problem just kept piling up until, in the eighteen-nineties, it seemed virtually insurmountable. One commentator predicted that by 1930 horse manure would reach the level of Manhattan's third-story windows. New York's troubles were not New York's alone; in 1894, the Times of London forecast that by the middle of the following century every street in the city would be buried under nine feet of manure. It was understood that flies were a transmission vector for disease, and a public-health crisis seemed imminent. When the world's first international urban-planning conference was held, in 1898, it was dominated by discussion of the manure situation. Unable to agree upon any solutions-or to imagine cities without horses-the delegates broke up the meeting, which had been scheduled to last a week and a half, after just three days.
Then, almost overnight, the crisis passed. This was not brought about by regulation or by government policy. Instead, it was technological innovation that made the difference. With electrification and the development of the internal-combustion engine, there were new ways to move people and goods around. By 1912, autos in New York outnumbered horses, and in 1917 the city's last horse-drawn streetcar made its final run. All the anxieties about a metropolis inundated by ordure had been misplaced.
This story-call it the Parable of Horseshit-has been told many times, with varying aims. The latest iteration is offered by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, in their new book, "SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance" (William Morrow; $29.99). According to Levitt and Dubner, the story's message is a simple one: if, at any particular moment, things look bleak, it's because people are seeing them the wrong way. "When the solution to a given problem doesn't lie right before our eyes, it is easy to assume that no solution exists," they write. "But history has shown again and again that such assumptions are wrong."
Levitt and Dubner tell the horseshit story as a prelude to discussing climate change: "Just as equine activity once threatened to stomp out civilization, there is now a fear that human activity will do the same." As usual, they say, the anxiety is unwarranted. First, the global-warming threat has been exaggerated; there is uncertainty about how, exactly, the earth will respond to rising CO2 levels, and uncertainty has "a nasty way of making us conjure up the very worst possibilities." Second, solutions are bound to present themselves:
"Technological fixes are often far simpler, and therefore cheaper, than the doomsayers could have imagined."
-- more: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2009/11/16/091116crbo_books_kolbert?printable=true#ixzz0WlZDQntR
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