SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
CARMEN: Tonight I have the pleasure of introducing our speaker Dr. Sylvester Johnson, who is a Cornell alumnus. He has a PhD in applied physics, including a course in climate dynamics. He is here tonight presenting in association with the Museum of the Earth, which is an institute, and a part of Cornell.
His presentation tonight is on the effects of climate change on agriculture, and the controversies and policies involving emissions control. So the presentation is 60 minutes long, with a question and answer session afterwards. And without further ado, I'll hand it over to Dr. Johnson.
DR. SYLVESTER JOHNSON: Thanks very much, Carmen. And thanks to Vicky as well.
Thanks Carmen and Vicky for all your work setting this up. Really, what's so bad about warmth? Well, for farmers it would seem that the carbon dioxide fertilization effect-- which is simply the increase of the plant nutrient, carbon dioxide, stimulating further growth, supporting further growth in plants, increased growth for-- you'd think, greater harvests. And also the longer growing season, you'd think would mean larger harvests.
Well, for the next degree or two of warming, that may be the case. However, after another degree or two it's possible that farmers will be paying more in herbicides and pesticides, and battling pathogens than the increased profit from the longer growing season. When the canopy is denser-- for example, from higher levels of carbon dioxide stimulating plant growth-- there is more humidity beneath the canopy, and therefore more spore formation, and fungal growth.
Here's a shot of snap bean white mold. This is a plot of wheat yield as a function of time over five decades. The Green Revolution has really boosted harvests, however, as fungal rusts and heat sensitivity become more of an issue, the high yields of grains may become harder to maintain. Insects are cold-blooded, that means that as temperatures increase, the reproductive cycles of insects may become more rapid. That means that farmers will be paying more for pesticides, because insects will also have more of a chance to develop resistance to the pesticides.
This is a plot of soy leaf tissue eaten for two different types of beetles, and blue at a lower level of carbon dioxide, and red at a higher level of carbon dioxide. The plant tissue, the total plant tissue is actually-- the tissue eaten is greater with the higher level of carbon dioxide. So from the blue to the red, the amount of tissue eaten is greater, because leaves have more sugar in them, the beetles' appetites get stimulated by the increased sugar level.
For people, mosquitoes are also cold-blooded, so their ranges will increase with increasing temperatures. Meaning that the current level of 300 million people affected annually by malaria-- that is, for chronic cases of 300 million, and some new cases, and some people dying-- that number may increase for larger numbers of people debilitated by malaria. This is a picture of a malarial parasite traversing inside the cell of a mosquito. Malaria is very elusive, difficult to battle.
Weeds thrive with increasing carbon dioxide levels, and the allergenicity of weeds is up with that higher level. They become more robust against herbicides. So the plant on the right with the same amount of herbicide as the plant on the left, but at a higher carbon dioxide level, and the weeds are much denser, because they're more robust against that herbicide.
These are several locations with precipitation as a function of time over 100 years. In the last three decades or so, the rate of extreme precipitation events has been increasing. So if there are high winds during those events, that can mean quite a bit of damage to crops, and field flooding. And for people, septic systems can tend to get overwhelmed, spreading waterborne diseases.
Heat stress can occur more often if heat waves occur without precipitation. The dark area inside this cabbage is internal rotting due to heat stress, because insufficient water enters the roots to transport minerals up through the plant, and that means a deficiency of calcium, and internal rotting. In addition, the dry weight of the plant is plotted here with two levels of carbon dioxide, and two temperatures. So the total plant dry weight produced may increase with increasing levels of carbon dioxide, but the reproductive development is impaired at higher temperatures, meaning lower seed productivity.
Heat stress also affects livestock, and this is a plot of heat stress as a function of temperature and humidity. Clearly, feverish cattle are not going to produce as much milk. So farmers get told to feed the cattle more readily-digestible feed, however, it's hard to battle a heatwave. And you can't do that for several hundred head. Farmers may be paying more for air conditioned barns.
So I've given an overview of the fundamentals for agriculture, but the author David Wolfe will be presenting tonight at 7:30, just by coincidence. This is a graph of precipitation trends, a visualization for over the last 100 years, with wet places getting wetter, and dry places getting drier. These trends are likely to continue.
In the US, water stresses may worsen in the Midwest and Far West, and on the East Coast, insect-borne diseases may increase in range. Of course, storms and sea level rising will be an issue for the US, and across the world. Countries that can't afford to install widespread irrigation systems may experience crop failures more frequently, but the population is expected to exceed nine billion people. The evening news won't be pretty.
How is it that we affect the atmosphere? Just for starters, when we burn a liquid or solid carbon, that produces a volume of gaseous carbon dioxide over 700 times the volume of the original liquid or solid carbon. Combining burning with leveraging here-- by leveraging I mean that carbon dioxide level's just 1/2500th the volume of the entire atmosphere. You usually read 380 parts per million, but approximately 1/2500th seems a more intuitive figure.
So when we burn that carbon, and produce a volume of carbon dioxide, that increases the volume of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere 2,500 times more than the volume of the atmosphere itself. It's leveraging that level of carbon dioxide. So we produce large volumes of carbon dioxide, and we increase the volume of carbon dioxide 2,500 times more than the volume of the entire atmosphere.
Then the water vapor cycle amplifies our emissions. So we increase greenhouse blanketing, we increase global surface temperature, that increases evaporation, which increases the level of water vapor, humidity. And that itself is a heat-trapping gas, so that increases blanketing, which goes along in a cycle, amplifying our emissions. And that continues until increased precipitation and radiation result in a new equilibrium temperature.
These are hurricane tracks showing landfall on the United States. A hurricane is a heat engine driven by the difference between the temperature at the bottom of the storm, and the temperature at the top of the storm. A car's heat engine turns the wheels, a hurricane's heat engine turns the atmosphere. While a hurricane is traversing water, it draws vapor up into the storm. The vapor condenses higher up, and releases latent heat of condensation which drives the storm even more fiercely.
For storms that survive crossing Florida as hurricanes, under the Gulf, the warm Gulf waters may create super storms. That hurricane as a heat engine theory makes it plausible that sea surface temperature and power-- expenditure in a hurricane-- would be correlated. And this does show a pretty tight correlation between the two.
The natural variation in power expenditure dominated the upward trend in temperature and power over the first two decades of the last 30 years. But in the last decade, the increased temperature and power expenditure dominated the natural trend. While individual years will vary in the extreme, it looks like the trend is increasing for temperature and power expenditure. The United States is very vulnerable to those storms. So by delaying the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, we are risking increased storm damage.
This is a plot of the micro earthquakes created by glacial sliding. And you can see an accelerating trend in sliding over the last decade or so. This is due to the water being transported down from the top melt pools through moulins to the base of the glaciers, where the water creates a hydroplaning effect, and the glaciers slide more rapidly, calving more rapidly. Icebergs then float elsewhere and melt.
So it's not just the surface melt of the glaciers, it's also the increased sliding rate. However, that sliding rate is not predicted in the models, because it's too complicated. The top of a glacier is brittle, the bottom of the glacier-- beneath a mile-thick glacier- is plastic. So trying to model that with computers is a challenge that hasn't been met. This is one reason why the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predictions may be too mild.
This shows an acceleration in loss of glacial mass throughout the world, although there are some places where there may be more precipitation and snow adding to the glacier mass. But those are isolated cases. In general, there's tending to be a loss. Clearly, if this acceleration continues, in a couple of decades, the glacial loss may contribute to sea level rising in a substantial way.
Well, fortunately, the internet has identified the cause of this melting. What about Star Trek-style geoengineering? Well, the earth presents a disk of 100 million square kilometers to the sun. To block just 1/2,000th of that disk would take a cumulative area of shields-- between us and the sun-- of 50,000 square kilometers. Well, that would have to be maintained in the equilibrium gravitational position between us and the sun, using who knows how many rocket shuttle boosters, equivalent to a force of thrust to maintain them against the radiative force of the sun. So we have to conclude that that's an impractical project.
In addition, people have proposed further impractical schemes, which may be as useful as asking Scotty to beam us aboard. For example, the proposal has been made to filter the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Well, that would involve pushing large volumes of the atmosphere through filters-- dense filters-- an energy-intensive project.
And it would be clearly also impractical to remove much of that very diffuse carbon dioxide, just 1/2500th 100 of the atmosphere. But it is necessary to remove it from smokestack emissions-- a different issue. Therefore, trying to geoengineer the earth seems like a distraction, and a dangerous distraction from the energy-efficiency work, and the renewable energy implementation that needs to be done.
For every degree of ultimate temperature increase, it's possible to guesstimate the extent of damages such as flooding and loss of seasons. The watchword now is damage control, limiting the temperature increase. By burning fossil fuels, it's possible that we've lit a fire of feedback cycles. For that fire to have a chance of sputtering and going out, we need to stop fanning it. Fortunately, just as every emission of heat-trapping gases increases warming, every reduction reduces warming that otherwise would have occurred, reducing the fanning of that fire of feedback cycle, so hopefully it will sputter and go out.
Washington has started talking about a carbon tax versus emissions trading. But what about the effect of each on the climate and on the economy? First, the definitions-- in emissions trading, the total amount of emissions gets capped. Each year, the cap gets reduced. Companies that pollute more than their cap have to buy permits to pollute from companies that produce less than their cap-- that's called a trade. So therefore, the process is called cap and trade.
Still, cap and trade raises the cost of energy in the same effect as a tax, because the costs disperse throughout the economy. It's also a regressive tax, equivalent to a flat tax. The permit price that I was talking about, buying a permit to pollute, rides with the market in permits. So it's a roller coaster ride, a volatile price of the permits, making it very difficult to budget energy for both companies and individuals.
Emissions trading may result in offsets that worsen the balance of trade. And in an offset, one compensates for one's emissions by buying an offset that pays people to reduce emissions, or absorb heat-trapping gases. But the cheapest offsets are being developed abroad, so companies are likely to evade the obligation to reduce emissions by not making the investments in infrastructure to increase efficiency, and in renewables. They're going to likely evade that, many companies, by buying cheap offsets from abroad. That exports the jobs to other countries, depressing the economy.
The traders and brokers who profit from emissions trading want this to be set up. And they are arguing that the trading in sulfur dioxide emissions is a good model for trading in carbon dioxide. But the number of emitters of sulfur dioxide is quite limited, whereas the number of emitters of carbon dioxide is multiferous.
In Europe, cap trade has been called a failure. So why replicate the European experience? We can use carbon tax as a tool, a policy tool that will use the price demand guideline of economics to reduce the demand by increasing the prices. In addition, the revenues from a carbon tax can be used to fund an income tax cut that's done in a progressive way. The tax can be applied upstream, close to the sources of fossil fuels, so that the bureaucracy needed to monitor the activity will be minimal, as opposed to the bureaucracy-- the major, monumental bureaucracy necessary for cap trade.
The tax rate will be set annually, without any roller coaster effect riding a market, so it will make energy budgeting more doable for both companies and individuals. The United States' competitive position in the world can be maintained by imposing a tariff, or border tax, on products from countries that don't have a carbon tax. Part of the revenues can be used to fund projects that install labor-intensive efficiency technologies, that would stimulate the economy, rather than depress the economy, as with cap trade-- or undercut it, the way emissions trading does.
So it's often said that a new tax is politically impossible-- that's only until it's politically possible. Since both labor and business have reasons to support a carbon tax, with information and education, it can become politically possible. Therefore, it's not a sin to support a carbon tax, even though it's a sin tax.
The devastation caused by coal mining is a separate issue from the carbon dioxide emissions. However, we'll see that there are reasons to limit coal mine, and the construction of new power plants. It's proposed that the carbon dioxide emissions from power plants be stored underground, sequestered underground. However, there may be very few sites that really allow storage in a secure fashion.
Depleted oil fields may have too many holes in them already, there may be too many cracks made in the shields, in the layers that would keep the carbon dioxide under the ground. So that transportation long distances may be necessary to get the carbon dioxide to the relatively few sites that keep it secure. That's one reason to limit the construction of new coal plants, even if they have carbon-capture and storage.
However, the low cost of coal means that the added cost from either cap trade or a carbon tax is not likely to delay construction-- or reduce construction-- of coal fired power plant, not for quite a few years, until the carbon tax gets quite high. In addition, the conventional coal plants are very difficult and impractical to retrofit to carbon capture. With a lifetime of over 50 years, and with over 50 plants, new plants, being built per year, coal power is an urgent issue.
How about a worldwide protocol to limit construction of coal plants to just carbon-capture ready plants? There's already in existence an example of an international protocol about the environment. The Montreal Protocol limited the production of chlorofluorocarbons that were damaging the ozone layer. That provides a model for a worldwide coal protocol, which might be simpler and faster to negotiate than an agreement for all heat-trapping emissions-- which may take quite a few years to negotiate, if ever.
But the World Bank could make loans to developing countries to motivate them to join such a protocol on coal plants, since they'd need to spend more to build plants that are carbon-capture ready. That could bring the developing countries into such an agreement. In developed countries, a limited number of plants could get guaranteed loans from the government to implement the carbon-capture ready feature. So a worldwide protocol on coal could be very doable.
How about hydrogen fuel? Well, most of the hydrogen these days is generated from fossil fuels, as energy. It'll be decades before the renewables for powering the grid-- and for generating hydrogen-- will be ready in an extensive fashion. Fuel cells are still too expensive for automobiles. The storage of the hydrogen, and the transport, the infrastructure is very challenging and expensive to install.
So a large hydrogen fleet of vehicles seems a distant dream, and a distraction that some politicians may wish to utilize to distract us from the need to do the straightforward installation of renewable energy devices and efficiencies. Also it may be more advantageous to focus on plug-in hybrids for vehicles, rather than any dream of a hydrogen fleet, which might not come about for 50 years.
With ethanol, a lot of fossil fuels get used to producing soy and corn, and to transport them to the processing station. Even to exact a savings of 20% in emissions of carbon dioxide, it's necessary for cattle to eat the waste from the plants. But that waste rots within two days, so realistically, it's unlikely that that's going to happen as efficiently as it's needed. So that means that there may be actually no net reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide from ethanol from soy and corn.
It needs to be switchgrass. But even growing switchgrass can have unintended consequences, since land that's lain dormant for many years may get tilled in order to plant the switchgrass. Or it may get tilled to plant soy or corn. Processing of ethanol results in the emission of bioaerosols, aldehydes, spores, and how they cause asthma. And some of the plants are being planned for urban areas, or near urban areas. This has been a problem for farmers for many years, the asthma from spores.
What about nuclear power? Well, it's very expensive and time-consuming to get a nuclear plant built-- 15 years seems like the minimum, and they usually involve cost overruns. You could do much, much more with the renewable energy than with nuclear, in the near-term. Also it's possible that an attack on a nuclear plant could cause a catastrophic release of radiation.
Imagine building hundreds more nuclear plants throughout the world, and then having one of them experience a catastrophe that really did a tremendous amount of damage. A lot of them would need to get shut down just because of concerns of the public-- wasting all that effort to build the plants. And a tragedy, especially because they could have been devoted to efficiency and renewables. Of course, the waste can be used to build bombs-- either dirty bombs, or actual nuclear bombs.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization put out a report that livestock farming creates more heat-trapping emissions than transportation. That's because the methane emitted by eructation-- belching of cattle-- and the decomposition of the manure, that methane has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. The nitrous oxide formed as a byproduct when bacteria degrade fertilizer has 310 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. That's how livestock farming creates more heat-trapping emissions than transportation.
Therefore, it's worthwhile considering other aspects of livestock farming, the resources used, and the health impacts of eating a lot of animal-based foods. In fact, it may be advantageous to-- for health reasons alone-- to minimize animal-based foods to just a deck of cards' worth, four or five times a week. If you went and did that, then on average, it would amount to as much as changing from a regular car to a hybrid car-- that kind of savings annually, for each person who minimized animal-based foods. If hundreds of millions of people did that, that could make a significant difference in emissions.
I also give a talk on health. Just as an illustration, the consumption of animal based foods can result in arteries that look like this. It's possible, some studies have shown that people who eat more animal-based foods have more of a risk of coronary artery disease. But then after switching to a more of a plant-based diet for an extended period of time, the artery can open up. The body heals itself, if it's not insulted.
Well, more will have to be said on that in the health talk. But not just flesh, but also cheese and milk can have the effect of increasing risk of coronary artery disease. After all, milk's intended to help a calf grow over 600 pounds in less than a year, so it might have unwarranted effects on animals that have been weaned.
I have a handout, if anybody wants one, on the impacts of food on cancer. That's just in the first audio interview that's available for download from my website-- that's climatehealth.net. The interviews, you can get to them easily on the site map-- climatehealth.net. A series of seven audio interviews with Colin Campbell, a Cornell nutritionist.
Of course, we have to save the trucks from so much wear and tear. The major cost of energy expenses for a building is in heating and cooling. Fairly old appliances can be inefficient, therefore it's advantageous to replace older appliances with Energy Star certified appliances, for savings of possibly more than 20% in energy costs.
This shows infrared scans, which reveal places where insulation is either missing or uneven. Only a few buildings at Cornell have been scanned. So students could make a contribution by checking with Dean Koyanagi-- who is in charge of sustainable Cornell-- about which buildings would be priorities to scan, and then having student projects dictate infrared scanners and map the attics floors of those buildings to find out where the insulation is either missing or inadequate.
And also where heat-- air may actually just be rising through cracks, because there are many ways for a building to have small cracks. Even a 16th of an inch crack can result in substantial loss of air over time during a cold winter. This shows a gap in the fiberglass, but even when fiberglass and blown insulation are continuous, they don't stop air flow. So it's important to get those cracks and gaps in the attic floor plugged up. Scans could reveal those as well.
But what about a building where it's intentionally pumped out without any heat recovery. That doesn't make any sense, does it? Well unfortunately, Duffield Hall was designed in 1995, when energy expenses were minimal. So the clean rooms could have had heat recovery for an extra $400,000 expense in the building budget. But that heat recovery for the clean rooms was cut out of the budget to save $400,000. Now it may be costing between $100,000 and $300,000 annually per year in extra heat expense for Duffield. Wow.
So a student project could be to compare the heating expense from Duffield with buildings of a similar configuration to get an idea of how much money annually Cornell could save by retrofitting the Duffield clean room exhausts to recover heat. That retrofit may cost between $1 million and $3 million, who knows-- until somebody does a guesstimate as to how much the retrofit would cost.
But just noting, it might be worth emailing the other students in Engineers for a Sustainable World that this is a possible major contribution that students can make near-term to get this data together, just to-- some coarse numbers-- talking first with the proper people in building and grounds about how to go about it. The coarse numbers could be used for an alumni development challenge. Because the president's commitment to reduce emissions won't be fulfilled in its entirety until buildings like Duffield get retrofitted.
So alumni could be asked to contribute the money they it would take to retrofit Duffield. And every chemical-- I wonder what percentage of the chemical hoods on campus have heat recovery. Nobody knows, probably. Or maybe they have an idea, maybe they have an idea that it's more like 5% or 10%. So it's worth finding out. There's room for student contributions in this area. KyotoNOW could have a bunch of students interested in this if e-mails went out to them.
And these slides are on the website, downloadable, again, easily from the site map. You can go to the slides on climate change, and how to reduce emissions, that kind of a title. And so there'd be a reference for students to look at these slides, and this one in particular. Or you could just cut, copy, and paste the text from this slide, and send it off in an email to KyotoNOW and Engineers for a Sustainable World, outlining these student projects.
OK, there's enough to do already with coursework, but hey, if there's any time left after the coursework. Cornell needs some help, maybe, to get urged along in this matter, because this retrofit is an imposing amount of money. But if it saves $200,000 a year heating expense, it could be justifiable just on financial grounds alone. But certainly, with the president's commitment, it's justifiable.
I've got a lot of information on passive buildings on my website. One key point is that building codes need to be upgraded. Both local and state building codes need to be upgraded to mandate higher performance buildings upon renovation, and also new building construction. Renovation I say, because landlords need to be forced to invest in energy efficiencies for apartment buildings.
In California, energy efficiency has resulted in tremendous savings. If the entire US were as efficient as California, it'd be a savings of over $100 billion in energy expenses a year. That is equivalent to the output of quite a few coal-burning power plants. There is hope with energy efficiency projects.
Here's a plot of miles per gallon as a function of speed. You can see that it decreases, and it decreases 15% to 20%, as one increase in speed from 55 to 75. But how can you be macho and go 60 miles an hour on the freeway? People are passing you by, it doesn't feel macho at all.
But you can compensate by thinking that I'm going 60 miles an hour, and they're thinking what a what a nerd I am, but I am paying 15% to 20% less into the treasure chests of the Middle East than they are. In fact, I may be paying 15% less than anybody else on the highway. So I may not be going the fastest, but at least I'm paying less to OPEC.
We hate a speed limit in this country. But even Texans may hate sea level rise. Houston may need to be renamed Ocean City, Texas, as the city gets inundated by rising sea levels.
Unfortunately, jet travel is highly problematic in terms of emissions, because the water vapor created by the exhaust-- in the exhaust, in the engines as they burn-- as they burn the fuel. So the water vapor's a byproduct of combustion. That water vapor is a heat-trapping gas. The upper atmosphere is normally dry, but we're flying along, depositing water vapor in that upper atmosphere. The vapor lasts much longer than it would in the turbulent lower atmosphere, creating warming that is actually 2.7 times the warming that would be created by the carbon dioxide from combustion alone.
So in a coarse estimate, jets may contribute over 25 times as much warming per passenger miles as trains. And trains, by the way-- every seat is equivalent to first class in a jet. You can really spread out and relax, and do your homework or whatever. So they may be more doable than one might think at first glance. Plus airport security is such a hassle.
Anyway, an example is that a 3,000 mile trip may use as much as 75 gallons per passenger, just in the direct burning of fossil fuel. That really is dependent on the kind of jet-- it may be 50 gallons per passenger, so it depends on the efficiency. But just as an example, that would mean the equivalent of over 200 gallons per passenger in warming, because of the vapor deposited in the upper atmosphere.
I thought 75 gallons per passenger, that just seems totally ridiculous. But if you consider a jumbo jet's fuel capacity, it's over 57,000 gallons. Well, that's not an Olympic-sized pool of jet fuel, but it's a pretty good fraction of a pool worth of jet fuel. Isn't it amazing that we have all these planes in the air 24/7?
Jet travel is a significant contributor to warming. This factor of the water vapor hasn't been considered thoroughly enough-- I suspect, also, in the climate models. The details and references for this are on my website, in an article about climate change and how to reduce emissions, that also is easily accessed from the site map. That's climatehealth.net.
The fairness issue can be used by every country to argue against reducing fossil fuels in that country. Everybody has a fairness issue argument. Well, in the end, changes are going to need to be made. We might as well make the changes as soon as possible. But to address the fairness issue, that boarder tax or tariff can-- if we can-- be imposed on products from countries that don't have a carbon tax, to maintain our competitive position.
Occasionally throughout history, a generation is faced with a crisis. Let's not say that future generations can take care of this crisis. We are the generation faced with this rapidly emerging crisis. For the hope and joy of children, and for a stronger, more energy independent United States, it's up to us. So any further questions?
I'd really like to go to Washington and do some lobbying on this carbon tax issue. But I've discovered that it's difficult to set up appointments with legislators. It's difficult to get an appointment with a staff person of either senator. They're just swamped.
So I'd like to have contacts in Washington with people who can help set and arrange appointments, and also appointments with labor and business groups. Because it seems to me there's strong arguments for these groups to support a carbon tax. And once that information is in hand for those groups they can begin to switch their positions on the subject. Please.
AUDIENCE: There is a-- speaking of that, there was a recent Senate subcommittee vote on an emissions cap and trade. So it looks like there's gonna eventually be some legislation that will come out. Is carbon tax anywhere on the table?
DR. SYLVESTER JOHNSON: Dingell. Have you heard about Representative Dingell's legislation? So Dingell is from that Michigan, I believe, and he's usually been a mouthpiece for the auto industry. But contrary to everybody's expectation, he's come up with a carbon tax bill. And if you do enough web searching, you can find it. It's actually published on the web. So Representative Dingell and carbon tax might actually get quite close to that legislation.
But anyway, it's a really good start on a proposal for a carbon tax. It seems like he may have actually gotten the message that something is going to happen, and he thinks it's going to be more beneficial for the auto industry to have a straightforward carbon tax, than to have emissions trading. Or maybe, he really gets the global warming deal.
So some people think he's just trying to distract with a proposal that has no chance of passing. That may be too cynical, although in Washington, who knows. But it's a real bill, and the carbontaxcenter.org thinks it's pretty good. So that's an initiative that has been a breakthrough.
In addition, Mayor Bloomberg of New York City has come out supporting a carbon tax-- amazing. But in New York, he's probably gotten a lot of pressure from people who want to see something really effective put in place, because there are some people with oceanfront property that may maybe too close for comfort. A room with a view may be too close for comfort.
AUDIENCE: And then, just a follow-up question-- the power industry in the Northeast states will come under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is a carbon-- now that's a cap in trade, only affecting electric power production. Is that correct?
DR. SYLVESTER JOHNSON: That's correct. Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, called RGGI, an acronym. And in a roundtable discussion at Cornell recently, the person in charge of implementing that for New York State, the Director of the Office of Climate Change of New York-- there is an office, and there is a director-- and his economic advisor. When the state does something, it does it big, so they've got a director, and an advisor on economics.
Anyway, they both stated that they thought a carbon tax would work better on a federal level than emissions trading. So I would like to get an appointment with Governor Spitzer to just present 20 minutes on emissions trading, just to hopefully get him to come out and support-- to join Mayor Bloomberg. It's possible that in a couple of months, the situation could be turned on its head, and people will be talking more about carbon tax than emissions trading. What's a sin to talk about now may not be a sin to talk about in a couple of months-- even though it's a sin tax. Oh well.
By the way, I've written an article on carbon tax versus cap trade, it's also on the website, and some name that's pretty obvious in the site map. If you want to send an email to anybody about that, and have a reference that sets it all down in one article-- and the abstract's about a page and a half-- it sets all these points down, spelled out in more detail then on the slide. David.
DAVID: I don't think of California lifestyle as being a real model for--
DAVID: How we should live. What is it about-- what is actually more efficient in California than the rest of the country?
DR. SYLVESTER JOHNSON: It may be that they've mandated more efficient buildings. But power companies have been able to earn income by helping people install energy efficiency measures. Instead of having a conflict of interest in this regard, which is the way it is throughout the rest of the country, the power companies-- it's actually in their interest to have people use less energy for that reason. Because they get compensated somehow in they state regulations. And that's been going on for many years.
But they certainly don't live like it's a third world. Now, the most obvious Californian consumption though, that's having to do mainly with electric power. The Californians are very competitive in their vehicles. However, maybe the new competition will be on hybrids and plug-ins, when they come on to the market.
Well, thanks so much for listening to this, and I hope that you can send e-mails to people referring the articles that I mentioned. And I hope that KyotoNOW and Engineers for a Sustainable World will take on some of those projects that I outlined.
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On Nov. 7, Cornell alum Sylvester Johnson, Ph.D., Applied Physics, presented a lecture on the effects of global climate change on agriculture, detailing the effects of rising temperatures on plant growth and ecosystems, and steps to reduce the buildup of heat-trapping gases.
Dr. Johnson also discussed improved energy policy, agricultural practice and their impact on climate change--topics that he deals with as both an author and lecturer.