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Global Warming: Why optimization on one axis is bad

A new book by researchers from Victoria University is causing some waves. The title? Time to eat the dog: The real guide to sustainable living. Apparently the book is filled with nuggets of wisdom such as:

In a study published in New Scientist, they calculated a medium dog eats 164 kilograms of meat and 95kg of cereals every year. It takes 43.3 square metres of land to produce 1kg of chicken a year. This means it takes 0.84 hectares to feed Fido.

They compared this with the footprint of a Toyota Land Cruiser, driven 10,000km a year, which uses 55.1 gigajoules (the energy used to build and fuel it). One hectare of land can produce 135 gigajoules a year, which means the vehicle's eco-footprint is 0.41ha - less than half of the dog's.

The author's admit they are not actually advocating that we all eat our dogs to save the planet. They go on to--well honestly to ramble on about how we should have chickens as pets because we can eat them. Or something.

My point actually wasn't to discuss this exercise in academic stupidity and thereby give it any credence. However the work does represent a common mistake I feel people make when designing solutions to global warming. So bear with me for the moment and assume all the hype about global warming is true (something, thankfully, it appears people are less willing to do). The problem that I have is that solutions are generated by optimizing along only one axis--reduce energy usage at all costs. It is the "at all costs" part where these solutions go awry. On the face of it saving energy is a good thing even if you don't believe the planet faces imminent destruction the day after tomorrow. But when "saving energy" becomes "change your lifestyle to be like X, Y, or Z or you are evil" it becomes too invasive.

Suppose we are trying to save the planet by reducing energy used during daily commutes to and from work. Ordinary cars use a lot of energy. Hybrid cars are more efficient so in the one-axis view are a better choice. But the problem with linear optimization along a single dimension is that there is no stopping point. Motorcycles get much better gas mileage than hybrids. Should we pass a law saying everyone has to drive a motorcycle to work? What about people with kids? How does one drop kids off at day care one a motorcycle? The real optimization problem is how do you lower energy use while still maintaining other needs. There are more dimensions to consider than just energy usage.

I'm actually one of those people that own a dog instead of a chicken. Additionally, I happen to be fascinated by dog training. As a result, I drive home during my lunch hour (10 minutes each way) almost every day so that I can exercise my dog and have a training session. I've had people tell me that my actions are inappropriate. I shouldn't waste the energy by essentially doubling my commute distance every day. Now researchers are telling me that I shouldn't even have a dog in the first place.

To which I say, "Enough!" Asking me to think about energy conservation is fine. Asking me to change a completely reasonable lifestyle in support of a poorly optimized solution is obnoxious.


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Comments (10)

The take homes on this one ... (Below threshold)
jim m:

The take homes on this one are:

North Korea needs to go into business selling carbon offsets for all the dogs they eat.

and

What would the savings be if every AGW believer just offed themselves?

and

What are they waiting for when they know that every moment they remain alive they are destroying the planet and the most effective action they can take is suicide?

I liked the comment the oth... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

I liked the comment the other day from some "expert" that the US needs to cease 100% of it's carbon output immediately to combat GW. Does he even realize what 100% means? Are you all ready to hold your breath?

The problem that I... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
The problem that I have is that solutions are generated by optimizing along only one axis--reduce energy usage at all costs.

Energy conservation certainly has an important role to play even for those not taken in by the AGW scam. BTW, AGW stands for Anthropogenic Global Warming, not Al Gore Whining, but the confusion is understandable.

Now that the MSM has bought into AGW, you can hardly watch TV without running across programs about people working on solutions for it. Renewable energy projects are the big guns in this battle, but I also see programs about people inventing ways to remove CO2 directly from the air and others finding ways to increase low level marine cloud cover to directly cool the planet. Another approach is to put a some sort of screen in space that cuts down on the amount of sunlight reaching the earth in the first place.

My prediction is that we are in for some serious global cooling that even the zealots at the IPCC can't sweep under the rug, and that cooling will cause scientists to reexamine the basic assumption of greenhouse gas forcing. When they do they will discover the flaw in the logic and realize the effect doesn't exist, at lest not at anywhere near the extent assumed. The discrepancy in the black body calculations is the result of the shifting emissivity of the surface atmosphere system of Earth. Our mostly infrared transparent atmosphere absorbs heat by convection during the day, but because oxygen and nitrogen are transparent to infrared, they can't radiate away the heat they hold at night (it's one of those inconvenient principles of physics), and thus, the average temperature of the earth is higher than it would otherwise be with no need to resort to the so-called greenhouse effect.

So why can't it be mostly greenhouse effect and a tiny bit of shifting emissivity? Well, as far as I have read, none of the climate models accounts for shifting emissivity at all, and they make predictions as to the signature of CO2 induced warming. Being that those signatures have never been observed in the real world, I would say it must be shifting emissivity and maybe a tiny bit of greenhouse effect. Now if there were grant money to develop a computer model that incorporated shifting emissivity we could see what the signature of that warming would be and see if it matches the real world. Silly me, I forgot, the science is settled.

Why is it when there is a n... (Below threshold)
Zelsdorf Ragshaft IIIz:

Why is it when there is a new "crisis", the people who scream the loudest calling for sacrifice are the last ones to give up anything? I'll take a second look at the matter when algore moves from his mansion into a conservative bungalow. Since he does not have children living at home, what does he do with all of the space he and his lovely wife Tipsey, use? I forgot. All animals are equal on the farm, just some are more equal that others. Not.

The solution to global warm... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

The solution to global warming is as simple as it is obvious: if global warming is caused by people, let's just have a big war and get it over with.

That would solve the global warming process, but, sadly, it wouldn't make the liberal pencil-necks shut up. They would just move on to some other ridiculous social engineering campaign.

If we all turned into vegans overnight, we'd start hearing about all the pain and suffering we're inflicting on poor defenseless plants. Who among us will protect the rights of the poor little soybean?

A simple solution is to eat... (Below threshold)
epobirs:

A simple solution is to eat the researchers. Somebody gets fed, their eco-footprint goes down to zero, and the average IQ of the planet is raised.

Why not have the best of bo... (Below threshold)

Why not have the best of both worlds ... Have your dog as a pet, have her bred and then eat the puppies !!! That way you get the companionship and a tasty treat ...

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As certain as the sun rises someone who wants you to stop doing A and do B is selling some form of B for a living.

I've been a AGW "denier" for at least a decade and I've been using rechargeable batteries for just as long. I tried to use CFL's but my sight is more important and switched back to INCA's and Halogen.
We happen to have enough spare land to have a garden and grow some of our own vegetables but not because of AGW or the anti-GMO nonsense.
Its all about a balance ... clearly something that the Al Gore crew in missing.


Our biggist contributers of... (Below threshold)
Flu-Bird:

Our biggist contributers of HOT AIR comes from WASHINGTON D.C. AL GORE,GREENPEACE, and the vast amount of HOT AIR from the demacreeps

Anyone who proposes eating ... (Below threshold)
Reality Check:

Anyone who proposes eating a pet does not understand the concept of a pet. Driving home to train your dog shows a dedication to the dog's well-being, and an understanding that a tired, fulfilled dog doesn't cause your neighbors any problems.

Tell 'em that if we just ban private jet use by environmentalist liberals, you could drive home twice a day to train your dog and we would still be reducing our carbon footprint.

I commend you for being a dedicated and responsible dog owner.

Professors Brenda and Rober... (Below threshold)

Professors Brenda and Robert Vale are free to make controversial claims about the "eco-footprints" of pets. It will probably help them sell books and make a lot of money. But their calculations smell bad. When real numbers from reliable sources are used, it turns out that they got things wrong by a factor of twenty.

Best Regards,
Cocoa




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