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A New Shade of Green

By Sherry Listgarten

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About this blog: Climate change, despite its outsized impact on the planet, is still an abstract concept to many of us. That needs to change. My hope is that readers of this blog will develop a better understanding of how our climate is evolving a...  (More)

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Frustrated? Angry? Use it, don't lose it!

Uploaded: Apr 10, 2022
Here we are, staring down the barrel of yet another dry, hot, smoke-filled summer and fall. We have already had record-setting heat with 90- and even 100-degree temperatures recorded, plus our first red-flag warning, yet it’s only the beginning of April. Snowpack is melting weeks earlier than even last year, and is one of the lowest in 70 years. Carbon dioxide continues to accumulate in our atmosphere, vested interests persistently push back against climate action, our democracy is being torn down by disinformation campaigns and disingenuous politicians, and fractures between major countries are deepening just as we need more global cooperation.

Dry and windy conditions have already led to a fire warning in the Sacramento Valley. Source: National Weather Service, Sacramento

Despite the many warning signs of climate change, our national leaders seem to be doing … bupkes, as my grandmother used to say. (Translation: nothing, nada, zilch.) Our leaders are slow-walking us, our kids, and our grandkids to an increasingly difficult life on an ever-warming planet.

If this makes you frustrated, you are not alone. Politico conducted a poll of 1000 adults across 13 countries in December, and they summarized the response as: “The world is on fire and our leaders are failing.”

Yes, our leaders are failing us. And in the face of that vacuum at the top, we can get anxious and depressed. The New York Times recently reported on climate anxiety, a disorder that affects people young and old who are concerned about the future but feeling powerless to change it. The author profiles a woman who struggles to reduce her emissions while social and economic norms push her in the other direction. She diagnoses her condition: “I feel like I have developed a phobia to my way of life.” Others might feel apathy or even resentfulness about the pressure that seems to come with so little help. Is it fair to be made to feel guilty about just living in the way in which we were raised? Of course not.

A Gates Notes video suggests that people in this situation might get so frustrated that “moral licensing” leads them to behave counter-productively and generate even more emissions than normal. Does that resonate with anyone? It is a small, defiant victory to rev the engine of a big SUV, turn the heater way up, and eat a giant hamburger or steak. And you know what, we all have to stay sane.

But … To the extent that you can channel that frustration and anger into productive action, it can do a world of good. The latest IPCC report (yes, there is another one!) for the first time ever has a chapter on the impact of consumer behavior on emissions trajectories. You can read CarbonBrief’s summary here. The report estimates that if people take action to reduce their energy use with a combination of behavior and technology changes, greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 could be reduced by 40-70% from baseline scenarios. The potential impact of “demand-side” changes is especially large when it comes to the food, transportation, and building sectors.

The IPCC reports that when consumers use less energy (the LED or Low Energy Demand scenario), it can significantly reduce the need for decarbonization and our reliance on unproven technology. Source: CarbonBrief

The choices we make and the actions we take now make a bigger difference than at almost any other time during this energy transition. Because our politicians are unconvinced that we want them to act, our decision to eat less beef, install a heat pump water heater, reduce our flights, or commute via e-bike convey a message. By aligning our actions with our values, we reduce our own emissions and add to a base of economic data that will influence regulations and investments. The accelerating growth and investment in plant-based meat, non-dairy milk, electric vehicles -- this never would have happened without the proactive behavior of early consumers.

You don’t have to spend more to do this. You can save money by cutting back on flying and meat, comfortably turning down your thermostat, or visiting the gas station less often. The market for secondhand clothing is booming. People are starting to consider repairability when buying new electronics, which saves money over time. And these actions may also make you happier, because they have an unmistakable impact.

The paralysis of our leaders in the face of accelerating environmental damage can make us frustrated, fed up, anxious, angry, depressed, and even resentful. Furthermore, the companies that are making money from the status quo want you to feel hopeless and apathetic. Don’t give them the satisfaction. We can align our actions with our values, show that we care about climate change, and slowly shift our culture to one that goes easier on our planet. This will help our leaders to act. I am fortunate to hear from people almost every day who are making changes that they are excited about. I hope you will give positive action a try.

Notes and References
1. Palo Alto has upcoming workshops on EVs and e-bikes. Mountain View residents can visit this site to get personalized recommendations for reducing your use of fossil fuels, and attend an Earth Day celebration to learn about and try EVs and more. Acterra is hosting an "eco-friendly foodpalooza" with great plant-based food and cooking demonstrations in Menlo Park on Saturday, April 16.

Current Climate Data (February 2022)
Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard

Comment Guidelines
I hope that your contributions will be an important part of this blog. To keep the discussion productive, please adhere to these guidelines or your comment may be edited or removed.
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Posted by CyberVoter, a resident of Atherton: other,
on Apr 10, 2022 at 10:00 am

CyberVoter is a registered user.

Are we really "frustrated, fed up, anxious, angry, depressed, and even resentful." Please drop the emotional hype & address the problem. You are asking us to change our lifestyle & focus on the environment - AND we should and are doing so. A key problem is REAL leadership at the Federal & State levels. Our current elected officials only react to the loudest (but not majority) voices that demand "something" & then the they do the easiest thing - such as use taxpayers money to paid for visible, but often misguided efforts.

IF you want to make an immediate impact, you need elected leaders with the vision & "guts" to:
1) Stop the massive pollution of building the High Speed Rail
2) Engage private enterprise (The Forest & Lumber Industry) to use the small slash and over grown (fire hazard!) forests to minimize the wildfire threat
3) Force (via tariffs & revised "red tape") China & India to switch from dirty coal to much cleaner natural/LNG gas for there source of electricity
4) Rebuild the US Supply Chain so that we source products in the USA , made by US workers, rather than built in environmentally substandard factories & then ship by air or container ship to the USA

In short, stop focusing on the small items (they should be done anyway) & demand that our current elected officials take real impact actions - OR vote them out in Nov. For example, what has Newsome done to stop the HSR (as he promised), effectively address the CA wildfires, etc.?

Posted by d page, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 10, 2022 at 8:28 pm

d page is a registered user.

Sorry Cybervoter, but I agree with Sherry on this.

There are a number of reasons, but here are two:

1.) If voting the rascals out is your answer, you/we can do all of what Sherry suggests AND vote in every election; but who would you vote for? I seriously recommend you run for office - maybe you wouldn't win, but it'd at least be a learning experience, which should help your advocacy efforts in the future. And if you did win, all the more learning to benefit from (plus maybe some policy changes).

2.) You say the "small items" "should" get done; so we're all agreeing with each other here. Good, because the more effort you put into changing your lifestyle, the more leverage/legitimacy you'll have when lobbying elected (or non-elected) leaders. Lobbying, voting, etc. doesn't preclude making personal pollution reductions. They go hand in hand, i m o.

Posted by Paly Grad, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Apr 10, 2022 at 8:33 pm

Paly Grad is a registered user.

Please support H.R. 1636, the Postal Vehicle Modernization Act, which provides the USPS with $6 billion to replace aging vehicles in its fleet and requires at least 75 percent of new vehicles to be electric or zero-emission vehicles. This is a big improvement over the current plan to electrify just 10 percent of new postal vehicles. H.R. 1636 also requires the USPS to install at least one vehicle charging station at every post office in the country by 2026 and prohibits the USPS from purchasing new fossil fuel vehicles after 2039.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a blogger,
on Apr 11, 2022 at 3:31 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Thanks for the comments! FWIW @Cybervoter, I was pretty surprised by the survey results. There is another even more dramatic survey of 10,000 younger people, ages 16-25, around the world. 59% said they were either "extremely worried" or "very worried", and well over half responded "yes" when asked if climate change made them feel "angry". Same for "sad", "afraid", "anxious", and "powerless". Maybe you discount that -- they are young -- but imo emotions are valid and can be powerful if harnessed.

I agree 100% that we need to see stronger leadership on this, with real pushback against people who don't want to see action or who dismiss the gravity of the problem. Not so sure that HSR would be top of my list, but agree that public-private partnerships are critical, that getting China/India off of coal is super important, and that securing the low-carbon supply chain would be a big help. I expect it would be near-impossible to get China/India off of coal if we are still burning it, so that means we should get off coal asap. I would not be surprised to see a border tax wrt emissions in the next five years. I think Europe is going to implement one and we're going to want to be in it.

@PalyGrad: Great example! It is mind-boggling that the USPS would want to invest in outdated and expensive transportation. The Washington Post says: "The Postal Service plans to spend up to $11.3 billion on a fleet of delivery trucks that get 8.6 miles per gallon." Luckily that decision is being contested, since an analysis showed this will just cost taxpayers more money.

@dpage: FWIW, I agree with @CyberVoter that we should pay attention to big items and worry less about small ones. But in this case, to make big items happen, the public has to do more to demonstrate that they are all for it. It is much easier to mandate HPWHs (for example) if a lot of people have them already, are happy with them, and have built up the installer base.

Anyway, thanks all for sharing your thoughts. I think people don't love it when I write about the "feelings" side of this, but it is just so important imo. The fact that we already have so much of the tech that we need, but aren't deploying it, means understanding the tech/science isn't enough and we have to think social/political, at least imo.

Posted by CyberVoter, a resident of Atherton: other,
on Apr 12, 2022 at 1:48 pm

CyberVoter is a registered user.


I applaud your passion, with several additions:

1) Opinion Polls:
- I have little faith in opinion polls - they are normally conducted by & written by a group with their own opinion & designed to confirm that opinion!
- Younger people are easily influenced by their teachers & academics & we all know their bias & hyping of many "existential" threats; I'd check back with them when they have had to find a job & pay their bills to live the lifestyle they are promoting

2) China & India not NOT care IF we use coal, nuclear, solar, hydro or hamsters in a cage to produce electricity.
- They will do what is in their own economic interests
- IF we stop buying products from there & source in the USA we will be be making the products with MUCH cleaner energy & avoid the pollution of shipping them halfway across the world!
- I suggest that you develop a passion for "Made in the USA" as a way to improve the global environment

Posted by Raymond , a resident of Monta Loma,
on Apr 12, 2022 at 4:07 pm

Raymond is a registered user.

Building electric cars is hugely GHG emitting.
The subsidies go to the rich.
Is that intended?
Only nuclear power can replace fossil-fuel generated electricity
in the amounts needed to support current lifestyles.
No local, national, or world population policies?
Ain't nobody serious.
If we can't get China & later India onboard, nothing we do will be significant.
Oh, except reducing our population growth.

Posted by BruceS, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Apr 12, 2022 at 10:25 pm

BruceS is a registered user.

@Cybervoter and Raymond

I don't have figures, but I'll bet you that production of electric cars isn't much if any more GHG emitting than gas cars. You got figures?

India's energy usage right now is a fraction of ours. In the long run they will probably count a lot, but right now not so.

China is putting putting up renewable sources faster than we are. It doesn't really make sense for them to go to natural gas as an interim as they have no good sources for that fuel (well, maybe Russia now).

(current) Nuclear is way too expensive currently for India, and probably even for China. Significant parts of China are earthquake-prone also - not a good fit for nuclear.

But I do believe that there are alternative nuclear plant types that are worth investing in.

Other than that, the best thing we can do is to continue trying to make improvements in solar and battery technology, to make them affordable for the whole world. And of course to de-carbonize ourselves as fast as we reasonably can.

I'm trying to 'de-carbonize' myself as much as reasonably possible, but don't have much faith in that as a strategy. I'm afraid I'm starting to agree with my (grown) son that the best thing the coming generation(s) can do is to prepare for coming disaster. Sad but true.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a blogger,
on Apr 13, 2022 at 10:17 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Cyber: Surveys can be problematic, for sure. But this was a huge survey, done by academics, and the respondents are not so young (more young adults than teens). I do agree that China and India will act in their own best interests, but political pressure from trade partners is material to that. Re buying American, that rationale is also why people say more people should live in California, because our electricity is cleaner and our building codes are stronger. It may not be wrong, but it’s not easy either! Re kids paying the bills ("pay their bills to live the lifestyle they are promoting"), it's cheaper to live sustainably, no? Buy less and buy used, fly less, eat more veggies, live in smaller places. I'd say our kids are doing that.

@BruceS: Production of electric vehicles can be more emission-intensive because of the battery. But it depends on where the battery is made (e.g. how clean the electricity is). It’s better to get an EV with a battery made here than in Asia, for example. Either way, lifecycle emissions for an EV are far less than for a gas car. There are umpteen studies at this point. I always point to this one.

You list solar and battery (let’s say storage more generally). Don’t forget wind. There are big improvements in turbines, it is often complementary to solar, and offshore wind is finally coming to the US and even to CA! That is a big deal. Steady and strong breezes in evening and night, and minimal visual impact, though some impact on marine wildlife and activities. Also, don’t forget transmission, which can help with reliability and costs. Geothermal is a sleeper. And green hydrogen will be used for some things. Honestly, there is a ton going on here. So much that I’m not even really worried about it, though the transition is bound to be a little rocky.

Re personal decarbonization, I bet you are being way too hard on yourself. If you do your carbon footprint (e.g.,, you will see what things are available. It’s not just replacing the furnace in your house, which can be a pita and expensive. What about wasting less food, or buying less stuff? Changing diet or dog food? E-bike? Flying less? Different things make sense for different people, and it all makes a difference. This may sound really stupid, but I just had oat milk on my cereal for the first time this morning, and it tasted entirely fine. That is an easy switch for me to make. Just keep trying things, and hang onto the ones that stick. I think you will find more than you expect. That’s my 2c anyway.

I do agree that we are also going to have to prepare for a changed planet and difficult transitions. But all of this mitigation, much of which is beneficial in other ways, will make those times easier for our kids and grandkids.

Posted by eileen , a resident of another community,
on Apr 13, 2022 at 8:26 pm

eileen is a registered user.

@PalyGrad One charging station at every post in the country? For whom? Our little satellite PO has 6 spaces, each restricted to 20 minutes. Postal trucks simply pull up to pick up dropped off mail, maybe deliver some supplies. They don't stay for long. Maybe this idea needs to be a bit more streamlined. Our library has charging stations and solar panels, but that is a large parking lot and services some city offices as well.

Posted by Eeyore (formerly StarSpring), a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 14, 2022 at 2:41 pm

Eeyore (formerly StarSpring) is a registered user.

Hight Speed Rail is intended to reduce the GHG emissions of all those aircraft flying north and south in California. Stopping that project is as insane as shutting down Diablo Canyon.

Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Apr 15, 2022 at 11:51 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

Sadly, the survey discussed here seems to have been not a proper scientific survey. It did not survey randomly chosen participants, but rather was an online survey offered to certain accounts on an online self-selected rewards-based group called Kantar. Responses were accepted as first-come, first-served until the desired number were completed. As there seems to be an incentive to fraudulently complete surveys for "points" (perhaps using bots), they were forced to remove an unknown amount of "fraudulent survey data" using unspecified mechanisms.

Surveying self-selected possibly non-human internet accounts doesn't seem like it would provide any believable information for something like this.

Posted by Eeyore (formerly StarSpring), a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 16, 2022 at 9:18 pm

Eeyore (formerly StarSpring) is a registered user.

My partner and I had lunch at The Refuge this afternoon, basking under the warmth of propane burners over their parklet. In a previous blog response I had noted a hotel patio in Seattle had open air gas fireplaces burning. I am sure this is happening all over the bay area.

As far as I can tell there is zero public concern for CO2 emissions. Who here has asked their restaurant to turn off their outside heaters? Not me.

Collecting scrap metal for the World War II effort was largely symbolic, but that symbol was important for national unity.

We have no similar national unity around climate change,

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a blogger,
on Apr 17, 2022 at 12:11 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Eeyore, I agree, it does feel like there isn't a universal groundswell of "We can do this!" around climate change, or a sense of national unity and commitment. It would make a big difference if there were. For the sake of thinking about it, as a comparison, do you think that exists for our support for Ukraine? If so, it's interesting to think about what the differences are.

Polls universally show that a large majority of people in our country are worried about climate change, and the fraction seems to be getting bigger each year. But are they lined up behind the actions that we need to take? Is it just a subset of our politicians, with money-from-vested-interests concerns, who are pushing back? Sometimes it seems that way to me. If we had stronger leadership, we'd be doing a lot more.

One thing I would caution is not to assume someone doesn't care or isn't doing something because you notice one thing they aren't doing. Maybe the restaurant just added two veggie entrees! You know, I still buy plastic boxes of lettuce at times. That doesn't mean I don't care about the environment. The other day I bought some new art supplies, even though I should have gone to a "Buy Nothing" site and asked there first. I was also recently eating under a propane heater. I noticed it but didn't say anything. Again, none of this means I don't care. We would all go insane if we didn't pick our battles. My advice is always to do one thing -- a big thing, based on your carbon footprint -- and then don't worry about the small stuff. Make that thing a habit, and then a year later, pick up the next big thing. Don't be too hard on yourself (or others)!

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a blogger,
on Apr 17, 2022 at 12:18 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@MondoMan: Thanks for clicking through to read more about the 10,000 person survey I mentioned in a comment above. I am no survey expert, but at least for other commenters I am including the information the paper provides about study design and participants below. (The preprint is here.)

Data were collected from 10,000 young people via the participant recruitment platform Kantar. Participants were drawn from Kantar’s network, including their LifePoints online Research Panel (45 million people from 42 countries in 26 languages). The LifePoints panel is actively managed to maximise inclusivity and representativeness of samples and monitor validity and quality of responses. Participants were eligible if aged 16-25 years and living in one of the ten countries selected (see Table 1). These countries were chosen to reflect populations from the Global North and South, representing a range of cultures, incomes, climates, climate vulnerabilities, and exposure to differing intensities of climate-related events.

Panel members are reminded at regular intervals to complete surveys as part of their membership and to collect points. For this study, invitations to participate were available, stratified by region and age, between 18 May and 7 June 2021. Before accessing surveys, participants were informed of the survey length but not topic. A total of 15,543 people began the survey, 10,000 (68%) completed it. There was an even split in terms of gender (51% male, 49% female) and age group (49% aged 16-20; 51% aged 21-25 years). Data-quality tools removed fraudulent survey data. Data collection ended in each country once 1,000 complete, anonymised responses were obtained. The study was approved by the University of Bath Psychology Ethics Committee (#21-090).

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 28, 2022 at 10:20 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Hi Sherry.

This should be sent by email, but I couldn't get it to work.

We recently had our clean up day. When this was a new twice yearly service instead of the previous annual requested service, it was advertised as a way of getting rid of things we didn't want and that others could use either by going round our neighbors' piles or by the items being recycled. In the past couple of years these have been poorly advertised which is annoying, but even more so, nothing is recycled.

We recently had a clean up day in our neighborhood. I watched people take out all sorts of useful household items, chairs, light fittings, storage units, bookshelves, etc. Some left out bundles of clothes labeled with child/age/gender, all looking nicely folded and clean. On the morning in question, a garbage truck came around at about 7 am and all the items were thrown in the back and crushed.

As this is now just garbage and not recycled, we should be told and efforts made for us to recycle some of these things. Some are large pieces and difficult to transport so it is understandable why we like the service. But we should know that this is not a recycling service, but a garbage removal service.

Perhaps you would like to look into it.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a blogger,
on Apr 28, 2022 at 12:23 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Bystander, thank you for the comment. I have heard similar feedback on the Cleanup Day program, and your suggestion for a follow-up is a great one. I will look into it. It seems like we should be able to do better, right?

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