Let’s REALLY Do The Math Part 3: California + Math = Size Matters

In Part 1: Counting What Counts, I claimed that the entrenchedness that prevents us from starting from what we want, rather than from what (we think) we’re trapped in, is “fractal.” It is.

If you agree the US 2020 carbon target shows the need for a cumulative carbon budget that’s accountable to the amount of carbon dioxide we want in the atmosphere, you’ll savor the added twist of the California target we’re going to look at in this post.

The Do the Math campaign compares the global carbon budget with the fossil carbon pools (reserves of fossil fuels) already on the books around the world. The point of the comparison is that we have a lot more fossil carbon than we can burn, given our commitment to avoid dangerous interference with the climate system.

Let’s have a look at what happens when we don’t use a cumulative carbon budget and instead try to compare the size of a newly “added” fossil carbon pool to the size of estimated emissions reductions. It’s an interesting and clear example of the perils of the entrenched carbon emissions vantage point, that of “emissions reduction targets.”

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Let’s REALLY Do The Math Part 2: What is the US Carbon Budget and Why?

The Obama Administration has established “17% below 2005 levels by 2020” as the standard by which US carbon mitigation efforts are to be evaluated. Representatives Waxman and Markey and Senator Whitehouse wrote a letter to Barack Obama a couple of weeks ago, urging the president to:

Lay out specific steps federal agencies will take to ensure that the U.S. emissions of heat-trapping gases are reduced by at least 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, the goal you set for the nation during the 2009 United Nations Climate Conference.

Frankly, it’s a fairly random, not to mention unambitious, standard. Historical accounts of where this — and the Obama 2008 campaign’s similar target —  “came from” are available, but I’ve yet to see a logical explanation, a justification, an account of the reasoning behind this target. (If you have the reasoning, please share in the comments.)

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Let’s REALLY Do The Math Part 1: Counting what really counts

Once upon a time — a couple of years ago, more or less — Becky and I were talking about the Escher-esque illogic of “healthcare.” We talked about perverse incentives in healthcare, how the goal is not health, but management of ill health. We needed a large sheet of construction paper to map out these two “worlds,” one in which a sick patient lies on a gurney at the center, another in which a healthy, happy person turns cartwheels at the center.

Man vill bara hjula!

When we think about “cutting healthcare costs,” our starting point is more efficient coordination among hospitals, physicians, and insurance companies (and maybe patients..), reigning in pharmaceutical companies, eliminating unnecessary tests and procedures, and, maybe, programs according to which “care providers” talk about smoking, diet, and exercise with their “patients” (conversations for which care providers are not particularly well-trained and for which they have no tools).

Our thinking about healthcare starts from disease, not health. What if we planned healthcare as if we were planning for the health of the people we love?

We don’t count up from what really counts. Instead we kind of try to subtract away from the bad, the stuff we wish we didn’t have to count at all. There’s all kinds of disincentives here, all kinds of reasons for getting the math wrong.

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