Review: ‘Cooling It! No Hair Shirt Solutions to Global Warming’

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Cooling It! No Hair Shirt Solutions to Global Warming, by Gar. W. Lipow is a roadmap showing us the way to become a more energy efficient nation and how relying on renewables-production processes like sun, wind, wave and tide (as opposed to dependence on fossil fuels) can not only help pave the way toward greater energy efficiencies being realized, but in so doing will not only enable us to effectively undo those effects caused from climate-damaging greenhouse gases but other impacts too such as air, water and soil degradation, mainly. These impacts, each and every one, are a result of a host of causes, inputs or triggers.

In his book’s Introduction, Lipow emphasizes that through renewable means of energy generation this could result in far, far lower amounts of energy being consumed and that, in turn, could be accomplished by spending but a bit more money than what was currently being spent on energy at the time of the book’s publication date (2004), given the understanding that energy produced by renewable means was more expensive than that which was produced non-renewably – using fossil fuels. In other words, with renewably produced energy versus generating such in a non-renewable manner, the consumption dollar could go a lot farther.

If this is true, now as then, the $64 million question becomes: why are we not doing this? Lipow argues the reasons are structural, political, social and institutional.

Thoughts on:

  • Waste

Inseparable from life is waste, obviously – the two go hand in hand. And, with all waste there are costs to be paid in terms of it being reduced, reused, recycled, as well as regarding its collection, management, stockpiling (storing) and treating. What we’re talking about here is energy, human and materials waste, principally, all aspects of which need addressing, that is, in effectively mitigating such – keeping it under control, in other words. The author stresses manufactured goods can be made to be longer-lasting without adding much more expense to the manufacturing process. Goods with mechanical workings, not only can these be made more efficient, but, so, too can the processes utilized in manufacturing goods be made more efficient. On the manufacturing and purchasing sides, much should be done to not only enable more materials to be recyclable, but, so, too should component parts be recyclable, all in an effort to extend product/component life. And, when it comes to manufacturing, if any discarded material from all that is disposed of during said processes can be used by other manufacturers this would cut down on the amount of material entering the waste stream.

  • Energy production

Back to the production and consumption of energy, the author weighs in equally on the environmental impacts of electricity generated from both renewable and non-renewable sources alike. The good news is that when compared with energy generation produced non-renewably, the impacts to the environment from geothermal, solar, tide, wave and wind, are significantly lower than those resulting from energy produced via fossil-fuel burning processes.

Lipow further observes that in producing one unit of electricity from fossil-fuel generation sources such as that of burning coal in a coal-fired power plant, as a result of said fuel being ignited, almost three units of this non-renewable fossil fuel is expended during the burning portion of the process. (It is unnecessarily wasteful in my view). Viewed conversely, what this means is that approximately two-thirds of the energy involved in the electricity-production process from fossil-fuel sources is going up in smoke, contributing to global warming from the introduction of increased amounts of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere. Add to this that only 30 percent of U.S.-produced electricity as of 2000 was generated cleanly – wind-, solar-, geothermal- and wave- or tide-produced – and the remainder – 70 percent – is as a result of fuel-burning, whether the fuel is wood, oil, coal, agricultural waste, what-have-you. No need for number crunching here, Lipow does all that and then some – he’s gone the extra mile, if you like. And, that includes cost analyses and comparisons of different types of energy generation and distribution systems.

  • Infrastructure

That being just about the half of it, the Cooling It! writer also covers all types of infrastructure; building, cooling, electrical power-generation and distribution, heating, refrigeration, transportation, you name it. In all departments, chapters, really, no stone seems left unturned here. No point missed. To say Lipow covers the “whole nine yards” in his thorough and detailed discussion is no exaggeration.

Review wrap-up: summation

My sense is that the main obstacles for full onboard acceptance and implementation of many of or all of the methods, principles, techniques that Lipow describes go beyond the political, social, structural and institutional. Progress momentum along these lines being what it is invariably is due to an ignorance or unfamiliarity with those techniques, principles and methods and exactly where this book can help answer that call.

Although somewhat dated, Cooling It! in my opinion is every bit as relevant today as it was when released – perhaps even more so.

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Image above: U.S. Department of Energy

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