Also possible without needing a pandemic

NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) pollution monitoring satellites have detected significant decreases in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over China. There is evidence that the change is at least partly related to the economic slowdown following the outbreak of coronavirus.

At the end of 2019, medical professionals in Wuhan, China, were treating dozens of pneumonia cases that had an unknown source. Days later, researchers confirmed the illnesses were caused by a new coronavirus (COVID-19). By January 23, 2020, Chinese authorities had shut down transportation going into and out of Wuhan, as well as local businesses, in order to reduce the spread of the disease. It was the first of several quarantines set up in the country and around the world.

The maps on this page show concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, a noxious gas emitted by motor vehicles, power plants, and industrial facilities. The maps above show NO2 values across China from January 1-20, 2020 (before the quarantine) and February 10-25 (during the quarantine). The data were collected by the Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) on ESA’s Sentinel-5 satellite. A related sensor, the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite, has been making similar measurements.

“This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” said Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Liu recalls seeing a drop in NO2 over several countries during the economic recession that began in 2008, but the decrease was gradual. Scientists also observed a significant reduction around Beijing during the 2008 Olympics, but the effect was mostly localized around that city, and pollution levels rose again once the Olympics ended.

It doesn’t take a disaster or even an emergency – beyond the one we have already created with the usual emissions levels. Reductions are possible. Disasters and loss are not mandatory, though we do make them inevitable to some extent by doing nothing. Still, these dramatic images should be instructional about what’s possible. It would be interesting to know the near-term implications of these reductions. You know, science.

The Nature of Envy

There’s a non-sensical story in here somewhere about harnessing the friction between the world’s two largest emitters of GhG’s to generate electricity, but I either can’t find it or look past it too easily.

He noted that China has recently leapfrogged over the United States to become the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. “They know the world’s radar is on them,” Mr. Ramesh said. “If transparency becomes the stumbling block, China doesn’t want to be blamed. If China is the only party holding out, they won’t collapse the negotiations.”

It’s Cancún, you see, anything can happen – unless december weekends are decidedly un-spring break-like. Actually, I don’t mean to be so flip. This is the United Nations – the group to which falls the tasks labeled ‘doing something’ when nobody wants to do anything. Nobody wanting anything done actually is another case entirely and has a conference of its own.

But another word, because something is escaping us here with all these willing and smart people gathered in one place, on envy, especially as the wrench ex machina of egalitarianism.

A different way in which envy might be thought to motivate broadly egalitarian thought is by appeal to the idea of envy-free allocations. A distribution of goods is said to be “envy-free” when no one prefers anyone else’s bundle of resources to her own.[] The suggestion here is not that envy is the psychological motivation for the concern with equality, but rather that, where a distribution in fact produces envy, this is grounds to doubt the fairness of the distribution. But ‘envy’ in these contexts is a technical term for any situation in which someone prefers another’s bundles of goods, and does not refer to the emotional syndrome with which this entry is concerned.[]

This is the chief virtue of resistance to economic changes and any greater changes in the way we power, light, ship and travel. The haves (look around you) are afraid that at the end of this dull day, we will all be reduced to just having the same things. When, really, taste, rather any kind of envy-free allocation, would never allow for such a thing – as this failure of imagination gainfully proves. So this brand of resisters really have nothing to worry about. Just not the way they usually expect to be beyond worry. Fear of the bottom, therefore, drives the refusal to alter any actions at the top. Let this be addressed.