Sonoma State University

Philosophy 200

Philosophical Issues in Global Climate Change

Uncertainty, Caution, Community, Equity, Future


Paper #2: Life-Style and Societal Changes Needed for A Reduction in Anthropogenic CO2


Due Dates:
First Draft: Section 1 only. 2 pts: Due Monday, March 26 (But Friday, March 23 on WebCT!!)
Second Draft: Rewrite Section 1, Draft 2 to 5, and 7 (not sections 0 or 6) 6 pts: Due Monday, April 23
Final and Complete Paper: Rewrite 1 to 5 and 7, write new sections 0 and 6. 12 pts: Due Monday, May 7

Follow these conventions for references in the text and the Bibliography. Completed paper: at least 12 pages.

Write an essay format paper with the following sections:

0. Introduction. Discuss here what you will be doing in this paper and what your main conclusions will be.

According to West Coast governors, Climate Change is real. Explore starting here areas in world, and in the county where you live, and how they will be flooded by rising sea levels (check out the impact of a 1 meter (3.5 feet) rise on Highway 37 here!).

How are you going to be part of the solution? How do you see your role in the community and in regards to future generations? (This section to be written when all the work for your paper is done and you have obtained conclusions.) Just announce you main conclusions to alert and interest the reader about what is coming.

1. Explain what your CO2 emissions are presently for transportation, electricity, and heating/cooking.
That means, write a narrative whose end result is a calculation of the total CO2 emissions of the three major components of your direct energy consumption: electricity, gasoline, and natural gas (or some other form of gas used in heating, cooking), for the week that you kept your energy log for paper #1. Use the following approximate methodology:

For gasoline, calculate the total gallons from the log you kept for the first paper. Then apply the conversion factor (lbs/g) to calculate total CO2. See for the conversion factor. Take into account # of people in the car per trip.

Oil refineries also produce green house gasses, while there is also an significant embedded energy in a car. We do not even take this into account in this calculation! (For a discusssion of dust-to-dust emissions see

If you took an airplane flight consult this webpage to calculate your CO2 emissions.

For electricity, derive the total kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity for a week of use from your PG&E bill (if you rent an apartment) or from your parent's PG&E bill. (This functions as a proxy for the kind of life-style you are used to.) Take into account # of people in the house.

Then, calculate from data given in Where does our electricity come from? the particular mix of electricity sources that applies to California (hydro, geothermal such as the Geysers power plant north of Santa Rosa, nuclear, solar, wind, (also look here), coal, natural gas, etc.). Then calculate how much CO2 is produced for each kilowatt-hour of electricity. This is the emission factor. Then multiply total kWh by emissions factor to find total CO2.

There is a significant power loss when the electricity is transported from the power plant to where it is used. Look also for distributed generation.

It has recently been argued that hydro-power also emits greenhouse gasses. Read the argument here. In this paper we disregard this argument.

For natural gas, obtain the total therms of your natural gas consumption from your utilities bill (if you rent off-campus) or from your parent's house. Research how much lbs of CO2 is emitted for each therm of natural gas you burn in your cooking and heating. Again multiply to get total CO2.

The CO2 emissions in the class is: click here (available after students have handed in their calculations).

Definition: Your Permitted Emission is your current emission
- 40% (if you are in the 1st quartile of the class, the highest 25%
- 35% (if you are in the 2nd quartile of the class, the next highest 25%))
- 30% (if you are in the 3rd quartile of the class, the next highest 25%)
- 25% (if you are in the last quartile of the class, the lowest 25%)

2. Design a personal life style change for the week you kept your log, that produces only your Permitted Emission, assuming no changes in the way society operates. Then argue quantitatively that this new life style keeps you within your Permitted Emission.

Here you want to come up with the plan that reaches your goal and seems most attractive to you. So don't put any ideas in here that are too expensive, too bothersome, unless you see no other way of reaching your Permitted Emission.

If you needed to use your parent's gas and electric bill to estimate your CO2 emissions for electricity and natural gas, assume for the purposes of your paper that you are still living with your parent's for the electricity and natural gas part of this section.

Don't forget to discuss your diet in this section, in the light of this reading and this one and Why Our Food is So Dependent on Oil, by Norman Church.

Study the following ideas and websites to get ideas how you can reduce your emissions:

Buying food: greener choices

Get Wise Challenge

Oasis Design is a wellspring of original content and designs about the nuts and bolts of sustainability.

Six Brilliant Megawatt Ideas by Evan Ratliff: A few very smart people came up with some very smart ways to curb our energy needs. You can even try them at home.

Alliance to Save Energy

Honda Insight Hybrid

Plug-in Hybrids are like regular hybrids but with larger batteries and the ability to re-charge from a standard outlet (mostly at night).
Article form Scientific American, April 2006

Low-Impact Travel Tips from the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the other GreenTips mentioned there:

Innovations in Lighting:
Solid-State Light Sources Getting Smart
The Specter of Fuel-Based Lighting


Aerodynamic Modifications for Maximum Mileage

The website from Worldwatch "contains many of the tips, facts, and links you'll need to start making more informed purchases that benefit your health and the environment."

Climate Change Solutions in the New Internationalist 357

Environmental impacts of computers

Getting There on Less, by Guy Dauncey

Wireless Advances, Web Make Car-Sharing Easy
Forget owning. Net connected drivers can simply share their rides with other people by scheduling driving times and using RFID keycards.

Showcase Barcelona Home Shows Europe may be Catching up with U.S., Japan in Smart House Technology From the outside, it looks like just another house on an upscale residential street outside Barcelona. But inside, the Eneo Labs showcase home is a state-of-the-art "smart house" that knows how to clean itself, adjust to fickle weather and reduce its energy consumption.

Resources for the Good Life

Yes! Magazine Fall 2001 Issue, Technology . . . Who Chooses?

Yes! Magazine Summer 2001 Issue, Reclaiming the Commons

Yes! Magazine Winter 2000 Issue, Changing the Climate

Pulling the plug on standby power

Come up with your own ideas or look for other sources!

3. Design a sustainable change in the way society operates that allows you to more easily cut your own CO2 emission to the level of your Permitted Emission for the week that you kept your log. Then argue quantitatively that this new life style keeps you within your Permitted Emission.

Building a Better SUV

Rent-Alls: A Key to Successful Transportation Systems, by Tom Bender

SkyMetrics supports and accelerates the work of Sonoma's cities, Sonoma County and other partners in measuring and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to protect the climate, save money, and create more livable communities. works from a simple premise: that the tools, models and ideas for building a better future lie all around us. That plenty of people are working on tools for change, but the fields in which they work remain unconnected. That the motive, means and opportunity for profound positive change are already present. That another world is not just possible, it's here. We only need to put the pieces together.

Union of Concerned Scientists

Come up with your own ideas or look for other sources.

(To illustrate the difference between 2 and 3: Under 2 you could show how by using your car less (or getting a hybrid car) and walking and getting a bicycle to get around you can start living within your Permitted Emissions. Under 3 you could show that if the public transportation system changes or rent-alls become instituted (an infrastructure change) you can altogether get rid of your car and even have room for an occasional long distance trip by air.)

4. Discuss the pros and cons of making the changes indicated under 2 and 3. Discuss the impacts on your way of life.

5. Under what circumstances, incl. projected climate change impacts from projected CO2 levels, would you be willing to make the changes mentioned under 2 part of your regular daily routine, and support politically the changes indicated under 3? Consider impacts that are avoided in 10 years, in 50 years, in 100 years. Consider various kinds of impacts, like sealevel rise, extreme events. Relate the discussion to the narrative of Gottlieb's The GALILEO Syndrome.

Would it make a difference for your willingness to change whether other people also make a change? Why? Which people? Will you be able to take an initiative? Can you turn cons into pros by modifying your philosophy of life? What would it take to raise to the challenge?

6. Conclusion. What are the results of your study, questioning, and reflexions?

7. Bibliography of literature used and referred to. Follow these conventions for references in the text and the Bibliography. Completed paper: at least 12 pages. (Note that to write a good paper you need to show you have read and digested the class readings by providing many quotes and paraphrases with references.)


Last Updated: 03/18/07