Excerpts

  • Introduction

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    . . . This book suggests that all of our efforts to manage climate change have been doomed not because they weren't earnest enough, or creative enough, or appealing enough, but quite simply because they took place in a framework that destined them to fail. Carbon emissions are a new type of problem: invisible, slippery, systemic. Conversely, climate stability is a public good with no history of public policy tools to protect it. We have made disappointingly little progress because we have pushed on uncoordinated strategies in a system that absorbed all our energy and prevented us from having an impact. It's as if we're punching with all of our strength into a wall of Jell-O and wondering why we're not connecting in any kind of satisfying way.

  • Chapter 1 - Measure for Measure

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    . . . The Federal Government can play an important role in encouraging standardized measurement by articulating a breakdown of large scale targets into smaller geographic regions and time increments. To this point, most of the regional target-setting within the United States has been done from the bottom-up, either by states and multi-state alliances such as the Western Climate Initiative, or by municipalities, often through vehicles such as the Conference of Mayors. These grassroots efforts are important but the Federal Government has the ability to generalize these goals across the whole country, avoiding first-mover disadvantages to regions that choose to act. Equally importantly, they can create a framework that aggregates the contributions of different regions and improves understanding of how the country as a whole is meeting broader global targets.

  • Chapter 2 - The Invisible Hand

    . . . Design visionary Buckminster Fuller is often credited with the old saying, "You never change anything by fighting the existing. To change something, build a new model and make the existing obsolete." This is a key concept when thinking about how the world can change in response to climate change goals. While some people may change their behaviors because they feel strongly that it is the right thing to do, the easiest way to get lots of people to change what they do in a substantial way is to give them a better alternative that creates more perceived value and delights them. For our country and our world to move to a productive and satisfying low-carbon economy we need transformative innovation that delivers more value.

  • Chapter 3 - Regulatory Roadblocks

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    . . . Carefully crafted regulation can have a salutary effect but it is definitely not a panacea; the premise of this book is that efficient markets are the best path forward to scalable climate change solutions. Nonetheless, we live in a highly regulated world. Unfortunately many of the regulations that exist today were crafted in a time when we were not aware of climate change, and many stand in the way of solutions to the problem.

  • Chapter 4 - Reduce

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    . . . The most effective way to reduce our carbon footprint is to find ways to reduce the amount of built space we use and make the usage patterns for the buildings we do require more energy-efficient. A focus on increasing the availability of attractive compact homes that reduce commute times would be a very important step in this direction. Increasing the transparency of operating costs for buildings (where energy is a dominant factor) would also go a long way to encouraging energy-conserving buildings and practices.

  • Chapter 5 - Built to Last

    . . . Historic preservation is an area where additional nuance could lead to reuse of more buildings and building parts. Preservation of historic buildings as cultural artifacts is important to the fabric and character of a city. However, this objective must be weighed against the need to keep buildings occupied and in good repair, as well as with judicious use of close-in land. Historic preservation, when taken to the extreme, preserves buildings that are derelict and can prevent deconstruction and reuse so completely that the buildings lose their commercial value. When buildings lose their ability to attract capital, they fall into disrepair, are unoccupied, and lead to urban decay. The challenge is to find a balance between perfect preservation and the scope of preservation to which it is possible to rally money and energy.

  • Chapter 6 - Great Neighborhoods

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    . . . The College Street area in Toronto provides another example of a complete neighborhood with a strong community identity, high desirability as a place to live, and a low carbon footprint. It is primarily served by streetcar, though the subway runs parallel to College about five long blocks to the north. The area was originally built out with three-story narrow, single-family detached houses and duplexes. In the past decade, zoning flexibility has allowed them to be converted to apartments and condos, but still required that special care be taken to preserve neighborhood character at the street level. Nearly all of the original structures have been preserved, but by accommodating renters including students and young professionals, the zoning by-law allowed for a new population capable of supporting the small business offerings within walking distance. The new residential mix supports a wealth of shops and restaurants along College Street, including purveyors of what may be the continent's best selection of Portuguese custard tarts.

  • Chapter 7 - Spaces for Nature

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    . . . Beyond traditional parks, cities and their citizens need to think broadly about fostering the many other ways of providing access to nature. Walking trails are probably more important to most adults than parks (and dog owners love them). Trees reduce carbon, provide shelter for birds and bring a strong sense of the beauty of nature to people even when viewed from a distance. Well-tended gardens, planted boulevards, potted plants and flower baskets embedded throughout downtowns and other high-traffic destinations are much more than tourist attractions - they play an important role in making residents feel good about their city, and that's a critical factor in keeping them living in it.

  • Chapter 8 - On-site Lifecycles

    . . . On-site lifecycles refers to the idea that energy and potable water can be generated, used or transformed, and treated within a fairly small system boundary before being released back to the surroundings in a harmless way. While some of the technologies for achieving this outcome are still in the developmental stages, many others have been proven and are well-established, particularly in cities outside the U.S. where the need for compact, decentralized, resource-efficient infrastructure has spurred innovation and implementation.

  • Chapter 9 - Regional Transportation

    . . . An earlier chapter looked at ways to support the development of self-sufficient neighborhoods which would have the effect of shortening some individual daily trips, or eliminating them entirely. This chapter looks at how development patterns and transportation networks can reduce the carbon intensity of the trips that must continue to exist. New technologies that increase the fuel efficiency of vehicles and decrease the carbon impact of fuel energy sources will help, but so will any measures we can take to redesign the built environment in order to simultaneously reduce the need for vehicles, infrastructure, fuel and trips in the first place.

  • Chapter 10 - Delight

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    . . . Halting climate change will demand a massive shift in behavior. It will require changes in patterns of settlement and mobility, and perhaps even adjustments in the perceived value of many of the goods, services and interactions in our society. Influencing a shift of this magnitude is a staggering challenge, but it is one that we can meet with the right combination of market price signals and more coherent regulation. It is fundamentally not a change that can be forced or micromanaged by democratically elected governments. People will need to willingly adjust their behavior, and for that to occur, they will need to find value in the changes for themselves. This will require the market to innovate and adopt new lower carbon solutions that create at least as much value as the high-carbon solutions in use today.

  • Chapter 11 - Making a Dent

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    . . . The Carbon Efficient City is about maintaining choices while giving consumers financial transparency into their impact on the planet. It's about monetizing "virtuous" behavior into something tangible that can be considered in every purchasing decision. We believe it is possible to massively change how much CO2 the average American produces while maintaining the essential American values of freedom and capitalism. This book addresses how coordinated and systemic policy frameworks can improve the lives of all our citizens while they generate less and less carbon dioxide.