US Railroads in the Lead on Climate Change Denial

Discussion in 'Freight, International and Other Rail' started by jis, Dec 13, 2019.

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  1. Dec 13, 2019 #1

    jis

    jis

    jis

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    While some in the rail industry tout the environmental friendliness of railroads, in actuality the major US railroads have been in the vanguard of climate change denial.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/12/freight-railroads-funded-climate-denial-decades/603559/?utm_term=2019-12-13T17:43:49&utm_content=edit-promo&utm_campaign=the-atlantic&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&fbclid=IwAR3IagW9JBlJ16TDYoKuI19K7_AE6JAYcgdvoCwLmFf2_jsSw46tZE4tbU0

    Amtrak is stuck in the middle of this two facedness, so in spite of its best efforts its attempts to become more environmentally friendly may be thwarted by the hosts it is forced to operate on.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2019
  2. Dec 13, 2019 #2

    MARC Rider

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    MARC Rider

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    This is so obvious that I don't know why I didn't think of it myself. And I spend time hiking the C&O canal towpath around Harpers Ferry and watch the coal trains lumber by.

    Of course, most of the general public is in climate change denial, even if they claim not to be, because the decisions they make about their personal consumption (living in single family houses, driving in single occupancy automobiles with power and speed prized above fuel economy, and eating lots and lots of feedlot-grown meat) are the things that are causing the climate crisis. And, mea culpa, I do my share to contribute to this, even if my contribution is less than the average Americans.

    Any American political leader, heck, any political leader in any country, who would try to do something that would have an actual effect on the climate crisis would have to reduce the standard of living of the general citizenry to such an extent that they would be quickly removed from office. I'm really pretty pessimistic that humanity is going to prevent the climate crisis. If you're young, I would suggest moving north and don't invest in waterfront property.
     
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  3. Dec 13, 2019 #3

    RichieRich

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    I'm thinking, in the last 4.5 Billion years of this planet...the Climate may have changed before. Maybe a couple of times!
     
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  4. Dec 14, 2019 #4

    MARC Rider

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    Yeah, but it wasn't changed by allegedly sentient beings who are changing it in a way that will cause them nothing but trouble.
     
  5. Dec 15, 2019 #5

    Anderson

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    I'm definitely part of the problem on this (notwithstanding my preference for taking the train where possible, I've thrown in the towel here).

    The issue, however, isn't single-family homes. It is (1) the alternatives to driving are basically null in a lot of places and (2) the "ramp" to fix some of those issues is not only steep but obstructed.

    There are issues with neighborhood density and the like. Not going to dispute that. However, it isn't like "streetcar suburbs" were completely swamped with apartments, and I think single-family townhouses and the like could sell in a lot of places, particularly if you're willing to stipulate some sort of neighborhood-level transit option that lets you at least centralize parking (as well as, ideally, connecting to a bigger transit system).

    "Transit-oriented sprawl" is another option that's turning up in some places like Northern VA: You accommodate the suburban desires that show up, but you also make a point of designing serious transit options (e.g. VRE stops) into the neighborhood.
     
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  6. Dec 15, 2019 #6

    MARC Rider

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    MARC Rider

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    Me too.

    The problem (from a sustainability perspective) of single family homes isn't just that people drive more. The homes themselves require more energy to heat or cool (because they don't share walls with other housing units), and thus people living in them consume more fossil fuel (unless they're all-electric and their utility generates its power solely from nuclear, hydro, or renewable sources, which is unlikely). We also have an issue that the average household size in the US is smaller than it used to be, so the total number of housing units has increased at a faster rate than the population has increased. Also, housing consumers demand larger living spaces than in the past, which means more fuel is needed to heat and cool.

    Also, if everybody is to have a single family house, more land area must be built up to fit the houses needed as population increases. This spreads out the built up areas in cities and town and requires people to have to travel longer distances to get about in the city or the town.

    Your other points are spot-on.
     
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  7. Dec 17, 2019 #7

    LookingGlassTie

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    Yeah perhaps the loudest climate change activists should put their money where their mouths are, ditch their private jets and ride trains instead.
     
  8. Dec 17, 2019 #8

    Devil's Advocate

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    Most of those 4.5 billion years would have been rather inhospitable to human existence.

    I know hundreds of climate change activists, none of whom has ever owned or ridden in a private jet. They mostly walk, bicycle, ride buses, and carpool. I've yet to see one fly unless there was no other practical option available to them.
     
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  9. Dec 21, 2019 #9

    neroden

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    Yeah, we know from geology what it was like the last time the climate was allowed to warm to "hothouse earth". Spoiler: mass extinctions, and humanity would be quite unlikely to survive. We evolved long after that.

    It's not about saving the planet, it's about saving our own necks.

    As others have commented, one big issue with land use is that zoning prohibits "streetcar suburbs". Streetcar suburbs, with rowhouses and condos, are incredibly popular, but they're illegal to build in most of the country. Zoning is a curse.

    Regarding the railroads, coal traffic is dying and will be dead soon. It's becoming unaffordable to operate *existing* coal plants -- it's cheaper to build new wind farms, solar farms, and batteries now. And this is with thermal coal prices so low that all the coal companies are declaring bankruptcy and shutting down mines. The railroads are actually part of this, because they do *not* cut the hauling prices for coal when the market is weak, meaning that there's a large minimum "transportation of coal" cost even if the coal is mined for free.

    It is very unfortunate that the "Big Four" railroads decided to commit federal crimes by spreading dishonest propaganda in a corrupt attempt to prop up a dying business. This makes them criminally liable. At least CP, CN, and KCS haven't been implicated, though I wouldn't be surprised if they were guilty too. (BTW, CN is the only one of the "Big Seven" class Is who has essentially no coal traffic.)
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2019

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