The Biggest Bang for the Climate-Change Buck?

The world is full of efforts and estimates toward reducing carbon emissions. A new paper by David Wheeler and Dan Hammer argues that the best bang for the climate change buck may lie in family planning and girls’ education: $1 million spent could save 250,000 tons of CO2. Reducing slash and burn forest practices (the next expenditure category), in contrast, would only save only 66,667 tons. Other categories that produce less-efficient returns include pasture management, geothermal energy, pastureland afforestation, reforestation of degraded forests, plug-in hybrid cars, solar energy, power plant biomass co-firing and capture carbon and storage. (HT: Chris Blattman) [%comments]

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  1. Jeremy says:

    @ Brett

    Yes I am new. I take it this place doesn’t keep with the attempted neutral approach I was so pleased with in the Freakonomics books.

    Do you know if Levitt and Dubner have much to do with this page? I have some very strong opinions about some of the concepts presented in their books, but I think they do a great job of not advocating for a particular side. It is unfortunate if this page does not try maintain that level of objectivity.

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  2. Brett says:


    It’s called ‘satire’ (note the purposefully extreme jump from ‘family planning’ to ‘we’re all dead’). And anyway, my point still stands that CO2 is required for plants; taking that further, research has shown that the increased CO2 in the atmosphere has the result of plants growing faster and stronger, pulling more CO2 out of the atmosphere (an adaptive ecology acting adaptively… who’d a thunk?). Just one of the many, many factors not taken into account in over-simplified climate models which can be too-easily tweaked to show the desired result rather than the truth. I do have a minimal education (but thanks for the suggestion), and because of that I can tell that with the amount of evidence against anthropological global warming, we probably shouldn’t be spending millions, billions, and trillions of dollars on a problem that might not exist or might be impossible to solve.


    I believe Dubner and Levitt oversee the blog, but have a very light hand and allow the individual posters to really do what they think is appropriate – for better or worse. Some of what you’ll find here will echo principles of the books, some will not seem relevant/objective/appropriate at all.


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  3. Jon says:

    How much work is being done in Carbon auditing?
    Given that Enron et al managed to report such complete nonsense as fact in a field that is very closely audited and well known, how much more likely is it that there are errors or falsifications in carbon accounting.

    And then those errors get multiplied by every person on earth, to really exaggerate them.

    Not saying that is what happens, just want to know!

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  4. Emmi says:

    Climate change denial is the norm on Freakonomics. Haven’t you all heard Stephen Dubner complain that CO2 is called a poison in schools now?

    It’s just in different clothing. The deniers / Republicans are taking aim at the economy instead of the science so they won’t look like the Creationists eventually did.

    Bang for your buck? Conservation is not the same as buying a cruise ship vacation. It’s multidisciplinary. The money spent to prevent forests from slash and burn may involve education, NGOS buying land, helping farmers change their methods of growing food, and research on endangered species who will lose habitat.

    These estimates are all over the map, and many are just plain wrong.

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  5. Brett says:


    “The deniers / Republicans are taking aim at the economy instead of the science so they won’t look like the Creationists eventually did.”

    No, we’re attacking the science of it. And the economy of it. And the religion of it.

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  6. Jeremy says:

    It’s funny when people claim the mantle of science and bash those who are skeptical of their position. It is in fact required by science that theories stand up to scrutiny.

    As the Freakonomics books clearly demonstrate, what someone perceives as the prevailing wisdom plays little role in what is the reality of the situation.

    I also like the comparison to “the Creationists”. I would guess this means Emmi found religion in strict Darwinian Evolution, a theory with more problems than Lindsy Lohan.

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  7. GT4 says:

    Gosh, by the logic of the paper, I’ve got to believe the following link gets to the most cost effective solution of all:|/pc/105625080/c/106597980/Winchester-USA-Handgun-Ammunition-Per-100/705872.uts?destination=%2Fbrowse.cmd%3FcategoryId%3D106597980

    At roughly $0.26 per person (on sale), a 9mm slug is incredibly simple to procure and easy to implement. No need to set up NGOs all over the world and funnel money through the inefficient global giving business.

    Rich people who want to live could buy offsets and kill a cow or horse instead of themselves or their kids. Maybe Al Gore could buy some feedlots and start selling offsets.

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  8. Emmi says:

    @Brett – So you’re ready to talk science? Go ahead and explain the correllation with the C13/C12 ratios with the rise in fossil fuels. I can’t wait to hear you discuss that one. (Oh, of course, deniers don’t actually discuss the evidence).

    @Jeremy, sorry but the Wedge theory does not work. Just because some evolution questions are still being answered, that does not make Creationism correct by default. Science does not work that way.

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