A nice figure

posted by Kaihsu Tai on April 26th, 2006

carbon dioxide abatement options The Green Party of England and Wales recently released an Alternative Energy Report. Figure 1 in this report, which I reproduce here, is nearly Edward Tufte-calibre, I think.

So we can save up to 10 Tg of CO2 over the next 15 years by … not building nuclear power plants and saving 1010 GBP = 10 GGBP on the way? Excellent. So why aren’t we doing it? Probably because economists have not learnt to subtract. Probably because nobody makes serious bling that way. Probably because no big centralized, transnational corporations get tax subsidies to build nuclear power plants that way.

And even after all that, if we still want to save more, it is cheaper to go for renewables than nuclear. Our local Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative recently had a share offer asking for 3.75 MGBP to build a wind farm, and people sent in 4 MGBP. People are willing and able to do the right thing.

By the way, after talking with Derek Wall and reading his works, I think the traditional green-politics slogan “neither left nor right, but forward” can be translated into the green-economics slogan “neither the state nor the market, but communities”.

Also tangentially, I went to New Lanark this weekend, which was a pioneering exemplar of appropriate use of natural resources (though not without its own historical problems) … maybe more on that (and various other things) later….

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  1. On April 26, 2006 at 16:33 Mike (Worcester) said:

    Speaking of Tufte, I just discovered the great blog Junk Charts, which takes its name from Tufte’s coinage “chartjunk.”

  2. On April 27, 2006 at 03:41 Adam (Southern California) said:

    I’m actually having trouble understanding the chart. Each energy saver has a colored rectangle associated with it. Am I correct in saying that we are supposed to read the ordinate along the top of the box for positive numbers and the bottom of the box for negative numbers? That much, at least, seems clear. But what about the abscissa? Are we to read along the right side of the box? It’s not clear at all whether we’re supposed to just look at the right edge of the box and how far away it is from the origin. Are these energy savers all ordered exactly the same from least to most emissions reduction and from lowest to highest cost? Or are the savings cumulative with the different sources, and the widths of the boxes the marginal reduction for that source?

    So I really don’t know what this chart is supposed to tell me. Does it say that nuclear would reduce the most emissions, but would also be the most expensive? Maybe some text to go with the chart would be helpful.

    I’m sorry, but colors alone do not make the Tufte.

  3. On April 27, 2006 at 03:45 Adam (Southern California) said:

    Okay, I’ve looked at some more of the report now and it should help explain things. But just working off of the chart alone was awfully confusing.

  4. On May 12, 2006 at 09:28 Anthony said:

    I assume you were being sarcastic in claiming that chart is Edward Tufte-quality! The chart is incomprehensible without the accompanying text.

    For those who don’t want to bother reading the Greens’ PDF, here’s an explanation. The emissions reductions (the X axis) are cumulative, with the width of each bar indicating how much of the cumulative reduction it would represent. The cost (the Y axis) is per program, with negative figures indicating cost savings.

    There are heaps of problems with this chart. Superficially, the colours and use of heavy borders are ugly and make the chart look like confetti. In particular, separating the program labels from the data means that readers have to scan back and forth, working out what each program is. Statistically speaking, the use of cumulative figures is poor form – there’s nothing about any of the programs that suggests they have to be implemented sequentially.

    A substantial problem is that the authors have chosen the wrong sort of graph – it should be a scatter (XY) plot, not a bar graph. That way the cost of each program can be compared relative to its efficacy.

  5. On May 12, 2006 at 23:52 Mike (Worcester) said:

    Thanks for explaining about the sequentiality issue.

    The aggressive color scheme reminds me of that ocean elevation map in one of his books, the one he disapproves of.