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Submission + - Citi report: slowing global warming would save tens of trillions of dollars->

Layzej writes: Citi Global Perspectives & Solutions (GPS), a division within Citibank (America’s third-largest bank), recently published a report looking at the economic costs and benefits of a low-carbon future. The report considered two scenarios: “Inaction,” which involves continuing on a business-as-usual path, and Action scenario which involves transitioning to a low-carbon energy mix.

One of the most interesting findings in the report is that the investment costs for the two scenarios are almost identical. In fact, because of savings due to reduced fuel costs and increased energy efficiency, the Action scenario is actually a bit cheaper than the Inaction scenario. Coupled with the fact the total spend is similar under both action and inaction, yet the potential liabilities of inaction are enormous, it is hard to argue against a path of action.

But there will be winners and losers: The biggest loser stands to be the coal industry, where we estimate cumulative spend under our Action scenario could be $11.6 trillion less than in our Inaction scenario over the next quarter century, with renewables, wind and nuclear (as well as energy efficiency) the main beneficiaries.

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Submission + - Human induced climate change is shifting major climate zones->

GregLaden writes: Human caused climate change is changing the size and location of major climate zones, according to a new study just out.

It isn't just that climate zones move north; more complicated than that.

The most tropical of the tropical zones does not change much, semi-arid and arid zones expand a lot at the expense of areas that are important for agriculture. Overall this indicates a general bummer rather than good news.

This study confirms what other's have shown, but adds that there may be accelerated change in coming decades.

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Comment Re:A service is a service (Score 1) 250

I have no problem with reasonable insurance requirements for drivers. That really applies across the board, but probably moreso for commercial operators.

However, you need to keep the requirements reasonable, and of course allow self-insurance. If Uber has a better way of managing its drivers/etc and ensuring safer operations, and they can lower their insurance costs as a result, then they ought to be able to pass those savings on to customers. I am not in any way a supporter of the whole "independent contractor" theory where Uber keeps x% of the fare but if there is a crash they accept 0% of the liability. But, that is a principle I apply everywhere - if it were up to me then if you went to Memorial Hospital for a procedure then it would be illegal to get more than one bill for the procedure and it had better come from Memorial Hospital, and if anything goes wrong Memorial Hospital pays for it and they can make the argument about liability with their subcontractors themselves. Of course, if it were up to me you probably wouldn't get a bill in the first place, but whatever...

Comment Re:If only... (Score 1) 250

I'll agree that surge pricing is more likely to affect supply when it is predictable (which still makes it useful). During unpredictable spikes it actually can help out on the demand side. If I have 3 choices of how to get from point A to B, and one of those choices triples in cost, then I'm less likely to use it. Maybe somebody else doesn't have 3 choices, and they benefit from my not leaving a subway seat empty to use Uber.

Comment Re:If only... (Score 1) 250

Most commuter train systems have peak timing. In the US examples I can think off offhand include New York, DC, and Philadelphia.

Besides the peak/off-peak fare, there are often fare discount programs only available off-peak (like disabled/senior fares, or family deals). Also, in many cities and transit systems parking may be cheaper or free on weekends, which is an off-peak time.

The idea is to try to shift usage to off-peak times so that the use of the system is more balanced, which makes it far more economical to run. Kind of like a taxi service.

Comment Re:If only... (Score 1) 250

Charging less would just mean that he'd have to leave earlier for work to get there on time, since in addition to the million people already using the system there would be another 500k people taking the train at 8 when they don't need to. It would also mean that fares would need to be raised across-the-board to maintain the same funding for the system.

It isn't like public transit operations are huge profit centers.

Comment Re:A service is a service (Score 1) 250

I don't have any problem with making Taxi services operate like Uber. The idea of the only record of a ride being something scribbled on a piece of paper that the driver can tamper with is ridiculous.

The Taxi model made sense back before it was easy to track all your cars and passengers in realtime. The problem is that we're still trying to make it work that way today.

Comment Re:Surge Pricing - Why The Hate? (Score 2) 250

Transportation can be vital to maintaining a job or caring for kids - it can also be a luxury. I can see an argument either way.

The thing is that demand for transportation isn't constant.

I need to go to the store sometime today. I can go at 8AM, or I can go at 10AM. If I go at 8AM I'm competing for transportation resources with all the folks trying to get to work. If I go at 10AM then I'm employing a driver who otherwise would probably bit sitting around unpaid.

If it costs me the same either way I'll go whenever I think it is most convenient for me. If I have to pay more for the trip at 8AM, I end up doing what is more convenient for everybody else. How is this not a win-win?

Comment Re:Surge Pricing - Why The Hate? (Score 1) 250

Because that is what decent people do in times of need.

Sounds great. So the 1% of the population with means who are decent chipped in and helped.

Wouldn't it be better if the other 99% of the population with means who aren't so decent also chipped in and helped? Or is it better to stand up for principles and watch people die?

Comment Re: If only... (Score 0) 250

There is no reason for doctors not to charge more for prime time appointments. Why not charge people less on a weekday? Then people who can't go to the doctor on a weekday don't have to book six months out to get a weekend slot. Some people have flexibility, and others don't. When you charge everybody the same then it becomes more about who books the appointment first and less about who needs the appointment more.

Comment Re:If only... (Score 1) 250

Are you slow? Increasing prices doesn't magically create sufficient extra drivers to cope with high demand. Economics 101 is not a sufficiently detailed analysis of how real life works.

Increasing prices has two effects:

1. It actually DOES create extra drivers. Maybe I'm a driver and it is my day off. I notice that the going fare is triple the normal rate, so I tell my wife I'll take her out to dinner tomorrow and hop in my car. More passengers get driven, and I get paid more. Win-win.

2. It also reduces demand. Maybe one of those passengers wants to run to the grocery store, but doesn't care if they do it today or tomorrow. So, they just do it tomorrow. Meanwhile, the guy who is stuck at the airport trying to get to where he is going has one less person in line ahead of him.

When you cap prices you tend to get lines. If I were given the choice of waiting in a 2 hour line for a $10 cab ride, or having a $20 cab ride RIGHT NOW, chances are I'd opt for the latter. Or, maybe I'm hungry and will have to eat dinner either before I leave or after I arrive, so I just go grab dinner now to save $10 and now there's one less person in line.

Pricing is really about information. It helps people make better decisions about allocating resources. Even if not a single extra driver started driving surge pricing would help people plan their trips such that demand is more even.

Comment Re:If only... (Score 2) 250

Gravity and road wear are fairly constant forces (well, road wear is higher for bigger vehicles, and surprise, states usually tax trucks more as a result).

Public transit usually has peak and off-peak rates. The idea is that if you don't care when you make the trip, then you tend to save money by doing it off-peak. Then you're one less body on the standing-room-only train.

Many argue for electric rates to be demand-based so that people will conserve electricity during peak hours, or deploy solar/etc. It doesn't cost the same per-unit amount to produce 10x baseline power as 1x baseline power, so why should people pay the same.

And the same is true for taxi services. It doesn't cost the same per-unit to service 10x the usual demand as 1x the usual demand. At the normal rate many drivers would prefer to not deal with lots of crowds or work on their planned day off. If they're offered higher pay, they are more likely to elect to service the higher demand.

Comment Back in the day... (Score 1) 53

I was in college at CWRU when Viking was launched, and still there when it landed. After launch and during transit, the engineering teams are pretty much on hiatus, so some go on the talk circuit. I went to see one of the Viking engineers came to the Wade Museum at the CWRU campus to give a talk on the design and engineering of the lander.

Later, after Viking had had its first peeks at Mars, Carl Sagan went on tour with the findings. I went and saw the presentation on campus at the Amasa Stone Chapel.

More recently, after Spirit and Opportunity had given their first batch of results, one of the scientists was touring a book (at least partly a picture book) of the results, and came to the UVM campus. Saw that, too.

Comment Re:Compressed swap isn't all it's cracked up to be (Score 1) 231

With 4 or more cores in every computer it's pretty rare for the CPU to be a bottleneck these days. In fact it's been rare for the CPU to be a bottleneck for the last 20 years.

Tend to agree. I think the attractiveness of swap, RAM compression, add more RAM, and add more CPU tends to go back and forth as the relative cost/speed/utilization of these various resources changes. When RAM is cheaper than CPU, you want to add RAM. When CPU is cheaper than RAM, you want to use faster compression routines. When you can have your swap across 3 SSDs then maybe you swap.

The value of a program is proportional to the weight of its output.