Tag Archives: carbon footprint

Are we all free riders?

girl in smogThe ‘tragedy of the commons’ is an economic theory founded on the idea that when there is unregulated use of a shared resource then the rational consumer, acting independently and in their own interests, will maximise their consumption leading to the depletion or destruction of the resource.  For example, if there is no cost or limit to grazing sheep on common land then a rational shepherd would maximise their flock size in order to maximise profit.  Eventually, the commons’ ability to sustain the sheep is overwhelmed and it becomes a wasteland.  Are we all taking a free ride on the world’s ecosystem?  Our cars and houses freely pump out huge quantities of carbon dioxide that are overwhelming our ecosystem.  Most of us do nothing – either because we refuse to believe the evidence, or we believe it is not in our interests to act, or we don’t think it is our problem, or we don’t know what to do, or a combination of these excuses.

This might seem a low priority to you.  But, for the 40% of the world’s population that live in the five countries with the worst air quality, it is a high priority.  If you visit these countries, you experience days when it is difficult to breathe because the pollution is so bad and it is hard to read your smartphone because the air is so thick with particles.  We are all part of a single ecosystem on the planet, Gaia if you like, and we are joined to one another through a myriad of connections.  So we ignore this issue at our peril, or the peril of our grandchildren.

It seems unlikely that our leaders will take effective coordinated action and so grass roots action is needed as suggested by Kofi AnnanAssess your carbon footprint now and think about ways to become carbon neutral.  If you want to find out the carbon footprint of your organization then the Carbon Trust has useful information and services.

Sources:

The Economist Pocket World in Figures 2015 edition, Profile Books Ltd, London 2014

Thumbnail: http://blogs-images.forbes.com/benjaminshobert/files/2015/01/China_Smog2-1940×1293.jpg

New Year Resolution

I started 2014 with a post on January 1st about the ‘Knowledge Economy‘ in which I extolled the virtues of knowledge-based rather than energy-based agriculture and engineering.  At the end of the year, oil prices have dropped from $110 to about  $60 per barrel, making it likely that in most countries the energy-based economy will continue to dominate.  In the USA, sales are rising of huge gas-guzzling cars, such as the Escalade, which is 5.15m (17ft) long, weighs 2.59 tonnes and only manages an average of 17 miles per gallon!  Fossil fuels account for approximately 80% of world energy consumption and are responsible for most greenhouse gas production.  During 2014 it was reported that greenhouse gases were rising at the fastest rate for 30 years but still the countries of the UN meeting in Lima before Christmas only agreed that those countries who were ‘ready to do so’ should submit national pledges on cutting emissions in the first of quarter of 2015.

The global average temperature is within one degree of the maximum temperature in the last million years, and a 2 degree rise would be equal to the temperature three million years ago when the sea level was 15 to 23m (80 to 130 feet) higher.  A 1 metre rise in sea level would displace 145 million people, and there is evidence that it has been  rising at 3.5mm per year during the last 20 years which is twice as fast as during the previous 80 years.

How bad does the condition of the planet need to get before effective action is taken?  How many more islands, like the Carteret Islands, will have to disappear?  How many more people than the 7 million in 2012 will have to die prematurely as a consequence of air pollution? Cities such as Beijing are beginning to be described as ‘almost uninhabitable’Kofi Annan has suggested that grass roots action is needed because our leaders will not take action in time. So tonight make it your New Year Resolution to reduce your carbon footprint in 2015 by 15%.

Estimate your current carbon footprint using an on-line calculator and starting working out how to reduce it.  If you want to find out the carbon footprint of your organization then the Carbon Trust has useful information and services.

Sources:

Inside Beijing’s airpocalypse – a city made “almost uninhabitable” by pollution‘ by Oliver Wainwright in The Guardian on Tuesday 16th December, 2014.

Blockstein DE, Wiegman L, The Climate Solutions Consensus. Island Press, Washington, 2010.

Links to previous posts:

Year of Air:2013‘ on November 20th, 2013 or ‘Mass-produced nuclear power plants?‘ on November 12th, 2014.