I have a rather bad carbon footprint. We have two cars in which we drive around 25,000 miles a year (11 tons of CO2). We have a large house with ancient oil-powered heating (9 tons). I fly several times a year for a mixture of business and pleasure (15 tons), I don’t make any attempts to buy local or in-season produce and I have carbon-expensive hobbies. All told, the Carbon Footprint Calculator tells me that my footprint is around 45 tons a year. This compares badly with a US average of 20 and a world average of 4.
And, of course, I’m doing this every year. CO2 production varies a lot with age so it’s hard to come up with a figure for my entire life, but using the UK Carbonica calculator and extrapolating it to my life, I’m guessing I will consume somewhere around 2,000 tons of CO2.
I could get a job that involves less flying, and probably save 200 tons over my life. I could get the bus instead of driving, and perhaps save 150. I could start shopping more carefully, and maybe save 20. We’re converting our heating to electricity, which should save 50 or 60. These are the sorts of things I’ve been thinking about in order to reduce my footprint.
The United States government are also doing their bit to shove me in the right direction. Last year they gave me $300 in subsidies to help insulate my attic (which should save 1-2 tons a year). They’re taxing motor fuel to encourage me to drive less, and that’s certainly made me carpool more often. They’re taxing air travel, and that’s cut down my number of work trips somewhat. All these seem like moves in the right direction.
This is my son, Philip. He’s probably the cutest baby in the world. Well, top ten anyway. My wife and I made a choice to have him, and we’re very happy indeed about it.
Unfortunately for the planet, he’s munching through CO2 with gay abandon. He’s been born into a world that is more careful with this sort of thing and where carbon munching is more expensive, so I doubt he’s going to hit the 2,000 tons that I’ve used up. Let’s be conservative and say he is going to consume a tenth of what I will – 200 tons.
In environmental terms, my child will be the equivalent of:
- Driving around the planet nine times in a Hummer H3
- Seven Space Shuttle launches
- Flying first class from London to Sydney 16 times
And all this only if he manages to produce ten times less CO2 than I will.
I understand that reproduction is an important thing for human beings, and I don’t propose that we stop anyone from reproducing. But we could at least quit encouraging each other to continue banging them out. It seems odd to me that we’re all quick to look scornfully at the person zooming around on their own in an SUV, and at the same time smile demurely at the person with 3 kids in a Prius. It seems odd to me that kids get to eat for free in a bunch of restaurants, and that a person earning $100,000 in the US gets a $1000-per-child tax credit.
Which brings me on to China.
China is the world’s largest emitter of CO2. There are a lot of things that are a bit wonky about China’s one-child policy but it seems to me that, while the rest of the world footles around making subsidies for hybrid cars and solar panels and having pop concerts to “raise awareness”, China is the only country that’s actually made any effort to reduce the greatest cause of environmental damage.
Well, that’s the end of my child-hating blog post. No doubt my child will wave this at me at some point claiming it’s a fine example of my bad parenting (although hopefully he won’t have printed it out).