Since I don’t want to put things off until 2050, I thought I might get busy doing my share of green duties now, but I’m not quite sure what this 83% number means. Do I drive 83% less miles, eat 83% less food, buy 83% less clothing, watch 83% less TV? Is buying a car that gets twice the mileage and driving half as far cover my personal obligation? Or does buying that new car up my carbon footprint more than if I drove my old car for ten more years even if it only gets 19 mpg? And will there be any gasoline in 2050 to use anyway?
Yesterday, I wrote about Designing an Energy Efficient Green PC, and showed how we could buy a computer now that already uses 83% less electricity than some machines from 2005. The trouble is I don’t actually know the average energy consumption of a PC and monitor from 2005. If we’re all supposed to use 83% less by 2050, we really need to know the 2005 baseline for all the possible things we use in our daily life.
How many kilowatt hours of electricity did the average American use in 2005? How many gallons of gasoline? How many cubit feet of natural gas? How many gallons of fresh water. How many pounds of clothing? How many pounds of sugar, flour, beef, fish, vegetables, cheese, butter, etc. Do I have to worry about my share of iron, aluminum, steel, nitrogen, etc? Everything we consume creates a carbon footprint, but what is the 2005 baseline number for each item? And most important of all, what is the average carbon footprint for a 2005 citizen of America? Or what is the fair share for a world citizen of 2005?
And should poor Americans consume 83% less than what they were able to scrape by with in 2005, and will it be fair if billionaires cut their carbon footprint by the same 83 percentage but still use far more than the average person? Or should there be one carbon expenditure for each person that makes them a good citizen? And how does a rich person using a 1,000 times what a poor person uses rationalize their lifestyle? Should the targeted carbon footprint be 1/7,000,000,000th of the whole world’s safe expenditure of carbon, rather than 1/300,000,000th of the U.S.’s 2005 expenditure?
Will COP15 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen tell me these numbers I want to know? Will they tell us the ethical answers to questions about the rich buying carbon credits from the poor? And is the carbon footprint just the tip of the iceberg? Are there other elements in the environment that we’re throwing out of whack? Are the billions of humans on this planet akin to a cancer destroying all other life forms in its path? What does it mean to design a lifestyle for a sustainable ecology for planet Earth?
Whether you support climate science, or are a climate change denier, it should be obvious we’re over consuming this planet and the age of material abundance is almost over. Even atheists should recognize the spiritual crisis of our times, and even fundamentalists should recognize the mathematics of reality.
JWH – 12/7/9