Risk management and personal agency
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I think that we are arguing some of the same points but from different angles. I think that we all agree that we have to reduce global emissions levels. Paraphrasing from above:
1. Stan argues what I think is a valid point, namely that climate models are not good enough to derive the climate-related effectiveness levels of different proposed government actions.
2. Tony just as validly points out that the climate-related risk levels are such that we have to act, even in the face of imperfect information.
3. Jon then points out that doing nothing is not an option and that our personal efforts, however laudable, will not be sufficient to achieve what is needed.
So where does that leave us? I agree with Stan that the biggest bang for the buck comes through improving energy efficiency. We need to do this on a personal and societal basis. We need to insulate houses and drive less (personal) but we also need to invest in infrastructure that allows us to live less energy intensive lifestyles (societal). If we have reduced emissions as our ultimate goal we have to make sure that energy prices do not come down even if we manage to use less energy nationally or globally. As you know, I am a proponent of a fee and dividend approach to dealing with carbon emissions so that people and markets can drive changes but if governments end up controlling the revenue then it should be constrained to investing only in activities that will further drive down national emissions levels.
I have a hard time seeing how increased efficiency (savings) driving productive changes (investments) that reduce carbon emissions can do anything but good for society as a whole, regardless of what China or any other country chooses to do. Whether motivated by personal economics (decreased expenses) or a desire for some sort of moral high ground from which to request others to act for the common good it just makes sense for all of us to do more to use less, of everything. If we do that, we open space for more comprehensive approaches to emissions reductions.
I have no idea if the world can or will cut its emissions by 80% by 2020 but the one thing that I can do is to take on the challenge of trying to cut my personally-caused emissions by 80% by then. If I can’t, then I can’t crow at anybody else about not doing it.
Many of you humble me with what you have already accomplished. Does anyone have any advice for how to manageably assess and track emissions at a personal/household level?
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
P.S. Stan, I hope that you can suspend your moniker of ‘no turkeys’ for today at least!