Individual emission budgets & footprints

by Ingrid Robeyns on April 22, 2017

It’s Global Earth Day, and this year the theme is environmental and climate literacy. I’d like to take us through an argument and a set of calculations. If what I write is correct, it only illustrates (but quite vividly, I think) the mess we’re in. So I hope that someone will convince me that what follows is wrong, or that the pessimistic conclusions do not follow.

First, individual greenhouse gas (GHG) emission budgets. Obviously, there is no such a thing: in practice, every individual can emit as much as their wallet allows them to do. We are hardly constrained in emitting. But we could ask this as a moral, rather than as an institutional (legal, political) question: if we were to divide the remaining GHG-budget fairly, how much would each of us be morally entitled to emit?

According to Lucas Chancel and Thomas Piketty (p.15), assuming we want to stay under a 2 degrees Celsius temperature increase, the remaining emissions budget is about 1,000 Gt CO2e (= 1000 Giga-tons CO2 equivalent; data and all calculations from 2014).

This is a global and hence an aggregate budget; what would a fair individual budget be? Chancel and Piketty don’t provide many arguments, but propose to divide the budget equally. One could quibble about this ‘equal share’: perhaps individuals living in regions without much physical infrastructure (like decent roads) should be given a larger emission budget. Or some share of the aggregate budget should be set apart to give to the governments in those regions. However, let’s start with this equal share proposal, and see where it gets us, since the results will give us already more than enough food for thought.

Using UN-predictions on global population change, they calculate what the amount of that budget would be if divided equally between all people who will be living between now and 2100, on an annual basis:

From the 1000 Gt budget, it is possible to calculate the sustainable level of emissions per capita, i.e. the amount of CO2e emissions each individual is entitled to emit, between now and 2100. The sustainable level of CO2e to emit per person per year, from now to 2100 is approximately 1.2tCO2e – about 6 times lower than the current average annual per capital emission level of 6.2tCO2e.

How does this individual sustainable/fair emission budget of 1.2 ton CO2e compare with current per capita emissions in different regions? (table 1, p. 19):

World average: 6.2 tCO2e per person per year

North Americans: 20
Russians/Central Asians: 10
Western Europeans: 9
Chinese, Middle East: 8
South Americans: 5.2
South Asians, Africans: 2.4

So these figures confirm what we know – great inequalities in emissions between regions. Yet compared with the sustainable level of 1.2 tCO2e, all except the very poorest Africans and South Asians will have to change their lifestyles drastically.

One source of hope is technological development. But while not wanting to deny that we should absolutely try to find solutions on that front, how much could this solve? If we were to be able to heat our houses and drive our cars in a fully carbon-neutral way, would the problem be solved? To answer that question, we need to know where our current emissions stem from, and whether it is plausible to expect that those emissions could be avoided by changing the production process, or by no longer consuming them.

The most basic thing people need in order to live, is food. In 2014, Peter Scarborough and his colleagues published a paper in Climate Change, estimating the emissions from different diets based on the actual eating practices of different groups in the UK. Recalculating their daily estimates to annual estimates, we find 1.06tCO2e for vegans, 1.4tCO2e for vegetarians, and 2.63tCO2e for those eating more than 100 gram meat on a daily basis. Similar, though slightly higher, estimates can be found elsewhere online.

We can draw the widely-known lesson that shifting to a pescetarian or vegetarian, or further to a vegan diet would significantly reduce our food-related carbon footprint. But the second lesson is that with food intake alone, we’ve already used up our entire sustainable individual emissions budget. Only the vegans among us will still be able to buy clothes and perhaps ride a bike, if we would genuinely decide to stay within the Chancel-Piketty individual emissions budget, and not have access to technologies that either capture and store CO2, or magical technologies that can turn CO2 into something non-harming.

But what about all the other consumer goods and services that we are currently buying? There are free carbon footprint calculators online, that allow you to figure out what the carbon footprint of different consumer items is, like this one. So here are a few things that some of us will have consumed/used in the recent past:

Flights: Amsterdam-London is 0.12 tCO2e; New York-San Fransisco is 1.13 tCO2e; London-New York is 1.64 tCO2e; and Europe to Sydney about 4.4 ton.

Car driving: 10.000 km in a car, depending on car characteristics, amounts to 2 to 3 tCO2e.

Textiles, cloths and shoes: $1,000 spent would be equivalent to about 0.29 tCO2e emissions.

and then we haven’t looked yet at housing, electricity, computers and other electronics, furniture, books and paper, trains bus and metro, leisure activities, etc etc etc.

I am not sure what this exercise can teach us. Perhaps our first reaction would be to say that the Chancel-Piketty figures of sustainable emission budgets are absurd, that we cannot live with such limited budgets. Of course, that’s not true: there are people on this planet currently living within such budgets. Rather, we don’t want to live with their levels of material poverty. But even if we gamble on there being technological solutions by 2050 and double the sustainable individual budget, in practice the remaining aggregate budget is rapidly being used up, including the fair share of those currently too poor to buy a car or enjoy non-basic material goods.

So the conclusion I draw is that, despite the resistance that it is likely to meet in practice, we will have to radically (and rapidly!) rethink what we believe are lifestyles we should be morally allowed to have. As long as food cannot be produced without emissions, as long as airplanes can’t fly without burning fossil fuels, as long as we can’t capture & store greenhouse gasses in a harmless, low-risk and non-expensive way, changes in lifestyles will be inevitable. The question is: how can those changes happen fast enough, given problems of massive denial, ad-hoc rationalisations, and moral disengagement at both the individual and the collective level?

One suggestion would be to make those data on the carbon footprint of different consumption goods much more widely known, as well as working with an individual upper limit. Take the comparison with calorie-intake: we all know that there is a limit to how many calories we should consume – roughly 2,000, except if you are a very active sportsperson or are pregnant. There are plenty of people counting calories: they have to decide to either have that extra drink or else a desert, but not both. Similarly, we should count carbon footprints of our consumption goods and the different elements of our lifestyle – and decide on what to spend it. It’s not enough to try to ‘green’ our lifestyles a little bit, e.g. by recycling waste; the question is what is needed in order to green our lifestyles enough to stay within fair limits.

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04.24.17 at 4:03 am



JimV 04.22.17 at 5:51 pm

Another way of looking at it is that there are too many people, by a factor of about 5. In 1900 there were about a billion people, in 2000 about 6 billion, now about 7 billion. It took the human species about 150,000 years to reach the first billion. Population growth has to be included in the list of things we can’t keep doing, because nature will stop it if we don’t do it voluntarily. If we solve that, which we probably won’t, next on the list is the growth in individual consumption.


Ingrid Robeyns 04.22.17 at 6:55 pm

JimV, yes, I think we should massively invest in humane strategies to reduce population growth and aim at population size decrease – hence invest in women’s education and empowerment, and there should be a universal human right to contraceptives (exactly the opposite of what Trumps policies amount to). Yet we can’t deny to adults with a desire to parent the right to have any children at all, since parenting is for many adults part of what living a human live entails. Hence we will for many centuries to come have more than 5 billion people (in fact, probably closer to 10 than to 5). So aiming at reducing global population size can’t be a substitute for changing lifestyles. We need both.


Raven Onthill 04.22.17 at 7:39 pm

“We will for many centuries to come have more than 5 billion people”

That’s not realistic. See.

As Jay Forrester pointed out years ago, there is never just one trend at work. The carbon budget is only one environmental constraint. We can solve the problem of climate change, and still get blasted by habitat destruction or any number of other difficulties.

We must focus on population, or face a future that for many centuries will be a high-tech equivalent of subsistence agriculture.


Zamfir 04.22.17 at 7:55 pm

These food numbers would not be static. They mostly reflect energy use in agriculture, i presume. Carbon reductions in energy and transportation should show up there. T’s not going to be enough, is, and the two degree scenari is out t of rsch.0


NomadUK 04.22.17 at 8:04 pm

In my darker moments, I wonder whether those at the top are quite aware of all this and are arranging things so as to ensure that a substantial fraction of that 7 billion will be made to cease to be an issue.


Jim 04.22.17 at 8:13 pm

JimV & Ingrid: Have you done your part yet?

Best place to start is to go vegan and trade in your car for a bicycle if you haven’t already!


engels 04.22.17 at 8:17 pm

This is fascinating and should be made much more widely known. How appalling that while this is happening Britain is in the grip of weaponised form of the Protestant work ethic and bullying the disabled and otherwise economically inactive has become a national pastime.

I would love to see a calculation for individuals based on income and basic lifestyle information which shows exactly how much higher earners/consumers are ‘living beyond their means’.


Ted Lemon 04.22.17 at 9:22 pm

The obvious take-away from this is that we have to do something technological. What happens to people who actually live within this budget in present times is that we write ourselves out of the equation. We become weird, abnormal people that our peers would rather die than emulate.

The other obvious take-away from this is that reductions in carbon footprint for food production are low-hanging fruit. Reductions in food waste are low-hanging fruit. Reductions in food transportation cost are low-hanging fruit. And work is being done on these things.

Our society wastes astounding amounts of energy. One problem problem we have right now is that it is “cheap” to do so, because we aren’t paying the cost of that consumption. So there is no incentive to economize, and so people don’t. When energy is expensive, economies that previously seemed too expensive suddenly become attractive.

As for population growth, bear in mind that populations are shrinking in much of the developed world, because people have more economic security. Improving economic security allows people to choose not have children on the basis of fear for their post-productive future life. If the rich really were trying to reduce the population, this is what they’d be encouraging, so I think you can chuck that conspiracy theory.

I assume that people interested in this have read Kim Stanley Robinson’s books, for example Antarctica and New York 2140.


Ingrid Robeyns 04.22.17 at 9:36 pm

Jim – I think I’m actually doing quite an effort – not just with a 99% meat-free diet (once in a while I collaps for one meal into old habits…) and a bike which I use for daily transport (we have a car but only use it when bike and public transport are not possible, and we share the car with a family member and others people use it too). We also have a solar water boiler and solar panels on our roof, and we did a heavy investment in isolating our house. The energy that we’re not producing ourselves comes from a renewable source. I’m trying to take trains rather than flying whenever possible, even if flying would be faster and cheaper, like when I go to London (for academics, the figures on flights are probably the most disturbing since many of us do that a lot). I am sometimes declining academic invitations in far-away places for ecological reasons only. And no non-poor person wears their cloths as long as I do (I’m sitting here in a t-shirt that I bought when I was an undergraduate student in economics, which was between 1990 and 1994). And, perhaps at least as important, for as long as I can remember I’ve voted for parties who put the planet before profit (if everyone did that, the underlying collective action problems would quickly be addressed, since we could use the fiscal system to triple the price of meat and of flying, and speed up the energy transition). And two years ago, I proposed to the head of my institute that we would offset all the emissions that my institute makes for travel to conferences, which he agreed to. So no veganism, but still quite a lot of other things, I’d say. That said, there is certainly scope for further reductions of emissions in my lifestyle – and most importantly: I am, just like almost everyone else reading this, far removed from an annual footprint of 1.2tCO2e. I have a hard time seeing how I could achieve that.

But here’s another thing. I recently came across a scholarly paper that claims that what you just did in your post (namely asking about a particular individual’s behaviour regarding the ecological impact of their behaviour and lifestyles) generally leads to irritation/social disapproval by the person who receives the query – in contrast to when we question people about whether they adhere to anti-sexist or anti-racist social norms and behaviour, which would be more accepted. It corresponds with my own experience, that it is not easy to talk to people about the carbon intensity of their lifestyles – it’s immediately seen as moralising, patronising, and perceived as expressions of blame – which puts people off. If that research finding is robust, we are in for an even more uphill struggle, since we will have a hard time holding each other accountable for the changes in the lifestyles which we could reasonably make, but are not making. We need more help from psychologists who can tell us how effective behaviour change in this area most effectively takes place. I think for some changes, like dietary changes, we need more collective action in a positive way (positive narratives, social seduction and role models?) but for some other changes, like avoiding flying, there will be a price to be paid in terms of things people will no longer have access to (like holidays in a nice place). Even in the best-case scenario, we will have to agree to give up on certain ‘goods’ about which we now feel we are not doing anything wrong with their consumption.


Ingrid Robeyns 04.22.17 at 9:50 pm

Ted Lemon – what do you think about flying? it’s a sector that is still growing fast and while airplanes may become more fuel-efficient, those technological changes will be too little too late. And the carbon footprint numbers are clear that this concerns very high impact goods.
Also, without preference changes, increased personal incomes go together with increased meat consumption – and there may be some savings possible in food production and avoiding food waste, but if we don’t curb our desire for meat-eating, even the most carbon-efficient production processes will still not eliminate the remaining emissions.

I agree what you say about the price of energy – and there is a case to be made that the most important thing needed now is collective action (political, activism, spreading knowledge) so as to put pressure on the government who decide on the significant implicit subsidies to energy from fossil fuels. But pointing to the urgency of institutional changes may also be a rationalisation-strategy on the part of individuals who do not want to look critically at their own behaviour (apart from the examples I already gave, one could e.g. also look at the absurd use of both heatings and air-conditioning in some countries.)


RichardM 04.22.17 at 9:57 pm

As a sanity check on the numbers, the agriculture sector is 9% of US emissions, the corresponding UK figure is 10%. So the figure of 1-2 tCO2e is in the right ballpark, but there is a lot that can be done by stuff like like electric tractors and feeding cows anti-farting pills to cut that.

Also, current US forestry gives an 11% offset; doubling the amount of forests would presumably double that, and that doesn’t sound like something that is physically infeasible. Especially if you can get another doubling of agricultural yield per acre.

Takeaway message would seem to be that there is a lot of hard work to be done to get things to a sustainable state. With no viable shortcut based on simply consuming less; probably the lifestyle of a medieval Chinese peasant, dispersed globally, is already too much for the planet to support unaided.


Omega Centauri 04.22.17 at 10:18 pm

I can’t commend Ted Lemon enough.
I try to make changes that are socially sustainable. Telling people I drive an electric car and have solar panels, rather than asking them about their carbon budget. Part of the system wide benefits from changing the way you do things through new technologies, is that you are incrementally supporting the advancement of those technologies. Another part is that your example may get others thinking. Among my work partners EVs and solar panels are spreading. So part of our effect, is direct, and part is indirect via social example, and part is via the messages we send to the global economic-industrial system via our purchasing decisions.

Of course he is correct about the carbon intensity of food. It has a lot to do with prevailing farming technology, and transport technology, and food prep technology. All of these technologies can be transitioned from fossil fuel dependent modes, the renewables energy dependent modes. That’s a big challenge, lots of practices, and products and attitudes need to change. Its obviously going to take time. In my opinion moralizing about footprints will generate resistance to change, both personal and political. We have to make the changes palatable, otherwise they will be rejected.

Free air capture of carbon isn’t as hopeless as being let on. The most obvious method is landuse change that promotes a buildup of soil carbon. Also we should note that the natural weathering cycle, converts atmospheric CO2 and water and silicate rocks (nearly anything volcanic is a silicate) into quartz and carbonates. The chemical reactions required are slightly exothermic, so energy input is not a requirement. Any activity that breaks up silicate rock, and leaves it vulnerable to chemical erosion will increase this form of sequestration above natural rates. I think the real issue here is environmental, will heavy metals get leached out. But at least there is the possibility that we can come up with affordable methods for removing a few gigatons of atmospheric carbon per year (but I can’t imagine absorbing anything like current rate of emissions).


Omega Centauri 04.22.17 at 10:22 pm

There is work being done to develop electric airplanes. The few current models have seriously limited range, but better batteries are expected. We are probably decades away from regional electric air transport (flights under a thousand KM), but it looks like it will be possible, and most likely cheaper, quieter, cleaner
than the current modes. Oversea flights will be a tougher nut to crack.


Murray Reiss 04.22.17 at 10:25 pm

Or we could join the growing movement for 4More Planets. As explained in this Climate Action performance Poem. (Caution: heavily satirical.)


Ted Lemon 04.22.17 at 10:29 pm

I guess the one big thing I can say about dealing with climate change is that when it’s up to the individual to decide, unilaterally, to make a difference, that’s simply fruitless. Those of us who care about this can make an effort, and we still fall short. The only way to make this work is collective agreement. If anyone can defect, my actions to reduce my carbon footprint are literally useless.

Of course, my wife and I built a Passivhaus, because we wanted to demo the technology—it’s way more comfortable than a regular house in our Vermont winters, despite much lower energy consumption, so people could be motivated to build it out of selfishness rather than selflessness—this seemed like a good place to make an impact. Unfortunately we are recluses, so we don’t show it off enough.

Ingrid, I think that the improvement of video communication over the internet has become so substantial that the need to be constantly flying back and forth may be slowly replaced, and we won’t travel so much. I burn probably 4-6t of carbon per year going to conferences, and I am painfully aware of the carbon footprint, and the need to curtail it. I am working in the organization that holds these meetings to get us to put remote attendees on equal footing, and we are making progress, but it will be some number of years yet before the situation improves. And since a lot of our funding comes from attendance fees, that’s a major issue we have to account for if we go remote: will people pay a $750 attendee fee to attend remotely?

Ironically, the biggest impetus for change I’ve seen so far in my organization (the IETF) is that Trump’s recent ratcheting down of the pain level for border crossing into the U.S. is being emulated elsewhere, and this is making remote attendance suddenly a lot more attractive. I hate to credit Trump with anything good, and I certainly don’t agree with his policy in the large, but this particular effect is actually quite winning. Whiny geeks don’t want to be hassled crossing borders, and are not willing to have their devices searched, or give out their Facebook passwords.

One of the reasons I mentioned Kim Stanley Robinson is that he’s pretty bullish on blimps that follow the trade winds. I don’t know how realistic that is, but a blimp that is just blown east until you get where you are going could be a hell of a lot more efficient than a jet, at least in principal. Because it wouldn’t move all that quickly, in principal any cross-wind changes in lattitude could be accomplished using solar-powered lifters.

Of course, nobody today is going to be willing to take that long to get to Europe, but if the need for travel were reduced, this would definitely be a way to continue to be a world traveler without having such a huge carbon footprint. Sailing ships with parachute sails are another way of doing this, although I have to say that I would rather not have to endure the ocean swells.

Solar panels along rail corridors can seriously offset the carbon footprint of trains.



Nick Barnes 04.22.17 at 10:58 pm

Please be aware that “offsets” are mostly greenwash.


JimV 04.22.17 at 11:04 pm

In response to Jim:

I resisted the temptation to list my own efforts, since who cares , but since someone does:

I have never had a car (or any motor vehicle), a house, or an expensive apartment. I walked to work for 38 years, and continue to walk to groceries and pharmacies. I do take a taxi to some doctor appointments (twice a year) since there is approximately zero bus availability in the suburb I’m in now. The average age of all my clothes is about ten years. I wear my sneakers and winter boots until all the tread is worn off and the duct tape won’t hold them together. Occasionally a nice person will see me walking and ask if I need a ride – which I politely refuse. One of my nephews went to a Subway Shop to get some subs (sandwiches) for a family get-together and had to guess what to get me. I told him, next time just ask for the sub that the crazy guy who walks everywhere always gets. I have not had any children and will not have any, it is safe to say at this point. Currently I spend more on various donations than on rent. How about you? Scratch that, it’s not important, nor are my efforts. I could do a lot more and better. (A better person would not have wasted space here with this reply.) Nor do I think that people who do have cars and children are necessarily less serious about these issues than I am.

Someone mentioned population growth is falling in developed countries, which is true (although not among fundamentalists), but the last I heard world population is still increasing and is expected to hit 10 billion by 2050, and we are already well beyond the Earth’s carrying capacity at current consumption levels. I am confident that population growth will solve itself eventually, but not in a good way.

Last follow-up: I have previously recommended Kim Stanley Robinson as a good subject for another CT seminar: here I go again.


Manta 04.22.17 at 11:21 pm

The lesson seems clear: climate change is unavoidable. Better to look for ways to live with it.


derrida derider 04.23.17 at 12:20 am

There are indeed some very uncomfortable conclusion to be drawn from these calculations.

We are in a classic one shot PD meaning the Nash equilibrium of everyone defecting – that is, ignoring AGW, generally by the denial humans are so good at – is way worse than the cooperative Pareto optimum.

Given this I reluctantly think that the only real long run hope is some geoengineering technofix. I don’t underestimate how lucky we will have to be to find any such cure that is not worse than the disease. We could try and improve our luck a bit by putting some research dollars now into thinking hard about it, though.

We can anyway still defer the evil day with proper global carbon pricing policies – which means putting a price internationally on defection where we can. But any socially and politically (that PD again) feasible price is only going to defer. Deferring an evil is always worthwhile if only on Micawberesque (“something will turn up” – like a geofix) grounds.


Faustusnotes 04.23.17 at 1:06 am

Focusing now on individual change is a distraction. Yes we all need to get our average down but we can’t do it through individual action. We need shared action ie government intervention. The moment you start hair-shirting an environmental issue you lose the battle. You have to keep the focus on government action against sectors of industry. Once we have decarbonized public transport and electricity generation then we can start thinking about private actions. And we obviously need to force all nations to invest massively in sinks, which means forestry policy and rewilding. There is no contribution any individual can make to that.


Alex SL 04.23.17 at 1:09 am


Agree with your first sentence, but what do you mean with “live with it”? Unless humanity goes 0% carbon the process will just continue. Oil is more limited, but apparently there is enough coal to make the planet pretty much uninhabitable, at which point we will all “die with it”.

In other words, the most optimistic thing a complete cynic could say is that sufficient warming (4-5C?) will cause so much damage to our agriculture and infrastructure that most of our population will starve to death, technological civilisation will collapse, the few survivors can start building up from a new warlord-ruled dark age, but at least warming will stop at that point.

A less cynical person might hope for technological advances making regenerative energies cheap and electric trucks and tractors feasible, but it might turn out to be wishful thinking on the lines of flying cars.


Lee A. Arnold 04.23.17 at 1:13 am

There won’t be any living with climate change if there is a sudden methane shotgun into the atmosphere. It will be too hot to grow food.


F 04.23.17 at 1:22 am

The sad truth is Manta’s right. It’s pure sociology and the choices of the individuals of the world are quite simply irrelevant. The options are:

1. find a technology to replace CO2 emissions and wait a generation for it to be adopted
2. increase the cost of CO2 emissions and wait a generation for it to change habits.

Neither of which will happen fast enough. Climate change is real and it will change the world, but at this point it is like earthquakes and tornados: an unavoidable natural disaster. We will deal, with pain.


John Quiggin 04.23.17 at 1:22 am

OK, I’ll rise to Ingrid’s request for an optimistic response (back of the envelope version)

First, it’s clearly feasible to decarbonize most economic activity by 2050. So, the budget only has to last us 33 years from now, not 73. Now, if we can manage a linear decline in emissions to zero by 2050, we’ll emit half as much as if current levels were continued to 2050, that is 16.5 years of current emissions. So, this trajectory would reduce emissions by a factor of 4 to 5 compared to continuing current emissions out to 2100. The calculation cited by Ingrid suggests we need a reduction by a factor of 6 in total emissions and therefore also in per capita emissions.

So, a contract and converge strategy that is a bit more ambitious than a linear decline to zero by 2050 would do the job. That’s challenging, but nowhere near impossible.

Much harder, and probably requiring some way of removing CO2 that’s already in the atmosphere, would be the 1.5 degree aspirational target endorsed at Paris.

Here’s a more detailed analysis, yielding the same conclusion

Shorter JQ: the problem is far from being solved, but there is no reason to give up hope or stop fighting.


John Quiggin 04.23.17 at 1:24 am

PS By “contract and converge” I mean an agreement in which historically high emitters reduce their emissions rapidly, while very poor countries have a period in which they can increase them. All then converge on a path declining to zero.


faustusnotes 04.23.17 at 2:55 am

John Quiggin, the problem with your optimism is the areas of the economy that have no viable low carbon components: agriculture, shipping, aviation and construction. We need to find a way to decarbonize so rapidly that we can devote a large part of the carbon budget to sustaining those components of the economy until we get alternatives, or can build appropriate sinks. Also we aren’t starting from 2017; realistically contract and converge isn’t going to start until at least 2021, the earliest that the Republicans can be booted out of congress and the White House.

Living with it is not an option though, contra Manta. There is no way to “live with” the death of the Great Barrier Reef. The only option then is to “get over it” – we destroyed a unique and beautiful thing and we’ll never ever get it back. Also when you see communities being washed away by flooding and storms and bushfires, that is humanity “living with” climate change. To the extent that the conflicts in the Middle East are driven by food shortages and water conflict, that is also humans living with climate change. There are large parts of England now where flood insurance is unaffordable because the cost of modern floods is too great to sustain – this isn’t because of some silly economic growth thing, but because flooding in those areas has become much worse. If depopulating large areas of south west England and returning them to their pre-industrial revolution marsh state is “living with it”, then we’ll all be fine. But what about when a similar problem falls on New York or Mumbai or one of the other engines of the global economy? If living with it becomes the only option, things aren’t going to be pretty.


John Quiggin 04.23.17 at 4:46 am

faustusnotes @26 A valid point, but a bit overstated.

*The shipping industry already has a target of a 50 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050, and that seems feasible with existing technology

* There are plenty of ways to reduce methane emissions from rice paddies and it’s recently been reported that feeding seaweed to cattle could be similarly effective
* As regards construction, there’s lots of work going on into low emissions lime and cement. There’s no obvious fundamental barrier, so it’s reasonable to project that one approach or another will succeed.

* Aviation emissions are probably the most difficult problem, both technically and politically (because so much travel is international). This is a point where Ingrid’s point about individual choices is relevant. If everyone sought to reduce unnecessary travel, we could get big reductions in emissions without much social cost. Here are my thoughts on tourism from a few years ago


Faustusnotes 04.23.17 at 4:56 am

I’m more pessimistic than you John and as you know we disagree about how fundamentally the changes can be achieved with politically easy options alone. But if some of those problem areas can make rapid decarbonization gains and we can get rapidly to carbon zero on electricity generation and land transport then we may be able to manage aviation through carbon sinks alone.

I’ve also seen some interesting ideas about environmental stewardship and carbon storage, including the possibility that past destruction of key aquatic species has changed the carbon balance. In particular the role of whales in supporting strong ecosystems and the carbon storage role played by sea otters. It could be that gains in rewinding and the restoration of key species like whales, sea otters and beavers could have bigger impact on carbon storage than expected. But whether that will offset the catastrophic impact of sea ice loss and amazon deforestation is hard to imagine …


Brett 04.23.17 at 5:56 am

Full-electric passenger planes are probably not going to happen unless someone manages to successfully commercialize an Aluminum-Air Battery system. The extra weight from the batteries is brutal, even Lithium-Ion batteries.

To get aircraft emissions way down, it’s going to have to be a combination of mandatory biofuel use and efficiency gains (although it depends on the source of the biofuel). There have been experiments with hydrogen-powered planes, but it would require some major plane redesigns.


Nick Barnes 04.23.17 at 7:01 am

Aviation: bio-kerosene from cellulose. Possible (at small scale) right now, but needs serious political impetus to make it commercially viable. Basically fossil kerosene ought to end up in a similar category to, say, powdered rhino horn, anti-personnel mines, or child pornography.


Ingrid Robeyns 04.23.17 at 7:10 am

John – thanks for bringing us some optimism :) – and yes, linearly declining individual budgets makes much more sense than equal shares over the considered period.

I agree with everyone else here that the significant change has to come from collective action/structural changes. But do recent political developments in the world give us reason to be optimistic on that front? There are some civil society organisations and companies that are taking the lead. But some other companies (e.g. in the fossil fuel industry) are obstructing rather than helping the transition, and in many countries voters massively vote for parties believing in ‘alternative facts’ or are so irresponsibly optimistic that they think governmental action (e.g fiscal changes) are not needed. So I find it hard to be optimistic on that front.


faustusnotes 04.23.17 at 7:43 am

Ingrid I do research in tobacco control, and I see big reductions in tobacco use in countries that try to achieve it, despite intense efforts by the tobacco companies to stop this progress (and they are waaay more profitable than big carbon!) so I am optimistic that it can be done. However, I think it requires a lot more than a few free market tweaks – we’re going to need to attack the fossil fuel companies and make big steps forward in a lot of different policy areas if we really want to achieve those linear declines. Given the current political climate in the USA though I think it just won’t happen. Even if India and China get 100% committed immediately, it’s not enough until the US joins.

So I think we’re screwed.


Marc Davidson 04.23.17 at 7:50 am

In this discussion there seems to be an opposition between voluntary individual acts to reduce your carbon emissions and collective action. It is not the one or the other, however. On the one hand, it is true that without collective action (Hobbes’ sword from above) little will be accomplished. The remorseless working of the social dilemma is too strong. And I completely agree with Ted Lemon that with the right price incentives remarkable solutions will present themselves. Technological inventiveness is virtually limitless, but it needs the right governmental incentives. On the other hand, however, collective action will not be achieved without society seeing examples first of people who are able to lead good lives under self-set restrictions. Social support for collective action does not come out of the blue. Scientific information alone is not enough, we have to see actual people leading by example. So the ‘rational calculator’ who would only be willing to support collective action by voting for the greenest party, but who is not willing to voluntary change his/her lifestyle before any collective regulation, does not understand the dynamics of social change.

Moreover, although it may be true that confronting people with their lifestyle may get irritated responses it does not mean that it is ineffective or, worse, counter-effective. It is only one of many strategies to make people think. They may be irritated at first, may it may linger in their thoughts later.


Tim Worstall 04.23.17 at 8:50 am

“Much harder, and probably requiring some way of removing CO2 that’s already in the atmosphere,”

Which, partially at least, exists. Iron fertilisation of the Southern Ocean could take out 1 GT/year. That’s the state of the current knowledge at least. Sadly, it also appears to be illegal to conduct any further large scale tests of this. And yes, I have been in direct contact with those who did the last set of experiments a few years back.

That we’re not even allowed to try something we’re really pretty sure will work indicates to me that not everyone is being serious.


Manta 04.23.17 at 10:34 am

I should have clarified what I meant by “live with it”.
For instance, invest into research for agriculture to prosper in the warmer new world.
Build new houses and infrastructures taking into account that the climate is going to change.
And so on.


Lee A. Arnold 04.23.17 at 10:54 am

At some point (perhaps soon, perhaps already) it is going to cost more to deal with climate change than to stop it.


Nick Barnes 04.23.17 at 11:17 am

faustusnotes: global tobacco profits are around ¢35bn, on revenue of around $500bn. Global oil and gas revenue is around 1.2tn; profits harder to assess but (for example) Royal Dutch Shell has a gross profit margin of 22% which suggests $270bn. So saying the global tobacco companies are “waaay more profitable than big carbon” is probably not right.


Lee A. Arnold 04.23.17 at 11:31 am

I don’t worry about the politics of it. I tend to think that what will happen is an extreme news event that galvanizes the humans into finally sweeping the remaining denialists into the stinky dustbin of history. At that point, there will come a major social surge, surging into the two directions in which we are already heading: toward greener localisation, and toward higher-tech unemployment & redistribution. Both directions, at the same time. I just hope that the transformative news event won’t be too “dislocative” (as the economists might euphemize a horror). Perhaps a nice big iceberg breaking-off in a satellite photo, or else a year of crop failures enough to put the fear of death into everybody.


Alex SL 04.23.17 at 11:46 am

Lee Arnold @38,

Yes, that is the best case scenario for creating political will, but it needs to be taken into account that from the moment we get serious about the issue more warming is already locked in, as the system has quite a lag time.


Ingrid Robeyns 04.23.17 at 11:49 am

Elsewhere on social media, Kian alerted me to this site by the that explains the reasoning/calcuations behind the aggregated climate budget:

the website has a FAQ, including this one:

What can I do?

Clearly, reducing your carbon footprint helps – key “carbon footprint” into any search engine. Emitting carbon slower buys time, which we will certainly need.

But to solve the problem in the long term, we need to reduce net emissions to almost zero. You can’t do this on your own, no matter how heroic a consumer you are.

So the most important thing you can do is make sure your government recognises the importance of cumulative carbon dioxide emissions in climate policy. Not all measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short term will necessarily help reduce cumulative carbon dioxide emissions overall.


Cheryl Rofer 04.23.17 at 11:57 am

Nuclear power. I don’t want to get into the usual arguments, so I’ll just leave this here.


Z 04.23.17 at 12:28 pm

So, a contract and converge strategy that is a bit more ambitious than a linear decline to zero by 2050 would do the job.

But, John, even leaving the “bit more ambitious” part, are we really anywhere near that? I’m not asking about feasibility, over the years you have convinced that this a solvable problem technically, but about coordination, political will, path of development, management of the economy etc… Ingrid points out that if the cost of meat production and of long-distance flying were tripled to finance the energy transition, things would go pretty fast: what happens when a government tries something 10 times less ambitious?


Hidari 04.23.17 at 1:34 pm

‘ And, perhaps at least as important, for as long as I can remember I’ve voted for parties who put the planet before profit (if everyone did that, the underlying collective action problems would quickly be addressed, since we could use the fiscal system to triple the price of meat and of flying, and speed up the energy transition). ‘

This, surely, is the main point. All of us at CT are (or should be) single issue voters (or, at a stretch, environmentalists who are also concerned with inequality/poverty). John Quiggin’s points may or may not be overly optimistic, but the basic point that it is (just about) still possible to avoid the worst of AGW if we start fighting, and hard, right now, is surely correct, (20/30 years time will be too late).

This was by far the most disturbing thing about the Trump victory. Needless to say, in the current British General Election, no one is talking about the environment, no one is alluding to it, no one is raising it as an issue.* This is not a good thing. But to vote for a non-environmentally friendly party in any election is a wicked and anti-social thing to do, for which harsh public ridicule is the only solution.

*It said so much in the recent CT comment thread on the British #GE that no one mentioned the environment (except me).


Ted Lemon 04.23.17 at 1:50 pm

I will point out that actually reducing your carbon footprint isn’t all that useful if somebody else burns the carbon that you saved. So while it’s true that living a low-carbon-like lifestyle as an example to others is worth doing, it doesn’t actually have to _be_ a low-carbon lifestyle. Demonstrating the tech and showing people that they can live comfortable lives with less carbon is enough.

I will also point out that there is a _huge_ economic driver behind improving battery tech, and this is going to happen regardless of the carbon problem.

And as for browbeating people about their high-carbon lifestyles, and imagining that they will recant later, this isn’t realistic. That’s now how people actually think in the real world. By and large, people do what everyone else is doing. If you are doing something different, you are a weirdo. If doing what you do will make their life less pleasant in the short term, they won’t do it. They will in fact come up with some kind of motivated reasoning to make it seem like what they are doing is not only okay, but somehow better than what you are doing.

I can say this based not only on extensive research that has gone on on this topic recently, which is obviously actually more important, but also based on my own personal experience as a long-time vegetarian and environmentalist. I have heard people spin some really amazing rationales to justify not doing what I am doing, after having asked me why I do what I am doing.

I think thinking of this in terms of “preventing the catastrophe” is wrong-headed. The catastrophe is already happening. We tend to personalize the problem: there are people responsible for it, and we want to beat up on those people until they change what they are doing. I am going to make the claim that this is very much the wrong way to look at it.

Instead, think of the situation as like an algae bloom. An algae bloom isn’t the algae’s fault. You can talk to the algae until you are blue in the face, and it’s not going to change anything. If you want something to change, you have to go deeper than that. The pro-carbon lobby is essentially parasitic: they are doing what they are doing because there is excess value to harvest by doing it, and they are just like algae: they are not going to listen to any arguments that leave that value on the table, because their whole raison d’être is harvesting value. If there is value to be harvested, they will harvest it, no matter what the collateral damage is. Getting angry at them doesn’t change anything.

What will change is a reduction in that value. That comes from the reduction in cost of alternative energy sources. And we are seeing that reduction happen, right now. All of this comes down to scale. Can we scale up solar and wind production and storage to the point where the carbon economy is un-economical? Is there a way for nuclear to be a part of that (I think there isn’t if you don’t give them a break on their externalities the way we do the carbon industry, but it’s worth investigating). Nuclear+solar+wind+energy storage tech can get rid of a _lot_ of carbon. Electric storage tech needs two orders of magnitude more energy density to economically replace jet fuel. It’s not unreasonable to think that this is achievable.

So, the point being, reduce that value, and the parasitism will just stop, not because anybody got moral, but because they went looking for a new place to extract value. But that’s not even the real place where win can occur. Why are these people so desperately trying to extract value? Because they are not secure. The entire financial value-extraction industry is tolerated by the masses because it’s where their retirement is stored. If it collapses, they die in poverty. So, like everything else, this problem boils down to economics: to figuring out a new way for people to have security, so that they aren’t overpopulating and banksterizing in pursuit of it. Importantly, if you start your argument to them with fear-mongering, even if the thing to be feared is very much to be feared, you have already lost.


Ted Lemon 04.23.17 at 2:21 pm

Political parties are also like algae. Applying moral character to them is ineffective, and it’s why we keep getting screwed. Think of them as organisms in an ecosystem, and figure out what the ecosystem has to be like for them to do what you want. Then work with your friends and neighbors to create that ecosystem. Stop thinking of voting as an expression of your opinion. That is the surest way to rob your vote of any effectiveness it could have had.


Yankee 04.23.17 at 2:40 pm

Raising food is carbon-intensive because of how we do it, not because the plants require it. We need big tractors because we want to do industrial quantities in an industrial, ie big-capitalist system: the urban city eats the countryside, the megacity eats the whole country. Gardening-type practice is much more efficient with material inputs at the expense of labor productivity, which is OK since right now human productivity is so high that we are having difficulty creating sufficient meaningful jobs. So it goes: we must needs change our attitude towards valuing things made by hands, things showing regional or seasonal provenance. People used to take pride in such stuff.

Ingrid #2, “We need both.”

Lifestyles aren’t going to change, much less population stop growing, as long as “everything is swell, just doing what I need to do to keep going here”. So we’re not going to get either, and therefore what we are going to get is Radical Change. It’s going to be a rough century or two, after which something different will happen, for better or for different. Like when them new-fangled multi-cellular organisms got around and broke up the blue-green algae monopoly. Optimism resides in the long view.


RD 04.23.17 at 4:12 pm

1. CTers read too much SF. Logan’s Run won’t happen.Solar blimps? How about a kickstarter?
2.We are no smarter than yeast. Add yeast to sugar water. It eats the sugar and gives off CO2 and alcohol(praise be!) until no more sugar= starvation or alcohol>14% = environmental poisoning.
3.Not only Evangelicals like to have kids.My Catholic Brother-in-law just married off his 5th daughter. The other 4 have already given him 12 grandchildren with more in the pipeline.Every sperm is sacred.
4. A third of Americans can’t wait for the Apocalypse.


Omega Centauri 04.23.17 at 4:17 pm

At least in the US, where federal politics has become enviro-toxic, progress is going to come at the local level, mainly cities, and states, and organizations, which decide they are going to do the right thing. Trump has motivating a whole slew of formerly politically inactive people to dedicate themselves to resistance. This is already having an effect, with many cities vowing to show Trump, by for example committing to 100% renewables. So despite -or even because of the horrible situation in Washington, we are going to be seeing a great deal of change at the more local level. Hopefully this can serve as the needed example. The California economy is doing well, green commitment isn’t killing it. This should eventually become obvious to other.


Lee A. Arnold 04.23.17 at 4:24 pm

Hidari #43: “All of us at CT are (or should be) single issue voters”

Certainly not me! Unless it’s to vote for the person with the most comprehensive mind; all else follows from that. I think single-issue voters are part of the problem.


F 04.23.17 at 6:53 pm

Ted Lemon at 44/45 is one of the smartest things I’ve ever read on the subject.


engels 04.23.17 at 7:03 pm

By and large, people do what everyone else is doing.

And yet we don’t all have private jets and 4x4s. Some of us don’t even have cars. And in case you hadn’t noticed American capitalism is built on constantly brow-beating and shaming people, the people in question being the poor. Right-wingers do it and liberals look on.


Ted Lemon 04.23.17 at 8:41 pm

engels #51: Effectively you are saying “we should do it because they are doing it, and it’s working for them.” But what they are doing is being an algae bloom. What we want (I presume) is something different than being an algae bloom. If that’s what we want, we have to not behave like algae.


Peter Dorman 04.23.17 at 9:37 pm

One of the arguments I’ll make in my book on climate change next year is that carbon budgeting at the individual or even institutional level is impossible and addresses the wrong question. The impossibility is based on a Hayek-like argument about complexity and the necessity of incorporating human response to hypothetical changes in activities that affect carbon emissions. (Your carbon footprint is the difference between global carbon emissions with and without your personal activities.) I demonstrate this by delving into the nitty gritty of specific carbon audits. Moreover, as others have said in this thread, as an individual you face a limited range of choices for reducing your direct and indirect contribution to greenhouse gas accumulation. Collectively we have much greater potential scope. And this is in addition to the collective action problem.

That said, a central concern — and an argument against optimism — is that the research community that constructs emission scenarios (as reported in the IPCC assessments) is unable to find scenarios that stabilize at 450 ppm unless there is first substantial (in the hundreds of ppm) overshooting, followed by providential technologies that suck carbon back to the 450 endpoint at 2100. I think there are constraints they could relax in their scenario-building, but that goes on to a different topic.


Val 04.23.17 at 10:29 pm

Currently in my part of the world average monthly temperatures are running about 3 degrees above. Because it’s autumn, it feels like an extension of summer, and people are actually enjoying it, but it’s scary really.

I remember commenting on climate change on CT three years ago, talking about what we can do both individually and socially, and how ‘going without’ things like motorised transport and processed food could actually be good for us rather than a hardship.

For which I got told I was ‘virtue signalling’, promoting a ‘new puritanism’ and a ‘neoliberal’ because I have solar panels. Very depressing and frustrating really. What I said remains true though.

For those who believe that technology can fix everything, I will repeat the message that we and the planet would be better off if we:
Switched to a diet based on fresh plant based foods (preferably locally and organically grown though there is controversy about this – I think it’s misguided but I’ll acknowledge it)
Switched to walking and cycling as much as possible, with public transport next and private vehicles last
Insulated our homes, used natural ventilation and shade for temperature control
Grew trees and shrubs
Cared about and spent time in natural environments


Omega Centauri 04.23.17 at 11:42 pm

Its not as hopeless as that. Co2 equilibarates between the atmosphere and various terrestrial reservoirs (mostly in solution in seawater) on various timescales. A commonly linear model is
the Bern Carbon cycle. For a ton of newly emitted CO2, you divid it into six chunks.
Chunk one is 13.6%, and it will last effectively forever.
Chunk two is 13.0%, and it decays with a time constant of 372 years.
Chunk three is 19.4% and it decays with a time constant of 55.7years.
Chunk four is 25% and it decays with a time constant of 17years
Chunk five is 20.9% and it decays with a time constant of 4 years.
Chunk six is 8%, and it decays with a time constant of 1.33years.
So well over half of our incremental increase will decay within a quarter century.

This greatly reduces the amount we have to capture and sequester if our goal is to reach some
CO2 concentration that is substantially above the pre-industrial level (270-280ppm).

Now all this doesn’t take into account feedbacks. Feedbacks are largely the result of increasing
global temperatures leading to the mobilization of some terrestrial sinks, such as the carbon now frozen in permafrost decaying. So things are of course far more dire than the above model would
indicate. But, it still seems to be the case that once we stop net emissions, time becomes our friend rather than our enemy.


Faustusnotes 04.24.17 at 12:44 am

Cal, live in Japan in an apartment. You can take my aircon from my cold dead hands!


Faustusnotes 04.24.17 at 12:45 am

Also you can take my goddamn autocorrect. That comment should start “Val, I”.

How we can stop global warming when we can’t even implement an edit button …


Val 04.24.17 at 7:30 am

But fn, I live in an apartment in Melbourne!

Ok I admit, it’s ground floor, next to a park and I can use shade and cross ventilation. Many apartments in Melbourne, and I guess in Japan, don’t have those features, in which case it becomes a ‘societal’* problem, to do with planning and building standards.

*Apparently J-D hates that word, but there is a difference between ‘social’ which can just mean more than one person, and ‘societal’ which relates to society eg decisions made at the level of society through governmental, like building standards!

(Btw what is with this apparent comment from ‘The usual …” which doesn’t seem to appear but links to a website condemning this whole discussion in very strong terms? Or maybe I don’t really want to know.)


faustusnotes 04.24.17 at 8:29 am

Val, I have lived in Australia without aircon (I only had aircon in one apartment in Oz in the whole time I lived there) and I can tell you that there is absolutely no comparison between summer in Melbourne and summer in Japan. We have daily counts on the news of the number of people taken to hospital and dead from heatstroke because they foolishly insisted on not using aircon.

Which is why it’s a social problem (sorry, I’m with J-D on this issue). The sooner we get renewable energy (or in Japan’s case, they restart their reactors) the sooner everyone can use aircon!


Val 04.24.17 at 12:47 pm

Well always learning things on CT. Have to confess I had no idea Japanese summers were so much hotter than ours (just did a little Internet research). Why is that, I wonder? The latitude is not that much different and it’s an island nation – I would have expected it to be more like the north island of New Zealand.


Faustusnotes 04.24.17 at 12:57 pm

It’s because Satan squats over this archipelago in July and refuses to get up again until October!


Manta 04.24.17 at 8:23 pm

How to deal with global warming


ZM 04.25.17 at 12:45 pm

Omega Centauri,

“At least in the US, where federal politics has become enviro-toxic, progress is going to come at the local level, mainly cities, and states, and organizations, which decide they are going to do the right thing.”

I think this is true. It makes sense because the effects of climate change will be felt at the local level too. And it means that mitigation efforts can be localised and more place-specific.

In general dealing with cumulative problems is something that our politics doesn’t do that well.

I made an objection to the development of a chicken broiler farm based on the GHG emissions it would add to the Shire’s emissions, and the decision makers were concerned that if they took GHG emissions into consideration it would have impacts on the ability of the broiler industry as a whole to expand.

They weren’t willing to countenance the idea that the growth of the industry growth be controlled in any way, not even in terms of putting conditions on the development. I talked to a professor who works in the field after the case, and he said for the poultry industry GHG emissions can be mitigated relatively easily with methane digesters on site, and plantings.

But the planning decision makers at VCAT are really set on the idea that the industry should be facilitated to grow, without any controls. It was a frustrating experience, and the only thing I could do was ask for a Judicial Review of the decision, which I never realised was so complicated and difficult until I started trying to do the Supreme Court paperwork for it.

Its really a barrier to getting good planning decisions about climate change if it takes months and months to work through the legal paperwork because its inaccessible for non-lawyers.


Doug K 04.25.17 at 11:09 pm

Ted @44 and 45 – thank you, a cogent summary.

are we smarter than algae ? than yeast ?
signs point to no..
There’s a soundtrack for this I hear in my head, a song in Afrikaans by David Kramer, Die Ou Aarde –
Welkom, jammer maar die rit is so kort.. die ape het te slim geword.
welcome, sorry the ride is so short.. the apes became too clever for their own good.

‘slim’ means clever, but an over-reaching sort of cleverness, that
which o’erleaps itself, And falls on the other.

As Ivan Hernandez observed on Twitter,
I am a one issue voter and that issue is not opening up the seventh seal and ushering in the apocalypse.

Unfortunately there were enough people who lost security over the last few decades of neoliberation to get Trump and the Tories into power.
Marched for science last weekend, will march for climate this weekend, call my politicians regularly, it’s all not enough.
On the other hand despair is a confident memory of the future (Rebecca Solnit, see link from my name above) and I’m no longer confident of anything..


Doug K 04.25.17 at 11:11 pm

sorry, wrong link given in my last comment – try this one..


Ted Lemon 04.26.17 at 2:33 am

Doug K @65: Maybe we are smarter than algae. That remains to be seen. Right now, not enough of us are thinking systemically, and when we don’t think systemically, then we are in fact no wiser than yeast, despite being much smarter.


Dipper 04.26.17 at 7:05 pm

Well this is great but I can’t see much mention directly of methane in the OP

From what I can see, methane gets away with far too much in climate discussions. It tends to get ignored because over what is a short time in geological terms it reacts to form carbon dioxide so its largely just an alternative source of CO2, but from my understanding, of the emissions produced this year, a significant proportion of the heating this year is done by methane ((less than half but more than a quarter). Hence if we just keep repeating this year, then methane is generating a lot of the warming. So if we want to give ourselves more time to solve this problem, we should work to reduce methane emissions.

Perhaps others more engaged in the political discussion on climate change could explain why methane seems to get a free pass.


Ted Lemon 04.27.17 at 12:01 am

Well, e.g.:

Basically, methane is a short-term problem, so even if it causes warming, in principle it’s okay. Of course, there is the clathrate problem…


Dipper 04.27.17 at 7:39 am

@ Ted Lemon – this year’s production of methane is a short term problem, but if we keep producing it or causing atmospheric levels to rise, then we get a long series of short term problems which ultimately become a long-term problem.

My understanding from reading was that the clathrate gun is unlikely to discharge any time this century, so we have some time to sort this out. But reducing methane levels would give us more time than reducing the corresponding amount of CO2.


Ted Lemon 04.27.17 at 1:59 pm

@Dipper the thing about methane is that (a) we don’t have a lot of control over it (did you read the article?) and (b) if left to its own devices, it does fade, whereas carbon doesn’t. So putting a lot of methane into the atmosphere definitely makes the effects of global warming worse in the short term, particularly if it sets off the clathrates, but if we don’t do something about carbon, things are going to keep spiraling out of control.

This is not to say that methane isn’t a problem; it’s just not the biggest problem. And since we are doing bupkes about the biggest problem (okay, not really true, but feels that way at the moment), getting upset about the other problem seems silly.

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