26 May 2005

Climate of One

It all starts with one of us. My wife recently finished reading Elizabeth Kolbert's three-part "Climate of Man" in the New Yorker and said to me, "Driving an SUV is immoral." She then proceeded to figure out how we could sell one of our cars -- my 1995 Subaru Legacy sedan, to be precise -- and get by with one vehicle, our 2002 Toyota Sienna. We live in a city and park on the street; most of what we need is within walking distance and we mainly use the van to cart our 21-month old twins and nine year old boy around. I work from home and rarely use the sedan for more than short trips downtown when I know the public transportation won't be convenient or to park it at the airport when I'm flying to some work destination. So, on the face of it we should be able to do away with one of our cars. We'll adjust.

Some time ago I wrote about carbon counters in my GreenBiz.com column. At that time, I calculated my carbon footprint at 491 lbs. (223 kg.), which I was told is less than average. Then I started working from home and down went my gas purchases, my dry cleaning bill, everything but my coffee intake and mobile phone costs. What would giving up this car do for my carbon footprint? According to CarbonCounter.org, "every gallon of gasoline you save avoids 22 pounds of CO2 emissions." That's a pretty good savings. Okay, so now I'm thinking, what if my carbon output is negative? Then maybe somebody owes me. In a world of carbon trading could that become a reality?

I'm only one person. What would it take for each of us to act responsibly and make reductions? Well, one incentive might be the ability to trade personal carbon credits with others. My work requires a fair amount of flying. What if, during those times when my travel is low, I could "bank" my credits and use them when my air travel increases?

And what if those friends of ours who took advantage of Bush II's tax credit for large truck purchases for business by buying a Cadillac Escalade could trade credits with me, thereby mitigating their increased output and allowing them to drive what they clearly have decided is a necessity. Forget the fact that their office is downtown and they only have two kids, while we pack three into a late model minivan. They have made a lifestyle choice. That's okay with me, but who foots the bill? Perhaps instead of such tax credits, people who drive such vehicles should pay a carbon tax, and maybe increased insurance rates based on a combination of safety and environmental risks. Then to offset that tax, they could trade with me on the open market. It's just a thought.

And by the way, a young man and his dad bought the Subbie from us tonight.

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