ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Yet Another Inconvenient Truth, Part 1,777

Jet-Setting Hypocrites

From the New York Times:

September 29, 2008, 8:06 am
Jet-Setting Greens
By John Tierney

I’ve given Brad Pitt and Al Gore grief about their carbon footprints. But it’s clear from a study in England that celebrities aren’t the only greens with a fondness for jet travel.

In fact, the people most committed to recycling and other green habits at home are also the most likely to take international plane flights, according to a team of researchers led by Stewart Barr, a geographer at the University of Exeter. The researchers classified these people as “eco-conscious” and described them as “very committed and concerned individuals” who “were willing to accept that reducing flights was a good thing” — but they just weren’t ready to curtail their own travel.

“Green living is largely something of a myth,” Dr. Barr told the Guardian newspaper. “There is this middle class environmentalism where being green is part of the desired image. But another part of the desired image is to fly off skiing twice a year. And the carbon savings they make by not driving their kids to school will be obliterated by the pollution from their flights.”

Now, it could be argued that the correlation between green habits at home and taking plane trips is due to both of these tendencies to correlate with greater wealth and education — and that because more affluent people tend to fly more, it’s admirable of them to try to be green in other ways. But there are problems with this attitude.

First, it’s false comfort to assume that recycling and buying green electricity will earn you an indulgence for your international flights. If you look at the Environmental Defense Fund’s calculations of the greenhouse emissions per person for an international round-trip of 4,000 miles each way — about 8 tons of CO2-equivalent gases — you find that it’s about equal to the amount of carbon dioxide produced annually, per person, to power the typical American car and to heat and electrify the typical American home. A few low-energy light bulbs is not going to make an appreciable dent in your travel carbon footprint.
The next time you hear some high & mighty Euro-weenie visiting stateside who's trashing our inability to join Kyoto or be environmentally friendly enough, remind them that their flight to the US emitted more CO2 than your car and home combined.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler