Dear Economist

Greenhouse gas

I take small steps to reduce my carbon footprint (I walk, recycle etc) and attempt to influence others by spreading awareness of climate change. However, a friend recently accused me of being a hypocrite because of my contribution to carbon emissions when I fly for my holidays. I admit I do not weigh the damage done to the environment when planning my breaks, and am not ready to forgo them. How do I preach green without breaching the walk-the-talk philosophy?
An apparent pseudo-treehugger

Dear Treehugger,

You are in good company. Most of the developed world’s governments have been spouting about climate change, without adopting policies that have noticeably prevented the growth of carbon emissions.

But hypocrisy does not strike me as the issue here. In fact, you are refreshingly honest – you say you do not know the impact of your travel, and would not change if you did.

The problem, rather, is that most people are equally as ignorant and as self-centred as you. Few humans are capable of making serious sacrifices for the unborn grandchildren of total strangers, which is the basic selling point of voluntary action on climate change.

That leaves us with two alternative policies: hope that people chivvy each other into action, or hope that governments swap some of their taxes on labour and capital for taxes on carbon. I am not holding my breath for either.

Also published at ft.com, subscription free.

19th of July, 2008Dear Economist • Comments off