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Monday, July 09, 2007

Carbon Neutral vs Carbon Optimal

We can learn two things from Prince Charles' fancy new Carbon Neutral lifestyle:

  • Hippy trends are still hip, even for squares.
  • It takes the wealth of a king to achieve that lifestyle
Most of us don't have the resources required to be completely carbon neutral. Perhaps carbon optimality (The Undercover Economist, Tim Harford) is a better choice? Think about it like an economist... you should only abate your own carbon usage to the point where the marginal cost of abatement is more than total marginal benefit.

Since it can be assumed that one person's abatement has a small market presence, we can assume to the total amount of abatement needed by society is greater than the individual can achieve. Therefore, stated simply:

One should abate carbon usage until they can no longer afford additional abatement. Whether subject to time or budget constraints, this is how the rational eco-minded individual will and should act.

As always, everything in moderation.

1 comment:

Juris Naturalist said...

So the Prince has abated appropriately? If cutting carbon usage is a primary ethical consideration for some individuals, then I think your response, "until they can no longer afford additional" might be just the key.

I don't believe that most people concerned about the morality of carbon emissions are so introspective. Most of them are intent on imposing an arbitrary virtue on others involuntarily.

Your solution provides a good litmus test on whether or not to pay attention to enviro-evangelists.