The Achilles heal of most policies to reduce GHG emissions, is their focus on ‘so-called’ big emitters. Factories, steal produces and other industrial emitters are often the focus, while emissions from normal people like you are ignored.
A Big Sum of Small Differences
Individual Americans Cause — and Could Cure — Most of U.S. Emissions Problem
It’s easy to mock little efforts to save the environment: reusing grocery bags, buying a Prius, putting an energy-efficient refrigerator in an energy-eating mansion. The big gains to curb greenhouse emissions, the argument goes, will come from controlling big industrial companies that spew millions of tons of heat-trapping gases every year.
But consumers — especially American consumers — have more influence over climate change than they might think.
U.S. consumers have direct or indirect control over 65% of the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions, according to new statistics tallied by consultant McKinsey & Co. The figure for consumers in the rest of the world is just 43%. Americans, largely because of how they drive and how they build and use their homes and offices, lead some of the most energy-intensive lives in the world…
Industry — including oil, steel, chemicals and cement — produces 23% of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the McKinsey study. But a handful of other emission sources more directly controlled by consumers far outweigh industry when those sources are pooled together.
Passenger cars account for 17% of U.S. emissions — something consumers could affect by driving more-efficient cars or by driving less. Residential buildings and appliances contribute another 17% of emissions, underscoring the impact consumers could have if they lived in smaller buildings, or added more insulation, or bought a more energy-efficient model next time they replaced their washing machine.
This is precisely why polices like a carbon tax, which puts a direct price on all emissions, make more sense than cap and trade proposals which only target ‘big polluters’. This is exactly why economist Mark Jaccard, criticized both the NDP, and Conservatives polices for reducing GHG emissions, while praising the the Liberal Green Shift.
As long as politicians pretend that they can tackle our ever rising GHG emissions, by ignoring one of the largest (and in some cases the largest) sources of emissions our polices will be doomed to failure.