Monday, June 15, 2009

Counting carbon

In a recent post, I argued that one of the problems with talking about carbon emissions is that the average layperson has no idea how much a ton of carbon is. As I asked back then, do you emit one ton of carbon a day or one ton of carbon a year?

Now, I have discovered a website that provides a pretty good overview. You can mouse over various countries on the planet and get statistics related to carbon emissions. There is no explanation about why, for instance, Sweden's or Switzerland's emissions are quite low (both of them have quite a bit of hydro and nuclear, so most of their emissions come from cars -- a situation that is similar in France, which has quite a bit of nuclear and a smaller amount of hydropower) compared to Luxembourg's, which roughly emits around four times more carbon per capita than those three European neighbors even though the standard of living is roughly equivalent. But if you want to know the reasons behind such salient differences, you can start at the website and research from there.

Having said that, I still believe that the focus on carbon is abstract and somewhat beside the point. For one explanation of that, see my previous post. In general, I maintain that what we need to do is switch to renewables, which itself will bring about lower carbon emissions. The focus on reducing carbon emissions will not necessarily lead to a renewable energy supply, as anyone from the nuclear sector will tell you. So if you want to reduce carbon without switching to nuclear, forget about cap-and-trade, which has never worked anywhere anyway, and focus on ramping up renewables, which has worked in numerous countries.

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