Saturday, 4 April 2009

Half a ton

What weighs half a ton, then? The world's heaviest woman, according to the Daily Mail . The amount of municipal waste each of us generates each year. Half of a Volvo 960. Hey, have you seen this Google application? It makes listing things so much easier!

This week, Sources Close to Rowan Davies told her what a sustainable world would look like. It would mean each person on the planet emitting no more than half a ton of carbon per year. (That's before we even start to consider that, to fairly address the extraordinary imbalance between the emissions of developed countries and the emissions of majority-world countries, those of us in the West should actually emit a lot less and give the surplus to those who didn't create this mess.)

What could you do for your half-ton allowance? This is over a year, mind. Don't use it all at once. Fancy a cheeseburger? That'll be 6kg, so you could have about 83 of them. (I'm pretty sure I saw a guy engaged in that particular project yesterday.) A smoothie, by contrast, would account for only 2700g. You could take a short domestic return flight. One person could drive from London to Madrid, but s/he couldn't come back. That's actually not a bad deal. You could build one-hundredth of a new home, or heat one room in your current one. Bear in mind you can only do one of these things; the rest of your year would have to be taken up with zero-carbon activities. And no, you can't do that. New children take up a lot of carbon.

The UK government recommends that we all stick to around 8 tons of carbon emissions per person in 2009. The half-ton recommendation is an open secret in energy circles, but its implications are so frightening that no pressure group, let alone government, will publicise it.

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