If Seeing the World Helps Ruin It, Should We Stay Home?


The glaciers are melting, the coral reefs are dying, Miami Beach is slowly going below.

Quick, says a voice in your head, go see them earlier than they disappear! You are evil, says one other voice. For you might be hastening their destruction.

To lots of people who prefer to journey, these are morally bewildering instances. Something that appeared like pure escape and journey has change into double-edged, dangerous, the epitome of egocentric consumption. Going someplace distant, we now know, is the largest single motion a personal citizen can take to worsen local weather change. One seat on a flight from New York to Los Angeles successfully provides months price of human-generated carbon emissions to the environment.

And but we fly increasingly.

The variety of airline passengers worldwide has greater than doubled since 2003, and in contrast to with another air pollution sources, there’s not a ton that may be achieved proper now to make flying considerably greener — electrified jets are usually not coming to an airport close to you anytime quickly.

Still, we marvel: How a lot is that one trip actually hurting anybody, or something?

It is tough to consider local weather change in relation to our personal habits. We are small, our results are microscopically incremental and we imply no hurt. The results of local weather change are inconceivably monumental and terrible — and for the most half nonetheless unrealized. You can’t see the face of the unnamed future particular person whose coastal village you should have helped submerge.

But it seems there are methods to quantify your affect on the planet, at the very least roughly. In 2016, two climatologists published a paper in the prestigious journal Science showing a direct relationship between carbon emissions and the melting of Arctic sea ice.

“Some of the particulate counts were comparable to or worse than a bad day in some of the world’s most polluted cities like Beijing and Santiago,” said Kendra Ulrich of Stand.earth, the advocacy group that commissioned the study.

But nothing is that simple in practice. Carbon-offset people talk about concerns with things called additionality, leakage and permanence.

Additionality: How do you know the utility would not have built the wind farm but for the money you gave them?

Permanence: How do you know the timber company that planted those trees won’t just cut them down in a few years?

Leakage: How do you know the landowner you just paid not to cut down an acre of rain forest won’t use the money to buy a different acre and clear that?

While certifying organizations go to great lengths to verify carbon offset projects, verification has limits.

“Whether someone would have planted trees anyway, or taken some other action like building a housing development, is ultimately unknowable and something you have to construct,” said Peter Miller, a policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council and a board member of the Climate Action Reserve, the country’s biggest carbon offset registry. “It’s an endless debate.”

Some carbon offsets are surer bets than others. “With methane capture,” Mr. Miller said, “once you capture that methane and you burn it — you’re done. It’s not in the atmosphere, it’s not going in the atmosphere. You’ve got a credit that’s achieved and you’ve avoided those emissions forever.”

But actually this summer, we’re going to Greece, with a stopover in Paris. Carbon footprint of plane tickets: 10.6 metric tons, enough to melt a small-apartment-sized piece of the Arctic.



Source link Nytimes.com

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