Worldchanging ally Alan Durning has posted a great piece on individual climate responsibility:
On Wednesday, February 16, the Kyoto Protocol will come into effect, mandating participating nations to reduce their emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases. Canada has ratified Kyoto. The United States has not.
Not literally, of course. Individuals cant sign international treaties. They can, however, pledge to match its goals (summarized by World Resources Institute): a reduction of emissions in the United States to 7 percent belowand in Canada to 6 percent belowthe 1990 level by 2008-2012.
Aiming to do just that, Alan tested his family's climate emissions on a number of online calculators (he recommends Safe Climate as the best). He lays out the various twists and turns he encountered trying to get a realistic number in this fascinating post.
This approach of putting global problems on the shoulders of an individual just doesn't work.
Joseph, obviously, if everyone was carbon neutral it would make a huge difference. Are you saying that most CO2 is produced by corporations and not individuals? But don't the calculators allow for that? Maybe you think it is just quieting one's green conscience and leaving the bigger issues unaddressed? Personally, I like Ghandi's "be the change you want to see" approach. As a first step :)
Climate change, like many environmental problems, is fractal: a pattern repeating at many scalees, from the household to neighborhood to bioregion to planet. We'll need efforts at all these scales. Starting at home is constructive and empowering. It enhances one's credibility before policy makers; collectively, we become a market to entrepreneurs. Let's each of us do what we can - then make linkages to others, and increase the scale of our impact.
I guess I should have been more clear -- I don't see personal responsibility actions like this as the solution, either. But they obviously have some impact, and, more importantly, they make me feel better about my role in the world (I'm willing to go some distance out of my way to not feel guilty about my lifestyle).
But the real action, yes, is all systemic. Buying a hybrid may be a good step, but getting your city to pass smart growth laws is more likely to lead to us not frying ourselves in our own carbon.
The unasnwered question is: how much do steps like this make systemic change easier by proving market demand?
You can offset the carbon emissions from your home with "Green Tags" or Renewable Energy Credits from companies like Krystal Planet. The average U.S. home uses 1000kWh of energy, and you can offset this with wind power for $30/month and retire the REC to a non-profit, and take a tax deduction.