Monday, December 7, 2009

My Part in A Global Climate Deal

After reading about the bold proposals from China and India in the weeks leading up to the Copenhagen summit I realized that my family needed to act in concert to reduce the threat to our planet. Just like these great nations we need to do more than just talk about the issue we need to take a stand and make some firm commitments. As a result I have decided that by 2020 the Nierenberg family will reduce its carbon intensity by 50% compared to 1990 levels. Now I realize that this is even a larger commitment than China and India have made, and I also realize that they have picked a much later base year, but this issue is so important that I am willing to go the extra mile.

Carbon intensity is measured as the amount of Carbon emitted divided by the amount of output produced. In the case of China and India the output is defined as GDP. In my case the output is defined as income. I report that income each year to the IRS. You might be concerned that I would deliberately overstate my income, and use that to meet my targeted intensity goal. After all the higher my income the more carbon I can output under this proposal. But the IRS requires that I pay a substantial tax on my income so I have little incentive to do that. In the case of China and India there is no such penalty, but as they are national governments I'm sure that their reporting of GDP will be completely accurate.

On the output side all three of us will have to be on the honor system. There is really no way to tell exactly how much carbon any of us are producing. But we will all make a good faith effort to record our activities so that we can make an accurate calculation.

Now you may object that the US as a whole needs to reduce its total output of carbon, and that while my proposal reflects a significant effort on my part it won't do enough to help the entire country get to the kind of reductions that are necessary. I think in saying this you aren't taking into account the fact that many families in the US output more carbon than we do, and have been over a long period of time. After all my grandparents arrived in this country only at the beginning of the twentieth century, and since they had relatively small families the total number of their descendants is minuscule relative to families that arrived earlier and had much more time to procreate. My grandparents were also very poor for much of the early century so their relative output was small. Just as an example look at families like the Kennedys, and the Rockefellers. It is clear to me that those families bear the responsibility of cutting their carbon output long before relatively small and new families like ours should have to.

Itt is true that it is very likely that just for reasons of general efficiency, and economy, and because of the overall growth in my income, I was likely to make or even exceed these goals even before Copenhagen. But why should I be penalized for all the great work that I have been doing?

Of course I have some concerns about what will happen if we can't meet this ambitious goal. After all look what happened to the European countries that failed to meet their Kyoto commitments. But I am willing to take the risk knowing full well that India and China face the same risks that I am taking.

So I hope this adds to the political consensus that is building, and I am very happy to have done my part.

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