Tuesday, April 18, 2006

High on the hog


Here's a graph from the March 24 issue of Science showing total greenhouse gas emissions of major countries. It's self-explanatory. You will note that the two largest emitters -- the US and China -- have not ratified the Kyoto accords. Russia and Germany, on the other hand, have reduced emissions.

In the face of such a graph, I feel more than a tinge of guilt. Regular readers of Science Musings will know that I own three homes, in three countries. You might also guess that I own three cars. Guilty as charged.

In my defense, let me say that for 42 years I have made my principal residence in a 1000-square-foot 19th-century house for which I paid $14,000. The Irish cottage (18x36 feet) cost $20,000, and for 10 years was not connected to the electric grid. The Bahamas house (paid for by the windfall of Frankie Starlight) cost $150,000, including site. Two of these homes require no heat, winter or summer, except for the occasional peat fire in Ireland. The New England house is heated in winter just enough to keep the pipes from freezing. None of the houses have air conditioning. Two are furnished almost entirely by my own hand, mostly with hand tools. Two have no clothes dryer. As for the three cars: All are small, old-model, high-mileage cars that together rack up less than 5,000 miles a year.

I'm guessing that puts my greenhouse footprint somewhere below the American average, and near the bottom of those within my income bracket. But it doesn't make me feel any less guilty. I suppose I could retreat to the New England homestead year round, but at the expense of more heating, air-conditioning, power appliances, and driving. What's a fellow to do?

Tax non-renewable energy heavily; I'll pay my share. Reward conservation. Ratify Kyoto. And instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars on ill-conceived military entanglements, invest heavily in renewable energy.