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Thu Aug 9, 2018, 05:27 PM

How a moral philospher justifies his carbon footprint.

I recently flew to Florida to visit family. My round-trip economy seat emitted roughly two tonnes of carbon dioxide, according to one carbon offsetting website. By contrast, the average person in Britain is responsible for roughly seven tonnes for the entire year, already quite high by global standards.

This makes me a climate change villain. Dumping such huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere seems clearly morally wrong, because of the harm this will cause others. But carbon offsets let me fly with a clear conscience for now.

When I buy an offset, carbon emissions are reduced elsewhere, cancelling out those from my flight. It might involve planting or preserving trees, or installing cheap and efficient stoves. Offsetting my Florida trip cost 13 a couple of drinks in the departures lounge.

Convenient. But perhaps too easy? Offsetting clearly raises the scientific question of whether a purchase will really reduce global carbon emissions. This is difficult and controversial stuff, better suited to climate scientists and economists.

Philosophers, by contrast, deal in hypotheticals...

How A Moral Philosopher Justifies His Carbon Footprint.

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Thu Aug 9, 2018, 05:38 PM

1. carbon offsets are like making millions by only buying on sale.

the problem is you're discounting from a hypothetical figure.

the carbon "savings" might involve something good someone was always going to do anyway, or not doing something bad they were never really going to do. so the "savings" aren't real.

just as the 30% discount isn't real if you're never going to buy it at the full retail price....

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Thu Aug 9, 2018, 06:01 PM

2. The rich can buy anything, even somebody else's kidney, in this case a pea game to keep polluting.


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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Fri Aug 10, 2018, 12:29 AM

3. You have wisely posted this without comment.

Oh my.

We are doomed.

I'll say it again. The only way to quit fossil fuels IS TO QUIT FOSSIL FUELS.

It's a lot like smoking. You quit smoking by quitting, by whatever method you can.

Hah, imagine buying "smoking offsets" for any damage you do to yourself or others by smoking. If I was an amoral person, I might just start such a business.

Hey, for twenty dollars you can smoke an hour in all these non smoking places. Even on airplanes.

Alas, I've got some scruples, and more importantly I very much enjoy No Smoking restaurants, movie theaters, workplaces, etc... I'm glad I live in a place where smoking in public has largely been banned, not just by law, but by fierce social pressure. At my wife's workplace smokers congregate under an abandoned bus stop shelter on the other side of the parking lot, off campus. Smoking is banned on campus, even the parking lots.

This is the 21st century. We have the technology to cross oceans and continents without burning fossil fuels. We just have to do it.

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Response to hunter (Reply #3)

Fri Aug 10, 2018, 09:48 AM

4. People had the technology to cross oceans without burning fossil fuels in the 1st century BCE.

Crossing continents without burning fossil fuels? Also no problem.

Doing the laundry? It's a snap.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Reply #4)

Fri Aug 10, 2018, 11:31 AM

5. I'm exactly that kind of Luddite. Walking and sailing are the finest means of transportation.

Cities should be restructured such that very few people have to drive anywhere on a daily basis, such that owning a car is considered undesirable.

Beyond walking, we have every sophisticated technology from bicycles to kayaks, to electric railways and nuclear submarines, and yes, even airliners powered by carbon-neutral synthetic fuels from non-agricultural sources. (No, I do not support ethanol, biodiesel, or bio-jet fuel. When I see endless fields of monoculture corn or oil palms I see biological wastelands. Growing plants to make fuel is obscene.)

People are in too much of a hurry. This thing we call economic "productivity" is actually a measure of the damage we are doing to the earth's natural environment and our own human spirit.

If we had six week vacations and year long sabbaticals, maybe we'd have time to look out the window and enjoy the ride.

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