Earth Day: The Carbon Diaries

30 Apr

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I started reading The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd as part of a work project but I was totally fascinated by the concept. The story is set in London in 2015 where, following a catastrophic hurricane, the government has started carbon rationing. In her diary sixteen-year-old Laura Brown writes about how her family and friends cope with this new way of life, against a back drop of climate related natural catastrophes and social upheaval.

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The thing that really hooked me in this book was seeing how the reduction in carbon emissions impacted Laura and her family’s day to day lives. I started to wonder what it would look like if I had to cut my carbon emissions down to 40% of the national average. How dramatically would my life change?

To help me answer this question I turned to a few carbon footprint calculators:

Carbon Footprint Calculator

Cool Climate Calculator

EPA Household Carbon Footprint Calculator

Nature Conservancy Carbon Footprint Calculator

As I learned last year when I looked at water footprint calculators, none of these calculators are perfect. They all use slightly different methods and questions to assess and calculate carbon emissions, and some may work better for your situation than others. I try to compensate for this by averaging my results from several different calculators. I also found that the carbon footprint calculators were a little bit more data heavy than the water footprint calculators. I had some difficulty using them because I didn’t have information about my utilities, and milage for every car in my household handy. And none of the calculators I looked at could really account for the fact that I carpool pretty regularly, or that my house has solar panels and solar heating.

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Even though my carbon emissions are already lower than average, a 60% cut would still have a pretty big impact on me. It would mean that trips to visit my family in Ohio would be a thing of the past. I would need to rely on public transportation more often than driving or carpooling to work. I even wonder if this blog would continue to exist in this world. Thinking about it this way puts into perspective how truly tough it is for the characters in the book, and why they act so put-upon by the whole rationing system.

Although a sudden 60% cut in carbon emissions doesn’t seem very likely, there are parts of this book that feel eerily realistic. Tradable Energy Quotas, Cap and Trade, and Carbon Taxes are all real world specimens similar to the book’s carbon ration system. It’s not hard to imagine the protests and riots that erupt in Laura’s world, or the droughts, snowstorms, and Katrina scale floods. And while I wasn’t captivated by Laura’s love life, there was something very real about the way she carries on obsessing over the boy next door as the world is falling apart around her.

I’m still plotting to get my hands on a copy of The Carbon Diaries 2017. In the meantime I’m wondering: What do you think your life would be like with carbon rations?

~Robin

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2 Responses to “Earth Day: The Carbon Diaries”

  1. Mara April 30, 2014 at 5:41 am #

    A couple of years ago I decided to try reducing my flights as those are one of the largest carbon footprints. Something like 10K trips across the US by car is equivalent to one flight across the US…source? Don’t know so really do need to check it, but no time today as I am riding my bike to work every morning this week and it takes me 1 hour 40 minutes to ride 17 miles & 2K feet of elevation gain, so I will spend my time doing that instead. But back to the experiment. I took the train to see my family in Oregon. Here are the travel times (1 way):
    Car & Airplane (including wait time at airport): 6 hours
    YARTS & Train: 29 hours
    Cost comparison (just gas, ticket, & airport parking): pretty close-within $10

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