What restrictions on our GHG behavior would we accept or reject?

This is a question I’ve been asking of groups recently. While pretty much everyone is comfortable with mandates on car safety and high efficiency bulbs (though one person felt we should be educated on the issues and then allowed to select), I’m running into fewer who advocate a return to the old 55 mph days (er, they weren’t that long ago) and pretty much no one who likes lifetime limits on flying or a large tax on same. But we have to find ways to restrict driving and flying and such.

OK, which limitations on behavior would you accept? Reject?

3 Responses to “What restrictions on our GHG behavior would we accept or reject?”

  1. JMG says:

    I would LOVE a no-flying restriction, because the “restrictive” aspect disappears the minute it applies to everyone. It will only feel constraining if the elite can continue while us unwashed types are told that we have to take the trains (and ships if we wish to go overseas).

    If the restriction is uniform, or almost entirely so (i.e., exempts organ donors, emergency medical transport, and scientists who cannot access their subject matter in other ways), society will adapt — people will become familiar with the idea of the two-month trip, rather than the two-week trip. It could be quite good for us, actually. If we try a restriction that basically exempts the wealthy then there will be so much hate and discontent that it will be dropped quickly.

    I’m certainly willing to have a restriction on the amount of carbon-based energy I can buy — that is, I can make as much carbon-free as I want, and I can buy as much carbon-free as I want, but I can NOT buy more than a set (and declining) amount of carbon-based energy.

    I’m willing to have mandatory composting of all food wastes, either for home gardening or for municipal composting, which would greatly reduce GHG emissions.

    Bottom line, it’s not the restrictions that bug people as much as the sense that they are only restrictions on THEM, and that others are getting special treatment. Even the 55 mph speed limit would be accepted if we used governors so that only police, fire, and ambulances could go faster. But a system where people can buy the right to exceed the limit (a system of tickets, like we have today) fails because you have such inconsistent enforcement and some people can simply afford the tickets, while others can’t.

    Give people a restriction that applies the same to Donald Trump and Paris Hilton as it does to them, and they’ll support it. Anything that allows Donald and Paris to keep on as they are while expecting us to change will not work.

  2. Bob Seeley says:

    It partly depends on who is doing the mandating and the process leading up to it. If the process is democratic, compliance with mandates (including my compliance) is likely to be better. In any case, this is an area where a carbon tax and normal price mechanisms could cause cutbacks without specific mandates, at least in many areas. For example, right now there is a significant, though not large enough as yet, move to public transit and out of cars.

    I don’t have a problem with mandates as such, but I think we may get farther by rewarding good behavior rather than banning excessive-GHG behavior. For example, give people a tax rebate for insulating their houses or installing a cleaner method of heating. One idea from England was to issue “carbon cards” to citizens, based on some calculation of a personal or family GHG cap (the math might be tricky, but it could be done). The writer in question advocated a sort of individual cap-and-trade system where a person with low usage could sell credits to someone else with higher usage. I’m not sure about this, but some way of rewarding conservation should be part of the scheme. The cap might have to be different in, say, New England, where home heating is essential, than in places with a milder climate.

    Something like this, especially if voluntary, might become very popular and effective without seeming like a mandate, even though in effect it would be, just a gentle one based on positive reinforcement—which is very often the best way to get people to perform a desired behavior.

  3. bob mcgahey says:

    My wife and I have been talking about this. Our observation is that if we, who have studied and labored over this issue for years, still fly planes, for instance, then a voluntary approach is not working. I advocate a carbon tax, combined with strict caps on emissions. I am willing to accept restrictions in all areas, including having children. I think the world needs to adopt China’s one-child policy, and accept the social challenges involved with that.
    As for vehicular speed, we now watch rpm, not mph, and I restrict my rpm’s to 2500, which on our 96 Honda Civic HX (alas, the HX “V-Tech” is no longer made), yields an average of 47-48 mpg for all driving. I think we should have a nationwide 55 mph law. Sierra Club computes that to yield close to 30% reduction of fuel.