Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Climate change and Carbon footprint --a modest rant--

Gene Logsdon wrote an interesting essay on climate change.  He makes passing reference to the fact that many of the people wringing their hands over climate change live in "tall buildings" that are extremely dependent on the grid and on fossil fuels.

There are many factors that contribute to each person's carbon footprint.  One major player is the size (square footage) of housing on a per-person basis.  It is well documented that US housing has gone from approximately 300 square-feet per person in 1950 to almost 1100 square-feet per person today.  Of course, averages conceal the fact that many people in 1950 were shoehorned much closer together than one every 300 square feet and that in 2015 there are many, empty 4200 square-foot McMansions (anything divided by zero is infinity!)

Large houses create "carbon" due to the concrete in the foundations, the costs of logging, the plastics and metals.  Sources estimate that residential housing creates 70 pounds of CO2 for every square-foot.  Larger dwellings also require more energy to heat and cool.  On going maintenance (replacement roofing, siding, carpets, windows etc.) also consume more energy be because large houses require more of everything.

House size also plays into population density.  Smaller houses and smaller lots means shorter distances.  Shorter distances means fewer resources will be consumed by transportation.
The ERJ family does not set any records for frugal housing.  We are currently at 460 square-feet per resident  At our snuggest, when we had four kids at home, we were 230 square-feet per resident.

So I have a modest proposal:  Feel free to lecture me on "climate change" and "carbon footprints", but only if you consume less per-capita residential square-footage than the 1950 average, have windows that open, awnings over them and a vegetable garden that does not require irrigation.  If you meet all of those requirements, then I will gladly listen to your opinions on "climate change" and "carbon footprint."  Otherwise, you are not speaking from the moral high-ground.

For the trivia buffs: the White House has 55,900 square feet of enclosed space.  Four people currently reside at that address.  That noodles out to to about 14,000 square-feet per person, 46 times more than was consumed by the average US citizen in 1950.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, moral high ground... They 'assume' they have it by default... sigh