Climate Change and the Power of One

A recent Wall Street Journal article cites a McKinsey & Co study claiming that American consumers influence 65% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. (Consumers in the rest of the world only influence 43% of emissions.) The findings demonstrate that it is the individual and not industry that has power over climate control.
Climate Change and the Power of One
Photo: richpix, Creative Commons, Flickr

For example, Americans can reduce 17% of the emissions that come from passenger cars by driving less or driving more fuel-efficient cars, and 17% of the emissions that come from residential buildings and appliances by buying more energy-efficient appliances, living in smaller buildings, or adding more insulation.

Emission efficient technology doesn’t make economic sense for the average American in the short run, but higher energy taxes may incentivize consumers in the long run.

One way to overcome this cost barrier would be to tax energy consumption more heavily, making energy inefficiency more expensive. Europe has done this for decades, notably by levying heavy taxes on gasoline. High gas taxes give consumers a strong reason to buy more-fuel-efficient vehicles — and, in turn, give auto makers a strong reason to build them.

In addition to punitive measures, the article argues that the federal government should grant tax breaks to citizens who personally use wind and solar energy.

Perhaps Americans will feel more empowered in the battle for a cleaner environment if they know that, as individuals, they really can make a difference.

Following is the graph showing the levels of control individual Americans have over greenhouse gas emissions:
Climate Change and the Power of One