Personal Carbon Budgets

Let’s just run with the hypothesis that human carbon emissions are causing catastrophic climate change for a moment, OK? We’d have to overlook prior evidence of variable quality of collected data, graphsmanship, alarmism, refusal to publish data, errors in methodology and of course the inconvenient absence of rising temperatures. But we’ll just let all that slide.

Over at Aurea Mediocritas, local green blogger TonyD lists the per-household carbon emissions for different post codes in Bristol based on an unknown algorithm from Credit Reporting Agency Experian, publicised via their Future Foundation brand.

The latest Climate Conference has introduced the concept of a “2ºC Guardrail” which you will hear repeated in government announcements such as this one from Number 10, in which G8 leaders promised to “cap global temperature rises by two degrees Celsius and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050” – approximately 35 years after they all retire. Amusingly, this press release is accompanied by a picture of Gordon Brown with the Indian Prime Minister, who represents a state that is not part of the G8 and has, along with China, indicated that they will not sabotage their economic growth at the behest of Western environmentalists.

Again, let’s just run with the presumption that a two degree rise will occur without reductions in carbon emissions. Today, assuming there are 2.36 people per household, the five lowest per capita carbon emitting postal districts in Bristol are:

Postal District Description Per-Capita CO2/t
BS2 0 St Philip's Marsh 6.6
BS13 0 Hartcliffe 6.8
BS5 0 Lawrence Hill 7.0
BS13 9 Withywood 7.1
BS5 9 Redfield 7.2


I’m not sure if the zero in a Postal Code implies industrial use, so we’ll take Withywood as an unambiguous example of a residential area. To achieve an 80% cut in CO2 emissions by 2050 globally then as the genuinely poor in the developing world become wealthy, the UK population must reduce their per–capita emissions to about 2 tonnes per annum.

The data from Experian are almost certainly derived from household income, the estimation and independent reporting of which are Experian’s primary product. Thus even in the the “poorest” area of Bristol, the implication of meeting the 80% by 2050 target is a reduction of 5.1 tonnes of C02 per person. But what does that mean? How do you conceptualise the implications of that sort of change?

Well, the average domestic household electricity consumption in Bristol is around 4.6 MWh, or about 2 MWh per capita. Using the tables provided by charity “The National Energy Foundation” – which earns its income from selling software and service relating to pointless Home Information Packs – this is equivalent to 0.86 tonnes of CO2.

So that’s your first saving – don’t use any electricity at home. Remember we’re looking for an overall saving of 5.1 tonnes, so we need another 4.24 tonnes saving. Let’s say you drive a reasonably efficient car and get 40 miles to the gallon and you drive 10,000 miles a year. That’s a total of 250 gallons of petrol, or 946 litres, the use of which emits perhaps 2.2 tonnes of CO2.

Ok, so no electricity at home and no driving. You’ve saved 3 tonnes of CO2. Another 2.1 to go. If you fly to Malaga once a year for a bit of sun, then staying at home instead and doing a crossword (no electricity or driving please) will save you about 0.4 tonnes.

You might be thinking this sounds a bit austere, but good news: according to reliable sources (some guy on the Internet) switching to a Vegan diet can save 2 tonnes of CO2 a year. Furthermore you’ll still get over 3000 calories a day from vegetables and tofu and Kerry McCarthy MP will be your new best friend.

This actually brings us down below the 2 tonnes target, so you can keep your flight to Malaga after all – as long as you walk to the airport - and your final per capita CO2 emissions will be almost exactly 2 tonnes. You could fly to Spain with Kerry and eat vegan paella; wouldn’t that be nice?

So – no meat, no dairy, no driving, no domestic electricity and you should be able to get down to 2 tonnes of C02 per year. As long as everyone else in the world does the same, then we’re all fine.

If that doesn’t float your boat, and you buy into climate alarmism, then your other option is population reduction. Any more volunteers?