Friday, March 7, 2008

Creating Solutions - Working with People

In all the talk about green house gases and the potential they have for changing the climate, the core of the idea for solutions all seem to be based on a radical shift in the lifestyle of people. This is unrealistic and a waste of time and energy.

To effect change you need to work with people's own desires for their lives. Most people like to drive their own car, to have it available for them to use when they want it. Trying to get rid of cars is not going happen. Any solution has to recognize that every family on earth would like to have one car. With that as a starting point, how do you deal with it?

First off you can improve the emissions of the car. This can be done by educating people how to use less fuel in their car. It can also be done by rewarding the purchase of cars that use less fuel. You can also shift more of the costs to fuel and away from the car itself.

Secondly you can offer the public chances to get out of their cars and do other things for getting around. As it stands, in a city like Victoria BC, the cost of using the bus for a month is typically more expensive than paying for parking at an office. Transit needs to have more advantages over cars to get people to park the car at home for the week.

Third you need to work on ways to remove the carbon from the atmosphere. If there a carbon tax used to pay for the removal of the carbon from the atmosphere, then there is no reason to stop driving or having cars.

The reality is that the car is here to stay.

Much the same can be said of air travel, most of us want to be able to fly to somewhere for a vacation if we can afford it. Luckily the airlines are very motivated at reducing their fuel use and thereby their carbon emissions. They are doing better than car manufacturers and on a single person basis are better than the best cars now. In fact the newest planes will be able to transport 3 people for the same carbon emissions as a car would over a long distance.

If there were a carbon fee on an airline ticket that was based on the real efficiency of the plane and the actual load and this money was used for capturing carbon, air travel could be carbon neutral. But since no one know how full the flight would be, there would have to be a charge for the ticket higher than needed and then a rebate if the flight was full. This charge would also have to be spread out to some extent over the weight of the people and their luggage - everyone shares the weight of the plane equally but differ on their personal weight.

Airlines with new planes and full loads would have to charge the least. This would mean an increased demand for the newest and most fuel efficient planes and flood of old planes leaving the market.

We have to work with the global desire for a middle class lifestyle and not against it.