Carbon Emissions and Personal Decisions

Edited 6/24 for some added clarity and neutrality.

Update: the Considerates were able to find flaws in the study below; we've posted a correction here.

The vast majority of Americans (over 80%) believe that global warming is a real phenomenon, and over 60% approve of measures being taken at the federal level to curb it (from a set of polls here).

Many Americans also feel that they and others should change their personal decisions in order to help curb global warming. Sometimes this feeling takes on some strong emotions, like in the case of the SUV.


What is your emotional reaction when you see someone driving an SUV or a big truck? How would you feel if you knew they rarely had cargo or passengers when they drove -- that is, if they didn't make much use of their vehicle's extra capacity?

We can probably agree that SUV ownership causes negative emotional reactions in some people.

But something to consider: have you ever seen a dog owner and felt similarly to how you feel about SUV owners?

A study by professors at Victoria University (published in their book, Time to Eat the Dog?) found that dogs generate more carbon emissions than SUVs, due largely to the meat-heavy foods they consume. A cat accounts for about the same amount of carbon emissions as a small Volkswagen.

The benefits of dogs and cats are very different from those of SUVs--and hard to compare. But when thinking about our choices and those of others, should dogs or trucks capture our attention and emotion? 

When we're considering which personal decisions should get the spotlight in the conversation about reducing carbon emissions, how well have we measured the relative impacts of different choices?