# Critique of "Forget your carbon footprint"
"Forget your carbon footprint. Let's talk about your climate shadow."
This article doesn't get it. I even think it's dangerous for climate action. I'll try to note and discuss its precise shortcomings, although some aspects are of course interesting ⬇️⬇️.
The first sentence hints at the author not understanding the concept of the climate footprint as most commonly defined : work-induced CO2e emissions are indeed included, or should be !
The climate researcher's plane emissions are counted in her lab's emissions. In France at least, the lab would be public, it would hence be included in the 1,1 tonne of CO2e of "public services", allocated to each citizen of the French democracy.
The second person's marketing agency helps the oil company sell its stuff, its business would grow, more people would buy oil from them, hence more people could see their footprint grow.
The climate footprint concept, as far as I know, attributes all emissions to real people. It's just a perspective. No perspective is perfect, they are all.. well just perspectives that you need to combine.
What about writing about this simple idea of perspectives in an article claiming to have found the ultimate new climate concept...
...especially in a media that chose this precise tagline : "the power of perspective" 😏
But aside from these facts, I believe the climate footprint perspective, which should really be called the consumption climate footprint perspective, is particularly suited for liberal capitalist democraties.
In our occidental societies, private companies are just expected to make money, and it is true almost everywhere now. BP, Total, Renault, Tesla, all brace for the same thing : make more money by selling stuff to other companies or people.
This is why the usefulness of the entreprise climate footprint perspective ("100 companies emit 70% of the world's emissinons") is in my opinion very secondary, though it is a possible perspective that for example makes recruitment of talented people more difficult by shaming.
"You don't want to work for one the climaticide entreprise, do you ?""
The same goes for another interesting perspective, the investment climate footprint. Yes, it would be a problem for car manufacturers if banks divested from their capitalization, even better from this sector as a whole. Yes, check if your bank loves to finance coal, oil and gaz companies. But what happens when companies that the society considers needed go bankrupt ? Well, people pay, through the state.
The 2008 crisis made this obvious for banks. The covid crisis shows that @renault_fr and @airfrance going low on cash is not a problem : the State can pay... at one ultimate condition : that this is (still) what people want.
French people want cars. Well at least, they do not seek to actively evade the car-centric lifestyle. Statu quo. As long as French people want to fly, airlines as a whole will find money !
The "gilets jaune" riots in France show this sad reality : in a democracy, you can't just act on the supply (tax oil a bit more), you have to find ways to make the demand evaporate. In this quest, consumption climate footprint is immensely useful.
One could even think it's not a coincidence that this type of "forget about the climate footprint concept" articles are all written by US media. The figures output by these calculators, when compared to the climate targets or to the other people on this planet (Switzerland and Dubai aside), are *just unbearable*.
All perspectives on the climate responsability are good to explore. I do believe though, that the consumption perspective is the pillar of them all in our the current state of our societies.
Climate footprint calculators that do this are just *bad* calculators ! The problem does not lie in the concept itself. If the editor chose to focus on a 1x problem (lights) when it could focus on the 100x problem (your car).
Next, the author attributes "installing solar panels" and "giving up flying" to the "climate shadow", not the climate footprint, although they can represent the majority of an american's climate footprint !
The fossil industry did not do that. I believe the plan was to invest the field of the dangerous climate footprint concept to empty it of its substance. They did not shift the narrative from corporate to personal, they just drowned the important numbers !
- Yo ! Some climate people want to show figures to americans saying they should absolutely stop any use of their cars to attain climate neutrality.
- Shit, that would make us out of business
- Yeah. But from the climate perspective, they're right though, and the idea is simple and obvious
- We should release *our* "climate footprint calculator". It'll tell people someway (e.g. lowering the objectives) it's not so wrong to use their car.
- Genius !
- What about also telling them it's right to buy all our new businesses : electric cars, wind power and carbon offsets ?
Again, no, "collective action" is not what "truly matters". It is *complementary* to lowering your climate footprint.
The dream for oil majors, car companys, and conservative governement is precisely this : that people would be politically dissociated from their own life style, in individualist societies that are driven by demand.
People that would rally NGOs and demonstrations to fight against "plastic use" but that would still use their car everyday. People that would fight against nuclear but heat their home with "natural gaz" everyday.
Well, this is just wrong and not sourced with numbers. You *do need* to input the square footage of your home ! Your home is a significant part of your footprint ! Same for the stuff you buy.
Depending on many parameters (square feet, heating type, construction materials, size of your lawn, swimming pool, climate, etc.), your home can represent 50% to 1% of your footprint. Footprint calculators are algorithms. The problem is complex. This complexity is part of why things don't change.
While the beginning of the article seemed to introduce something interesting, this "shadow" that would complement your consumption climate footprint by offering a complementary perspective (put simply : your paid activity and political actions also do matter even if we don't count them)...
this ultimate part of the article, is just, I'm sorry, dangerous bullshit. The author simply rejects the idea of counting the footprint of your lifestyle.
It's the kind of things BP could promote : don't look at numbers ! Ecology is not science, it's not numbers, it's not rational,