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8 June, 2010


By a weird coincidence, a few moments ago I 'tweeted' (ugh) on behalf of my employer about a book published by an environmental consultant based on campus, who is also the author of a Guardian article which annoyed me this morning (actually, the article's derived from the book).

Mike Berners-Lee (it's the surname which caught my attention) claims to have calculated the 'carbon footprint' of cycling, based on the foods consumed by the cyclist. I'm not going to itemise the speciousness of the concept – my primary reaction was "get a life" – but I think it's a joke, intended to entertain hardline Greens who'd seriously consider the relative merits of dying in a bike accident versus being seriously injured (because of the carbon footprint of NHS treatment, y'see...), and only a Guardianista would worry about eating air-freighted asparagus.

Oops. Now I look again, the joke's obvious: the same Guardian series considers the carbon footprint of nuclear war. So it is vacuous frivolity, after all. That or healthy mockery of the whole 'carbon footprint' fad.

I also see that the Guardian also published another couple of extracts from Berners-Lee's book this week, one of which attempted to define the topic, including concepts of carbon toeprints and CO2e. It also mentions my key objection:

The carbon footprint, as I have defined it, is the climate change metric that we need to be looking at.
I disagree. Or rather, I disagree with the navel-gazing involved in obsessively calculating precise values – yes, I do think Berners-Lee has wasted his time – rather than broadly identifying relative impacts and, y'know, actually doing something about them.

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