Telework and CO2

I’m reading a fascinating book, Fixing Climate, by Wallace S. Broecker and Robert Kunzig. The book provides a step-by-step development of scientific knowledge about climate change, from the nineteenth century to today, or to this year, anyway. It also covers the range of uncertainties about how fast global warming will affect us. While these uncertainties are significant they are of the nature of how much of Florida, or Bangladesh, will be under water by mid-century. That is, it’s not whether the oceans will rise but how fast and how much. The same goes for the intensity of hurricanes, deluges and droughts. Even if we completely stopped burning fossil fuels and producing CO2 today, the global climate change has enough inertia so that it will keep warming for decades, according to Broecker and Kunzig. Meanwhile, the rate of change appears to be accelerating.

I know, Al Gore covered these trends in An Inconvenient Truth, but his book/movie doesn’t slog through the details the way Fixing Climate does. If you still doubt the realities of climate change, read both books. In both cases the conclusion is: stop/reduce using carbon-based fuels unless you have certain ways of sequestering the carbon.

Which, naturally, brings us to telework. Here’s something every worker can do whose job includes a certain amount of location independence: convince your boss to let you telework as much as possible. Do not drive your car on those teleworking days. Do not let the rest of your family drive that car on those days. Save fuel, save wear and tear on the car, reduce the growth rate of national CO2 production. True, your one-day-a-week telecommuting from home won’t save the world by itself but suppose that 100 million workers were telecommuting every day. If their average round trip to work were 32 miles (51 km) that would amount to a daily reduction in CO2 production of about 1300 kilotons, about a 0.2 percent decrease in the current rate of global production (also assuming 48 work weeks annually).

Of course, there aren’t 100 million daily home-based telecommuters at present. But there could be, spread through the developed world. All this without huge public—or private—expenditures, without major dislocations in the global financial system. With benefits for employers, employees and their communities. Or would you rather simply conduct business as usual?

That hasn’t been doing too well lately. So do your part in improving the future as well as next week.

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