September 14, 2019

Going on a Carbon Diet

Joan Nodelman

About the Author

Joan is a specialist in governance, education and risk management with over forty years of professional practice. She is committed to helping clients achieve their organizational objectives and goals through holistic risk management.

Last week, I saw an ad on television for the umpteenth time. The ad made me realize that going on a carbon diet is similar to any other reduction activity. In fact, a nice-looking, slim woman held a big netted bag of fruit and plopped it onto the floor. And, she spoke with passion about how the program helped her loose a lot of unwanted weight. I guess, dropping the fruit on the floor was a graphic example of how she shed a lot of pounds with the program to become the nice-looking woman she is today.

After watching, I wondered about actual message of the ad. Perhaps, besides losing weight, we may transform into a well groomed, and sophisticated person, like the one on TV. I understand that all advertising plays with our emotions and creates a need to purchase. But, that is the logical part of my brain and the emotional part of my psyche still felt the thrill of that attractive come-on.

What are diet programs and how much do they cost?

I admit I am an inveterate shopper. So, I researched this program to find out the actual costs involved. I remembered the small note at the end of “Only dollars a month” and then with a lot less emphasis “Plus the cost of food…”. In fact, I found the diet program expensive, mostly because the cost of food ranged between $400 to $600 per month.

However, if we want, we can lose weight by changing our own diet. Aye, there’s the rub. It depends on how much we want it. Though, the alternative of obesity and its consequences can cost a lot more, ranging from heart disease, diabetes and a myriad of other woes. For example, when we last visited our eye doctor, I learned from a clinic technician that many patients need specialist eye care because of the complications from diabetes.

Global Carbon Obesity

Rising greenhouse gas emissions cause climate change. I see climate change as the result of being carbon obese. Thus, as we emit more CO2, we add to our carbon emission profile. And, just like carrying too much weight, being carbon obese can damage our assets, cost us money, and lead to suffering and death. We need to go on a carbon diet.

When we use electricity, we emit carbon.  That is because many utilities make power from carbon-based fuels.  In fact, they are cheap, plentiful, and we built an entire economy based on their use. 

Going on a Carbon Diet

Carbon Obesity Can Cause Damage

We love our phones, tablets, TV’s and appliances.  But, our phones and TV’s use electricity.  Some models use more than others.  Thus, much like fattening foods, we need to use these electrical toys and tools wisely.  We hear advice like “Don’t leave your TV on when you are not watching it”, or “Replace your furnace with a high efficiency model.”  These cautions try to help our carbon diet and reduce our carbon footprint.  

Going on a Carbon Diet - Our Carbon Rich Diet

Carbon taxes are one way governments try to make us reduce our carbon footprint.  So, they put a tax on carbon emitting products like gas and natural gas to make them more expensive.  The goal is reducing our use of these products by increasing their price. Thus, this hits us in the wallet and, in theory, we emit less carbon.  This carbon diet is similar to an other diet plan designed to lower our calorie intake.

In Canada, we have a carbon-rich lifestyle and we rely on it in almost every facet of our lives. We even use it to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  Even so, these are not luxuries. Also, we use power and fuel to travel and work.  We build our roads from carbon-based materials, or energy intensive materials like concrete. We get our food from all over the world by carbon emitting transportation.  Even our water depends on power as electric pumps send water to our taps. Thus, a carbon diet creeps into every corner of our life and becomes a mainstay in our diet.

Can we go on a carbon diet?  We depend on carbon to keep us alive and comfortable.  So, we cannot simply change everything at once.  In fact, most crash diets do not work. Thus, we rebound and gain the weight back, and then some.  We need is a balanced, stepwise approach to our carbon diet.  So, start with the small things, make little adjustments and build on our successes, step by step.  Just like our weight loss program, we have to lose weight in steps, maybe half a pound at a time.

Going on a Carbon Diet

Many Small Steps Make Big Changes

What's Our Balance?

Weight loss requires we review our calorie intake and exercise over a day, a week and month. The data gives us a picture of the balance between our intake and expenditure of energy. Thus, in theory, if we eat less and exercise more, we can lose weight. Many diet programs work on that principle and control a customer’s calories through a strict food program.  

In this same way if we use less carbon-based fuel, we can go on a diet and reduce our carbon footprint.  You know, using bicycles rather than cars, and replacing plastic with reusable shopping bags. 

Organizations are Going on a Carbon Diet Too!

A company on a carbon diet has many ways to lose carbon weight. Thus, they might change their older assets, improve the care of their machines and so on.  They can change the way they work and teach their staff to be carbon-smart.

Many business only track their perils.  So, they may only worry that climate change can cause extreme weather that costs them money or interferes with meeting their goals.  However, if they also track their carbon footprint across all their activities, they can be more efficient and reduce their emissions, and perhaps save some money as well. As the old saying goes, “What gets measured, gets managed.”  Thus, by taking local action, they can reduce their carbon footprint and have a global impact. I argue THIS is Social Responsibility. 

Going on a Carbon Diet Requires Tracking

Organizations also have a carbon footprint.  We use scales to track our weight and monitor progress. And, if we don’t, our doctor will. In the same way, organizations can measure their carbon use and emissions. This allows them to establish their carbon footprint, so they can track progress.   

When people are unhappy with their current weight, they use diets to slim down.  When businesses are unhappy about their carbon footprint, they can go on a carbon diet.  Like the person who diets to get slimmer, businesses can use a carbon diet to become a “slim” or low-carbon entity.  We believe that the slimmer person is a healthier person and low-carbon business makes a happier planet.

Over to You

When we embark on a diet, we can improve our health.  This requires being faithful to our objectives and changes to our lifestyle.  These actions may be costly, but the end goal is worthwhile.  Similarly, when businesses change the way they work to lower carbon emissions, they set the entire world on a path towards a low-carbon society. 

You are not alone. We are here to help. So, ask questions.  Seek the advice of climate risk and resiliency experts.  We all have an important part to play in the reducing carbon obesity.    

We provide ongoing commentary on these issues. Feel free to contact us, we are always happy to discuss your climate, risk and resiliency.  

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