Sami Grover in Undark:
How much attention should each of us be paying to our individual carbon footprint? That question is the subject of a contentious debate that’s been raging in climate circles for quite some time.
In one camp stand folks like author Rebecca Solnit, whose recent op-ed for The Guardian argued that Big Oil invented carbon footprints as a deliberate attempt to “blame us for their greed.” The goal, she wrote, was to use relatively ineffectual calls for voluntary abstinence to distract the public from demanding systems-level interventions — like new taxes or the phasing out of gas-powered cars — that might meaningfully reduce society’s reliance on fossil fuels as a whole.
In the other camp are people like Polish researcher Michał Czepkiewicz, who assert that the concept of carbon footprints was simply co-opted by fossil fuel interests, and that it still has value in illuminating the vast inequality that exists between low- and high-carbon lifestyles. (A recent report from the anti-poverty organization Oxfam found that the wealthiest 10 percent of the global population — which includes the vast majority of people reading this op-ed — were responsible for more than 50 percent of global emissions between 1990 and 2015.)