20 October 2008

Needless carborexia

Carborexia - a strange word. It means severely depriving oneself of carbon-emitting activities. We'll make headway if we do these things, but only some headway, and at much higher cost that we need to.

The tragedy of most environmental problems, including global warming, water shortages, water pollution, and the ocean dead zones, is that these problems could be solved very cheaply, and the rest of society would benefit hugely. There is an analogy to vandalism: spewers' actions give them a modest gain, but impose huge costs on everyone else. Restraining sulfur dioxide spew, for example, costs the spewers $150 to $200/ton, but saves society $4,000/ton.

Fortunately, the spewers are generally business people. All we have to do is find a way to cap the spew, allow the spewers to trade rights, and maybe tighten the cap further. Spewers would find their new minimum cost solution, and we would have solved the environmental problem at minimum cost to society.

Then we wouldn't have to be carborexic. The least-cost solution would also be the most environmentally sound.

2 comments:

Quintius said...

If "carb" is short for "carbon" and "orexia" is (from the dictionary) 'a combining form meaning "desire," "appetite,"' then isn't carborexia an appetite for carbon production and not a desire for carbon production deprivation?

John F. Raffensperger said...

You're absolutely right! At least I can blame the New York Times.