This post is taken from the weekly newsletter “Human heat”, sent every Tuesday at 12 p.m. Every week, journalist Nabil Wakim, who hosts the Chaleur Humaine podcast, answers questions from Internet users about the climate challenge. You can register here :
” Good morning. I often hear it said that personal efforts (not eating meat, sorting waste, having an electric car, etc.) do not count for more than a quarter of the effort and that the rest is to be done by companies and the government. Where does this figure come from and how is it calculated? » (Question posed by Virginie to the address [email protected])
My answer : this figure comes froma study entitled “Doing your part” carried out by the firm Carbone 4, which attempts to assess the weight of individual actions and collective actions, and which assesses the weight of our individual efforts at around 25%. But beware, the detail is (obviously) more complicated.
1 – Where does this figure come from and how is it calculated?
This figure comes from a work by Carbone 4 carried out by César Dugast and Alexia Soyeux (the latter also presents the fascinating podcast omens). This is not a study published in a scientific journal, rather an estimate based on a series of individual gestures with a high carbon impact (stopping eating meat, no longer using a car, etc.). An individual who would do all these actions at the same time (qualified in the study as “heroic” behavior) would manage to reduce their emissions by 25%. The study concludes that “the commitment of individuals and households to a decarbonization of lifestyles is certainly essential, and for all that insufficient”.
2 – Why should it be taken with a grain of salt?
Please note that this figure is calculated on the basis of a “typical” French woman or Frenchman, whose consumption would emit the equivalent of 10 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year. But this person does not exist! As economist Lucas Chancel explained in a previous episode of the podcast, emissions are very poorly distributed: half of the poorest French people emit around 5 tonnes per year, while the richest 10% are around 25 tons. Which obviously means that the individual gestures of each other do not have the same impact.
Another point to emphasize: this is only carbon accounting, i.e. questions concerning plastic, biodiversity or water resources are not taken into account. .
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