I must have flown at least 15,000 miles in the past two months (counting my flights to CA for the holidays and to Denver). Flying emits huge amounts of carbon dioxide, so I feel as though I single-handedly made an impact on climate change. That may be an exaggeration, but it made me think about how people approach their own climate-change-inducing behavior. I consider myself someone who tries to be environmentally friendly, but I’ve never changed my travel plans to avoid CO2 emissions (I do turn out my lights when I leave!). Here are some things I tell myself:
I’m "small”. My emissions really don’t make a difference.
I’m not really creating extra emissions. My current flight frequencies are temporary and won’t affect flight schedules. Once again, I’m small.
Climate change is going to happen anyway (= no one else is doing anything), so might as well not stress out about it.
All these things are true, yet I’m willing to make small changes that make even less of a difference. Sadly, this experience makes me think that personal voluntary actions are more consistent with cheap warm glow rather than genuine altruism. Implication – we either need to greatly increase the amount of warm glow possible or create external climate change policies.