A self-imposed carbon tax

I’ve spent a lot of time wrestling with what should the actual cost of my lifestyle should be. I’ve played with a ton of carbon calculators and spreadsheet, trying to measure my carbon footprint (getting lots of precision and very little persuasive accuracy) and I’ve also spent a lot of time exploring carbon offsets and getting frustrated with the options. I’ll lay out what I’ve found in both of those areas in another post.

In the meantime, I’ve come up with a plan for a self-imposed carbon tax (or perhaps fund is a better term), inspired in part by Daniel Greenberg and EarthDeeds.

There are two areas that I’ve gotten tangled up in:

  1. how many dollars to invest in work that addresses climate change (beyond my general attempts to live a high-quality, low-impact life and previously made charitable commitments)
  2. where to invest those dollars

I decided that I really just need to make a decision in each of these areas and stop dithering.

For the number of dollars, I’m using the following calculation: (Average US carbon footprint + my flying) * Social Cost of Carbon for next year + 3% of earnings beyond median per capita income for my state.

This gets me out of having to calculate my footprint to make this calculation (although I am tracking metrics b/c I want to see if I can shrink my footprint), and also gets me out of getting yanked around by our current odd carbon market.

For me, this means (44,000 lbs + .6 lbs per airplane mile)*$37 + $900 = $1,775 for July 2013-June 2014 (really ought to go metric). It’s enough money to feel pretty darn real but also something I should be able to manage. Obviously, this number is fairly arbitrary, so depending on finances and family needs, I can twiddle to pay (or less) if appropriate.

Okay, so where to spend these dollars? Ideally, in local projects both at home and at any travel destinations. For this first year, I’m going to just focus locally. I’m particularly interested in urban areas and food systems, so I’ll be focusing on projects that increase the carbon carrying capacity of cities, lowers the energy needs, increases the capacity or quality of local food, or access to local food. Currently I’m leaning towards:

We already give a fair bit to Oregon Food Bank and I work at Ecotrust, otherwise I would add them to the list as well. Planned Parenthood is another interesting local option, but I have been struggling under the sheer volume of paper they cannot resist sending me.

One thought on “A self-imposed carbon tax”

  1. Shell s carbon price was established not to deliver major change but to demonstrate the possible by showing that pricing carbon could drive change in a cost-effective way, according to David Hone, a climate change adviser at Shell.

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