NEWS RELEASE                                                                                                    JANUARY 2016

Harm from CO2 vs. Other Pollutants

An editorial in the January 2, 2016 New York Times was titled “The Dirty Truth About ‘Clean Diesel’.”

It documents deterioration in air quality in Europe as a result of a program to increase the use of diesel-powered vehicles because they emit less CO2 than those powered with gasoline. The substantial increase in NOx and fine particulate emissions are leading European policy makers to belatedly view “diesel as a devil’s bargain.”

China has just started a $20 billion pipeline to transfer clean coal gas to cities across the nation.  The hope is to eliminate the smog caused by burning solid fuels.  So China has concluded that increasing CO2 in order to reduce NOx and particulate is worthwhile. 

Every pollution control decision may not be a “devils bargain” but there is a negative aspect.  It may just be cost but typically the reduction of one pollutant increases another.  Water purification is an example.  Substantial energy is needed to purify water with reverse osmosis.  The investor has decided that increased CO2 is offset by the clean water value.

Informally the world is functioning with a common metric to measure all harm and good.  Every government, business and personal decision involves use of this metric.

The problem is that the metric values differ widely among decision makers.  The decision to donate to a charity or buy a new coat is individualized based on life quality perceptions.  Life quality, in turn, is shaped by tribal values and differing views on discounting future values.

The European facing vehicle smog vs. CO2 at home will have a different preference than if asked to choose between CO2 and smog for China.  CO2 causes global but not local harm. Tribal values cause us to look at every decision through a prism of our own self-interest and then the interests of our tribe (family, city, country, etc.).

The well fed protected American will more likely put more value in creating a better life for grandchildren than the Syrian refugee who can justifiably discount any future value.

McIlvaine has attempted to create a decision system with a harm metric which fulfills the true goal of individuals to maximize life quality and not quantity.  More information is found at: Sustainability Universal Rating System.