Say-do gap in cutting transportation emissions – June 2022
People may be getting tired of me writing about the disconnect between people who are concerned, if not downright panicked, over the thought we are going to fry ourselves because of our carbon emissions and their actions.
The environmental community hardly misses an opportunity when some new study comes out that uses terms like “could” or “may” or “possibly” to change the discourse to “will.” They then move to discussing the need to solve the problem by eliminating beef from the diet. In past columns I’ve pointed out the fallacies in their thinking based on scientific information and good old common sense, but that doesn’t stop those groups from trying to convince people that if they give up beef even one day a week, the world will heal, and things will be better.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tasked with reporting the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to the United Nations. The latest report for 2020 continues to report agriculture’s emissions are 10.6 percent of total U.S. emissions. Please note this is total emissions for agriculture, not just livestock. The report shows the following sources which make up the rest of the contributions: Transportation is at 27.2%;electricity generation is 24.8%; industry is 23.8%; and commercial and residential is 13.2% combined.
Given that transportation is the big contributor, one would think that source would be where people would look to solve the problem. Let’s look at what is happening though. In the recent presidential election, my county of Albany had a majority of voters who voted for President Biden. I would assume that some of those who supported President Biden did so because of his strong stance on addressing CO2 emissions. Indeed, here in Laramie, our city streets have wide biking paths and walking paths around the town. Given my desk job, I try to walk around when I can, and one of my paths is along one of the busiest streets in Laramie. I walk on a bicycle/walking path along that same street.
One day I decided to conduct an unscientific census while walking. It was a nice day so I thought there would be few excuses for someone to not ride or walk if they were concerned about CO2 emissions. My census showed there were over 100 vehicles to 1 pedestrian and 0 bicyclists. By the way, the one pedestrian was me. There were no bicyclists or other pedestrians on this path.
I then decided to do another unscientific census. Our office is located on the same street as the Laramie High School. Given Greta Thunberg’s angry exhortations about how we are ruining our world for her generation, surely the high schoolers would be trying to do their part to reduce CO2. As the number of CO2 emitting vehicles going past the office to the high school demonstrates, Greta’s message is being ignored by her generation too.
Why? Why would the good citizens in Laramie not take advantage of the fresh air, exercise and bicycle paths we’ve paid for to reduce their CO2 emissions? Why wouldn’t the students at the high school not also seek to combat what some politicians have labeled as an existential threat to mankind? It’s not because of a lack of bicycle paths. And while there are some days that it’s fresh in the open air in Laramie, surely in order to cut our CO2 emissions we would not let that stop us from walking, would it? Indeed, it appears that like many other things that people do, there is a significant “say-do” gap.
Given these observations, it would appear groups who are pointing at the 10.6 percent greenhouse gas emissions of agriculture while ignoring their 27.2 percent transportation emissions are hoping they can get people to focus on agriculture. That way people can keep driving their cars, blame others and ignore the fact that they are doing very little themselves to address their emissions concerns.
By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President