Intended for healthcare professionals

Analysis And Comment

Personal carbon allowances

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 08 June 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1387
  1. Mayer Hillman (, senior fellow emeritus1
  1. 1 Policy Studies Institute, London W1W 6UP

    In the past few years, the scientific community has achieved a near-consensus that our energy profligate lifestyles are contributing to a process that threatens future life on earth. As Robin Stott describes,1 the Global Commons Institute has put forward the only realistic framework to prevent this. Based on principles of precaution and equity, the policy of contraction and convergence is already commanding impressive national and international support.2

    Given that scientists have calculated that the capacity of the planet to absorb greenhouse gases without serious destabilisation of the climate is finite, could anyone reasonably support the proposition that the contraction should converge towards an unequal distribution? If that capacity is therefore divided by the world's population, each person's fair annual allocation of carbon dioxide emissions cannot be greater than about 1 tonne. At present, the UK's average emissions are about 10 tonnes, two and a half times the current world average.

    How big is your carbon footprint?

    The figures below are based on data from How We Can Save the Planet.3 If any of the questions below do not apply to you, move to the next question.

    In the home

    1. How many kilowatt hours (kWh) are shown on your four quarterly electricity bills combined?

      Divide your total by 2 and then divide again by the number of people (adults and children) usually living in your home

      Put …

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