Guest blog by Thomas Gray, C.H. Douglas Wealth Management

To reduce our carbon foot print and make progress on climate change will require us to think multi-dimensionally. A recent Financial Times article (Carbon Counting: hybrid working is a hot topic, Jan 29, 2021), examining the environmental impact of hybrid work schedules, demonstrates the many variables that need to be considered before awarding green medals to various social developments. 

On the surface, hybrid work schedules would seem to lessen the carbon footprint. Working from home a couple days a week would lessen the amount of commuting to and from the office. Fewer cars driving into the office would reduce carbon emissions, it would seem to follow. However, upon closer examination, the heating and cooling demands of a half-empty building are essentially the same as a full building. The carbon emissions linked to working at home, commuting to the office three days a week and the heating and cooling of the office essentially produce no positive environmental impact. Further, as the pandemic has led to an exodus out of the city center to the outer suburbs, the three-days of commuting may be longer and more carbon intensive!

The Financial Times article notes that making changes on the margin to some of the inputs would change the environmental impacts – driving electric cars or taking public transit, for instance, would alter the results. In the United States the production of electricity is quite carbon intensive as we produce a large percentage of electricity with coal (62% of US electricity generation is produced with fossil fuels). Lowering the carbon intensity of air conditioning in office spaces with renewable energy options would have a material impact. Hence, the lesson here is that we need to address a whole range of factors if we are truly to address climate change.

Given the difficulty we have had in getting our populace vaccinated, which is largely a linear equation with two variables (increasing vaccine rates leads to lower infection rate), it would seem that climate change, which is a multi-variable equation, may prove to be insurmountable for an innumerate, science-denying society. However, the recent launch of NASA’s Webb Space Telescope should provide solace. The launch and deployment of the telescope overcame three-hundred points of possible failure. This engineering marvel demonstrates that we are capable of incredible feats of mathematics and science. Skills that we will be in much need of in the coming decades as we tackle climate change.  

About C.H. Douglas

C.H. Douglas & Gray, LLC is an independent wealth advisory firm based out of Indianapolis. With a passion for sustainability, they provide advice to households, businesses and charitable institutions on a fee basis and as a fiduciary. Follow C.H. Douglass on Facebook to get to know them better.