The Corner

Science & Tech

The Crisis of Our Time

Crime scene investigators are seen at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, February 16, 2018. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

One of my small fascinations is how old ideas and practices return under new guise. For instance, Victorian or just plain bourgeois manners were considered atavistic or patriarchal. But now we see old notions of manners clawing their way back under the guise of feminism, political correctness, and zero-tolerance policies for offensive conduct or language. Out goes the old idea of gentlemanliness; in comes wokeness.

Similarly, identity politics were once a decidedly aristocratic and conservative thing. Opposed to it from the left: (classical) liberalism and the assumption that there are universal rights of man. Now, identity politics is all the rage on the left and increasingly popular on the right. But we can talk more about all that later.

In the meantime, I thought this was hilarious. The British Journal of Criminology is tackling one of the great crises of our time: the carbon footprint of crime (hat tip to my friend Kevin Lewis). Here’s the abstract:

Cutting carbon emissions, wherever they occur, is a global priority and those associated with crime are no exception. We show that between 1995 and 2015, the carbon footprint of acquisitive and violent crime has dropped by 62 per cent, a total reduction of 54 million tonnes CO2e throughout this period. Although the environmental harm associated with crime is likely to be considered lower in importance than social or economic impacts, a focus on reducing high carbon crimes (burglary and vehicle offences) and high carbon aspects of the footprint (the need to replace stolen/damaged property) could be encouraged. Failure to acknowledge these potential environmental benefits may result in crime prevention strategies being unsustainable and carbon reduction targets being missed.

I was particularly intrigued to learn this:

Homicide was found to have a very high carbon footprint per offence (over 70 tonnes CO2 e) due to the emissions associated with a costly police investigation and long prison sentence served by the offender. However, due to the low rates of homicide, they only represented around 1 per cent of the total carbon footprint of crime.

Shweeooo. I’d hate to see a rash of homicides unleash a lot of carbon — and I suppose the snuffing out of innocent lives would be bad, too.

Of course, I’m being a little unfair to the authors. But at the same time, I don’t give a rat’s ass what the carbon footprint of crime is. Oh by all means, use greener tech and print warrants double-sided for all I care. My point is that it is just that it’s utterly irrelevant whether crime has a high or low carbon footprint, and you don’t need to enlist global warming to justify fighting crime or for that matter decriminalization. If it’s right to hunt down and punish murderers, it’s right regardless of the cost in carbon. If it’s wrong to jail people for liking Marmite, it’s wrong.


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