The Campaign Spot

To Save the Earth, Keep Friedman Home More Often

Over in the Corner, Jonah finds Thomas Friedman going Malthusian. Quoting a Australian environmentalist-entrepreneur, he shares a prediction that the world will realize ”that the consumer-driven growth model is broken and we have to move to a more happiness-driven growth model, based on people working less and owning less.”

Working less, owning less, and, if reducing carbon emissions is the goal, traveling less?

Back in 2009, I started wondering about the carbon footprint of the widely traveling New York Times columnist. I worked up this rough calculation:

In June, Thomas Friedman called on young people to “get a million people on the Washington Mall calling for a price on carbon.”

His bosses, the editors of the New York Times have written that putting a price on carbon emissions “is an important beginning to the urgent task of averting the worst damage from climate change.” If they really wanted to reduce carbon emissions, they would trim Friedman’s expense account.

Even by a very conservative estimate, the carbon footprint of just the air travel from Thomas Friedman’s business trips from January to September of this year more than doubles the entire carbon footprint of the average American family for a year.

The average American family has a carbon footprint of 19.5 tons of carbon dioxide per year; I put a conservative estimate of the carbon footprint of Friedman’s known trips (over nine months) at 42.03 tons.

Thomas Friedman lives, according to The Washingtonian, in “a palatial 11,400-square-foot house, now valued at $9.3 million.” (We’re not even going to get into the carbon footprint of powering his house.) For our purposes, I calculated his flights from Dulles International Airport to the international airport nearest his column datelines. We included no additional flights or carbon costs from additional travel. For this calculation, we presumed he flies business class; the carbon footprint of first class is considerably more.

All carbon footprints were calculated at which bases its numbers on data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Thomas Friedman’s known travel schedule, 2009:

January 31: Davos, Switzerland

3.48 tons of CO2

(calculated using a round-trip from Zurich)

Feb. 7: Jenin, West Bank

4.94 tons

(calculated using a round trip from Tel Aviv)

Feb. 10: Bangalore; February 17: New Delhi, India

7.15 tons

(calculated using a round trip from Bangalore)

February 24: Seoul, South Korea

5.84 tons

March 14: San Francisco

2.05 tons

April 11: Liberia, Costa Rica

(calculated using a round trip from San José’s Juan Santamaría International Airport)

1.02 tons

June 9: Beirut, Lebanon

4.89 tons

July 18 Pushghar, Afghanistan, July 25 Jalozai Camp, Pakistan, August 4 Ramallah, West Bank:

5.83 tonnes

(an extremely generous estimate simply using a round trip from Afghanistan)

August 15 Botswana (reference to flying to Johannesburg)

(limited to round trip to and from Johannesburg; additional flights ignored)

6.83 tonnes


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