Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Carbon Footprint of Pets

Below, I provide you with a photo of a 7 foot dog. He will play for the LA Clippers this year. This picture got me thinking. I live in Westwood, Los Angeles. Here we have a suburban housing stock but most of the homes have no children living there. Instead, there are some adults and a large number of pets. Economists talk about equivalence scales. What is the carbon footprint of a 7 foot dog? As we introduce carbon pricing, will pet owners face higher food prices? Will this lead them to substitute to smaller pets and I hope these small creatures will create smaller poops left on my private property!

Here is the big dog.

It is true that the pet shares the space of the house, so excluding its food --- its marginal carbon impact is low. But, how much would U.S demand for food go down by if nobody had any pets? How much carbon is produced as a byproduct of making this pet food?


Josh said...

Also, you have to consider lifetime costs. A big dog will usually only live 10-15 years, whereas a little dog can live past twenty, and the same with cats. Parrots often outlive their first owners.

Of course, if you are going to open up the hobby of pets, you need to open all the other hobbies. What if nobody had home computers, they were just for work? Online shopping has some serious carbon footprints. How about televisions? We don't need TV's bigger than 15 or so inches. Anything beyond that is a hobby.

I own a dog and three ducks (that's right). I think the marginal benefit of having living animals is worth what I pay. In fact, we are all paying the unintended consequences of not relating to nature anymore. If we got rid of other sentient creatures around us, we move another step farther away.

Chaser said...

I don't actually know you need to be all that specific about hobbies in general. If we dealt with carbon through energy costs, which is most likely, it keeps us out of the business of weighing the relative merit of people's activities and actually focuses on the problem, which is carbon. I don't have time to debate or care if somebody wants to water ski or keep a large dog or have a kid (yeah, I know, kids are different and special special special but our population is a huge problem, and producing an American kid is a real environmental problem, no matter how much people want them, etc--those are just the numbers, and I can't help them.)

So I don't care about what people's choices are, I care about carbon production and helping people align their choices with social outcomes to the degree they can. Let's deal with that instead of getting into the yucky ground about whose activities are more or less worthy: so fine have a kid but that means his toys are more expensive, so is his food, so his transport to and fro from soccer, etc etc so that the costs of are what they are, and you optimize your choices based on the environmental/resource limits--ditto for people with pets or people who want to water ski.

It's a pretty stiff fine for not picking up in LA County, so I'm assuming people who rudely leave their dog's waste in your yard are confident that getting caught is a low-probability event and discount appropriately.

Lisa from USC (UCLA grad!)

Brighter Planet said...

We just ran some numbers on the carbon footprint of pets, looking at the food they eat and energy used by vets. Food ends up being more than 90% of the footprint, and since bigger animals eat more they have a bigger footprint. The footprint for a large (85 lbs) dog is about 3.5 tons. For this dog? Who knows.

PBJ said...

Interesting idea. I'm a big smartgrowth advocate, and hate people who don't practice what they preach. Despite that, I absolutely want my next home to have a backyard (I currently live in a transit-accessible high-rise apartment building). At the margin, pets probably do shift people towards more carbon intensive neighborhoods.

Information said...

wow! nice thinking however I doubt that pet supplies prices wont go donw by following it.

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