Why does two tonnes matter?

I coined the phrase ‘two tonne lifestyle’, and of course, it is not likely to be something you have heard before. I’ve tried to break down what a two tonne lifestyle looks like, and also how much it can save you in cash terms. But you may also be asking – quite rightly – why ‘two tonnes’? Here’s my reasoning.

Two tonnes of greenhouse gas is the amount of greenhouse gas that each and every man woman and child can put into the atmosphere each year to stop us breaching the dangerous threshold of 1.5 degrees celsius of warming.

1.5 degrees celsius is the target agreed by the Paris Climate agreement, signed in 2016 by every government in the world. We –  the human race – currently pump around 40 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere each year, and this is rapidly changing the weather patterns on our planet. The biggest contributing activities are burning coal, oil and gas. Clearing forests, agriculture and producing cement also play a role. These gases have built up in a big way since the Industrial Revolution, and especially over the past 50 years. If we continue to burn 40 gigatonnes worth of gas a year, we have just over 4 years left to have a reasonable chance of preventing a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees celsius. I’m not dwelling on what a rise of 1.5 degrees celsius probably means, but you can be sure it will be nothing good over the coming decades. We stand to lose a lot, and very quickly too.

Conversely, if everyone on the planet were producing 2 tonnes of greenhouse gas a year, we wouldn’t breach the safe limit for 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming until around 2030. That buys us time to put some serious measures in place to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas already in the atmosphere, and complete the transition to near zero fossil fuel use.

At a first glance, that may look impossible. The average carbon footprint in the UK is around 15 tonnes per person per year. If you are lucky enough to be wealthy it could easily be double or three times that. However, this is the other point about a two tonne footprint: I believe it to be very achievable. My carbon footprint is currently around 3 tonnes per year, and that is with a car, some foreign holidays, meat and dairy in my diet, and lots of other things that the ‘green handbook’ would say were wrong! If you add in the large amounts of cash and quality of life improvements that can be saved from living a low carbon, two tonne lifestyle, you will hopefully see why this is my goal.

If you want to get started with changing to a two tonne lifestyle, whether for purely financial gain (all good), or to fight climate change (or both!) a good first step is to try out our FREE cost and carbon snapshot.




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