Giving carbon a social life

I-Hsien Porter

Last week, the Energy Secretary Chris Huhne announced “green measures” to encourage energy companies to invest in renewable energy.

By imposing a surcharge on non-renewable energy sources, the plans aim to make renewable energy a more financially attractive investment.

However, renewable energy sources (particularly wind farms and nuclear power) are not without their critics. There was also a warning that household electricity bills could rise by 30% as the surcharge on non-renewable energy is passed onto consumers.

So carbon emissions are not just a physical process driving climate change. Carbon is now a market commodity. Geographers are well placed to study its economic, social and political implications.

Michael Goodman and Emily Boyd introduce this month’s special edition of The Geographical Journal with an editorial on the “social life” of carbon.

International conferences, such asCopenhagenin 2010, have demonstrated that governments have limited ability to agree and enforce regulations. Ultimately, it is the choices and politics of consumers themselves that will drive the response of multinational companies and regulators.

Framing carbon in terms of social, economic and political processes, as well as a physical one, allows geographers to contribute to understanding and encouraging a reduced reliance on carbon.

The Daily Telegraph (9th July 2011) ‘Power bills to soar by 30% in ‘green’ reforms.’

Goodman, M. K. and Boyd, E. (2011) ‘A social life for carbon? Commodification, markets and care.’ The Geographical Journal 177 (2): 102-109

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