The 10:10 Project and Zeno’s Paradox

by Ryan Young on October 5, 2010

in Blog

The goal of the 10:10 Project is to cut carbon emissions by 10 percent per year. Sony, which supported the 10:10 Project until a promotional video featuring exploding global warming skeptics offended a lot of people, has its own project called the “Road to Zero.”

While they mean well, supporters of the two initiatives seem to have forgotten Zeno’s paradox. Suppose that people are particularly zealous about their carbon-cutting and cut 50 percent per year, not 10 percent. Not only does that make the math easier, it biases the numbers against the argument I’m making.

Their emissions would go from 1 to 1/2 to 1/4 to 1/18 to 1/16, and so on. Emissions move asymptotically towards zero, which is a fancy way of saying they never actually get there.

As with most campaigns of this sort, 10:10 and Road to Zero may succeed in making people feel good about themselves. And there is some value in that. But the schemes, especially taken together, are too clever by half. Or, more likely, the opposite.

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