Saturday, May 26, 2007


Compulsory Action is only way to Progress Fight Against Climate Change

It's hard not to feel impotence and despair over global warming. Today we read that only 30% of people think tax on air tickets should be increased, with 46% thinking it should remain the same. In addition we also read today that George Bush is determined not to budge an inch over his opposition to any action at all to alleviate global warming, on the grounds that we just aren't causing it. Those people who take the same line as Bush also tend to deny there is any warming either, despite the fact that pictures like that on the left seem to provide undeniable evidence.

I am constantly astonished at the determination of people, often highly intelligent and well informed, to deny what 99% of climate scientists are insisting is our last chance to do something about a looming planetary calamity. Another line often taken by the 'near deniers' is that they certainly won't do anything to fight climate change until the biggest polluters, the USA, accept the problem exists and resolve to join the campaign. Others say 'what can little old me do? I'm only one out of six billion people, so my efforts are likely to have such infinitesimal effect that it's best to ignore the whole thing'.

This is, of course, as the boffins put it, 'Bollocks'. When the world's future and that of our descendants are at stake, everyone has a responsibility to join the fight. According to the precautionary principle, even the climate change deniers should seek to reduce carbon emissions until their insistence that they are harmless is proven beyond doubt. The risks are too great not to. The first article linked above tells us that: 13% of fliers have given up flying as a result of climate change; 34% have cut down on short haul flights; and 31% on long haul ones. 29% say they have used carbon offset schemes to reduce the bad effects of their air travel- though it is far from clear whether such payments-mine included- do more than donate money to virtually unknown conmen . 83% of people in the top AB economic groups have flown recently compared with only 52% of those in the lowest DE groups.

All this suggests that voluntary action by fliers- despite their educated profile- is unlikely to be effective. It's sad to conclude, but like any other addicts, people, we, will just have to be dragged away from flying through increased taxes, transport charging and maybe even outright prohibition. Hugely depressing, I know, but there really seems to be no alternative.

Rather than the pathetic request for people to switch TVs off stand-by, I'd prefer to see more "positive" suggestions for tackling climate change - more investment for innovative technologies. For example, I watched an episode of Dragons Den some months ago (excellent programme), and the inventors in the den were pitching a specially modified extension lead which neutralised the power emitted by a TV on stand-by - to the extent that switching the TV off stand-by had absolutely no effect on power output. It is technologies like these on a bigger scale which will "save the planet" - not taxation on flying, which in the end won't have a huge effect on consumption because (i) the market is already distorted by subsidies and monopolies and (ii) taxation on something international like air travel needs international initiative, which just doesn't exist at the moment.

It is true that changing one's behaviour will have no effect on the overall picture. But if scientists are incentivised to investigate new energy technologies, then one person really can change the world.
You say there is no hope of international initiative but it was precisely this which dealt pretty effectively, via the Montreal Agreement to attack the looming ozone ho9le a decade back. I believe everyone should do their bit to:
a) create the mental climate for progress and b) maintain whatever gains are won. If people are not convinced of the need, any progress will soon be lost as people continue to be prodigal with the world's resources.
Blimey Skip! When I read this I almost went out and cut my throat.

Speaking as a Monarch Airlines frequent flyer, gold-membership card-holder, I am feeling pretty substantially targetted here.

But what about motorists and their (our) emissions? What about office buildings which leave their lights on at night, making our cities so much more attractive? What about wine bars which have gas heaters keeping their outdoor patrons from the cold? [And I know you are a wine bar habitue-ay!]

Let's at least have a full list of offenders.

Fortunately, I will be making a full statement on this issue within the next twenty-four hours, because I am reading a very exciting book which nails down many of the issues of bad modern design and spells out eco-friendly solutions.

From late Sunday 27 May you need only point your Inter-Web browser thingies at -
All the things you mention are 'targeted' as you say. But air travel is the most carbon emission producing of all forms of transport; it is growing exponentially and air fuel is not taxed! If technology can solve the problems then great, but there's not much time left...
Hi Skipper, Been a while since I looked at your blog. If I may offer some further feedback on this particular topic. According to a recent article in the Independent, deforestation of rain forests accounts for up to 25% of global CO2 emissions. This makes it second only to the energy sector. Transport and industry account for 14% each. Aviation makes up only 3% of the total.
Putting this into context, in the next 24 hours, deforestation will release as much CO2 into the atmosphere as EIGHT MILLION people flying from London to New York.
I'm all for tackling global CO2 emissions but I think we need to target appropriately and urgently.
Thanks for the comment. It's quite right that air travel is not the biggest culprit but because it's emitted high in the atmosphere, the boffins say it's more harmful and it is true that air travel is the sector expanding at the fastest rate for UK emissions.
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