Global Warming and Climate Change form some of the most pressing issues of our age. A day rarely goes by when some aspect of Climate Change isn’t mentioned in the media. Lately, with the high expectations in the run up to Copenhagen, the failure of 192 heads of states to reach a legally binding agreement, the Glaciergate and UEA University Climategate scandals which played into the hands of the sceptics, many consumers have been left confused and bewildered, wondering what to believe.
The BBC have reported that only 26% of consumers still have complete conviction in the Climate Change arguments and that there has been a shift in public opinion to ‘Climate Change denier’. But is this shift justified? Are we all going to suffer from some apocalyptic Climate Change or is this all just some farce?
Or have the media just been a bit melodramatic in their presentation of the threat of Climate Change which is now alienating consumers?
In this Climate Change guide, we try to add some perspective and realism. We present the evidence for Climate Change, the evidence that has been brought into question, the views of many leaders around the world as well as challenges brought to the evidence by the sceptical movement. The sceptics can not be ignored, just as the Climate Change movement can’t be ignored. Both sides opinions count.
1. What Is Climate Change And What Are The Causes?
1. Ice-cap melting, reduced solar radiation and increased atmospheric Global warming
The sun emits solar radiation and two thirds of this is normally absorbed by the oceans, land and atmosphere. As the land and seas heat up, approximately one third of the infrared radiation is then radiated back into space. The white ice caps are known to be particularly good at reflecting solar radiation which helps keep the earth cool. But with the disappearing reflective surface of the ice-caps, more and more heat is getting absorbed by the darker water replacing the ice, thus heating up the oceans and atmosphere. This is one of the factors contributing to Global Warming and Climatic Changes.
2. Increased CO2 concentrations and the Greenhouse Effect
Before the industrial revolution, oil and gas were kept in the ground and the earth’s atmosphere was kept in balance with tolerable levels of naturally occurring Greenhouse gases. These including Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane, Ozone and water vapour. But with the extensive mining of coal, drilling for oil and gas and the widespread global burning of these fuels, there is now an excessive build up of Greenhouse gases, particularly CO2 and nitrous oxides. Scientists have confirmed that CO2 concentrations in the earth’s atmosphere, as measured in parts per million (ppm), are at their highest levels recorded in 650,000 years. The build up of gases in the earth’s atmosphere is now forming a blanket around the world, preventing the 1/3 of solar radiation returning to space. The result is the trapping of heat in the earth’s atmosphere, known as the ‘Greenhouse effect’.
3. Increased Methane concentrations and the Greenhouse effect
According to the International Erosion Control Association, the world’s cattle numbers increased from 720 million in 1950 to 1.53 billion in 2001. That is roughly 1 cow for every 4 human beings on the planet. As an example of a brief breakdown, India have 283.1 million cows whilst African holds the second highest number at 230 million, the US 98 million and Britain 10 million. Previously cattle numbers were at an acceptable level, but with increased human farming of cattle, an unnatural, unsustainable amount of cows now dominate our agricultural land.
Each cow emits an average of 100-200 litres of methane a day, a gas known to be 23 times more potent than CO2. To put cow gas into perspective the methane they produce contributes 25 to 30 percent of Britain’s methane emissions. Most gas comes from belching and a lesser amount from flatulence. With cows belonging to a class of animals called ruminants they are different to humans as they digest their food in four bacteria filled stomachs, rather than in their intestines. Lots of gas is released when cows eat food, regurgitate it as cud and then eat it again.
Worse still, cows which we are so fond of eating, occupy some 67% of agricultural land which could be used for forest and crop planting. Unless something is done to cut our consumption of meat and corresponding demand for cattle, the U.S. Food and Agriculture Organisation indicates that agricultural methane could increase by 60 percent by 2030.
On another note, scientists have found that with Global Warming, the tundra, which covers one fifth of the earth’s surface near the North pole, is warming up and releasing methane which would otherwise have remained within its frozen surface.
4. Deforestation – cutting the earth’s natural ability to absorb greenhouse gases
Although Rainforests occupy under 5% of the world’s landmass, the uncontrolled deforestation of mature trees which have taken 20 or more years to grow, is reducing the ability of the earth to absorb Carbon. Approximately 20% of Global Warming is now attributed to the deforestation within the Rainforests such as those in the Amazon, Brazil and Sumatra, Indonesia. Most of the clearing is from large multi-national pulp companies who are replacing native forests with plantations, particularly palm oil and soya bean. Elsewhere, locals seek out firewood and land for their cattle.
In Indonesia’s Sumatra’s Riau province alone, in excess of 4million hectares (65%) of its rainforests and peat swamps have now been cleared. The country, whose government is under pressure to pay off international debt obligations, alleviates the debt and satisfies foreign commercial interests by allowing Chinese and Japanese logging companies into the region.
In Borneo, similar deforestation trends are taking place
It is believed the Indonesian rainforest will have been almost entirely destroyed within 8-10 years and the commitment by many businesses to be sourcing sustainable palm oil by 2015 will likely be a case of too little too late. By then, the orangutan habitat is expected to have been wiped out altogether and we will have lost vital Carbon sinks needed to absorb CO2 and provide us with the Nitrogen and Oxygen we need to breathe.
It should be noted that as long as we continue to buy products from companies with unsustainable palm oil in them we are indirectly supporting the logging companies. A new label (RSPO) will be on all products in due course to confirm the produce is made using sustainable palm oil. In the absence of the label’s widespread use, we should do our best to avoid products with Palm Oil in them.
Similarly, we should not get overly excited about Bio-Fuels and soya products. Whilst there is a lot of hype suggesting that Bio Fuels are good, they are actually a false economy. Although we gain from burning a fuel which is effectively Carbon Neutral, the Bio Fuels become unsustainable when they are grown on former Rainforest land. Bio Fuels should only be grown on land where there has been no significant loss of Carbon Sinks or biodiverse habitat. This way they can be deemed sustainable.
Many organisations recognise the value of the rainforests and are now busy raising money to buy up tracts from governments in a bid to protect them over the long-term. In addition, strategies have been put in place in countries like Costa Rica where locals have been taught how to earn a living from eco tourism and protect their natural habitat.
Elsewhere, trees are being planted, particularly across Africa, to re-forest areas. Trees planted in the tropics are known to grow 2-3 times faster than trees planted in seasonal areas such as the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
A combined strategy of rainforest preservation and tree planting are effective methods of absorbing CO2, although they are not a total solution to Global Warming.
Co2 Calculator – How Much Co2 Do We Each Emit On Average In Our Countries?
What is the true extent of the CO2 problem – as confirmed by the United Nations statistics division? The United Nations estimates that 28 ½ billion (28,431,741,000) tons of CO2 are pumped into the world’s atmosphere each year by humans. This is coming from a world population which currently stands at almost 7 Billion (6,908,689,000).
Based upon the above data:
- Each person on the planet emits approximately 4.11 tons of CO2 per year.
- Individuals in industrialized, developed countries typically emit 3-4 times this amount.
- In the UK alone, an average of 12 tons of CO2 are emitted per person.
- In the US alone, an average of 18 tons of CO2 are emitted per person.
- Other country CO2 emissions per person can be found by using our CO2 Calculator:
3. What The Scientists And Sceptics Say About The Climate Change Evidence
1. The United Nations IPCC Report
Although some of the evidence relied upon by the IPCC has been the subject of scrutiny by sceptics in recent times, the report still contains the most wide-ranging amount of evidence available to substantiate the phenomenon of Climate Change. The report, produced by over 600 authors from 400 countries and then reviewed line-by-line by experts and 113 governments from around the world, is the largest ever conducted on Climate Change. The Summary of the report for Policymakers (SPM) concluded that: ‘Warming of the climate system is unequivocal’ ‘Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.’ Notwithstanding the level of research and unequivocal agreement amongst the scientific community, the reports have naturally been questioned by sceptics. Most recently, they have criticised two of the authors of the report regarding the allegations that the Himalayan glaciers are retreating and Hurricanes are strengthening. Whilst the scientists involved may have admitted to having weak evidence, the reality is that the other 500+ scientists involved in the report remain unquestioned and the vast majority of the evidence holds. If the earth was able to cope with the extra CO2, it wouldn’t be heating up, ice shelves wouldn’t be melting and a whole host of other symptoms covered in more detail below, wouldn’t be appearing.
2. Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration increases
The level of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere was recorded at 379 ppm in 2005 as compared to 180-300ppm over the previous 650,000 years. The level of Methane (CH4) in the atmosphere was recorded at 1774 ppb (parts per billion) as compared to 320-790ppb over the previous 650,000 years. The sources identified for the alarming increases in CO2 were linked to increased Fossil Fuel consumption, deforestation and land use changes. CH4 and Nitrous oxide (NOx) increases were attributed to human’s increased consumption of meat and the corresponding demand for more methane emitting animals.
3. Atmospheric temperature increases and effects
Coupled with the increased gaseous concentrations in the atmosphere, the climate is changing and causing the phenomenon of Global Warming. Associated with the Atmospheric increases are the following side effects:
4. Heat Waves and Cold Snaps
Associated with Global Warming are more intense extremes in temperature and weather patterns. In warmer places, the temperatures are getting hotter and in colder places, the extremes are increasingly noticeable.
Now Washington has reported the snowiest winter on record, smashing the previous snowiest winter recorded in 1899. 72.3 inches (over 6 feet!) of snow fell in Baltimore alone. And Britain has suffered one of the worst deep freezes on record. Some scientists predict that the Gulf Stream could eventually shut off making Britain’s winters as cold as Canada’s or Siberia.
Whilst the earth has suffered extremes in temperature before, 11 of the 12 years between 1995-2006 rank as the warmest years on record since instrumental records began. These numbers are undisputed. The atmosphere has increased in temperature by 0.74 degrees Celsius in average Global temperatures. Heat waves have been felt all across Europe, North America and in many other parts of the world, resulting in discomfort for many and increased mortality rates in the worst affected areas.
Scientists around the world accept that the increased greenhouse gas emissions and concurrent increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, have in turn enhanced the planet’s natural Climatic Changes. Computer models project that global surface temperatures could be up to 5.8°C higher by 2090 when compared to the present day. The last time there was a global average temperature increase of 4°C, it was enough to bring the world out of the ice age. It is believed a similar rise will be too much for ecosystems, animal and plant species to suitably adapt so as to avoid extinction.
The IPCC reports that just a 2 degrees Celsius rise in temperatures would be catastrophic. Sceptics argue that the world has heated up and cooled down throughout history and that the warming is only a natural phenomenon. Whilst there has indeed been natural warming, the concentrations of CO2 in terms of parts per million (PPM) are at their highest levels experienced in the history of civilisation. One only has to study the graphs produced by scientists in the IPCC report and also within Al Gore’s movie and book ‘The Inconvenient Truth’ and you will notice that the earth’s warming has jumped markedly and in direct proportion to the jump in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. This is one of the reasons why scientists worldwide unanimously agreed that human being fossil fuel CO2 emissions are fueling Global Warming on an unprecedented scale. The warming currently being experienced is regarded as unnatural and excessive and a direct consequence of our continued burning of Fossil Fuels.
5. Forest Fires
As a result of the heat waves, flora around the world has become excessively dry, making it more susceptible to fire outbreaks. A sizeable increase in Forest Fires have been noticed, particularly in Australia, parts of Southern Europe and North America.
As a result of the heat waves, there have been prolonged periods of drought and increased desertification, particularly across parts of Africa and North America.
7. Excessive Rainfall
In other areas, there are extreme downpours resulting in flash floods on land, soil erosion, destruction of crops, homes, animal and often human life. OXFAM, who work with families around the world have indicated that ‘People in developing countries aren’t thinking about how Climate Change will affect them. They already know. Right now in some of the world’s poorest countries, droughts and floods are more frequent and intense as a direct result of changing weather patterns.’
8. Lower Crop Yields
Farmers in hot spots around the world are experiencing lower crop yields with the added heat. This is affecting their ability to produce enough food and earn enough income. Food price inflation is at an all time high.
9. Pine Beetles & Forests
Increased temperatures and milder winters have been recorded in North America which has led to the pine beetle growing in numbers. Normally the cold temperatures would kill them off, but more are surviving with the end result that large swathes of pine trees are being killed off, most notably in British Columbia and Alaska. In Alberta, they have experienced long periods of temperatures well above freezing which is unusual for January.
10. Glacial retreat and ice-shelf breakup
Over the past 100 years, average Arctic temperatures have been found to have increased at twice the global average rate resulting in significant Glacial meltwater runoff and the breakup of ice shelves. Scientists have reported that thinning of the Pine Island glacier in Antarctica has quadrupled in the last 10 years. A team from University College London are tracking the thinning by satellite and have found that the ice sheet has dropped in height by 16 m every year over the past 5 years. Andrew Shepherd from UCL reported that they were concerned at the rate of melting 5 years ago, but recent melting is ‘unprecedented’.
Similarly Greenpeace reported that the Peterman glacier in Greenland has been found to have huge cracks and worrying levels of meltwater runoff, similar to that observed in Antarctica. Professor Jason Box from Ohio State University commented that the ice melt in Greenland was ‘like removing a cork from a bottle’ and voiced concerns that the rising sea levels will threaten millions of people living or visiting the coast. With regard to the Himalayan glacier, there has been some scepticism regarding the validity of the evidence within the IPCC report.
Professor Murari Lal, who edited the section on glaciers in the IPCC report originally stated that most Himalayan glaciers will vanish within 25 years. And a WWF report published in 2005 entitled ‘An Overview of Glaciers, Glacier Retreat, and Subsequent Impacts in Nepal, India and China’ also referred to this evidence. But this alleged ‘fact’ was indeed found to be based upon speculation. The expert behind the warning admitted that the claim was not based on hard science, but on a New Scientist magazine story in the late 1990′s. That story was in turn based upon a phone conversation with an Indian Scientist who indicated that the claim was based upon mere speculation.
In response, Professor Murari Lal commented: ‘If Hasnain says officially that he never asserted this, or that it is a wrong presumption, I will recommend that it be removed from future assessments.’ WWF confirmed on their website that they regretted ‘any confusion caused by our role in repeating the erroneous quote in the 2005 report and in subsequent publications and statements.’ Although there is indeed justifiable scepticism regarding this piece of evidence, we must keep perspective, viewing this piece of evidence in the context of the hundreds of pieces of evidence that remain unchallenged and credible. If we play into the hands of the sceptics, we all might as well continue to belch out CO2 in the belief that Climate Change isn’t man-made.
11. Loss of ice-cap habitat
With the Antarctic, Arctic and Greenland ice caps melting at such staggering rates, there has been a marked reduction in habitable surface areas for humans and wildlife, including polar bears and penguins. Many polar bears are struggling to find enough ice safe enough to roam on and frequently get caught out as above. WWF is urgently campaigning for people to ‘sponsor animals’ in need in these regions. Some projections indicate that Arctic late-summer sea ice will disappear entirely by the end of the 21st Century if we don’t all take individual action to curb Global Warming. Inuit homes in the Arctic have started to sink with loss of homes to local indigenous tribes.
12. Rising sea levels
The increase in oceanic and atmospheric temperatures has led to significant glacial and ice shelf meltwater run-off that is now running directly into our oceans. The Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica is one of the largest areas of ice, some 20 miles wide and the continued melting is providing a huge source of extra water which is flowing directly into the ocean and boosting sea levels. Conservative estimates indicate that the meltwater will cause sea levels to rise a minimum of 7-15 inches (approximately a foot) peaking at an estimated 23 inches (approximately 2 feet). The higher estimate is expected if the ice shelves collapse completely into the ocean.
13. High tides, coastal erosion and flooding
The rise in sea levels is expected to give rise to extreme high tides, rapid coastal erosion and the loss of landmass in areas many of us value the most. Predictions suggest low lying areas such as the Maldives, Bangladesh, coastal areas of England, the Netherlands and New York (to name just a few) will all be left under water. Seaside holiday properties will disappear and island vacation destinations will never be the same again. The Maldives government have even started purchasing land abroad in preparation for an evacuation of its people. Some may sit back un-phased by the alarm, thinking ‘why bother?’ because they feel it won’t affect them directly. Not only could this be deemed a selfish attitude, disregarding how future generation will feel, but coastal properties and holiday homes are already depreciating significantly in certain parts of the world. As more and more people seek refuge from their coastal homes, cities will become increasingly overcrowded.
14. Ocean Temperature Increases
More than 80% of the additional heat in the atmosphere is being absorbed by the oceans according to observations since 1961. Increased temperatures in the oceans have been recorded as deep as 9800ft. Associated with the oceanic temperature increases have come the following side effects.
15. Increased hurricane, typhoon and cyclone intensity
The increase in sea surface temperature has resulted in more intense storms, particularly with hurricanes in the North Atlantic. Although the report identified that there is no clear trend in the number of hurricanes, it noted that their strength and destructive power is increasing and that it is more likely than not that human fossil fuel consumption is precipitating the increase. The world saw what happened in New Orleans after a hurricane gathered strength over the extraordinarily warm waters over the Gulf of New Mexico. Never before has the Gulf of Mexico experienced such a devastating hurricane with such enormous flooding, damage and loss of life. Similar casualties have occurred in the Caribbean and Bangladesh.
16. Coral reef bleaching
Rising sea temperatures have led to vast colorful reefs dying and turning into fragile, anaemic underwater wastelands. Many of the corals have died around the world from subtle temperature rises. Nicholas Dulvy, a marine biologist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia Canada who was involved in a leading World Fish Study, estimates that 4,000 fish species are supported by coral reefs worldwide, but the reefs are disapperaring four to six times faster than our rainforests.
17. Acidification of oceans and increase in vectors such as jellyfish
As the level of Carbon Dioxide rises in the atmosphere, rain becomes increasingly acidic which affects the PH level of our lakes causing imbalances in the ecosystems. Similarly, CO2 gas is dissolving into our ocean, forming Carbonic Acid and decreasing the alkalinity. This is then reducing the amount of carbonate that corals need to build shells and other solid structures.
Dr. Hall-Spencer, a leader of the International Census of Marine Life’s CenSeam project, which focuses on coral seamounts and cataloguing ocean organisms, indicates that corals are vulnerable to ocean acidification. ‘Many of these reefs look doomed’ he said. There are over 50,000 seamounts worldwide of which only 1% have been so far explored. In Britain, the most famous one includes Anton Dohrn off Rockall which are home to all manner of species.
Acidification is a growing problem which has led to an increase in the number of vectors such as jellyfish in our oceans. Japan has never seen so many Jellyfish clogging their fishing nets. Last year, the Diasan Shinsho-maru sank off the waters of Japan whilst trying to haul in nets containing dozens of gigantic Nomura jellyfish. Apparently they can measure up to 6ft 7″ in diameter and weigh in at around 440lbs.
Jellyfish are a serious threat to the fishing industry in Japan as any fish caught in the nets are rendered inedible due to the toxicity of the Jellyfish stings. The escalating problem has already cost the Japanese fishing industry billions of yen in costs and lost revenues. University professors at Hiroshima have been working hard to identify when the next invasion will be. A huge spawning ground of Nomura jellyfish have been located off the Chinese coast, sparking fresh fears of another invasion.
Nuclear Power stations are also reporting problems with Jellyfish as they get sucked in by pumps along the coast that require sea water to keep the nuclear reactors cool.
With the increase prevalence of Nomura Jellyfish and dwindling fish stocks, people are now turning to eating the edible part of Jellyfish. In Britain, deep friend Jellyfish has already been served to the public in anticipation of dwindling fish stocks and the times to come.
18. Disruption to fisheries
Experts predict that global warming will have a major impact on the fishing industries of poorer nations in Tropical areas. As the sea heats up in the Tropics, fish are migrating away from these areas in search of cooler waters. Poor countries depend on saltwater fish for their income and dietary protein Even in the English Channel, commercially valuable fish species are moving Northwards to the colder waters of Iceland which is affecting the British fishing industry. William Cheung, a marine biologist at the University of East Anglia noted that faluable fish species have shifted towards the poles by about 40 kilometers or 25 miles in the past decade. Cheung indicated that overfishing in the tropics and migrations to colder water could lead to local species extinctions in the lower latitudes with large amounts of fish species being out of their natural habitat.
19. Decline in seabird numbers
‘If the declines continue at this alarming rate, then many of Scotland’s famous seabird cities could be virtually deserted within a decade’. Douglas Gilbert, RSPB Scotland. With species migrating Northwards, former bird colonies are declining in numbers. According to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) seabirds have plunged by 19% between 2000 and 2008. The figures indicated 71% fewer Arctic skuas, 55% fewer black-legged kittiwake and 26% fewer Arctic terns seabirds breeding in Scotland between 2000 and 2008. Deryk Shaw of the Fair Isle Observatory in Shetland confirmed ‘A whole island count for the Fair Isle found that the number of nests is only half of that counted as recently as 2005 with many birds just standing on bare ledges’. SNH believes that the fish have disappeared due to the rise in sea temperature which have caused the predominant food supply in the area, sandeels, to disappear. Chicks are left to starve in their nests because the adults are unable to find enough fish. The RSPB confirmed they are ‘deeply worried’ by the figures.
4. FURTHER OBJECTIONS, OBSTACLES, OPINION AND ARGUMENTS REGARDING CLIMATE CHANGE
Should we believe in the new tide of cynicism which is trying to undermine our confidence and desire to curb individual emissions? What are some of the further objections and obstacles to everyone taking action to curb Climate Change?
1. Climate Change isn’t real, so why should I do anything?
Some argue this but the evidence produced by the scientists is substantial and deemed ‘unequivocal’. That being said, even if people refuse to agree with the evidence, they surely can’t dispute the fact that we each have a responsibility to manage and conserve our finite fossil fuel resources for the future? Do many parts of the world want to be reliant on insecure fuel supplies and imports, when we could for example, embrace more fully the Renewable and low Carbon impact technologies now available?
Oil is also a dirty fuel in comparison to Renewables. Many of us have seen the devastation caused to ecosystems from oil spills, leaks, underground blasting to locate oil, pollution to acquifers and water suppliers and not to mention the air pollution around the world from the burning of fossil fuels. For many of us, the sight of brown toxic smog sitting over our cities, is neither attractive, nor healthy to breath. Therefore, irrespective of the Climate Change debate, it makes sense to invest in Renewables.
2. Climate Change is too big a problem to deal with
Some believe that with the increasing world population and continued increased consumption of fossil fuels, we are doomed. Many people feel helpless as individuals and that Climate Change is too big a problem to deal with, so why bother? Our take on this is that giving up is not an option. Humanity proved what we could stop the CFC problem and the hole in the ozone layer when governments banned the use of CFC’s in aerosols. Whilst we wait for governments to agree on emissions targets, we can each take action now without having to wait for them. Although populations are indeed increasing, it isn’t expected to increase as much as some people predict due to declining levels of fertility around the world. The Economist recently held a feature detailing the prediction. With enough people believing Climate Change can be resolved, and importantly taking action, we will reach a ‘tipping point’ where all of the little individual changes, turn into a big enough change worldwide to minimize the severest consequences threatened by Climate Change. Every little helps!
3. Public opinion is increasingly sceptical about Global Warming, so why should I bother?
Whilst some factions of the press focus on discrepancies in the Climate Change IPCC report, the majority of the evidence remains unquestioned and factual. It is important to maintain perspective rather than focusing on the minutiae of incorrect assumption which is the preoccupation of sceptics. The leading news bodies in the UK such as the BBC, the Guardian and some other papers continue to highlight evidence confirming manmade Global warming. It is only papers like the Daily Express which continue to highlight the sceptics arguments and succeed in blowing them out of all proportion.
4. Why should I do anything when governments and leaders appear to be doing so little?
Some of us are now using the failure of government’s to reach a meaningful agreement at Copenhagen, as a reason to continue living a lifestyle of unchecked fossil fuel consumption. Sceptics argue that consumption of fossil fuels is of course still the only known method of distributing wealth and providing the taxes to finance government. That being said, although no agreement was achieved at Copenhagen, it doesn’t mean governments aren’t bought into achieve a deal in Mexico. Next time round, the EU will be in a stronger position to exert influence having recovered from the recession, Barack Obama will have had time to conclude a deal with the Senate and both China and India will be more used to their new responsibilities as global climate players.
5. Why should I care when China is building one new coal fired power station a week?
The reason the power stations are being built is to cater for our individual demand. One of the ways to stop the building of coal fired stations is to cut our consumption of fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy sources such as a green tariff from an energy supplier. There will then be less of a requirement for governments and power companies to build dirty power stations. As consumers, we need to support renewable technologies so that governments and power companies change their thinking and investment strategy. Notwithstanding the continued building of coal-fired power stations, there are positive signs that Governments are trying to come up with a solution to Climate Change. China has already started embracing Renewables, notwithstanding their continued investment in coal fired generation. That being said, we can’t rely on or wait for Government action. We each have the power to create immediate changes in the way we live, right now.
6. Is taking action now a case of ‘too little too late?’
Can we afford to take the risk of not curbing consumption and emissions right now, when later, time will have passed and the effects will have become irreversible? The good news is that leading environmental experts such as Al Gore, together with IPCC scientists, confirm we still have enough time IF we all act now, on an individual basis.
7. It won’t affect me in my lifetime so why should I bother
Apart from this being a selfish attitude, the reality is that the effects of Global Warming are being felt all over the world. As Oxfam say, there are those who doubt whether Climate Change is real, but elsewhere around the world, people are already feeling it. Whilst some people (particularly Westerners) may not have personally felt the full devastating effects of Global Warming at this point in time, many communities throughout the world know it is happening. Even in the West, many of us have already witnessed an unusually cold winter, flooding in summer in Britain, droughts and fires in California, Spain, Australia and Africa, excessive coastal erosion and unusual insect and fish migratory patterns. Further afield, Westerners often go to the Maldives for a honeymoon because they represent some of the most beautiful Robinson Crusoe islands in the world.
But the Maldivian government have recognized the threat of rising sea levels to their islands, so are preparing to buy land in other countries ready for eventual evacuation! And Westerners will lose these precious islands if we don’t all act now! We have already lost a lot of coral on the islands to ‘coral bleaching’, as a result of rising sea temperatures, so the effects of Global Warming are already affecting the quality of our holidays and environment. The Maldivian people also emit one of the lowest amounts of CO2 per capita in the world, but are now facing the full consequences of Global Warming with severe coastal erosion in areas.
5. What Should We Believe? A Balanced Perspective…
Whilst the IPCC report may not be perfect and a very small percentage of scientist(s) may not have been as diligent in their reporting as they should have been, overall, the evidence presented in the report by the remainder of the scientists has remained unchallenged, accepted and credible. Any failures in the report should be viewed in this overall context. We must ask ourselves whether we should let small glitches in the report distract us from the remainder of evidence that demonstrates Climate Change is being accelerated rapidly by human beings? In time, there will doubtlessly be more arguments put forward by critics to undermine the evidence, but we urge readers, whatever their own person stance may be, to take a broad view and take a look at the evidence of man-made Climate Change that continues to spread around the world as we speak. Much can be seen with our naked eyes if we just pay attention.
6. It Is Your Decision
The easy decision is to continue a lifestyle of convenience and high cost, both financially and environmentally. Irrespective of your views on the validity of the evidence. the burning of fossil fuels still pollutes the land and water where it is drilled, as well as the air we breathe where it is burned. From a health and environmental point of view, cleaner, greener energy makes sense. Fossil Fuels are also limited in supply and although the melting of the ice caps will expose vast tracts of previously untapped Fossil Fuel deposits, the reality is these deposits will be depleted one day and future generations will want answers. Whereas if we invest more heavily into renewable, greener options, we will at least have a sustainable solution which future generations will be able to live with. The easy route is to continue burning fossil fuels at an unprecedented rate and wait for governments to act. Or we can each cut back on our consumption of Fossil Fuels and save money as well as our environment. We don’t have to wait for governments to act to start taking steps to green up our lifestyles. And there are many cost effective solutions available right now, as detailed below.
7. Taking Actions – The Solutions
It is easy to take action. Whilst some people still talk about it, there is a growing tide of people who are already switching to greener solutions. Some of the steps being taken require little effort, often cost no more than what you are currently paying, sometimes even save you money and importantly they will make a sizeable difference to our Climate and the security of our future energy supplies. Whether you are at home, on the move, at work or booking a holiday, you can take action on a number of levels and it involves very little time. We have listed the TOP ACTIONS you can take to rapidly reduce your Carbon Footprint, cut consumption and ultimately save money and the environment. Here goes….
7.1 IN THE HOME…
Action Number 1 – Switch to a greener energy supplier
Did you know that over 30% of ALL UK Carbon Emissions come from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity? Switching to a greener energy supplier and tariff is the SINGLE BIGGEST ACTION you can take to fight Climate Change. Every supplier offers a 100% Renewable Tariff option, but wouldn’t you rather pay your money to a supplier that then re-invests it into sourcing Renewable Energy and supporting a sustainable future? You have to pay your energy bill anyway to someone, so why continue paying it to companies that offer a 100% Renewable tariff, but still continue to source over 90% of their energy from Non Renewable sources such as coal, gas and nuclear? You can now switch to a supplier that not only offers Renewable Tariffs, but one which also sources a sizeable percentage of energy (over 40%!) from Renewables. Renewable Energy is a key component of Britain’s legally binding targets to cut overall emissions by 34% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.
According to the Fuel Mix data disclosed by individual suppliers to the regulator Ofgem each year, only 3 suppliers in the UK are meeting or exceeding the 34% target. These include Ecotricity (45.6%), Good Energy (100%) and Green Energy (41%). Any achievement over 34% is excellent!
Action Number 2 – Change your light bulbs to CFL
Admit no further delay in changing your old incandescent style to modern CFL bulbs. Australia and other countries have already banned the use of the old style incandescent bulbs. This is because they typically consume 2/3 more energy than the modern CFL bulb. Most of the energy in incandescent bulbs is lost to heat, rather than being used for lighting purposes. The new style bulbs reduce consumption by approximately 2/3rd so you spend 2/3rd LESS on your lighting. They also last many years longer which is why they cost more upfront. There is an initial investment involved but you will make this back very quickly, sometimes in only a few months. Apart from the environmental considerations, the expected lifetime of the bulb together with the reduced energy consumption all helps to justify the additional cost. It is surprising that many people still have the traditional bulbs because they cost less to buy upfront. Few realise purchasing these is actually a false economy. Buy the right type of green light bulbs Some old style incandescent bulbs are also perceived to emit a better quality of light and they don’t take ages to warm up. But the quality of CFL bulbs varies hugely. Tesco’s Greener Living range stock the best quality. Try to purchase CFL Bulbs in the shape of a coil and you won’t go wrong. They switch on instantly and emit a softer tone of light.
Action Number 3 – Switch off!
It sounds obvious, but many people still leave lights on and forget to unplug non essentials before going to bed, or when not needed in the day. See how much your bills drop when you switch off lights when not needed and appliances/electronics before you go to bed at night. Consider investing in an energy saving bar where multiple plugs can be plugged in, so at night, you switch off everything with only one switch. Consider charging laptops and phones in the evening for a couple of hours rather than leaving them on charge all night.
Action Number 4 – Switch to AAA rated appliances
When equipment has reached the end of its useful life, make sure you replace it with the most energy efficient models. In some cases, they may cost a little more, but you will more than make that back with the cost savings from lower running costs. And it is much better for the environment too. Think of what consumes energy in your residence or business where applicable – TV’s, DVD Players, PC’s, Servers, Laptops Washing Machines, Dishwashers, Kettles.
Action Number 5 – Wrap up with double glazing, loft and cavity wall insulation =
Get a number of quotes from Double Glazers and get it installed. Many old buildings lose as much as 30% of their heat through single panes of glass and poorly insulated walls and roofs. Cavity wall insulation can often be provided by your local energy supplier at a significant discount. Consider Eco Wool – all natural insulation!
Action Number 6 – Install Renewables including wind turbines, solar panels and/or ground heat pumps
How great would it be to be independent of the Big energy suppliers, free from threats to the security of our future energy supplies, free from price hikes and ultimately self sustainable. To achieve this would require a lot of solar panels but many who have installed them are self-sustainable the majority of the time. Energy suppliers can then be used as a back up – the way it should be! Although wind turbines don’t always work properly in urban areas, solar is particularly helpful for hot water production and suppliers will buy back from you any excess electricity you generate. It is worth investigating as solar prices keep coming down as technologies improve.
Action Number 7 – use water sparingly
Did you know that water and sewage works are one of the largest CO2 emitters? This is because a lot of energy is used in the purification process. It therefore makes sense to reduce the amount of water we use wherever possible – whether it be having shorter showers, less baths and using the dishwasher which only uses a fraction of the amount of water that would be used in the process of hand washing.
Action Number 8 – Buy local foods and use recyclable bags.
Supermarkets are encouraging a lifestyle of excessive convenience with all of their plastic packaging and plastic pots for convenience foods. The production of plastic is oil intensive, pollutes our environment and much of it ends up in landfill! If you can, try to do your shopping on Saturdays and buy from numerous local markets. Take your own re-useable shopping bag with you. The food you cook will be fresher and tastier. And there will be less plastic waste to deal with.
Action Number 9 – Recycle!!
It goes without saying that any plastic, paper, cardboard, metal and other materials should be recycled at your local recycling bin. If you don’t have one, write to your MP and local council to ask for proper facilities and try to get neighbours to sign a petition if they are unreceptive.
Action Number 10 – Family Planning and Population control
This is quite a controversial subject and may upset some people, but It goes without saying that the world is large enough as it is and we should now think twice about having more than 1 or 2 children. We don’t want to alienate people here but if everybody had more than 2 children, the world would have even more trouble feeding itself and it would be even more overcrowded. The Chinese have recognised this and limit births to only one child per couple.
Action Number 11 – Switch to greeener transport and travel
Before traveling, think about whether you really need to make the trip. Is it really necessary? This is the most logical and obvious way of cutting transport emission. Did you know that car emissions as a whole are considerably more than the whole airline industry put together? Switching to a smaller, greener car is the next biggest action you to take after switching to a green energy supplier. If you can avoid having a car, that is the best bet for your pocket and the environment. There are a number of ways to get around not owning a car yourself:
Cycle or Walk to work if possible
Not only are there no Carbon emissions, but it is also very good for your fitness.
Take public transport
If you live in a city, try to use buses, underground/metros and trains where possible. You usually get to work faster and save time with bus lanes. It is also much cheaper using public transport so it saves you money being green.
Alternatively, try a rideshare or car-share scheme. By filling up the extra seats in a car with colleague(s) for example, it makes the car journey more efficient and helps cut your cost if everyone contributes to the fuel cost.
If you absolutely need a car in the city, you can rent a car as you need it through a car club such as Zipcar, CityCar or Streetcar. If you try a car club you will pay for annual membership (usually around £50) and then hourly – £3-6 per hour depending upon the car. Car clubs are ideal for city usage or short journeys.
Buying a Green Car
If you need to buy a car, consider investing in a tax band A-C car which emit less than 120g of CO2 per km and you will be rewarded with lower fuel bills and only £0-£35 tax per year. When you do drive it, keep the tyres at optimum inflation to reduce drag and fuel cost. Try to drive within the speed limits and avoid excessive acceleration and deceleration which increase CO2 emissions and fuel costs.
We all need a holiday from time to time and no matter how much a person claims themselves to be green, the chances are they always book a flight at some point. Sometimes it is simply impracticable to use any other means of transport. That being said, if you can go by train to your destination, you will reduce your CO2 impact significantly compared to the impact of air travel. The aviation sector has typically attracted a lot of the blame for escalating CO2 emissions but the reality is that our choice of energy tariff, our home emissions and car emissions represent the majority of emissions. Flying should be viewed in the context of our overall emissions and should receive a proportionate level of criticism.
Action Number 12 – Switch to Ethical Banking and Insurance
Ethical Banks have done remarkable well in the recession when many people lost faith in some of the mainstream banks. Who you bank your money with is important because banks then invest that money into various projects, some sustainable and ethical, some not. Be careful where you put your money. Try to avoid banks that invest in the arms trade or are linked to arms for example. Some banks invest in projects that will help curb Global Warming. Triodos Bank, for example, help fund Ecotricity’s installation of wind turbines around the UK. The Ecology Building Society will typically only lend money or provide mortgages to homeowners that are planning to put solar panels, wind turbines or other forms of Renewable Energy devices on their homes. The banks, building societies and financial institutions worth exploring include the Co-operative Bank, Ecology Building Society, Norwich and Peterborough Building Society and of course, Triodos. You will be able to find a whole host of ethical money products including ethical bank accounts, ethical mortgages, ethical credit cards, ethical loans and ethical investments. Many of these ethical institutions also offer insurance products from home buildings and contents to car and pet insurance.
Action Number 13 – Carbon Offset and stay at green or ethical accommodation
If you are going abroad, the first thing to do is Carbon Offset. Although this is not a solution, it is better than nothing. There are a number of Carbon Offset schemes available. We recommend tree planting and/or contributing to the protection of tracts of rainforest. With reference to tree planting, the Kyoto Protocol and NASA accept that each tree absorbs approximately 1 ton of CO2 in its lifetime. Considering the average person in Britain emits 12 tons of CO2 per year and the average person in the US emits 18 tons of CO2 per year, 12-18 trees are require to offset annual emissions.
We believe tree planting in Africa is the best option because trees in the tropics absorb up to 3 times more CO2 than trees planted in Northern or Southern Hemispheres. This is because they grow a lot faster with year round tropical conditions. They also cost approximately 1/3 to plant in Africa when compared to the UK. Trees are sold through the Woodland Trust in the UK for £15 whereas trees in Africa cost as little as £5 per tree.
The operations in Africa that we have teamed up with are overseen and managed by Theresa Komugisha Kabombora who holds a Masters Degree in Seed Technology from Edinburgh University and she has worked with the Forest Commission for many years. To purchase trees you can visit the page we have set up to do this. We recommend planting one a month, if you can afford £5 a month for Carbon Offsetting purposes or a one off £50 for 12 trees.
Action Number 14 – Encourage your workplace to switch to a sustainable business model
When you are next in work, ask to speak to the Head of Environment or the person responsible for the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy. Then encourage your business to develop a green policy if they haven’t already done so. Ask if your business has switched to: A green energy tariff? Greener lighting? Chlorine free, 100% recycled, vegetable ink printing? Do they print double sided where possible? Do they reuse and recycle paper? How do they conserve water? Do they encourage staff to cycle to work and give incentives for using public transport? Do they encourage working from home to save time, travel cost and emissions? These are just some of the questions you can ask to encourage your business to become a better place.