Thursday, 25 January 2007

Better Late Than Never

Which U.S. political leader made this statement:

"This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels."

Was it Al Gore? George Bush? Wrong on both counts.

It was President Lyndon Johnson, in an address to Congress.

In 1965.

And so, it was a relief to hear President George W. Bush, in his address to Congress 42 years later, call climate change a "serious challenge".

Better late than never.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

More Polar Bears Giving Birth on Land

As the Arctic sea ice continues to shrink, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey report that more and more polar bears are giving birth on land.

Between 1985 and 1994, 62 percent of female bears dug their snow dens in the sea ice. That number fell to just 37% between 1998 and 2004.

According to the lead author of the study, "the sea ice changes may have reduced the availability or degraded the quality of offshore denning habits.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Response to UK Government Announcement on Offsets

We’re writing today in response to the Government’s announcement regarding voluntary standards for the carbon offset market. We support the aims of the code to increase customer confidence and ensure that those operating within the industry show integrity and transparency in how their projects are measured.

Today’s announcement signals the beginning of the consultation process and we are pleased to be part of that process.

Currently the proposed standard doesn’t support the needs of voluntary offset customers or the industry, but we will continue to work together to find a solution. We support industry standards that allow room for smaller-scale projects that meet our criteria of providing societal benefits to local communities as well as true environmental benefits.

We always encourage people to reduce their emissions wherever possible. When each of us takes steps to reduce our carbon footprint, we can speed the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Part 2

Last time we discussed the climate change impact of airplane travel. Bottom line: a couple of flights can easily wipe out all your other efforts to live a low-carbon lifestyle, so fly only when you absolutely need to and be sure to offset your flight's climate impact.

Now for trains.

Ground-based public transport is low-carbon because the emissions from the train or bus can be spread over a large number of passengers. A packed train does not consume much more energy than an empty one, so the more people you can cram into each train, the lower the emissions per passenger mile. Similarly, high-speed rail is not significantly more polluting than slower trains, so Government support for faster trains to replace short-haul flights can make a big difference. And with any luck you can walk or bike to the station - which is after all the cleanest and healthiest way to travel.

A moderately full train emits only 6.5 kg 65 grams of CO2 per passenger mile - about the same as three people in a hybrid car. But this is only a average figure. Actual emissions will also vary depending on the type of train and the operating company. For an electric train, the emissions depend on where the operator sources electricity. A train powered by electricity from renewable energy sources is essentially zero-carbon; while emissions from coal-fired electricity will be quite a bit higher. The same applies to diesel trains. Diesel trains can consume a huge amount of fuel, with higher than average per-passenger CO2 emissions. In fact, a half-empty diesel train may emit more CO2 per passenger mile than a small hybrid car. Richard Branson wants to tackle this problem by running the Virgin Trains fleet with a mix of biodiesel and regular diesel fuel. While biodiesel produced in the UK isn't carbon-free, it's still an improvement over business as usual.

As you pay your fare and squeeze into your train carriage on the way to work tomorrow morning, take a moment to smile at all the other passengers joining you on the way to a low-carbon economy. You might even enjoy the trip.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Part 1

It's getting tough to get around.

In December a study concluded that a national version of London's road pricing programme would be required to deal with the impacts of automobile use.

Then came the above-inflation increase in rail fares.

This was followed shortly by UK Environment Minister Ian Pearson's attack on airlines' foot-dragging over emissions caps.

What's a person to do? Let's start with flights.

Air travel is popular because, at 500 miles per hour, you can get from point A to point B quite quickly. And the economics of low-cost airlines can make short-haul travel less expensive than the train.

But it takes a lot of fuel to get an airplane into the air, and back down safely. According to DEFRA, a short-haul flight spends relatively more of its time on takeoff and landing, resulting in emissions of 24 kilograms of CO2 per 100 passenger-miles. At 17.4 kilograms, CO2 emissions per 100 passenger mile are a bit lower on a long-haul flight, because it spends relatively more time at cruising altitude.

How bad is that? Well, it's about the same as the per-mile pollution from driving alone in a passenger car. But it would take a car most of a year to equal the distance covered in just a few hours by jet.

Put another way, you would have to give up driving for six months to make up for the emissions of just one return flight between London and New York. A few flights can easily wipe out all your other efforts to reduce your climate pollution.

The best thing you can do, then, is to think twice before booking your next flight. If you have to fly, you can compensate for it by:

-giving up driving for half a year,
-switching to a green electricity supplier (though you can only use this approach once), or
-investing in carbon saving projects with a Carbon Clear package.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

EU & Japan Urge Big Polluters to Cut Emissions

The European Union President Jose Manuel Barroso and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have called on the world's largest greenhouse gas polluters to reduce their emissions.

Japan and the EU say they are showing global leadership on climate change, with the EU on Wednesday proposing a unilateral 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020. In a recent speech in London, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said the EU would consider making even deeper reductions if other industrialised nations join in.

"The United States, China, Russia and India are the top national emitters of greenhouse gases. Of the top four, only Russia is part of the Kyoto Protocol which mandates cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in the 2008-2012 period.

International talks to extend the pact further have stalled."

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Reduce Your Footprint in 2007

If 2006 was the year the world woke up to climate change, 2007 may be the year we start to tackle it.

There are lots of opportunities to reduce your personal carbon footprint - at home, at work, and while traveling. But there are only so many hours in the day. So what changes will truly make a difference without throwing your life into disarray? I recommend starting with the big things.

Switching to efficient lightbulbs in your home can reduce CO2 emissions from lighting by 75%. But lighting accounts for only 2% of your household's carbon footprint in the first place.

So switching every single lightbulb in your home to an efficient model helps, but it's a big part of a small thing.

You could get nearly five times the savings by avoiding excessive idling while driving your car. Stopped for more than a minute? Switch off the ignition. It doesn't sound like a dramatic change, but your car is responsible for 40% of your household's carbon footprint.

So switching off the motor when you're stopped is a small part of a big thing.

A great New Year's resolution might be to make small changes to the biggest components of your carbon footprint. You'll be making a real difference. And what you can't reduce you can neutralise with a Carbon Clear offset package.

Have a great 2007.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)