Thursday, January 18, 2007

Carbon Footprinting

I've given up on brain power. I am too vividly transported back to deadly days at school staring at a maths book with some ghastly problem along the lines of "two cars are travelling; one at 16mph, the other at 25mph; one leaves 9 minutes early, how many miles will they have travelled in 28minutes". Frankly, I don't care. My mind clouds over before I've got to the end of the problem and it's a super-human effort to push back the clouds to give it my full attention. Some things never change.

So, I tried out my carbon footprint instead. It's an issue that is pre-occupying us more and more, and rightly so. I am worried that my boys will grow up into a world that is bereft of much that we take for granted now. I have no faith that politicians and big business will act in time to develop alternative power sources, or that enough oil will be preserved for vital production of medical and other items that can only made from plastic.

My own step, tiny though it is, for mankind and the future of the planet is to try not to waste resources. The result from the BP site is that my carbon footprint is 2 tonnes of CO2 per year, compared to a French average of 8.9 tonnes. The American average is a horrendous 20 tonnes, but they do overdo the air conditioning somewhat. Turn it off, guys. You won't die, honest! You may die if you don't, however.

My level is achieved by:
  • not using my car much - about 12000km per year (I live 5 minutes from my work)
  • not having a gas-guzzler (diesel Peugeot 406)
  • turning off appliances and not leaving them on stand-by
  • using energy-efficient appliances (washing machine etc)
  • using energy-efficient light bulbs
  • recycling at least 30% of household waste
  • not flying much (once a year, and one train trip to the UK per year)
  • no air con. Shutters are there for a purpose.
I am pretty proud of this, as my efforts do seem to be theoretically working. We have barely put the heating on this winter, thanks to the balmy weather, and wearing a pullover to keep out the chill. The whole household needs to participate, however, to save the planet.

RoadsofStone has been writing articles on global warming, as I'm sure have many others. I don't have time to research the subject enough not to sound like a prat, so I'll leave it to the guys who know what they're saying.

However, I do regret one thing: I live in rented accommodation and so cannot make changes such as installing solar energy, or a more efficient heating system.

What is your carbon footprint level?


  1. I looked briefy at RoadsofStone on climate change and its "something must be done, by us, right now" response, which frankly left me somewhat despondent. The science is not as clearcut as many imagine.

    Louise is not blogging at the moment -such a shame about losing her brother - but left a excellent and balanced comment.

    I've just left a comment on Salut about my ongoing problems with Bill Taylor (Toronto Star), and directed traffic back in this direction, but it's now on your preceding post.

  2. Colin, Bill is only a problem if you decide he is.

  3. I've decided he is. I don't like being branded a liar. I am honest, painfully so at times, as you may have noticed.

  4. Thank you very much for the link, Sarah.

    It's certainly a timely debate, and I'm delighted that you took the chance to work out your own carbon footprint.

    That's a positive approach. On the other hand, and without wishing to raise any hackles here, I do become slightly frustrated when I hear comments along lines such as,
    'The science is not as clearcut as many imagine'.

    It's a common viewpoint, and one which is so often put forward that it has almost become entrenched in fact. Unfortunately, it really is the sad and inaccurate result of many years of negative spin from a very few climate change refuseniks, many of whom are, or have been, in the pay of the US administration.

    If you want more background on these issues, and to learn the shocking truth on how the global climate change protocols were negotiated (and cynically obstructed) during the run-up to Kyoto, then I really recommend The Carbon War by Jeremey Leggett.

    Leggett was directly involved in the negotiations over many years, and he demonstrates that the number of scientists who seriously deny global warming is probably small enough to count on one hand.

    But for far too long, that allowed the media and a small number of opposing governments to claim that 'the scientists are divided on this'.

    Believe me, they really aren't.

    It's true what you say, Sarah, that those of us living in rented accommodation have less control about energy usage. But the point of my post is that there really are so many small things that each of us can do on a practical level, and all of them will add up to make a difference.

    We have to start somewhere, and it's time to wake up. Tomorrow will almost certainly be too late.

    I wouldn't want to see our most beautiful landscapes cluttered with thoughtlessly-placed wind turbines. There are other sites which are better suited to place them - like offshore.

    But the siting of wind turbines is something of a side issue. We could debate that for hours, whilst missing the crux of the matter, which is that we now have some much critical choices to make.

    We can pretend that global warming isn't happening, or more likely admit that it is, but lament that we can't do anything about it, making lame excuses about not being able to solve the problem at a stroke, or dodge the issue entirely by deciding to leave those changes to someone else.

    Or we can take our heads out of the sand, think about the issues and decide what we each can do, on both an individual and collective level to change the way we live.

    If there are solutions that we can adopt which don't inconvenience us, or encouragement which we can give to governments and companies to adopt a more responsible and sustainable approach to carbon emissions, then my contention is that it is worth following that path without delay.

    Otherwise, the certainty is that we are all going to leave the world in a much poorer state than we found it.

    Our children will be in no doubt that we were the generation who knew, and yet chose to do nowhere near enough about it.

    And, much worse still, they will have to pick up our mess and live with the consequences.

    - Roads

  5. Here's a link to The Carbon War on Amazon.

    It's worth reading the customer reviews, too.

  6. One of the planet's most pressing issues is the proliferation of nuclear weapons. N. Korea now has them, albeit relatively crude at present, and there's a growing proliferation of weapons and/or know-how in the Islamic countries, some with an Islamist agenda. It is reckoned that Iran is two years from having a bomb.

    I haven't heard any proposals for how we as individuals could be doing something to halt nuclear conflicts. So why do we focus one a different threat to mankind - a relatively long term one, that may well have taken place even without extra fossil-fuel derived CO2 in the atmosphere, since climate goes through cycles anyway. Why do we ignore a more immediate one that could poison vast tracts of the planet in a few years? Remember: Hiroshima and Nagasaki were just two bombs, relatively small. Whereas stockpiles in India, Pakistan, N.Korea, Israel are growing by the day.

    Personally, I don't worry unduly about termites in the rafters when there are escaped tigers in the neighbourhood.

  7. I personally think I have made considerable efforts to expose the perfidious and dangerous nature of the Anglo Saxon nations. Thay are both the principle polluters of CO2 and have the largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

  8. Thank you, Roads, for the link to the book.

    I do worry about the environment because I can see mankind just letting it slide until it takes crisis management to deal with the death-throes of the planet; a planet my boys and their children will not be able to enjoy like I do.

    I am doing what I can. It's not world-shattering but I'm doing it. If everyone did what they can instead of wasting water, electricity, resources, we might find a degree of control entering the situation. Stability, at least, not ever-increasing levels of oil usage, waste and pollution.

  9. Sarah

    1)In the last 15 years the automotive industry has made enormous strides in the efficiency of cars. Yes it is still an internal combustion engine but a modern diesel is much more efficient and much more technically complex than a petrol engine of 15 years ago. Additionally major progress has been made in wind resistance and weight.

    Do we use less fossil fuel in cars today than 15 years ago? No? What happened? All the amazing efficiency gains have been used up by the fashion moving to heavier more powerful cars eg the famous Chelsea tractor. A fashion developed and promulgated by the Anglo Saxons.

    2)If The USA had the same energy efficiency in relation to GNP as Europe the savings would be massive.This requires tackling the Americans totally energy wasteful life style.

    If these two items were addressed agressively today, which I believe they should be, you would be talking about major progress. To kid ourselves that we are adressing the problem of global warming by putting up a few windmills or solar panels is criminal negligence.

  10. I agree, Richard. The average American household uses twice as much CO2 as European. They must change their wasteful habits. Those ghastly Chelsea tractors are ridiculously huge and unnecessary. A pox on the car industry for making them.

  11. Interesting post. Not sure if it's national but on a particular Thursday (don't have date!) we are all supposed to turn off our lights between 19h55 and 20h to see the effect it has on the electricity supply i.e. how much we could save.

    ps I've tagged you (don't worry it doesn't hurt!)

  12. Thanks, Hope! I am work and bookless for the moment, so I'll wait until I get home.

    As for the saving the planet campaign, it's organised by L'Alliance pour la Planete and is aimed at drawing attention to energy wastage by turning off lights and stand-bys.

  13. Brilliant, thanks for the link.

  14. Our Mairie is selling compost bins at a reduced rate, an excellent move because not only we can turn our dead leaves and household vegetable waste into useful compost it's also a practical way of getting rid of the garden rubbish without burning.
    I'd like to change to solar but at the moment the expense is prohibitive but that will probably change.
    And we all benefit because of the money saving.
    Interesting post.

  15. When my ex-h and I were building our house, I looked into the possibility of installing solar energy to heat water then. I was astonished to find there was no competition between installation companies. Furthermore, after researching the issue a little more, I became convinced that the Ademe 'subvention' had merely served to push up prices so the customer was still paying what he would have paid before, but a) had the impression he was saving money, and b) the installation companies were laughing all the way to the bank.

    Disgusted at such rigging, we did not install solar energy, but gas central heating with radiators we could dry socks on.


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