Your world. Your say: Letters part 2
More of your letters in response to our call for your contribution to the all-party inquiry on climate change
Wednesday 29 March 2006
Sir: We really do seem to be fiddling while Rome burns. The main problem is that people have yet to be convinced that the problem is life-threatening, looming and if we are to pass on a planet that is habitable for our children and grandchildren, we have little time left in which to act. There has to be a way to win the hearts and minds of this nation and demonstrate beyond doubt that the crisis is real.
This could be achieved by setting up a Royal Commission on climate change. It would need to have a remit to look with an independent mind at the evidence. It would have a life of its own and have the power to call any witness it chooses. But with the right chairman it would command respect and could deliver without whitewash or spin, where we are and what we need to do. A way, in fact, that would involve politics but would not be driven by it. Is it too much to ask?
Sir : 1. The recent taxes on 4x4s announced by G Brown are a joke. Make the taxes swingeing - £1,000 per year for guzzlers. Also, tax by engine displacement, and add green taxes to manufacturers at point of production.
2. Force home owners to upgrade their insulation and reconsider their energy use by having a banded energy policy. First x kwh at rate 1; next x kwh at rate 2 etc. The more use, the more it gets expensive. This will encourage people to insulate their homes better and rethink use of energy, including buying only the most eco-friendly appliances, which will force makers to concentrate on those appliances and in turn prices will come down and energy guzzling models will be discontinued.
3. Encourage home energy production through solar and windmill installation with tax breaks and grants. Unused power gets sold to the grid.
Sir: States in America seem to be able to make strides in the right direction with little or no help from national governments. For instance, California has passed a law forbidding electrical devices with too high a voltage to be used in stand-by mode. And, over here, councils such as Woking seem able to make significant moves on climate change initiatives on their own.
Sir: We are amazingly short-sighted; we scoff at the fact that dinosaurs became extinct and that they were unable to adapt to change, yet they inhabited the earth for millions of years. It is debatable whether we humans will manage even a fraction of this if we continue on this path of inexorable planetary despoilation.
LICHFIELD DISTRICT COUNCIL
Sir: We have to abandon growth as the aim of economic life and substitute a measure based on quality of life or even " happiness". My daughter has just returned from the Third World and she rightly points out that we have sufficient wealth in this country to meet everyone's needs. It is simply that we are extremely wasteful in our habits. When I talk to my friends and neighbours I realise that the anxiety for the future of the planet is widespread and the will to do something about it is also there. What is lacking is the political leadership to restructure the country along environmentally sound lines. So please, make it possible for people to walk and cycle to work and school in safety. Stop expecting that they work ludicrously long hours so that they don't have the time to spend with their families, take exercise or cook a healthy meal. Teach people that they can become wealthier by spending less, not earning more. Our economy has been kept going over the past few years by encouraging people to get into debt to buy things they don't really need which end up eventually on landfill sites. The watchword of my parents' generation was thrift. It went very much out of fashion in my generation, to our shame. It seems to me that we are facing as big a challenge if not bigger than the Second World War. Perhaps it is to the habits of that generation that we should look for inspiration and realise that the reason they complain so little is that they knew that happiness could not be bought but came as a result of care for others.
Sir: The Government is playing fast and loose with our children and grandchildren. They must have tough targets which they intend to enforce. The UK Government has an opportunity to lead the world in raising the importance of climate change.
DR DEREK NONHEBEL
Sir: Why has the Department of Trade and Industry allowed a successful experiment in capturing tidal energy in tubes to go to Portugal for more development? Why is the department refusing to fund development of another ingenious device built in the Shetlands?
We have the best ratio of coast to land of any developed country, we have good tidal ranges, we have built devices to take advantage of it, yet every time for the past 20 years the DTI refuses funding.
Sir: How can the United Kingdom or indeed any Western government tackle climate change? All are committed to economic growth and will never meaningfully introduce measures that impact on the profitability of businesses, like tackling the explosion in air travel. Instead, they go for cosmetic,pointless measures, like wind turbines - environmentally as meaningful as pouring a glass of water into a river to raise the river level. The ugly ranks of thousands of these industrial structures dotted around our most beautiful uplands and islands will stand as a legacy of this governments bovine misunderstanding of global warming for decades to come.
Sir: I wish to submit that we consider our economy from the perspective of sustainability. Our modern method of economy has caused great ruin for many countries and now we face destruction by our own hand. Our measure of success, of greatness, should not be measured by constant material gain, but by material conservation, and the understanding that the greatest wealth a nation can have is its people.
Sir: Bold steps must be taken to introduce comprehensive, affordable public transport and to discourage and penalise the selfish use of polluting vehicles with tolls, taxes and exclusion zones. Better, safer provision for cyclists is needed, and air travel must be curbed.
Sir: Housebuilding policy needs looking at - especially homes as energy efficient and carbon neutral in operation as can be. With our big housebuilding programme in the South-east over next 20 years, we need action now.
I feel very let down by Labour over transport. When first elected with a mandate to tackle transport issues they failed, and have continued to do so.
The climate change issue - alongside energy - goes beyond party politics and needs a concerted cross-party approach with a long-term planning view (50 year rolling). Listening to the Chancellor's Budget speech, I was angered by the petty political points being scored on this matter. Please can we have a foresighted and meaningful approach to this issue.
Sir: We (citizens) need to change our thinking, expectations, ways of being and doing. Then governments and business will change or fall. We are the leaders but we won't accept our responsibility.
Sir: The major problem regarding global warming is the Bush administration and the US Congress. We are the ones polluting the most, and not doing anything about it. Corporations are to blame, of course. But it is the governments that should be protecting their citizens. The rest of the world should be punishing us! Peace!
Sir: If 70mph means 70mph then make it so, or even cut it to 65mph. It would cut C02 emissions INSTANTLY. Also reduce the heating in the house and put a jumper on. DO IT!
Sir: Why is there never any talk about alternative energy?
MARY JO FAHEY
Sir: The more people we have the greater the environmental impact - few pay heed to the need for a rational population policy. I urge that both the committee and your newspaper give full weight to the population issue as one of the most important factors in the climate change phenomenon.
Threat of extinction
Sir: More humans equals more pollution - the only solution is depopulation and that is inevitable. Look back at mass extinctions - when the Earth becomes overpopulated with a particular species they get wiped out.
Decide and act
Sir: Make a bold drastic leading decision and act on it now
Sir: Modern-day politics deal more with self-preservation (staying in power) than global protection (future planning for people and planet)
Harness the sun
Sir: Why have we not offered 100 per cent grants on all new and existing buildings for solar power? The short-term cost increase would be mitigated by the medium-term reduction in fuel imports.
Sir: Every new house built, from starter homes to five-bedroomed properties, must have a solar panel in the roof. This would have a huge impact:
1) Property developers would have to think twice before over building in the South-east as it would not be so cheap to provide panels;
2) All those solar panels will contribute greatly to their own power and to the national grid.
While they are at it, what about a small wind turbine for each property too?
Sir: Capital projects that lead to more energy use, such as Olympics 2012, need to be replaced by projects likely to ameliorate the consequences of fuel depletion and climate change, such as a water grid. No more runways and roads, railtracks instead. Why are we doing the opposite of what we should be doing?
Return to rations
Sir: Rationing ... scary thought. And probably the most sensible idea put forth anywhere. Otherwise we probably ought to be moving our space exploration programs forward so that we can scram out of here.
Sir: Would it not be a good idea to ban the sale of old-fashioned light bulbs?
Sir: I think that all the ladies should wear nothing but a large scarf and sit on a white horse while going to work then all the men would stop their cars to look at them. Instant bliss for everyone. I practised this on honeymoon 21 years ago in Morocco where I think we should all go to get away from the strikes, crime wave, etc. in the best hotels on the planet.
Sir: How about one of those little slide show e-mails you receive, detailing say ... seven easy steps to reducing emissions? It would be memorable and easy, and, if you ask each recipient to pass it on to 10 friends, wide reaching.
Sir: Who is selfish or confident enough to assume they can pass this problem down to future generations? Not me...
Sir: Make all airports pay for adequate police presence: you add to the handling charge per aircraft [then] you have enhanced security and you either reduce the council tax burden or increase the police numbers in the regions at no cost to council tax player. Increase petrol prices for cars.
Ireland has a tax on carrier bags, it works, do the same. Also tax non recyclable packaging. Make energy efficient light bulbs vat free, increase vat on non efficient bulbs. [We should also] have televisions, DVD players and computers, energy rated in the same way as white goods, and do the same as VAT.
Sir: Is it not about time you considered the views of scientists who understand the Second Law of Thermodynamics? Since 1999, the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering and several other professional bodies have issued a stream of reports on global warming. One (unpopular) measure that seems to have escaped notice would be to phase out the use of electricity for heating buildings. For every kilowatt-hour used for heating, about two kWh are wasted up the chimneys of the mainly fossil-fuelled power stations. It makes good economic sense but it results in nearly the same contribution to carbon-dioxide emission as daytime generation.
PROFESSOR C J HUGHES FRENG
Sir: Incentives must be brought in to encourage people to fly less, use their cars less, accept alternative fuel sources such as wind, wave, geothermal. Vehicles which use unnecessarily excessive amounts of fuel must be penalised too a much greater extent by higher fuel taxes that will actually make them think about their consumption. Research about biofuels should be subsidised by the Government.
Sir: How would such UK's governmental formations help the same movements made into laws in Central and Eastern European countries? We are at a much less filled market with mediocre law-enforcement abilities and at the battle of ongoing short-term political debates without expert political and economical leadership.
Increase UK's responsibility worldwide in helping the international community.
MARTON ALBERT HAJNAL
Sir: No increase in airport development should be allowed anywhere in the UK, the construction industry should only be allowed to build any new houses which are truly sustainable and self reliant in energy.
Lobbying by businesses which create massive carbon emissions such as the air industry should be not allowed.
Programmes on TV on how to change one's lifestyle must be shown to educate the public. Financial saving through reductions in council tax should be given to households who work on a low carbon base or who can reach a zero rating.
Sir: In order to reduce carbon emissions we must work towards generating fuel from non-fossil fuel resources. I don't believe we have been innovative enough in the use of solar, wind, tidal or any other low carbon energy generation. Neither have we pushed for the use of emissions free carbon fuels , bio diesel for instance. The Government must be prepared to make unpopular decisions if it is to have a real effect on slowing climate change.
Sir: I suppose I'm one of many that drive less than the average mileage per year in my small saloon motor car. My question is: why am I being taxed on road duty the same as someone motoring in excess of my own and very likely polluting air quality?
On the question of windpower and solar panels: until I see them for sale in national stores at a competitive price then I'll believe that the Government will take the issue seriously.
Sir: Tell Gordon Brown to lower duty on diesel, so encouraging ordinary people to purchase a diesel motor car,that has lower emissions,plus more miles per gallon so less fuel burned.
Sir: We need a rapid deployment of energy conservation measures backed up by renewable energy technology. We also need to localise our economy. The current explosion of housing in the South-east flies in the face of what we know is happening. There should be a requirement for Best Practice for new construction of all kinds. The tax system should be used to promote such things as low-energy light bulbs, low-energy cars, low-energy housing and renewable energy, especially off-shore wind. We need a carbon tax and an embodied energy tax, which should both be applied to our own produce as well as imported goods.
Sir: It is essential that all activities accurately reflect the cost to the environment. Each activity must therefore carry a cost related to the amount of greenhouse gasses used. In addition, we seem addicted to just buying things to try and make us happy. Items are bought and are expected to last 1-10 years before replacement.
I recommend a carbon tax to be applied to all goods and activities. Proceeds of the tax should be used to lower the personal rate of taxation. A personal carbon quota could also work. Paying for all activities and good by debit/credit card would be necessary for an accurate carbon usage to be calculated, so maybe this needs to wait for the time when cash is phased out.
Sir: Reducing emissions from motor vehicles, primarily cars, could receive a welcome boost if people were not so damned lazy! There are very few instances where a single, healthy person, with no dependents who's profession does not require transport on the job needs to use a car day to day. The only excuse that many would use to try and justify this is convenience ... well just get up earlier and get the train!
Sir: People need to be educated about the changes they can make to everyday life to conserve energy e.g. turning off appliances, cutting down flights, insulating homes. Creating greater public awareness would be powerful in terms of consumer-led demand for more ecologically aware products and services and in terms of creating innovative ideas for change.The Government needs to realise that change can't be imposed by taxes and laws alone.
Sir:We need a massive investment in simple existing technology that can reduce demand for fossil fuels supported by television and radio advertising. We need to make it socially unacceptable to emit carbon.In addition, we need to start to debate the issues of peak oil and gas in this country.If the prospect of catastrophic climate change cannot get people and governments to change their behaviour, then perhaps the thought of increasingly expensive and scare oil and gas will.
DR ALISTER HAMILTON
UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH
Sir: I remember the 1940s and how our consumer lives were governed. I now live in a wealthy, middle class village where consumerism is unchallenged. There is only one local weirdy who knows how to keep a house warm and find food from the land around, and that is me. Not even environmentally aware rubbish disposal is seriously addressed as it is all voluntary, and cars are needed to buy everything. Until governments take the steps outlined today, there is no hope.
Sir: We must go for micro-generation of power; it seems so obvious everyone but Blairite politicians can see it. Surely a good slogan for any visionary would be "a turbine on every roof".
Sir: I think asking companies to pay towards travelling by air would be [good] ... as it would make companies rethink other options such as using the train where possible. We should move away from diesel and petrol cars and make the more energy efficient cars cheaper. We should be looking to implement more renewable energy sources which will dramatically reduce the consumption of energy. Most importantly I think we should also apply pressure to those who do not currently comply for example the US government.
Sir: A tax on aviation fuel (and a reduction in the number of cheap flights) is always disregarded on the grounds that it would be politically unpopular. But if the Government and opposition parties are in any way serious about tackling climate change, would it not be sensible to unite on such issues, thereby allowing the government to implement necessary (but unpopular) measures without worrying about the next election?
Sir: If Britain were to cut emissions to zero right now, it wouldn't have the slightest effect upon climate change - it would just impoverish every one of us. The real culprits are quite obvious to everybody and until there is international agreement, any sacrifices we unilaterally make towards alleviating the problem will do great damage to our (already precarious) economy. Perhaps organising a conference on the Catch-22 situation where 76 million new individuals are added to the world's population each year might be more relevant than thousands of wind turbines.
Sir: Everyone will have to make sacrifices, with those at the top of the developed nations setting the example as we have more to lose than the less developed. It will require politicians and business to work together. At least we now have a government that has the best interests of the population at heart, although they are making mistakes in their application of the changes made.
Sir: My proposal consists of three main changes:
1) We must measure properly and then control the amount of fossil fuel extracted on an annual basis.
2) We must understand the impact of land use changes and put that into a global carbon budget.
3) We must have a complete reorganisation of the global energy market which is a dysfunctional and manipulated quasi-market. An efficient and transparent market operating from a basis of understood supply would allow for a much truer market and probably and much lower price for oil.
Sir: Let's have a serious and sustained campaign to get [climate change] ... to top of the political agenda. What are the safe limits of carbon emission? Let's work that out and set such limits. The problem is that the transition to a low carbon economy will involve disruption will require many of us to change our jobs and all of us to change our habits of consumption. But a low energy, low raw material lifestyle could be good fun too. So let's gets thinking right now about what it might be like and how to get there.
PROFESSOR JANE HEAL
ST JOHN'S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE
Sir: I do not see that cutting emissions has to be a particularly painful process. There are four methods that could be adopted. First, companies need to be made to pay for the "carbon footprint" they make. Second, transport must become more environmental. Third, on a domestic front, much more recycling and use of renewable devices needs to take place along with strong incentives to do so. Fourth, energy must come from more renewable sources. The above four points can quickly improve this country's effect on climate change.
Sir: I feel very strongly that the nettle of aviation fuel tax needs to be firmly grasped. It seems crazy to encourage airlines to offer very low fares, so that it is cheaper to travel abroad by air than by land in this country - and in the process cause vast amount of atmospheric pollution. I cannot understand why aviation fuel should not be heavily taxed. An added benefit of increased air fares might be that more people would take their holidays in this country.
Sir: Businesses need to set up things like car sharing to get their
employees to work. I think it is the Government's responsibility to get the information to people, tell the country the seriousness and implications of what is happening.
BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, VIA EMAIL
Sir: No amount of SuperJumbos and cleaner jet engines will be able to halt the environmental damage aircraft cause, if air travel continues to be taken out of the equation and is allowed to grow unchecked, while, on the other hand, we are supposed to tighten our "Carbon Belts" in all other aspects of our lives; it just does not make sense!
JOHN AND CHARLOTTE TOMS
Sir: The USA has finally woken up to producing "climate friendly cars , we in this country would be delighted to drive quiet, non toxic cars. The Government gets enormous revenues from gas. It needs to put our planet's needs first and encourage eco-friendly cars by abolishing all tax from them as well as raising it on petrol fuelled vehicles.
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