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
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The Independent Online

The future of our children and grandchildren is at stake

Sir: A hundred years from now I suspect that our grandchildren will look back in astonishment and anger at the stupidity of our generation, unless we radically change our approach to climate change.

There is no real scientific debate. Bar the cranks everyone agrees that climate change is real, and every re-evaluation by the scientific community gives more cause for concern.

While economic growth is, of course, the major driving force of modern society, it becomes pointless in the face of climate catastrophe. Quality of life is not all about money. Even if we assess the situation on a financial basis alone, if we properly calculated the current costs, let alone the future costs, of the environmental impact of our actions then we are going in the wrong direction.

As a society we must be prepared to make financial sacrifices and sacrifices of convenience to improve our children's and grandchildren's future and to prevent millions of deaths across the globe. Working to provide a safe and secure environment for the next generation is what every parent does, without a second thought, every day. That is what the current situation requires of us: will we knowingly abandon our children's future or will we take the steps needed to preserve it?



Sir: Yet again those in government who can act to prevent climate change fail to do so, citing the limits of pragmatism and reasonableness within which they must work.

But the consequences of their inaction must be spelt out to them, and to all those defending the right to fly and speed in a big car. Their inaction will have much the same effect as if they, pragmatically and reasonably and, quite properly recognising the constraints within which they must act, pressed a soft pillow over the faces of their sleeping grandchildren.



Carbon trading is neat but unworkable

Sir: I am encouraged by Colin Challen's call to confront the realities of global warming. No one can deny that the world is incapable of supporting its current population at the standard of living enjoyed in western Europe and North America without a fundamental change in the way we obtain the energy.

China and India - over one third of the world's population - are both at the start of an economic boom and the reality is that CO2 emissions are going to rise significantly. Present efforts to stem any increase in the developed world are either too little or too late.

Politicians of all parties need to work together, as Mr Challen states - take the politics out of the equation - to bring about the changes necessary to ensure our planet continues to support life. We all need to accept a change in lifestyle which significantly reduces energy consumption. The consequences of not acting immediately could be catastrophic.

The carbon trading economy suggested by Mr Challen is a neat idea but totally unworkable. It would mean that the full carbon quota is used; market forces would ensure this. Who would allocate the quotas? Would countries with a growing population be penalised and would those with a falling population be better off? Whichever solution the poorest in society would suffer the most as they would be least able to afford to invest in lower emission machinery and would have less carbon to trade.

The only solution is to tax emissions and use the proceeds to push ahead with development in new technology which will allow us to generate energy without the greenhouse gases. The worst offenders could be taxed the most - airline fuel is a clear target - and this at least would have the added benefit of reducing demand and therefore carbon emissions.



America must be forced to face facts

Sir: While there is a general consensus that global warming will make the war on terrorism look like a romp in the park, governments continue to procrastinate while most individuals are hardly willing to inconvenience themselves.

In my own deluded USA, tax breaks are given for buying the most massive, fuel-inefficient SUVs while the Bush administration's recent "Clean" Air Act allows power plants even more leeway to pollute. My own efforts regarding something as simple as limiting the time the engine of vehicles not in traffic would be allowed to idle - in this world's most carbon-dioxide profligate city and state, Los Angeles, California - fall on a deaf, blind, and dumb body politic.

I am among the strange ones in this automobile capital who has voluntarily given up his car, serving my transportation needs by walking, bicycling and public transit. It is beyond appalling how often I come upon automobiles parked by the curb with engines incessantly belching smog so their occupants can cool their precious selves by running the air conditioning. Even though the California Air Resources Board has limited the time a diesel engine can idle to five minutes, the regulation is not enforced and, for the most part, ignored. The engines of large diesel trucks are still left idling as their contents are loaded and unloaded and while the driver eats lunch or takes a nap.

How I wish to shake such people and the obtuse, head-in-the-sand politicians who represent them. The horses will long be running free before these fools make any effort to close the barn doors.



Sir: It is painful for me to respond to this request for comments, since I am a citizen of the nation that consumes the bulk of the world's energy resources and converts that insatiable hunger into the pollution that is most responsible for global warming.

Like many Americans, I have been working for over three decades for significant changes in our energy and environmental policies. In the early 1970s we began to see what we thought was a light at the end of the tunnel. But this light was quickly extinguished by policies of presidents Reagan, Bush, and Bush. It is now obvious that America is fully owned and operated by the energy industry, supported by a military-industrial alliance the likes of which the world has never seen.

My country is not likely to change without significant influence from other nations. We have tremendous technological resources which could be brought to bear on global warming, but they are controlled by a powerful few who continue to tell us that global warming is a hoax. European nations must be more aggressive in their attempts to bypass these information gatekeepers and show the American public just how serious the problem has become.

Many Americans dream of a better world for their children, just as you do. They'd be eager to cooperate with parents from other nations if they could only be made to understand the danger we face.



Sir: I read The Independent every morning and I appreciate so much how well you are covering this topic. In our own newspapers, in the San Francisco Bay Area, one cannot find a word about it. Yet, we are being affected by climate change like everyone else.

Climate change isn't just hot summers and drought. Here in Sonoma, California, we are experiencing the opposite. Our overall temperature is going down, while heavier rains - and snow! - are causing millions of dollars in damage. Our crops, mostly grapes and hay, are being affected. This winter's flood broke up roads and severely damaged our high school. This was a first for us.

There are a lot of ostriches with their heads in the sand over here. The rest of us are scared out of our minds.



Free-market policies damage the planet

Sir: When it comes to the issue of global warming your leader writers seem to want to have their cake and eat it, promoting liberal economics at every opportunity, yet bemoaning its effects on the environment.

Only last week you were arguing for tax solutions that were "consistent with liberal economic thinking" (leading article, 20 March) - a specious argument in itself, given that the use of taxation to influence the allocation of resources necessitates a recognition that, left to its own devices, the free market is inimical to our future.

Only when we have managed to loosen the ideological grip that simple-minded neoliberalism has exerted, and lay to rest the fallacy on which it is based - that individual self-interest is invariably consistent with the common good - will we stand any chance of preserving a planet worth living on by wresting the "invisible hand" of the free market from our windpipes.



The public needs the right information

Sir: One of the main reasons for the Government's poor performance in reaching its Kyoto targets is that they are not communicating the problem effectively. Where is the debate with the public? Where is the wide consultation and education programme for schools and families trying to be more energy efficient? It is all very well taxing industry and calling for international legal frameworks on carbon emissions, but unless we feel attached to the problem, very little is going to change.

Climate change, both the causes and consequences, receives a large amount of coverage in academic literature. However, when this is communicated through the mass media it is often sensationalised. I believe that if the population as a whole understood the problem through a range of media (television, newspapers,radio, exhibitions), action could be taken and national policy would be changed. At the moment it is a problem that is too large-scale and too distant for people to feel that they can do anything productive.

I am a postgraduate museums studies student and am researching this very topic. Not just natural history or science museums, but art galleries and social history museums can provide exhibitions and information. By re-interpreting the objects in museum collections, new climate change exhibits can explain the causes and outline the consequences. Museums could become a forum for discussion and exchanging ideas on the topic, which exists outside mainstream politics.



New homes are not green enough

Sir: The Government is doing nowhere near enough to win the struggle against global warming. They seem to be terrified of doing anything unpopular, but this is too important.

New homes are not being built anywhere near energy-efficient enough. They should all have solar panels; much, much better insulation; condensing boilers, etc. These wouldn't be so expensive if they were mass-produced.

At present there are problems when a building with more than the average amount of "eco-features" is built because few builders have the necessary know-how. There should be a national training programme and an effort to manufacture "green" building materials.

New homes are still thrown up as cheaply as possible. Prince Charles's Poundbury estate, a few miles from where I live, could have set an example, but it hasn't. Producing organic food just isn't enough.



Doomed by greed

Sir: It is far too late. Greed will prevent the wealthy from making the necessary sacrifices. Religion outlaws discussion about human population. Even worthy newspapers such as yours lack the courage to really address the issues. It is so obvious that the planet cannot support the human population without disastrous consequences for all other creatures and resources.



Stop burning forests

Sir: Never mind telling workers to use public transport and recycle envelopes, the real issue must be the vast areas of forest being cleared daily in some parts of the world. Apart from destroying the habitat of the people and animals that live there, the burning is polluting the atmosphere, and the destruction of rainforests is changing our climate. Every other little effort made by individuals - helpful and well intentioned though it is - pales into insignificance compared with this. We must find out who is responsible for this and stop them.



Limits will not work

Sir: Attempting to limit climate change by limiting CO2 emissions will not work. It will simply push emissions to different parts of the world; as the emissions migrate, they will take with them economic prosperity. What will limit climate change is the limited world-wide resources of fossil fuel. Increased prices will drive alternate energy sources. Nothing else will. Climate change will be limited by physics and economics, not by poorly informed governmental policies.



Air flight madness

Sir: If car manufacturers were given strict targets for increasing fuel efficiency, they would rise to the challenge. The same goes for air travel which must be controlled. Why not give the airline industry a carbon quota and let them sort out whether this will mean less air travel or just more efficient air travel? The madness of airport expansion and 99p flights must be stopped.



Leave the car at home

Sir: Why are we continually degrading our public transport system in favour of more and more roads? Rail and bus should be made the the cheapest and most efficient means of transport. In the interim people should be encouraged to use pool cars (that are group owned and leased on a daily basis if required for exceptional journeys) in areas of high density population and where public transport is not a realistic alternative. No more parking fees and a cleaner, less noisy environment.



Disaster of war

Sir: Nobody has yet mentioned the huge contribution that war (such as Iraq) makes to carbon dioxide emissions. Thousands of flights, huge vehicles moving about and guns firing produce a lot of CO2.