Your world. Your say: Letters part 3

More of your letters in response to our call for your contribution to the all-party inquiry on climate change
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Organic solution

Sir: Greenhouse gases can be removed from the environment either mechanically or biologically. In my opinion, mechanically is impractical because of the massive quantities of greenhouse gas that must be removed. I suggest constructing a genetically modified organism that removes greenhouse gas from the environment much faster than nature, and seeding it into the oceans. In fact, I predict this method will be used eventually, as it is the only method to solve global warming.



Scare story

Sir: The experts still can't decide if eating eggs or fish oil is good for you. Yet, they proclaim to know about global warming!

One thing I know for sure, global warming may or may not be occurring, and it may or may not be man-made. But it's a surefire way to get a research grant and a good tool to scare the populace into submission.



Ban the bulb

Sir: With most of the aesthetic issues over compact fluorescent lights resolved, why not just ban incandescent light bulbs and so reduce the amount of energy used to light the 20 million households in the UK by 75%. Not only would it save energy, but it would also save consumers money.



Information please

Sir: There should be a government website with all necessary info about reducing emmissions: where to get reasonably priced solar panels - perhaps government approved suppliers - other alternative forms of heating etc. Maybe there is and I don't know about it, which shows that public education needs to go hand in hand with other measures.



Kill the car

Sir: Why are people still able to buy ridiculous cars? Why are new budget airlines appearing every day and not paying tax on fuel? Why are supermarkets wrapping everything in plastic and not looking into recyclable materials more? Why am I given several plastic bags every time I go to the shops? Why isn't more effort being made to recycle and regenerate? Why is public transport so expensive and badly run? Why are we not encouraging people to bike to work by making the roads cycle friendly? We are overrun by cars, ruled by cars, killed by cars.



Down to us

Sir: We have come to the heart of the problem. Growth must be brought to a halt. An individual carbon allowance is excellent idea. It is the only way the population as a whole will take the problem seriously enough.



Blowing in the wind

Sir: Why not do as Sweden has and concentrate on sustainable energy - rather than be a curb to economic growth it may be a boon. We are already the eighth largest producer of wind power - let's also be one of the largest exporters of wind turbine technology, for example. The same goes for various other more environmentally friendly forms of energy and living in general. Let's exploit them to be a world leader as we so often have in the past. Just a thought from someone whose business encourages people to fly to Italy for their hols. Whoops.



Elite must pay

Sir: It is truly wonderful to hear something may happen at last concerning climate change ... Unfortunately by past performances of special legislation for this or that emergency the Establishment has always protected its own perks. In essence it will be the electorate that will pay the price while the politicians and the fat cats of industry steam on as usual. There is another problem here too, in that climate change is starting to sound like a religious movement with all that entails ... new Puritanism with edicts that engender guilt ... and forms of inquisition etc. The authoritarian bureaucrats are going to have a ball of time. Add this legislation to the new anti-terrorist laws and ID cards and the situation is truly ripe for dictatorship and real abuse to power and privilege. What I want to see is leadership from the front for a change. Let us see the politicians and the fat cats demonstrate the discomforts first, then we the masses will follow ... and gladly.



Happy to trade

Sir: Climate change is the greatest problem that faces mankind. I believe that, unless we wish to leave a dangerous legacy of nuclear waste for our children, strictly imposed limits on greenhouse gas emissions are the only feasible solution. I, for one, would be happy to take part in a carbon-trading scheme, even if this means paying more for my energy. The Government must act.



Publicity campaign

Sir: There is not enough urgency in the public approach to reducing carbon emissions. We can all reduce the CO2 emissions consequent on our life-style. The need for energy saving in the home needs better publicity via an advertising campaign. Perhaps the more popular newspapers could be persuaded to feature articles on global warming as The Independent has done. New builds need to incorporate renewable methods of generating energy, better insulation and green spaces for recreation and CO2 absorption. Institutions could be encouraged to turn down the thermostat. Car-sharing, more public transport, greater energy efficiency in cars, less driving children short distances to school when they could walk need active promotion also.



Economic sense

As climate change is inevitable does it not make economic sense to take the lead on renewables to initially reduce emissions but secondly to sell the technology and hardware abroad. It would be cheaper in the long run to reduce emissions than for example build a national "grid" for fresh water.



Sir: People and businesses need leadership. They need guidance. They need incentives. Remember how campaigns in the past have succeeded? Drink-driving for one. I live in a country where this is tolerated, even celebrated, to an unacceptable level and it highlights in a spectacular way how successful this campaign was in the UK. A drink-driver is now a pariah in the UK. How was this achieved? Through a government-sponsored shock campaign combined with guidance on levels of consumption, a real determination to change social attitudes, together with the co-operation of the criminal justice system. It took some time but it worked. It is also, to a large degree, self-policed.

The British Government needs to throw its weight in the same way behind a campaign against the carbon emitter. But first there has to be an acceptance that current economic policy is accelerating climate change. The Government might be surprised. Surprised at how may people want to comply.



Sir: There seems to be an awful lot of stalling. It seems there is all the time and money for the war in Iraq, but no immediate action for climate change. I do not think businesses are playing their part. You only have to look at a company like Range Rover to see that nothing has been done to combat gas guzzlers. The recent increase of vehicle tax for the 4 x 4 will do nothing to get people out of their cars. We need a good system of public transport. Individual rationing of carbon seems to be the only way forward. Fines should be imposed on those who do break rules for any wrongdoing against the environment. Climate change is a global issue, but maybe Britain can set the pace towards a solution before we experience a global disaster.



Sir: Living in a small market town and working on the outskirts of Birmingham my journey to work would be next to impossible on public transport. To arrive in time for nine, I would need to leave my house a little after 6am, catch two trains and at least one bus to complete the 26 mile journey. I drive a diesel car (having been encouraged to do so by the government of the day some years ago) and share with two colleagues but would very much like to be able to use sustainable fuel. I am aware that bio-diesel exists but it is hardly readily available. Similarly, the car would, in warmer weather, run on vegetable oil, producing no harmful emissions. But to do so would risk prosecution.

I have a solar charger to keep my car battery charged and a solar battery charger for AA and AAA batteries but would very much like to increase my use of this type of energy. Domestic solar panels and turbines seem extremely expensive to buy/install and again I have not, to date, been able to obtain much information with regard to availability and/or any assistance/grants to help with their purchase.



Sir: There are off-peak hours electricity in the UK but the optional Tempo system in France is a step further for saving fuel and costs. The year is divided into three color bands. There 300 blue 43 white and 22 red days. A meter in the kitchen shows what colour band you will have imposed for the current day and the following day. The majority of time it will show blue and you pay the appropriate rate, white is a bit more expensive and red is positively prohibitive. The choice is yours (usually in mid-winter) to decide whether you are going to turn on the oven, do the washing etc or wait until a blue or white day.

I know from friends that they save money on off-peak usage and the generators are happy they know that in peak demand periods they can count on the pragmatic French to leave the switches alone !

Also, perhaps a law might be considered making it a misdemeanour to " glorify the motor car".



Sir: The issue that needs tackling first and foremost is not the emissions themselves but the attitude that people hold towards the problem of global warming. As the proposed method of combating global warming has demonstrated; a system that will work needs everyone on board. Education is the key and it must start from the roots up.



Sir: My proposal is for an International Greenhouse Gas Levy System that would have three objectives. One would be to raise a fund for the United Nations for focused intervention in emergencies. The second is to create an efficiency incentive by penalising high emitters and rewarding low emitters. Third, a system of direct transfer of a component of the levy would redistribute a portion of revenue raised from the highest income countries to the lowest.



Sir: Intensive research towards power generation by nuclear fusion (not fission), which produces no radioactive waste, should be established.

Also, motor vehicle purchase prices and annual registration fees should rise steeply as size and "cleanliness" of engine increases.



Sir: Socialism, pronouced dead with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and China's rush to state capitalism, is back at the top of the agenda again, put there by global warming and the environment. Any serious discussion of climate change must include discussions about socialising industry and turning our backs on the markeplace as the ultimate arbitrator of what human beings want and need. Any plan that keeps production for profit will arrive stillborn.



Sir: I used to live in Germany, where ordinary folk in general have much more of an environmental conscience and awareness than we do, although this is strongly backed up politically. When I moved into my flat share, the first thing my flatmate did was to give me an hour's seminar on how to separate rubbish - and this was in a student block of flats! If they didn't separate rubbish into five different bins they were fined. On my first outing to the supermarket, I was sent home to get a rucksack as they wouldn't provide plastic bags unless you paid a premium for them. For every empty and clean glass bottle of yoghurt or beer or water that you returned to the supermarket you received a small amount of cash in return - this is called a Pfand and is used in various bars too. In Germany, being environmentally aware has just become part of the natural fabric of society. In my opinion, both the individual and the government need to work together to take responsibility. The key is education, but also rules. Living there has had such an effect on my environmental conscience that I now always take a backpack or used plastic bags to the supermarket and I recycle at home and have introduced paper recycling at work. This often gets strange looks over here - I think that most people think it looks tacky to carry a used plastic bag, and that image is more of a priority for them than caring about the environment. Opinions need to change - and quickly.



Sir: I propose a 20p (and rising) tax on ordinary light bulbs - making them more expensive each year - so promoting low-energy bulbs that use a one fifth of the electricity, or LED lighting. which uses one-twentieth of the electricity.



Sir: Talk from the White House of relying on "new technologies" is transparent - it is just a way of trying to appear concerned without having to commit to serious emission cuts or take on big business.

It seems that the only world figure who treats climate change seriously is Bill Clinton. Mr Blair (what a surprise ) is supportive of the Republican "new technologies" route. This is not to say that new technologies cannot play a significant role in caring for our planet but more immediate and urgent measures areobviously needed.



Sir: There is an ongoing problem even to cap energy use and emissions at their current levels, which is apparent from the ever higher standard of livingexpected by individuals in this country who can afford it. You have to keep bringing in more and more energy efficiencies just to stand still. Dishwashers, extractor fans and tumble driers have been added to what is expected in today's kitchen. Most houses now run a computer that wasn't there 10 years ago. Air conditioning seems to be becoming the standard in UK cars. Car ownership is heading towards one per person.

As planning permission seems to be a significant hurdle for wind turbines, why not introduce them alongside all our motorways where there is already a scar on the landscape ?



Sir: I believe keeping it local is a key - much could be done to reduce food miles this way. Supermarkets should be encouraging local producers to fill their shelves with fruit and veg, local wines and ciders, pickles, jams, cheeses, meats etc. Imports should be seen as exotic again - let us pay the price for these luxuries. Why are we trying to eat strawberries in January? They are tastless anyway.

How about a four- day week? This would give people the time to turn their lives into more sustainable ones - they would have time to grow food in their gardens or allotments, maybe having a chance to explore their creativity in cottage industries. A radical change in thinking needs to happen- the new buzzword needs to be sustainability not growth.



Sir: Most people I know don't equate the unnecessary shrink wrapping on capsicum peppers found in supermarkets with the problems our society faces, but it is one of the best examples I have encountered. The wrapping does nothing but it is clearly environmentally very expensive. The wrapping is a plastic and therefore comes from oil that has to be mined and processed, all with a carbon cost. Once the wrapping has been produced the pepper must be fed through a machine to wrap it. This machine will be powered by electricity which again comes with a carbon cost. But none of this is apparent when people go to buy their groceries. They just see a nice red pepper neatly wrapped with the bar code printed on it and don't even consider that it is damaging our world.

I believe that if we are to encourage people to help cut carbon emissions we must make the hidden cost visible, and the only way I can see of doing this is to convert the cost from a conceptual one (carbon emission) into a financial one . Why stop at air travel? A similar concept could be applied to polythene bags at supermarkets. These bags are considered free to us but just like the plastic wrapping for the pepper have a high hidden cost to the environment. If people had to pay for each bag they used it is a certainty that the number of bags we require would drop as people start to reuse them and buy non disposable alternatives. I believe that it is only through forcing payment that a reduction in usage can be achieved.



Sir: Adopting the principle of the polluter pays I suggest a few simple actions. Airlines should pay fuel duty and VAT at the level experienced by everyone else - prices will go up to reflect the true cost of air pollution. Significant grants and subsidies should be given for green domestic energy initiatives (home wind turbines, solar panels, ultra low emission cars). As critical mass is reached, prices will come down



Sir: Corporate greed is at the heart of the problem. All corporations care about is their bottom line, so spending money on energy efficiency will reduce the bottom line. Therefore, nothing is done. Only with financial penalties and incentives will this viscious cycle be broken. Energy efficiency must become the corporate mantra, and all the shareholders must buy into it.



Sir: My greatest concern is that we almost always pose this problem as affecting other people. Our government and ministers should put this in context of what is going to happen to us and tell the people of Britain what is going to happen to them.

Rising water levels will drown substantial chunks of UK land mass. New drier conditions will lead to water shortages and change in the English countryside ecology which we shall not be able to recognise. The effect on people in Africa who will have large land areas turned into deserts will be greater migration, with increasing population pressure spilling into Europe and into the UK.

Think of world powers fighting for limited resources of food, water and energy. This is the picture we face 30 to 50 years down the road. The money we spend now to prevent this is nothing to the cost we shall have to pay if we do nothing.



Sir: Not that I was around at the time, but from all accounts desperate measures had to be taken during the Second World War, including rationing, for obvious reasons. Interestingly, the collective reaction was not reactionary but positive, in that a nation bonded together and adopted a spirit of determination and defiance.

I believe drastic measures are needed once again, to combat global warming, and there is plenty of public good will, but sadly, as the pathetic tax on 4x4s showed in the Budget, there is no appetite for the fight among the government of this country, or many others for that matter.



American enemy

Sir: I was an environmental campaigner - professionally and voluntarily - and a recycling officer for 20 years but gave up when Bush beat Gore in 2001, and went off to teach in China. The Americans are determined to fuck the planet whatever we do in Europe or Asia or Africa. Destroying America is the only chance the world has of buying time to save the world; if I had the means I would do it, albeit with a great sense of moral ambiguity. I could be wrong about sustainabilty and climate change - but if so I wasted the best 20 years of my life. And if I'm right, I wasted the best 20 years of my life.



High stakes

Sir: I can't believe there is a single rational person in the world who, in possession of the evidence, does not believe that the planet is in danger from global warming and other effects of human intervention. In fact, I'm sorry to say that I hardly bother to read articles on this subject any longer, you're preaching to the converted. The only headline that would make me sit up and take notice would be "Global warming theories proved wrong "!

The problem lies with those in power, who seem to think that they can gamble on the possibility that the evident climatic changes are due to a natural blip. They may turn out to be right, but it's like gambling your home on a poker game - much worse, as this is the home for all humanity, and it's the only one we have. The fact that these people are gambling with the lives and well-being of future generations needs to be emphatically made clear to them - and to the generations affected.



Rule change  

Sir: I think a change of mind is needed, but what needs more urgency is the enforcement of rules set down for all to abide by. What is the point of just saying we will take so and so action but nothing ever does or if it does takes a long time in doing so and by then the guilty have got away with a lot more.

We need to implement a reforestation programme on a world wide scale, helping countries in devastated areas to set up plants to recycle the sea water (this is done on a very successful level in Saudi) so why not else where, if it's a case of "it will cost to much" we may as well stop right now and continue on the path we are on. Industry causes the effect (global warming) so why not get them to help out?



Dire consequences

So many don't seem to understand what is at stake here. The prevailing opinion among people I've talked to don't seem to realise the dire consequences of unleashing the greenhouse gasses that have a thermal trigger and once unleashed it will make no differnce what we do. It will be irreversible. It may be already.



Vegetarian option  

Sir: Over two billion tons of methane is produced annually from farm animals - a gas 23 times more damaging than carbon dioxide. Add to that carbon dioxide produced from slash-and-burn forest clearing, which is done for grazing or growing soya to feed farm animals, and you've probably got the second biggest cause of global warming after fossil fuel burning. Anyone serious about helping the environment should be vegetarian, or better still vegan.



No effect

Is the human race really so conceited as to believe that we have any effect on the Earth's progression through time? Whatever we do, and that includes all the little "puff-puffs", will not make one iota of difference to the Sun's influence and the natural wobble of the Earth on its axis. There have been changes throughout the Earth's life, far, far greater than are happening now and that was before man appeared. The solar system will do as it will, don't let us kid ourselves that it even notices that we are here.



Strong-arm tactics

Sir: Individuals have to take greater responsibility for the global warming they are causing but I fear the only way this will be achieved is by government coercion, most people I know simply do not give a toss.

For one thing car ownership should be banned for everybody unless there is overwhelming evidence why they cannot use public transport in their everyday lives. Rationing of airline flights should be introduced so people are not allowed to fly more than X airmiles per year - they could bank unused airmiles each year for a longer flight if they wished. Maybe water and energy rationing ought to be introduced as well, this would really make people think.

There should be a pollution tax on any goods purchased that causes pollution or global warming, varying to how much pollution is created. Excessive plastic or polystyrene packaging should have a higher rate of VAT. The police need to really go to town against litter bugs and fly tippers, a £50 fine is nothing these days. Think how much revenue could be collected from these people.

Sanctions should be placed against countries with bad environmental records and also against the US for staying out of the Kyoto Agreement. Countries with good records should be rewarded.



Blame the sun

Sir: Yes, they are doing enough since "global warming" is more likely controled by solar activity/solar flux. I have seen no proof that CO2 is the only reason the Earth is warming. This is because there is none.

In order to forecast the climate, we must know why in between the 1940s and the 1970s the Earth cooled (CO2 was going up then!). After doing some research with a few other of my co-workers, we found out that the reason why the Earth cooled during that time was due to the global-OLR period.

Solar activity matches much better with temperature trends than CO2 does. Of course, the media would never make this public as you only make the money when you scream "CO2 causing global warming". The thing is, hardly anyone in the media knows what they are talking about. Please take this into consideration next time.



Sir: Here in Bath we suffer from high levels of pollution (are we still the highest in the UK?), which is due to traffic emission levels and heavy road usage. Why not clamp down hard on levels of emissions for a start? This would concentrate the minds of all car users, both private and commercial. Very much lower road tax for dual fuel vehicles and smaller cars would be an incentive. Manufacturers should be brought into this, so they are not making any more gas guzzlers. We should phase out petrol-driven cars with penalties for non-compliance.



Sir: Ending our dependence on fossil fuels must be our first priority. It might help to disarm the planet. The Allied presence in the Middle East is largely due to a wish for strategic control of the oil supply, and the Iraq war is a pale shadow of the terrible conflicts to come if politicians insist on seeking military "solutions" to the coming oil famine. Wide-scale disarmament would allow our global civilisation to plough far more resources into post-fossil technologies, ending poverty and environmental protection.



Sir: What is needed is massive lifestyle changes in every individual for climate change to really be put on hold. It's not until the world is in chaos, essential resources are being rationed under military control, and millions of people are dying around the world will people say "you know, maybe we should have done without, just a little".



Sir: There needs to be more money spent on research and development related to energy technologies; and these technologies need to be embraced by government policies. Without political interference, there will never be a genuine change in the methods of producing and using energy. I am personally doing my PhD research at Queen Mary, University of London on managing energy technologies and policies for sustainable development with relation to the Saudi Arabian transition to a "cleaner" energy economy. Inventions are there, incremental innovations are there, but widespread diffusion will not happen without government support.



Sir: Economic growth is no longer viable or desirable. We need worldwide carbon rationing - with equal shares for each person, set and enforced globally. Population control is also needed, in order to make a per capita carbon rationing system fair. However, how we can force the US to take part may be the most difficult issue to address.



Sir: Britain needs to take an international lead [on climate change], and show we are serious about the problem.

Aviation is one of the first targets we should tackle. There needs to be a European agreement on fuel taxes and duties, and on VAT on all air tickets. There should be the aim of no increase in aviation.

Travel companies and airlines should not be allowed to advertise extensively on TV. And a great deal more could be done to help householders make their homes more energy efficient. This needs further subsidy. But above all, the carbon allocation for each person is really something to work for - as a first priority.



Sir: The majority of people really aren't worried about the energy performance of their homes - they are interested in saving money. The introduction of a Code for Sustainable Homes, would present the opportunity to achieve higher standards for energy and water efficiency and provide clear information and advice for house buyers and tenants on the sustainability of the homes they are planning to buy or rent.

Maybe now is the time to give all the subsidies to renewables rather than nuclear power, which is very likely to leave future generations with a very large financial and environmental cost.



Sir: Individual sacrifices should based upon luxuries, such as air conditioning. In this example, individuals should run their air conditioning on solar power, or at least a substantial portion.

Additionally, all new builds should include the provisioning of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. There should be a drive to reduce energy waste, such as imposing penalties if emplowers keep an entire office cooled via air conditioning when only a few employees are present.

There should be advantageous tax systems in place which take a long term goal of offsetting lost taxes against costs to the government due to climate change.



Sir: One thing that is very annoying and seems to me to be very easy to remedy is packageing. We have managed to reduce our garbage dramatically with a wormery, a digester, composting garden rubble, using locally provided glass and clothe recycing but we cannot beat the excessive use of plastic bags etc.

In Ireland, you pay for plastic bags and I believe the money goes to the Government. We will watch the outcome of your campaign with interest.



Sir: No Government will willingly threaten their economic stability or growth until such time as there is such severe and large scale devastation that action to truly curb emissions will far outweigh the economic consequences. Therefore it certainly does seems eminently sensible to try to address the matter from a non-political party point of view.

It's necessary to create a non-political group that represents all the world's major polluters. It would be best if each country held public elections for these posts. Another option would be to have each representative look after another country's pollution strategy, thus hopefully reducing the chance of bias.



Sir: The easiest short-term option is to tax all fuel use, and to grade the level of tax according to carbon emissions. So zero tax for renewables, low tax for gas, higher for oil and top rated tax for coal-based energy supply. ALASTAIR BRAND


Sir: I think that the major way forward on climate, environmental and social change is to reduce commuter traffic, by making it largely obsolete.

If "office" workers were all encouraged (or forced by law) to work from home via broadband internet connections, and only travel into the office if and when absolutely necessary, then the majority of commuter traffic would disappear, along with the carbon-dioxide emissions and a whole host of other benefits to society might be realised.



Sir: Capitalism is an economic system with a built-in motor of growth. It cannot exist without constantly growing, without constantly consuming ever more resources, without constantly spewing out ever more pollution.

But we live on a planet with finite resources and sinks. Therefore, no programme to deal with climate change, or any other looming eco-catastrophe, will do anything but accelerate climate change unless it changes this economic system.

To imagine that you can construct an ecological capitalism, either a capitalism that does not grow, or one that grows without consuming and polluting ever more is a lunatic delusion, a suicidal program for humanity.



Sir: The future projections on what our climate could be like should act as a wake-up call to everyone concerned. It saddens me to see that the people who have the most power are people in government who half-heartedly pretend to make an effort to tackle these environmental issues, if only to appease fellow party members and certain sections of their supporters. Meanwhile, people in all walks of life make an effort to recycle, be more climate and environmentally friendly and are let down because our leaders will not even accommodate new ideas or forward-thinking solutions to tackle problems.

I want to see more efforts going in to environmentally friendly energy supplies. Some might argue that wind farms are a blot on the landscape, but unless something is done to protect this landscape, we won't have one left. Research into viable and cost-effective methods of producing solar energy should be explored.

I also want to see motor manufacturers going all out to produce environmentally friendly vehicles. I want to see our governments give these people the push they need. And polluting industries should be penalised for not cutting back on harmful toxins.

The recent increase in road tax does not go far enough. If a person can afford a £60,000 Range Rover, then £210 is nothing to them. Heavy polluters should be penalised.