I’m a climate change sceptic. It’s not that I don’t believe it’s happening, but I seriously think that most of what’s happening in the world has very little to do with us and there’s plenty of evidence to support that. Look at history, for example: Roman coins have been found in glaciers in the Alps, signalling that those were crossings used at least in summer. Vineyards use to grow in Norfolk and in the Midlands (and even Canada), even though I’m pretty sure the stuff you could make out of it was as undrinkable then as it is now. And I could go on and on.
This doesn’t mean, though, that I’m going to happily sit back and churn as much C02 as if it was going out fashion. We’re 7 billion now and there’s only going to be more of us in the future. Treading as lightly as possible is, in my opinion, the only way not to get in each other’s way and guarantee a decent future to everyone. Think, otherwise, at the alternative: moving to the city in the stars that looks like American suburbia and is governed by a French-speaking Jodie Foster. Christ.
To avoid this frankly horrible future I had a look at statistics about greenhouse gases emission per sector and decided to change my behaviour in order to make the most of my contribution, i.e. cutting my contribution to the most pollutant activities we humans do. Straightforward enough? I hope so.
So, in order to do so I chose some stats. Regardless of where they come from they say pretty much the same thing, so I’ve settled on the American EPA’s ones just because I like the colours. You can find many more info on their website.
So, what the chart is telling is that the main culprits are Energy supply, trailed by a closely-knit team made of Industry, Forestry, Agriculture and Transport. Buildings and waste close at the rear.
Energy supply. This is the classic mental image of pollution: big chimneys burping fat puffs of smoke. It’s so huge that ordinary folks have it hard to cut down on emissions here, but something can be done: I, for instance, pestered my landlady into changing provider to a more ecological one (using mostly nuclear and renewables) until she gave up and did it. Yes, I said nuclear. I know that in the post-Fukushima world it isn’t everyone’s friend, but – hey – greenhouse emissions from nuke stations are a big, fat zero. The other things I’ve done are: avoid buying a TV, getting a new fridge and washing machine, no dishwasher and tumble dryer, unplug all the chargers I don’t use and switch to energy saving LED lights or new bulbs in lieu of the normal incandescent ones. Have I seen a big change? Well, our energy bill has stayed pretty much flat in the last two years which in the UK is no small feat.
Industry. I honestly don’t happen to own a factory nor a mine, so my chances to make a stand, here, are quite small. The only thing I decided to do is not to act like a complete loonie every time Apple gets out a new iPhone or iPad. Less such gadgets around also mean less mining, less energy-thirsty transformation processes and transport, right?
Forestry. Want to stop harmful emissions, environmental damage and the destruction of timeless ecosystems? Then simply stop eating red meat so much and get rid of palm oil. It sounds quite stupid but the fact is that we’re turning bits of Borneo and the Amazon into rubble at an unprecedented speed just because we like burgers and those hideously fatty Cadbury’s chocolates. Palm oil and cattle grazing need lots of space (and cattle also needs quite a lot of feed, which needs to be planted) and the best way of getting it is to take it from the rain forest and local indigenous populations who don’t even have Sting anymore to complain to. The results are for everyone to be seen, just look at websites such as Rainforest Rescue; palm oil can be found in industrial chocolate, margarine, processed food, creams, lip balms and detergents. How to get rid of it? Buy butter, or olive oil; eat proper chocolate with high content of cocoa, even if it’s more expensive; cook your own meals, don’t buy ready ones; and be smart when you buy creams, avoid anything containing “Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), sodium laureth sulphate, sodium dodecyl sulphate, (SDS or NaDS) sodium”. As for the red meat, word on the (science) street is that it’s positively linked to cancer, especially in oesophagus and rectum. And believe me, that’s a bad way to go.
Agriculture. We can’t get rid of it, can we? But we can buy local produce, or seasonal ones. I started staying well clear from strawberries in November, or South African apples, or Chilean grapes. Nothing against them, but it does feel quite stupid to be shipping fruits 10,000 km when I can have European ones from relatively around the corner. Another thing that I do is combing that small square of a garden and give the resulting green waste to the council which, in turn, will turn it into fertiliser or, sooner or later, into fuel for British Airways.
Transportation. Data from the European Commission say that emissions from the transport sector are the only ones that are generally rising year on year. According to the same eurocrats the vast majority of emissions (annoyingly the chart doesn’t show the percentages, a beginner’s error for any self-respecting data nerd) is due to road transportation, about 3/4 of the total. Then there’s maritime navigation and, finally, aviation with 10% of the total, give or take. This is the bit I’m the most proud of, for I don’t own a car and I use public transportation or my two feet. I used to cycle to work, but a close encounter with a maniac at the wheel of a Range Rover Discovery convinced me that Boris-land ain’t safe for us riders at all, no matter what our mop-headed Mayor says. And yes, I do fly a lot but… It’s my only extravaganza, and I do that carbon-offsetting thingy.
So, that’s what I’m doing to save the planet’s arse and get my badge of honour from Al Gore. What are you guys doing?