Wednesday, December 09, 2009

More hot air about global warming

I have been trying not to get too annoyed about the vast expense and amount of hot air being talked at the climate change summit in Copenhagen. But one thing I read yesterday made me really angry. There are proposals to cut the amount of flying by increasing air taxes and even by flight rationing. A British government minister apparently told a BBC reporter that an inevitable effect would be to make flying unaffordable for poorer people. And this from a minister in a supposedly "socialist" government!

Britain is an island, and unless you live in the south east within easy reach of the Channel Tunnel, flying is the only way to get out of the place. I am someone who likes to feel the warmth of the sun on my body, and flying is the only practical way to get to places where that is possible. It is also necessary for one's sanity sometimes to get away from English small town life and experience a different culture. In short, the ability to travel by air is a vital element of my quality of life and I will fight like hell if anyone tries to take it away from me.

I don't understand why the climatologists are fixated on air travel being the major cause of climate change. It seems to stem from a hair shirt environmental asceticism that demands that you suffer in order to achieve something. It may even have something to do with extremist left wing views that flying, like owning big gas guzzling cars, is something the rich do and must be stopped for that reason. Ironically, if flying and fuel are made more expensive, only the rich will be able to carry on doing it.

Figures you can easily find on the web show that the carbon emissions of a full modern aircraft, per passenger, are approximately the same per mile as that of a small family car. True, people travel longer distances by air, but most people also make air journeys far less often. Most of us cannot live in the places we like to visit on holiday so the flights we do make are essential to our well-being. But many people could live nearer work. So if the aim is really to cut carbon emissions why is nothing done to curb the unnecessary commuter journeys of people who drive an hour or more each day to and from the workplace?

The eco movement seems fixated on certain symbols of alleged waste yet fails to tackle the real problem. For example plastic bags are now considered bad for the environment. There has been talk of taxing them, and many supermarkets now charge instead of giving them free to customers. Yet the amount of plastic in a bag is only a fraction of that in the packaging of all the products that will be carried inside it. What is being done about that? Precisely nothing.

People are encouraged to turn off TVs, PCs and other equipment at the wall socket instead of leaving them, each consuming a couple of watts of power, on stand-by. Yet no-one seems to have realized that this often just isn't practical. Only a couple of days ago I bought a new radio tuner with wi-fi capability that can play audio from MP3 files on a server on my hi-fi system. If you switch it off overnight it forgets all its laboriously entered settings. Same with the DVD recorder - the clock resets to zero and it loses all the TV channels. If there was any joined-up thinking in government then surely by now the manufacture and sale of products that need to be left on stand-by would be illegal?

What about all the unnecessary waste caused by discarding electronic products because they are simply last year's model. My mobile phone company could not understand why I would not upgrade my phone, for free, after my 18 month contract expired, because the old one still worked perfectly and did everything I needed.

How many still-working computers have you thrown away just because they wouldn't run the latest version of Windows? There is nothing, NOTHING that I personally use a PC for that could not be done on Windows 95, were it not for the fact that many applications now require at least Windows 2000. But I definitely do not need Windows Vista or Windows 7. There is nothing they do that I need. But many people are convinced that they do and so vast numbers of perfectly functional computers, produced at a cost of vast amounts of carbon dioxide, are thrown away, worthless. Should people have to pay more for their holidays while waste of this nature still occurs? It doesn't seem right to me.

Regular readers of my soapbox rants will know I am a climate change skeptic. But I do, actually, believe that we should conserve the resources of this planet, and have done since long before the term "global warming" was invented.

However I think that any measures introduced to encourage conservation of resources for the good of the planet must be fair for all. The less well off and the undeveloped nations should not have to make the greatest sacrifices, and ordinary people should not have to pay more for their two weeks in the sun while so many other wasteful uses of energy continue unabated.
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