Climate change has been on every one's lips this week, following the government sponsored report by Sir Nicolas Stern that in 50 years time, the economic effect of global warning will be a 20% drop in global GDP (gross domestic product). The UK government is trying to lead the rest of the world in tackling the issue, and armed with this report, they are trying to get other nations of the world to unite and tackle the problem.
There are murmurs of increasing taxation on air travel and petrol, and other measures to make us (the population) try and manage our carbon emissions. I think this approach is unfair and unworkable. The public transport system in the UK is currently expensive, unreliable and does not even exist in certain areas. For example, there is currently no way that I can use public transport to get to work, there is no bus route connecting both locations !! The only alternative is I walk for 15 minutes, take one bus, get off, take another bus, get off, walk for 20 minutes, and then I'm at work !! Now please tell me, why would I do that when it's a 12 minute drive? I'd pay any tax grudgingly, but when push comes to shove, it makes more sense for me to use my car !!
Yesterday on TV, in "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" the fictional prime minister came up with a brilliant idea, for one day a week, no non essential car journey could be made. She met up with a lot of protests, but in the end, the idea was a success. Will this kind of thing work? I'm not sure. If it was done today, I'd probably work from home on that day. However, not all of us are lucky enough to be able to work from home. Again, it's a short sighted solution to a long term problem.
Also, the popularity of carbon neutral schemes is increasing daily. Targetneutral.com allows you to offset your carbon emissions by you donating to causes that help to offset carbon emissions. I came across a 'carbon neutral hosting service' from a web hosting company called Rackspace, where they will ensure that the carbon emissions arising from powering your equipment is offset by sufficient tree planting. These are both brilliant ideas however:
1. They both require you or the company to pay for them.
2. What's the point if the amount of carbon other people are emitting is increasing on a daily basis?
Don't get me wrong, the more people who commit to schemes like this, the better. It's at least better than doing nothing !! Firms like Rackspace are showing leadership in this arena, and hopefully, others will follow their lead.
It's a tricky problem to tackle, but I believe there is only one way this problem can be solved. TECHNOLOGY.
TECHNOLOGY can be used to find a way of generating viable power without harming the environment. Technology can be used to power cars with electricity. Yes, electric or hybrid cars exist, but like most new technologies they are still expensive.
Richard Branson has caught on to this, and has decided that he will invest $3bn into developing renewable energy sources. It made the headlines, and he has been heralded as fighting the cause of the environmentalists. He's a really smart man though. He's seen a business opportunity, and with his company Virgin Fuels, aims to make a lot of money. If and when a renewable energy source is developed, the market for this product is MASSIVE.
So what can the government do? I think they should take a leaf out of Mr. Branson's book, and invest in research. Pour money into the universities research centres, sponsor conferences, and look at ways of helping people who are already looking at developing technology. There's a massive market for this, work towards co-ordination of people working on this, let them share information. There's so much they can do !! Invest in public transport. More buses, more trains, but also more routes, linking more destinations together. If you want to force people to use public transport, at least make it useable !!
Not like Dave 'The Chamelon' Cameroun, who talks about the environment, but has no feasible ideas on how to tackle the problem, other than change the logo of the Conservative party to a tree scribbled by a 3 year old. The Labour party is whispering about taxing us, or taxing businesses to either offset, or discourage carbon emissions. Emissions trading works, but in the end, the customer will pay for this through higher prices for products. And the USA has decided to sit on its hands, claiming that there is nothing they can do.
At the very least, technology is a massive business opportunity. We owe it to our children to look after the planet, and leave it in a habitable state !!
EDIT: Interesting fact I picked up over the weekend. If every single light in the UK is turned off, guess what? China will make up for the difference in carbon emissions in 13 months !!!