Climate Solutions by Rob Painting

After writing the blog post Throwing Down the Gauntlet, 'Actually Thoughtful' suggested SkS authors/contributors write about what personal measures they've taken in regard to climate change, and what steps readers could take. This is my response.

Nobody likes a hypocrite    

From time to time we get the odd comment here, suggesting that we (SkS contributors) are hypocrites; that we're using electricity and consumer goods that generate greenhouse gases and that we should be living in caves. These silly comments always give me a laugh, how do they know I'm not living in a cave running my recycled computer off a homemade exercycle Gilligan's Island-style?

More seriously though, it does raise an issue about perceptions of hypocrisy. It's only natural to scoff when watching a TV segment about obesity and type 2 diabetes, only for the camera to switch to an interview with the health spokesperson doling out healthy eating and exercise advice, but who happens to be obese themselves! Well I can assure you that while no 'eco-saint', I don't dig hypocrisy either. Here's a sample of the measures my wife and I have taken; some simple, some not so :

Obviously not all these measures are strictly climate-related, but it makes sense to consider the big picture; damaged forests, oceans and waterways will make it increasingly harder for humanity to feed itself. Self-interest sometimes means adopting a long-term view.

What can you do?

If there's one thing I would ask, is that readers not buy any consumer item which contains palm oil. It will require quite a bit of research because if your government is anything like New Zealand's, it is probably steadfastly refusing to enforce labelling of palm oil products. No doubt this is due to lobbying by manufacturers concerned at the financial implications. Palm oil is usually hidden in the product's ingredient list as 'vegetable oil', or 'vegetable fat'. Here's some palm oil naughties - avoid this stuff like the plague.

What's palm oil got to do with global warming?  Quite a lot actually. As well as killing lots of wildlife, and displacing indigenous people in the tropical rainforests (mainly Indonesia and Malaysia), the clearing of trees for palm oil plantations, and the drying of peat bogs on which they grow, is adding a lot of CO2 to the atmosphere. So by making use of Google and applying some discretion at the supermarket, individuals can make a difference. As an additional bonus you won't be eating that highly refined and processed crap that passes for food nowadays. Stave off type 2 diabetes - it's a win-win! 

Individual action isn't enough 

All this talk of individual efforts is fine and dandy, but the reality is that in order for civilization to continue, we require an effort which surpasses that of the World War II mobilization. We have to rapidly de-carbonize our global economy, or the outcome will be bleak. It seems to me that a straight-forward carbon tax is the best way to stimulate movement on this. The alternative cap and trade proposal is just an invitation for exploitation by the banking industry and speculators, whose sole interest is to make a much money as possible while providing no tangible benefit - as always. The Kyoto Protocol did nothing to curb greenhouse gas emssions so why do we think carbon trading will be different this time around?

As for alarmist "skeptic" claims about carbon taxes destroying the world economy, well we heard that one from the slave owners, when moves were afoot to abolish slavery in the 18th century! And the last go-around was when the banning of CFCs, to protect the ozone layer was suggested. Not surprisingly, global financial collapse didn't occur then either. In fact there is one guarantee of financial collapse: business-as-usual. We know the world's resources aren't infinite, so it's about time we started acting like we know. Very soon would be nice.

Posted by Rob Painting on Saturday, 9 July, 2011

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