Greening the western lifestyle

If we are to be able to continue to live on planet Earth we are going to need to stop releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It is unfortunate that at the current time, this simple fact is not looked on as a fact by some of the big world leaders.

One of the difficult things to look at is that some of the publicised success the UK has had in the last couple of decades is false. When looking carefully you can see that we have exported the emissions, by having things manufactured in India or China for example. This makes it clear that much of the pressure on manufacturers must come from consumers rather than governments.

In terms of individual carbon dioxide emissions, there are a few things that UK people could do. One of the biggest emission reductions that can be made is to drive an electric car. Increasingly the emissions from power plants are caught, by carbon capture schemes, there is however no way to catch the emissions from exhausts on cars, so electric cars allow the carbon to be created somewhere where it is possible to reduce the pollution created.

Another area that we can reduce emissions is with loft and wall insulation. Heating is another big source of carbon emissions in the UK, due to the large amount of energy it takes and the fact that this energy must be generated in a power station. As such if you can reduce the amount of heating that your house requires, this can reduce your carbon emissions significantly over the year.

One of the most carbon intensive activities is to fly by aeroplane. As such reducing the amount of trips you make by plane does have a significant effect, however this in not a simple matter. In most parts of the planet forests and wildlife are allowed large amounts of space because of the tourist money that it brings in. If tourists are no longer flying to countries then it is likely to increase the speed that the ecological resources are used up. There is the possibility in the future that there will be an electric plane that could take you, indeed a two person all electric plane was demonstrated last year by Airbus, but unfortunately it is a big step between this and a plane that can transport hundreds of people around the world. As a first step companies such as Easyjet are intending to create an electric plane by 2030 that can do the shorter European routes.

Another thing that British people can do is to install solar panels. Up until a couple of years ago this was a really good financial idea as well. The government agreed to guarantee a minimum price for the electricity you created. However the current conservative government, and that under David Cameron, while claiming to be good for the environment, have significantly reduced the amount owners get paid (thus undermining the financial incentives). Furthermore, they have created rules that are specifically designed to undermine solar to no-ones benefit. There is a system to support renewable energy and help reduce carbon emissions. These are called CfD Contract for Difference, and are there to support renewables. Around the world it is recognised that solar will power most of the world in the future. It is therefore bizarre that the government cut their support too soon (there was more than a 90% cut in installations after their changes took effect).

My feelings on this area is that while there are things that we as consumers can do such as flying less, increasingly using electric cars and insulating our homes, a bigger thing that we can do is write to our MPs and make sure that they are aware of our concern over the area. We can also vote with our feet in terms of where we shop and demand information so that we can buy products produced in a sustainable way.

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