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About A Week: Global Warming - Boring, Boring

Peter Hinchliffe points out that that the majority of people in the Western world seem unwilling to lead simpler lives to combat global warming.

Here we go again!

Another worry-yourself-sick global warming story.

Researchers have found that trees in the frozen north are losing their ability to soak up man-made carbon dioxide.

Their findings could go toward explaining why levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing at a faster rate than was expected.

The world's forests and oceans serve as "sponges," soaking up large amounts of the atmosphere-damaging gas. And now scientists are telling us that trees are shirking their natural duties.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former US Vice President Al Gore, warns that we have just eight years left in which to save the world from the worst effects of global warming.

We've all been enrolled as actors in the worst-ever disaster story -- but this is not Hollywood special effects fiction. It's for real!

The seas will rise, scientists warn. Countries will be flooded. Millions will become refugees. Large parts of London and other cities will disappear beneath saltwater.

So are we walking around in hourly dread?

Not a bit of it.

Although many British people now accept that global warming is for real, they seem reluctant to come to the aid of the planet.

The past decade has been the hottest in the U.K. since records have been kept. Last year England suffered some of the worst floods in a century. I found myself caught up in one of them when I was unable to reach the North Sea ferry terminal in Hull.

Despite these all-too-visible signs of climate changes, only a tiny minority are willing to dramatically alter the way they live.

The majority seem to be suffering from threat fatigue. Global warming stories appear almost daily in national newspapers. Bored eyes skip past the headlines announcing another dire warning.

Few entered 2008 having made a firm resolution to reduce their carbon footprint. For the majority, it's life as usual -- only more so.

Britons are eating more, drinking more, driving further, flying to all parts of the world on ever-more exotic holidays, buying more cars, more electronic goods, more clothes

The economic downturn, rather than fears for the future well-being of the planet, is the only thing that will curb ever-greedier demands for more-more-more of what the world and modern technology have to offer.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown talks a good let's-save-the-planet game, yet the government supports a new runway at London's Heathrow airport. And there are plans afoot to encourage more vehicles to use the motorways.

At the international level there's talk a-plenty -- and no action. More than 10,000 delegates jetted into Bali last November for a global warming conference. Never before had so many people traveled so many polluting air miles to gather together in one place to try to save the planet.

An environmental expert estimated that jetting the delegates round the world and accommodating them in luxury in Bali would probably pump 100,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere -- the equivalent of what the African country of Chad produces in a year.

A total of 190 countries were represented. The United States sent more than 100 delegates.

As was expected, the US delegates dug in their heels and refused to budge when practical anti-pollution measures were proposed.

US President George W. Bush is primarily interested in maintaining America's industry. If anti-global warming measures are likely to affect the profitability of America's manufacturing industries and businesses, let's have global warming.

The best the conference could come up with was the adoption of the Bali road map, which charts the course for a new negotiating process to be concluded by 2009 that will ultimately lead to a post-2012 international agreement on climate change.

Wowee! A road map, no less. Just the thing to inspire the millions to bring urgent love, care and attention to a beleaguered planet.

Al Gore's Nobel prize-winning film, which highlighted Planet Earth's problems, was titled "An Inconvenient Truth."

The most inconvenient truth is that the citizens of the Western world will have to consume less. They will have to live simpler lives. That means opting for a lower standard of living.

Some British citizens are doing that in a half-hearted way. Leadership -- and legislation -- is necessary to persuade millions to do more to cosset Planet Earth.

Prime Minister Brown's government needs to act soon, as the scientific experts say, there's only eight years left to save the Earth.

For those needing guidance of freelance action, there's good advice for individuals in The Church Times, an Anglican weekly newspaper.

***

Advice to Individuals

Short-term

Be more flexible about the heating: if your radiators have thermostatic valves, put the radiator on only when you are in the room. Turn on bedroom radiators half an hour before you go to bed.

Ask at your workplace to see whether it has had an environmental audit. Your local Agenda 21 council sustainability team or the Energy Saving Trust might be able to help. It will save your organization money in the long term.

Eat meat and dairy products less. Agricultural emissions globally are equivalent to those of transport. Methane from cow flatulence is 23 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Medium-term

Get rid of the tumble-dryer and put the clothes on the line outside. For the days when you cannot dry outside, fix an indoor airer to the ceiling or above the stairwell.

Start cooking local ingredients from scratch rather than relying on convenience foods. This takes time and effort, but food miles are reduced and energy is saved, as well as skills retained and passed on to future generations.

Long-term

Look at your lifestyle: do you live near where you work? Is your work adding to the problem? Could you use your skills in a more environmentally friendly situation? Could you share living space with others to reduce the need for every one-, two- or three-person household to own every gadget? Could you share meals more often with friends or neighbors, thereby reducing the energy needed to cook?

The expected increase in global travel is a serious problem. Holiday in your own country.










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