A Radical Way to Cut Emissions – Ration Everyone’s Flights. Maybe it’s just because I’m back from a bank holiday weekend in north Wales that was filled with glorious Mediterranean-style sunshine.
But reading about a new study that says global tourism now accounts for 8% of carbon emissions, three times more than was previously thought made me think– surely we can do better? Whenever I hear about the impact global tourism has on the environment I experience a pang of guilt. While it’s not just the greenhouse gases churned out by planes that are the problem – the study points out it’s also what tourists do when they get to their destination – they account for a big chunk.
And yet it’s a pang of guilt I never act on. It’s just too easy to ignore when it’s often cheaper to get a short-hop flight to somewhere sunny than it is to buy an off-peak return on the train to many parts of the UK. Instead we should look to carbon trading schemes for inspiration. We could develop a similar system for flights. .
• Sonia Sodha is the Observer’s chief leader writer. New Type of Power Utility Lets Users Control Their Bills. Power utilities generally live in a world divorced from their customers.
Yes, they might answer your call when there’s a billing issue, or the line outside is down. But they answer more to regulators and shareholders. State public utility commissions set the rates we pay for electricity. Most utilities are effective monopolies, with no competition. And, the way regulation works, they’re incentivized to be inefficient: Their mandate is to keep the lights on, at all costs, not to provide power at the lowest possible price. In time, technology may begin to undercut this model, which effectively guarantees returns to companies (utilities are often criticized for “gold-plating” their capital investments, as higher costs mean higher profits). Drift, a startup utility from Seattle, is a glimpse of what that future could look like. Many corporates are already making end-runs around traditional utilities, setting up their own direct relationships with power producers. Oil: Past Consumption Patterns no Future Guarantee.
Only a New Economic System Will Save Us; Clean Energy Alone Won’t. Earlier this year media outlets around the world announced that February had broken global temperature records by a shocking amount.
March broke all the records too. In June, our screens were covered with surreal images of flooding in Paris, the Seine bursting its banks and flowing into the streets. In London, floods sent water pouring into the tube system right in the heart of Covent Garden. Roads in south-east London became rivers two metres deep. With such extreme events becoming more commonplace, few deny climate change any longer.
This growing awareness about the dangers of fossil fuels represents a crucial shift in our consciousness. Let’s imagine, just for argument’s sake, that we are able to get off fossil fuels and switch to 100% clean energy. Why? When it comes to climate change, the problem is not just the type of energy we are using, it’s what we’re doing with it. Think of it this way. The climate movement made an enormous mistake. World Energy Consumption Since 1820. Figure 1 shows the huge increase in world energy consumption that has taken place in roughly the last 200 years.
This rise in energy consumption is primarily from increased fossil fuel use. Figure 1. World Energy Consumption by Source, Based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects together with BP Statistical Data for 1965 and subsequent With energy consumption rising as rapidly as shown in Figure 1, it is hard to see what is happening when viewed at the level of the individual. To get a different view, Figure 2 shows average consumption per person, using world population estimates by Angus Maddison. Figure 2.
On a per capita basis, there is a huge spurt of growth between World War II and 1970. In this post, I provide additional charts showing long-term changes in energy supply, together with some observations regarding implications.