Tuesday, September 01, 2009


How we can take action collectively and individually to combat climate change is at the core of my council portfolio. Reducing our carbon footprint is something that many of us aspire to - but vague good intentions are easily broken. As a local authority, Darlington Borough Council is working with the Carbon Trust to identify ways that carbon emissions can be cut (saving residents cash too). Bringing together the great work being undertaken in many of our schools, hospitals and workplaces, however, could give a real sense of progress, and help foster confidence that we can make a difference.

That's why I was very pleased to see the launch of the 10:10 campaign today. Fronted by some of the (ahem) usual celebs, it does allow however individuals and groups, be they in schools, workplaces or the community in general, to publicly pledge to changing our way of life now. Sometimes, the promises made by governments can seem a very long way off, and allow us to delay decision-making to another day. Unfortunately, the planet cannot wait.

Over the past year, my family have tried to find ways of reducing our carbon footprint, and I think we've been moderately successful - we've cut energy consumption, grown quite a bit of own produce, and reduced water consumption. I'm conscious that I could do far more, however, and through the blog will try and record my triumphs and disasters as I strive to shave another 10% off my carbon footprint.

If you'd like to join me - sign up. It's dead easy, via the Guardian website. There are some good tips on how you can make small changes to various aspects of your lifestyle to make a big difference too. And if you do sign up - tell me, and keep me informed of your progress via the comments - I'll be really interested to see how you get along.


miketually said...

Let's hope that this campaign can be a success and might kick start some real, radical, much needed change.

George Monbiot's latest column has made me very pessimistic about the possibility of making the huge changes that are needed, however. Depressing stuff.

Ian W said...

As not a great fan of the whole "green" idea the way to get Mr Average to embrace it is to push it from the saving money angle.
In these time when everyone is finding it hard saving money is key and one will automatically help the other.
Nice to see our EU friends have banned the light bulb, not that many use them anymore but an example of how lowering the carbon footprint can be "sold" as saving money.
Just a thought!

Paul Cain said...

I think Ian W has hit the nail right on the head.
Those who support cutting emissions should couch this in terms that mean something directly to people, rather than preaching to them.
Like, perhaps, many people, I am suspicious of both sides of the AGW debate. Both seem to have taken instruction from the New Labour Book of Advanced Lying.
The sanctimony of George Monbiot drives me nuts; the insouciance of Christopher Booker, on the other hand, strikes me as singularly complacent.
The approach should be: Look, AGW might be happening. It's far from proven, but why take the risk?
What harm is there in turning off your TV or computer completely at night?
And, it WILL save you money.
As Ian W says, I think this would be a far more effective approach than telling us: If you don't recycle, you're a Nazi.

Darlington Councillor said...

Thanks everyone for your comments.

I think that Paul falls into a tabloid trap when he describes there being "2 sides" to the issue - Monbiot & Booker - as if the debate is finely balanced between the opposing forces.

Reading papers like the Telegraph or the Mail would lead you to such a conclusion.

In fact, the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion solidly supports the notion of man-made climate change. New research if anything suggests that we have under- rather than over-estimated the potential impact to the planet, and the consequences in particular for the poorest communities across the globe.

For that reason, whilst I completely agree with Ian that it would be great if we could encourage people to modify their behaviours in small ways by appealing to their desire to save cash rather than play a part combatting climate change, I think that the risks are too great to assume that this will be sufficient.

That's why the 10:10 campaign, which reinforces the climate change message, is so important. Certainly we need to do more - way more - over the next few years, but shaving 10% off of our carbon footprint in a single year seems like a sensible and achievable start for most of us.

For sure, preaching will be counter-productive. Taking concrete action because it's right to tackle climate change seems sensible, however, couched in terms which spell out why we all need to change our behaviours.

There simply isn't a Plan B - not if we have our own best interests, and those of generations yet to come, at heart. If that doesn't sound too preachy!

Paul Cain said...

Councillor Wallis: I try not to fall into tabloid traps...

Your statement that the debate is settled is an example of the preachiness (is that even a proper word??) which I think causes so much harm to the wider environmental effort.

Your claim that you must be a tabloid reader (an intentionally perjorative term) if you don't believe the issue is settled, does no good at all.

You might find it comforting to think there's scientific consensus. But there's not, I'm afraid, as anyone ornamented with a pair of eyes and a keyboard could quickly establish.

(I'm tempted to give examples, but that would open the floodgates and we'd be here all night.....)

I don't think you should use such partisan language in your post.

Who cares whether the issue is settled or not? AGW might be real, it might not, but why take the risk?

Darlington Councillor said...

You're right, Paul - I did use the word "tabloid" because papers like the Mail and the Express are most prone to distorting this issue. From my list of prime culprits, however, you can see I think the Telegraph is as much in the frame as any other newspaper.

On the issue of global warming, I take exactly the same approach as I do to the MMR vaccine. I'm not a scientist. But when an overwhelming number of respected scientific studies find that man-made global warming is a reality with us today, I take notice. I not only take notice, but allow these fidings to shape my world view and how I behave accordingly.

Have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change

Best wishes,


miketually said...

Paul, that climate change is happening and is due to man-made influences is as close to a fact as science ever gets. There are lots of groups claiming otherwise, but they generally lack anyone who is actually qualified to make the statement.

Nick, you're right on the Telegraph. They're particularly bad on a lot of science reporting at the moment, including running a double page article last Sunday saying that exercise didn't help weight loss!

miketually said...

The Telegraph have been pretty good at misrepresenting scientific reports recently. This Twitter post links to three examples: http://dabr.co.uk/status/3730340445

ian h said...

oh good....just what we all need, another bleedin green pressure group!

Paul Cain said...

Councillor; Miketually: You are prodding a hornet's nest here.......

I could point out the series of resignations of scientists from the IPCC in the last 3 months, all of them disenchanted with the political nature of its work (I paraphrase);

I could point out the discovery that Mann's famous 'hockey stick' data set contained fundamental mathematical flaws, as discovered by Canadian mathematicians Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick.

Read this: http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/13830/

In roundabout language it accuses Mann of deliberate deceit.

I could point out that the recent study of alleged rising sea levels saw one SINGLE water level reading from Hong Kong harbour extrapolated across the entire world. It was done because the global computer models being used actually showed no rise at all, and that would never do, would it?

(Read this: http://newsbusters.org/node/13698): Follow the PDF link to the interview with Nils-Axel Morner.

I was here in New York at the IPCC conference last year when the IPCC issued its annual statement of impending doom. A few dozen of its own scientists felt compelled to issue a statement disassociating themselves from the IPCC's position, saying the science was far from settled.

You probably won't have seen that reported in the Guardian, whose certainty about AGW approaches religious faith.

It's obvious some people think the debate is settled.

I think it is not.

I only ask that you recognise that there is another side to the argument and to acknowledge that you need not be a foaming at the mouth lunatic to be sceptical about AGW.

And that you should remember that when you are discussing things so invasive as wind farms.

If you understand there are two sides to the story, you'll make better decisions, surely?