Personal Greenhouse Gas Action Plan

Posted on August 21st, 2008 in Driving Emotion,Economy,electric,Global Warming,Hybrid Power,Opinion by Julian Edgar

Perception of any crisis in world affairs has always followed much the same pattern.

Those who say it isn’t happening and never will happen; those cautious but observant who say it might happen; those early adopters who say it is happening well before a majority agree; and those who like to see it unambiguously demonstrated before acknowledging it is actually happening.

Or – and this is really important – not happening.

Trouble is, at the ‘it might happen’ stage it’s difficult to decide on the right course of action. Do nothing and any action might be too late.

Or, conversely, do nothing and in fact the action might later prove to have been correct.

Think CFCs in aerosols and the ozone layer for the first; think Y2000 bug in computer software for the second.

And the eminence of the ‘early adopters’ counts for little: remember the 1970s predictions of a world overpopulation crisis, and how widespread famine would result in a catastrophic reduction in the population by the year 2000? Despite some very highly credentialed experts arguing vehemently – and with apparent logic – that we were doomed, it didn’t happen.

And now to global warming. 

It looks like it’s happening but it certainly hasn’t been unambiguously demonstrated. The potential cost of doing nothing about reducing greenhouse gas emissions could be staggeringly high; the cost of doing anything about those emissions will be staggeringly high. 

Should countries like Australia introduce emission trading systems that will result in reductions in this country’s greenhouse gas emissions? After all, those reductions will be overshadowed in a very short time indeed by polluters such as China and India that continue to increase in emissions at a staggering rate. (Note: in totality, not per capita.)

And the chances of getting global agreement on real reductions in greenhouse gases seems limited, to say the least.

Closer to home, what about arguably the greatest real-world threat facing Australia, the dying River Murray? The Murray-Darling Basin, the breadbasket of Australia, the supplier of water to cities and irrigators, is drying-up before our eyes.

Wouldn’t reducing greenhouse gas emissions be an immediate lifeline to this once great river system?

No of course they wouldn’t: any immediate causal link between reduced greenhouse gases and a reinvigorated Murray-Darling Basin is the stuff of the deluded.

And it’s similarly deluded to think that running our cars on ethanol is going to transform the world, or that nuclear power is the panacea.

In fact, at this stage in the perceptions (or, for that matter, the realities) of the crisis of global climate change, it’s rather hard to think of any solutions.

So, the answer is to sit on our hands?

Nope, instead of thinking of the costs of making changes, think of the actions that immediately and unambiguously result in positives.

Lost in the ‘big picture’ so often presented by climate change pundits and skeptics is the fact that there are plenty of actions that are easily undertaken. And undertaken right now. That’s not to say that the global economic and political framework doesn’t urgently need to better consider how to restrain global emissions, but realistically that’s not a field you and I can enter.

And the most obvious personal action is to massively reduce energy consumption. That would be downright easy.

Houses that have every room space heated. Large cars used to carry one person on city errands. Twelve volt miniature halogen downlights – surely, the most stupid of any recent lighting innovation. Houses and commercial buildings designed and run as if energy is free – architecture that ignores thermal mass, aspect, eaves, skylights, natural air movement. And – dare I say it – massive government spending on freeway networks used primarily by commuters, each using up to 20 times as much fuel per person as public transport.

I don’t think it would be hard for people to halve – yes halve – their energy consumption. That would immediately reduce the personal expenditure on fuel and electricity (etc) bills, improve air quality, improve personal physical fitness, and help start to inculcate  a consciousness of energy use that has been completely lost in the majority of people.

And of course it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Irrespective of how history treats the threat of global warming, personal reduction in energy use has such few downsides that it should immediately become our number one environmental priority.

9 Responses to 'Personal Greenhouse Gas Action Plan'

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  1. Shane Fitzpatrick said,

    on August 21st, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    How refreshing to see someone within the media approaching this issue from the CORRECT viewpoint. We as Australians and citizens of the world should address what we can and not dream up costly and unproven solutions to a problem that may or may not exist. In Australia, energy efficiency is the answer. It is something that can be done by all, it can be implemented now and it will save people money. Renewable energy sources will come online over time, as will other so called cleaner sources. But until they do energy efficiency is the answer.

  2. mattW said,

    on August 21st, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Even if climate change fizzles to nothing, I don’t think anyone would regret energy efficiency measures in the long run as long as they have a reasonable payback period. There is so much waste we can get rid of first before we even start having to sacrifice anything significant. Its all about getting the low hanging fruit.

  3. Martin said,

    on August 21st, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Agreed, i can’t believe people still buy V8’s. They are fast, great fun, sound tops – but at what cost.

    I’ll take my engine thats 5.7 times smaller and enjoy that just as much. Low hanging fruit is an excellent way of putting it.

  4. Gordon Drennan said,

    on August 21st, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    Martin, you say you can’t believe people are still buying V8s. Well, the other day I noticed that the prize in a competition was one of HSV’s hot models. Seeing a car model as a prize in those sorts of competitions is the first sign the public sees that they can’t sell them, that they’re offering them cheap to people running competitions in a you scratch our back by giving us free advertising and we’ll scratch your back by giving you one cheap deal to move them off the sales room floor without having to drop the price and show the market that sales of them are in serious trouble.

  5. Julian Edgar said,

    on August 21st, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Isn’t HSV having record years in terms of sales?

  6. Ben G said,

    on August 22nd, 2008 at 4:02 am

    Here in the UK, record fuel and household heating/lighting bills are giving people a strong incentive to save energy. They also make development and marketing of ‘green’ technologies more viable. It still seems unlikely though that market forces will produce a big enough change in behaviour to moderate climate change to safe levels…

  7. Tom said,

    on August 22nd, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Great post, Julian.

    To the others, there is nothing wrong with enjoying cars. It is a hobby or pastime that people will always willingly pay for.

    What I don’t understand is people commuting in their 6.2L V8 or their 4WD (even the Diesels).

    I think fit for purpose needs to be a mantra people become familiar with.

    Unfortunately people want everything at once, but can’t afford it. So they have their 4WD for “weekends” (and rarely use them as such), which mum uses to drop the kids of at school. Then dad has his toy car (whatever that may be, V8, hi-po turbo) which he uses for commuting.

    People can’t afford to have a “spare” 4WD sitting around for that once a year trip, so they use it daily. Same goes for a fun car. You might take it to the track once a month, but you commute in it the rest of the time.

    It is still an issue that I think people will find hard to think differently about.

    The amount of white collar workers commuting on the freeways in the latest luxury 4-door sedan (heavy and thirsty) local offerings is staggering. But these types don’t want to rub shoulders with the great unwashed on public transport.

  8. Chris said,

    on August 25th, 2008 at 8:48 am

    Australia is going through a philosophical change that Europe went through sevearl years ago. All catalysed by the cost of owning a car.

    The local car industry can’t move fast enogh to make the right cars for the market.

    To re-tool is expensive (Aus. Govt. has bankrolled Toyota to produce hybrid Camrys)

    I rolled my eyes at the release of the Magana 380; that was Mitsubishi’s P76 ;0) Wrong car, poor timing.

    Same goes with any more 4 litre truck-based Commodores/ Falcons. Pension them off, raffle them off, build hybrid/turbo-diesel sixes with 2 litre engines that the market want.

    I can’t wait.


  9. S30ZK said,

    on September 3rd, 2008 at 11:41 am

    You have gained a reader in the U.S. Wonderful posts like this make me feel less of a fool for riding my bike to work, using canvass bags in lieu of plastic and trimming down midsection girth. The inconvenient sacrifices (which are neither, really) help me appreciate my weekend car all the more. Much appreciated views!