WARMING THEORY 15/04/2006
degree C temperature increase
eco-systems enter high risk zone: coral reefs, highland
tropical forests of Queensland, Australia and Succulent
Karoo, an arid region in South Africa which is a hotspot
for unique species including many succulent plants.
Losses of Golden Bower Bird in highland tropical forest
of north Queensland would become noticeable.
400-800 million more people would find themselves with
serious water shortages. Little risk of increased
Sir David King: 'We can manage the risks'
1 and 2 degrees C
damage to Succulent Karoo and Alpine flora of Europe and
elsewhere. Fynbos, South Africa's floral province,
likely to experience increased loss of species. Coral
bleaching more frequent, with slow or no recovery. Polar
bears and walrus affected by lack of Arctic sea ice.
Loss of broadleaved forest in China. Rivers
in Rockies become too hot for trout. Collared lemming,
food of the snowy owl and Arctic fox, begin to
disappear. Extinctions of Dryandra forest and eucalyptus
2 and 3 degrees
risk of Succulent Karoo being eliminated. Coral reefs
bleach annually. Significant extinctions in Fynbos and
Alpine flora in New Zealand. Severe
changes on Tibetan plateau. Amazon forest begins to
suffer irreversible damage. Fifty
per cent loss of Kakadu wetlands in Australia and
Sundarbans wetland in Bangladesh due to sea level rise. Fifty
per cent loss of migratory bird habitat in
Mediterranean, Baltic and United States.
reductions in ice cover endangers polar bears. High
number of species become extinct in Australian
rainforest. Kruger National Park in South Africa loses
two thirds of animals. Mexico
suffers severe losses of ecosystems. Complete loss of
Kakadu and Sundarbans. Some
80-120 million more people at risk of hunger. Risk of
water running out in large cities of India and China.
3C rise could cause the melting of ice in Antarctica
LATE TO STOP 3C TEMPERATURE RISE 15/04/2006
world should get used to the idea of average
temperatures rising by 3C because it is not politically
achievable to reduce global warming further than that,
the Government's chief scientist said yesterday. Prof
Sir David King said that even by the most optimistic
assessments carbon dioxide levels were due to rise to
double what they were at the time of the industrial
no steps were taken to manage the change, he said, few
eco-systems would be able to adapt and up to 400 million
people worldwide would be at risk of hunger as up to 440
million tons of cereal production was lost. Officially
the Government shares the EU's position that it is
possible to halt the temperature rise at 2C.
of 3C is the level at which scientists at the Met
Office's conference in Exeter last year predicted that
"dangerous" changes would begin to occur,
including irreversible changes to sea currents,
including the Gulf Stream.
predicted that other likely changes at this level were a
decline of the Amazon forest - leading to a massive
release of carbon into the atmosphere - and the melting
of ice in Greenland and some in Antarctica. Ice
suspended above sea level in Greenland alone is enough
to raise sea levels by seven metres.
King told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "If you
ask me where do we feel the temperature is likely to end
up if we move to a level of carbon dioxide roughly twice
the pre-industrial level - and the level at which we
would be optimistically hoping we could settle - the
temperature rise could well be in excess of 3C. "And
yet we are saying [this] is probably the best we can
achieve through global agreement." The
United States government is refusing to make any cuts at
all in its carbon emissions. China and India, whose
economies are growing fast, are not required to make any
cuts under the Kyoto climate treaty.
recently announced that it will fail to meet its
three-times repeated manifesto promise of cutting carbon
dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2010. Prof
King said it was essential that the world began now to
make the necessary adaptations to cope with the change.
don't have to succumb to a state of despondency where we
say that there is nothing we can do so let's just carry
on living as per usual. It is very important to
understand that we can manage the risks to our
population," he said. "What
we are talking about here is something that will play
through over decades - we are talking 100 years or so.
We need to begin that process of investment. It is going
to be a major challenge for the developing
said the situation would be even worse if temperatures
rose more than 3C, and "would be extremely
difficult for world populations to manage". Prof
King was scathing about politicians who believed they
could simply rely on new technologies to produce cleaner
fuels, and said they must start listening to the
scientists. "There is a difference between optimism
and head in the sand," he added. Tony
Juniper, the director of Friends of the Earth, said:
"It is technologically possible to significantly
reduce our emissions and deliver 2C. Prof King should be
pressing for government policies to deliver on this
rather than accepting the current lack of political
December 2005: Global warming deal is signed by 157
December 2005: US out in the cold at world climate talks
pups left to drown or starve
April 2006 10:45
do you really have to get on board that plane?
schemes promise to save the earth. But do they work?
you make up for your flight's contribution to climate
an Easter trip to Europe or further afield this weekend,
or have you just returned from a holiday in time for the
end of the school holidays? If you're flying, do you
know what impact the journey had on the environment, or
how much that damage will cost to put right? Air travel
is the fastest-growing source of the greenhouse gas
emissions responsible for climate change. Around the
world, 16,000 commercial jet aircraft create more than
600m tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. Each time you
take a flight, you contribute to that total.
dilemma is increasingly difficult to avoid. There is a
growing consensus among scientists that carbon emissions
need to fall by at least 60 per cent over the next 50
years to stabilise climate change. Yet emissions are
increasing at a faster rate than ever. The message is
that people must think harder about flying. But if you
are going to use air travel, you might at least consider
carbon offsetting schemes.
DO THESE SCHEMES WORK?
two best-known carbon offsetting scheme providers, the
Carbon Neutral Company and Climate Care, work on the
same principle. This is that while everyone produces
carbon dioxide emissions there are ways to reduce the
earth's total emissions.
is possible to quantify how much carbon dioxide you are
responsible for producing when taking a plane journey.
Similarly, it is possible to quantify how much you would
have to invest in projects designed to reduce emissions
to balance out the damage your flight did.
return flight to New York, according to Climate Care,
would produce 1.56 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
The company calculates that a donation of £11.67 to its
projects would reduce global emissions by that amount. In
fact, the donations required to render your air travel
carbon neutral are relatively modest.
far-flung destinations, such as Sydney, cost less than
£40 to offset - in the vast majority of cases, you're
talking about less than 10 per cent of the ticket price.
month, the Government agreed to offset emissions
produced by official flights taken by ministers or civil
Carbon Neutral Company has won endorsements from
celebrities such as the singer KT Tunstall, while
Climate Care has the backing of a joint initiative from
the arch rivals of the travel guide industry, Lonely
Planet and Rough Guides.
DOES MY MONEY GO?
schemes invest in projects designed to reduce carbon
emissions. The most obvious example is forestry - trees
absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen - so some of
your cash is likely to end up in reforestation
programmes around the world.
last year, the Carbon Neutral Company changed its name -
it was previously known as Future Forests - to reflect
the growing range of projects in which it invests. All
the offsetting schemes back renewable and sustainable
energy initiatives, as well as themes such as recycling
and waste management.
Change, for example, is involved in a scheme in India
that is replacing stoves in school. The old stoves were
run on liquid petroleum gas; the replacements will be
powered by more eco-friendly bio-mass fuel.
you can't choose which projects your money supports,
though very large donors - offsetting schemes also
accept donations from businesses and other organisations
- may be able to. You could consider using the carbon
offsetting scheme run by Friends of Conservation, a
wildlife charity that uses the money to back
reforestation, particularly where animal and plant
species are threatened.
Airways Jumbo Jet
CAN COMPANIES BE SO EXACT?
schemes publish the methodologies they use to calculate
the pollution generated by your flight and the emission
reductions paid for by your money. They also have
independent committees staffed by representations of
organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund. These
committees monitor the activities of the schemes to
ensure they're producing the reductions they claim.
some projects have less predictable results than others.
It may be that certain investments made by offsetting
schemes do not produce the savings expected. Part of the
role of the independent scrutineers is to ensure that
such shortfalls are made up elsewhere.
schemes almost always invest in developing world
projects, rather than in countries that have signed up
to the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to cut
emissions in developed economies. They say helping
richer countries achieve promises already made would be
CAN I NOW FLY WITH A CLEAN CONSCIENCE?
not that simple. Carbon offsetting schemes have their
critics - of the principles and the practices. The most
obvious problem is that anyone who can afford to offset
their emissions may feel entitled to go on flying as
they always have, rather than obliged to change their
behaviour. People might even take flights they would not
otherwise have booked.
are also arguments about the true benefits of the
projects your money funds. For example, some scientists
argue that trees are not an effective way to mop up
carbon emissions produced by burning fossil fuels.
also have concerns about tree-planting, because there
are no guarantees these trees won't be felled, or,
worse, burnt, soon after they have been planted,"
adds Richard Dyer, an aviation campaigner at Friends of
the Earth. "And we're concerned about some of the
other projects backed, because many of them might have
been funded anyway."
all, there is only so much good work carbon offsetting
can do. To soak up Britain's annual greenhouse gas
emissions, you would need to plant a forest the size of
Devon and Cornwall each year. And unlike with other
industries, there is little prospect of new technology
that will clean up aviation in the short or medium term.
In that context, passenger air miles must fall, or at
least stop rising.
NEED TO CUT DOWN ON FLYING AFTER ALL?
Care and the Carbon Neutral Company insist that people
should try to take fewer flights. Friends of the Earth
is particularly scathing about shorter flights. "Easter
breaks for many people will include short-haul trips,
where alternative modes of transport are much more
practical," Dyer says. "Short-haul travel is
particularly polluting because the take-off and landing
segments, when most fuel is burnt, represent a large
proportion of the flight plan." A
flight from London to Edinburgh, for example, would
produce seven times the carbon emissions generated by
the equivalent journey taken by rail. The
cost of short-haul journeys is also reflected in the
offsets required - while the sums needed are smaller,
they represent a much larger proportion of the ticket
AT LEAST OFFSETTING MEANS I'LL BE DOING SOMETHING?
"We need to reduce the fossil fuels we use and
travel we do, but simply saying to people 'don't do
that' is not effective," says Tom Morton, a
director of Climate Care. "We see this as part of a
wider picture - at some stage we will all have
individual carbon allowances and our schemes are helping
people to get used to the idea that they produce a
personal carbon footprint."
Shopley, chairman of the Carbon Neutral Company,
believes that once you start offsetting carbon
emissions, you'll think twice about making them.
"This is a pricing signal that will work," he
sustainable travel is not only about finding greener
forms of transport. David Weston, of the Travel
Foundation, which promotes sustainable tourism, argues:
"Many developing communities are dependent on
tourism. If everyone stopped flying it would cause great
countries are likely to be hit hard by climate change,
but local people rarely want travellers to stay at home.
The carbon footprint of your trip does not begin and end
with the journey there and back. You also have an impact
on the environment while you're on holiday.
Turn off heating or air conditioning when you don't feel
it's needed, or at least turn it down.
Switch off the lights when you leave your accommodation
and never leave televisions or other appliances on
Be careful with your use of water. Take showers rather
than baths and tell staff that you are happy to reuse
towels and bed linen, rather than requiring freshly
washed replacements every day.
Consider making a donation to the Travel Foundation,
which funds carbon reduction programmes in resorts
around the world. It is currently working with operators
in the Caribbean, for example, on an energy-efficiency
scheme for tourist accommodation that will be the
equivalent of taking 2,800 cars off the road.
Useful contacts : Carbon Neutral Company: 08701 99 99
Climate Care: 01865 207 000, http://www.climatecare.co.uk/;
Friends of Conservation: 020-7603 5024, http://www.foc-uk.com/;
the Travel Foundation: 0117 927 3049, http://www.thetravelfoundation.org.uk/.
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