My God. The US are at it again.

“So many dead people were lying in the area. We do not know who is who, but the raid was a success,” interim Somali government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari told AFP news agency.

Well, that’s alright then. I don’t think it matters what they have done, no one has the right to take another’s life. It is truly horrendous that the US think they have the right to go and kill people wherever and whenever they want to. All in the name of the supposed war on terror.

Anyway, that’s not what I came here to talk about. I just discovered that fact, whilst attempting to find the online version of the story that that I read this morning on the front cover of London’s Independent newspaper.

The story basically demonstrated the true cost of travelling from Manchester to London, by plane and by train. The focus was not so much on the money, as on the amount of Co2 that one emits by making such a journey. The data:

Train: 14.8kg of Co2 per person
Plane: 90kg of Co2 per person

90kg of Co2. I tried to visualise it but I don’t know what Co2 looks like.

Returning home tonight on the (electric) train I listened to a BBC Radio 4 program titled “The end of the world is nigh again“. I would urge you to listen to it whilst it is still available. You need not listen to the whole (30 minute) program – just the first 8 minutes or so will do (although really I think the whole program is well worth a listen), in which Clive Anderson speaks with the eminent scientist, author, researcher, environmentalist and futurologist, James Lovelock.

In this program James and other scientists speak of global warming, talking of the tonnes of Co2 that we have already released into the environment, and how there is now no scientific doubt that unless we make significant changes to our lifestyles in the next decade, this planet is going to become a very inhospitable place to live. We’re not talking hundreds of year in the future – we’re talking within the lifespans of our children (depending on how old you are!)

And yet still the world’s biggest polluter, the US, will not sign up to the Kyoto protocol (a treaty which itself is not actually strict enough to prevent catastrophe).

Whilst standing at the lights waiting to cross the main road on my walk home from the station, I watched the endless line of cars stream past. Every single one churning out Co2 that is ultimately going to kill my descendants. That gas is essentially a poison, a direct threat to my family, and to yours. And yet we choose to ignore this fact, and just see it a smelly vapour that soon gets whisked away in the evening breeze. Imagine if the threat it does actively pose to human beings through global warming was made to be felt by us, the ones who are actively producing the stuff, right now, instead of our offspring. Standing by the road, we’d breathe it in, and die.

This may be a dramatisation of the facts, but think about it, this is how it is. OK, we may be fortunate enough to have the economic means and the freedom to choose to move to an area not so badly affected by rising sea levels. We may be able to afford to buy appropriate clothing to adapt to our new environment, to pay for the air conditioner. But what about our brothers and sisters in the developing world who do not have the ability to adapt to such huge changes in the environment. What about the planet herself, all the species of wildlife that WILL become extinct?

It’s all very well me spouting off about this, but what about me, what am I going to do about it? Well, I’m going to do my bit.

The reason I’ve been hit so hard by this story today is that it makes me hear raucous cries of HYPOCRITE!

What did I do less than one month ago? I took a flight from Kobe to Tokyo, a flight that wasn’t that different in terms of distance from a flight from Manchester to Tokyo. A journey that won’t have been much different in terms of the Co2 it dumped in the atmosphere.

I really am ashamed of myself. I laughed it off at the time, by saying, “I shall have to plant some trees when I get back.“.

Thus, I am making a public commitment here and now, to not take any domestic flights from here on. The UK is not big enough to warrant the use of them, whilst Japan has one of the best rail networks in the world, led by the famous Shinkansen (bullet train). It may be financially cheaper, but it would be utterly irresponsible.

Furthermore, I shall avoid international flights when at all possible. Hhm, the idea of the Transiberian Express does appeal, although the 3-week element could be a bit problematic. I’m going to have to think about that one.

I also think it’s vital that tax on aviation fuel and on new aircraft be introduced. This will mean soaring ticket prices, but at the end of the day it’s only by hitting people’s wallets that they will start to take what is a major threat to our future seriously.

I also think the Carbon Credit Card is a BRILLIANT idea, and should be introduced immediately in all developed nations, and China. The following text is taken from New Scientist magazine.

Here’s an interesting idea. We’ve all heard of carbon trading schemes for industry and nations – how about for individuals? The UK’s environment minister is suggesting that all citizens could be issued with a carbon “credit card”. Every time you fuel up the car, buy a plane ticket or collect the groceries, the matching carbon dioxide emissions are deducted.

If you overspend on carbon in a year, you have to buy extra credits from those who have underspent. The minister, David Milliband, says the fact that 8 million people already have loyalty cards with supermarket Tesco shows practical difficulties need not hamper the scheme. Tesco records 50 billion bits of data a year.

This seems like a pretty smart idea to me – it’s fairly simple, links directly to people’s behaviour and has a financial incentive. The really tough bit will be setting the amount of credit each person gets – it’s easy to get it wrong.

Anyway, I have my first exam in about 12 hours. Best be off.



I’ve put a short snippet from last Tuesday’s BBC Radio 4 PM program on the TGW server, in which Tony Blair’s air travel, the pollution it causes and the steps he’s taking to compensate for that are looked into.

Listen to it here

[EDIT 2]

See the preview videos at

[EDIT 3]
“Aviation and Global Climate Change”, is a report published on 2nd May 2000 by Friends of the Earth, the Aviation Environment Federation, the National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection and HACAN/Clear Skies. It calculates that the average UK motorist produces 2255 kg of CO2 in one year, while one return flight from London to Miami produces 2415 kg of CO2 per passenger.

[EDIT 4]

[EDIT 5]

calculate your own Co2 output:

Here’s mine, based on what I’m spend on energy every month at the moment, and including a return flight to Tokyo.

10 Responses

  1. Hmm…well, they’re noble intentions, for sure. However, there is a major flaw in these resolutions – whether you take a flight or not the plane will still fly the same route and pump out exactly the same amount of C02…except someone else would be sitting in ‘your’ seat and it’ll take you longer to get where you’re going. Basically, it doesn’t help the planet one jot and it inconveniences you, but it makes you feel good about yourself…well, as long as you don’t really think about it too hard. Sorry… : P

  2. No, I’m afraid that’s flawed thinking. The fact is that if more people do as I’m doing demand for seats will drop and s will the number of flights. It’s no good me thinking “it won;t make any difference what I do because I’m only one person”. If everyone thinks like that then no changes will be made for the better. However, if a lot of people were to make a similar resolution like the one I made today, then market forces will dictate that the amount of Co2 released from planes will decrease dramatically – as there will be no domestic airline industry.

    It is unfortunate that so many people do feel as powerless as yourself. The fact is that we all need to do our bit, no one of us can be superman/woman and save the planet, but if we work together we can do incredible things.

  3. YES to carbon credit cards … BUT how do you work it with people living in really rural areas? Say on the Scottish islands or the Isles of Scilly or the middle of Wales ? I have to travel six miles to get milk, to go to the doctor, or the vet, or the library … what if I lived on one of the off islands of the Isles of Scilly and my dog needed a vet ? I’d have to catch a ferry to St Mary’s, then another bigger boat (or plane or chopper) to Penzance … 35 miles each way … wouldn’t I be using up a years worth of credit, compared with, say me, going 3 miles to the vet, or someone in the local village who lives 10 yards from the vet ?

    Second question … OK, so the Govt brings in all these carbon taxes … great ! How do we know they are going to use all that extra tax on planting trees, building wind farms, safe nuclear waste storage … etc. … or will it filter away into other projects, including weapons ?

    I think its an excellent idea, but just cant see how it can work. It MUST work … but I dont think in reality, that it will ..

  4. I’m afraid if my thinking is “flawed” yours is hopelessly idealistic. In spite of much greater awareness of environmental matters over the past decade air travel has continued to grow exponentially. People want to fly – it’s a fact of life now. The only way to effectively combat aviation emissions is to fund research into greener fuels. In reality, I’m afraid it’s the only way.

    Not driving a car – effective
    Buying organically – effective
    Not flying – while it may ease your conscience, it is ultimately a token gesture

    I respect your stance and admire your belief in this (important) cause but I think maybe you need to learn to pick your battles…

  5. FAO anonymous, about carbon credits and vets.

    Yes, I see your point, but I don’t think that these problems are reason enough to not go ahead with introducing the scheme.

    The scheme would clearly have to fundamentally fair, thus I don’t think one could necessarily introduce a sliding scale, whereby those in rural areas were allotted more points than those in urban areas. One thought, and this ties in with your second point, is that those in rural areas could be given carbon-point free access to an improved public transport system, which would be funded by carbon taxes. Or, a journey from the Isles of Scilly could, be capped for residents, in terms of carbon point value, so that it didn’t ‘cost’ them any more than say a ten mile trip on the mainland.

    There are always workarounds to the problems that will be encountered should the system be introduced. Humans are ingenious, and this is one problem where we will really want to do all we can to solve it when the effects of global warming start to be felt more keenly.

    Re. where will the money go – I think the government is starting to recognise that global warming is going to pose a far greater threat to the safety of UK citizens than Iran, for example. Of course there’s no guarantees that all the money will go where it should (into public transport etc), but I think we are blessed with a relatively corruption free government (compared to many developed nations, e.g. Russia and Japan to name but two). Once again, we can’t let minor issues stop us. There will be workarounds.

    Like you say, it HAS to work.

  6. Incidentally, Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It” is currently No.1 in the video charts.

    I wonder if George Bush has bought a copy?

    Also, Al Gore is in my university town of Sheffield next month, and there are showings of the film all week at the showroom (and one at the student’s union too).

    See for more info.

  7. FAO anonymous, and my ‘idealistic’ thinking.

    Yes, of course, you’re right, it is idealistic …to a certain extent. Perhaps my belief that fundamentally, people care, is misplaced. Looking at the news any day of the week one could say that the opposite is true. Perhaps I am living in my own little bubble of perfection. I guess I just want to believe so much that people do care, that I become convinced that they do.

    When they clearly don’t. As was demonstrated in the quotes contained within the newspaper article mentioned at the head of this post.

    However, I don’t agree with the idea that
    “The only way to effectively combat aviation emissions is to fund research into greener fuels. In reality, I’m afraid it’s the only way.”

    Whilst greener fuels are going to play a vital part in our future, (and I salute examples set by, for example, Richard Branson, with his announcement last year to put $3bn into the development of a green fuel (,,1878492,00.html) (although I don’t see how this fits in with another virgin announcement to expand its fleet), I think at the end of the day there has to be some compromise on our part.

    Money seems to be the only thing that people care about, thus I feel that it is there that we must be hit in order to stop us taking planes willy-nilly, through, for example, a tax on aviation fuel.

    You say that flying is a ‘fact of life’, but this is simply not true! The sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening is a ‘fact of life’, but taking an aeroplane certainly isn’t!

    It is a choice that people make, and thus, it is a practice that can be curbed.

    I know, people won’t like it, but global warming is going to become such a huge threat that unless radical action is taken, radical action that will necessarily affect each and every one of us, the situation will become dire.

    By simply saying, ‘well, it’s a fact of life’, one is basically ignoring the true threat, assuming it is some issue that can be dealt with by future generations, burying one’s head in the sand, thinking inside the box.

    It is this failure to grasp the seriousness of the situation that, I feel, results in so much complacency (of which I too am guilty). The threat is more than a threat to our convenience, it’s a threat to the very existence of millions, possibly billions, of people.

    Thus, I believe that my children’s children will find it incredible that one could even contemplate putting 90kg of Co2 into the atmosphere when one could opt for 14.8kg.

    Until the green fuels do arrive, and of course they will, we should stop being so selfish, and do what is morally right. Now. It will make a difference, albeit a small one.

    – Even if the air conditioning on the train has packed up and there’s a bunch of drunken noisy Cardiff City supporters at the end of the carriage.

  8. I’ve put a short snippet from last Tuesday’s BBC Radio 4 PM program on the TGW server, in which Tony Blair’s air travel, the pollution it causes and the steps he’s taking to compensate for that are looked into.

    Listen to it here