Archive for Social cost

Is it trendy to deny climate change?

I don't believe it! Victor Meldrew.

Just about any online conversation on climate change, such as today’s story in the Independent that we’re staring at a six degree rise by 2100, rapidly descends into a mud slinging match over the cause of climate change (just look at the comments following the main piece).

In fairness, there probably aren’t that many people out there that deny climate change is really happening. The few high-profile individuals that do are seen by most as the frontsmen of the climate equivalent to the Flat Earth Society: the serious debate isn’t around whether climate change is happening, but what’s causing it. Read the rest of this entry »


Greenwash, Ecobuild, Disclosure

Letting the train take the strainBit of a mixed bag this, and perhaps the title of this post is a little too sweeping, but then we’re feeling a little incensed by a recent article in the Independent. In a spectacularly poorly researched piece of dross, Simon Usborne and Helen Brown attempt to “face the facts many ecologists would rather ignore”.

There’s a grain of truth in some of them, such as the notion that food miles aren’t a bombproof proxy for the carbon footprint of a product. Indeed, we’ve touched on the same subject. Similarly, it’s true to say that an ancient woodland isn’t sequestering carbon at the same rate as a fast growing, young plantation of, say, eucalyptus trees. Read the rest of this entry »

Pup friction

puppiesForget, for a moment at least, whether there is a tiger in your tank. Instead think about whether there’s an ancient tree in your puppy. Well, sort of.

piece in the New York Times yesterday drew attention to the increasing love affair that Americans have for soft toilet tissue and the threat that poses for old growth forests.

Toilet paper can be made from recycled material with ease — it uses less water to convert paper into fibre than it does to mash up wood pulp. But to get the soft, fluffy whiteness that many of us currently prefer requires the use of virgin wood pulp — the fibres are, well, softer, stronger and longer.

A spokesperson from Kimberley Clark — seemingly one of the worst culprits — said that “only” 14 percent of the wood pulp used by the company comes from the Canadian boreal forest.

This isn’t a new issue. Both Greenpeace and the WWF have been campaigning for years against the destruction of forests for the production of toilet paper. What’s changed is the current global economic slump. People have a raised awareness for the benefits of recycling and re-use: now is the time to switch to 100% recycled toilet paper. It might not be quite so luxurious an experience, but it’s a very easy way to prevent destruction of carbon storing old growth forests.

Out of thin air

carbon emissions from aviation are rising faster than any other sector

Up, up and away: GHG emissions from aviation are rising faster than any other sector

There’s a piece in the Guardian today highlighting the pitfalls of the carbon debate. It centres on a new web service, the oxymoronically monikered Carbon Friendly Flight Search. The site, put together by The Carbon Consultancy, Global Travel Market and, lulls users into the notion that there really is a carbon friendly way to fly.

It works in pretty much the same way as all the other flight comparison websites, except that it tags each flight with a score (1-10, 1 being “best”) to indicate the relative amount of emissions that might result. The idea is that, in addition to the price of a flight, customers have its dirtiness to consider when choosing between options. Only they don’t. Read the rest of this entry »

The no-coal goal

Hopefully a thing of the past

Hopefully a thing of the past

In some parts of the world, tradition has it that naughty children find only a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings. They might not have presents to play with at Christmas, but at least the home fires will keep burning.

At Hogmanay, part of the Scottish tradition of first-footing (the first person to cross the threshold bringing luck, or ill-luck, to the household for the coming year) includes the presentation of a piece of coal to symbolize warmth.

And coal has hit the headlines this New Year. In an open letter to incoming US President Obama, Jim Hansen, head of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and wife Anniek stress both the urgency for action on climate change and the ineffectiveness of current policies. Read the rest of this entry »

How much should carbon cost?

Do trees grow on money?

Do trees grow on money?

Nowhere are the mysteries of carbon economics (carbonomics?) laid bare more than in the offsetting trade. Today’s internet prices for a tonne of CO2 varied from US$2 — yes, you did read that correctly — to a whopping 116 Swiss Francs, or US$95.55 at current exchange rates.

Some of the variability is perfectly legitimate. Carbon offset projects cost different amounts depending on their goals (e.g. wind farm vs tree planting) and location (industrialised vs developing countries). It stands to reason that the cost per tonne of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent — the accepted measure of greenhouse gas emissions) varies with the complexity of a project and the associated cost of locking up carbon. Read the rest of this entry »