know the world is facing existential global problems of climate
degradation, including extinction of species,
industrial processes, non-sustainable agriculture, over-population,
inequality, poverty and famine.
academic and award winning writer, believes the world may be in
crisis, possibly at tipping point, confronted by these overwhelming
problems. This article seeks to make suggestions how over
dependence on fossil fuels and non-renewable
resources might be ameliorated by individual action.
Each person’s individual action through adopting small and simple
changes to their life style can make a difference.
is fair to say that despite that solutions to these global problems
already being known, the technology existing, they have not yet have
been addressed, sometimes through the lack of resources but mainly
through the lack of political action. It is also fair to say that
the scale of these problems necessitate huge international action to
“save the planet” and that action needs to take place
not all bad news
is not all bad news, the UK Government has recently, June 2019,
committed itself to legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions to
“net zero” by 2050 and to bring forward the target of eliminating
both petrol and diesel cars by 2040. To reach the target gas boilers
for home heating will have to be replaced by heat exchange
technologies, less travel by cars other than electric vehicles, more
walking, less meat and dairy consumption, and all this should lead to
better public health and air quality.
has been significant progress in the UK in using renewable energy,
and about 30% of UK energy now comes from renewable sources, up
from 5.9% in 2010. This is good news for decarbonising the National
Grid, and a very significant milestone has been passed in 2019.
So far this year there have been 1,096 hours of “coal free”
electricity generation, and only 3.5% of British electricity from
coal over the last 12 months, ironically, the longest period since
as it stands now, because Western Europe has “exported” most of
its highly polluting manufacturing industries to the Third World, to
China, Africa, India and South America where now the greatest efforts
to reduce climate change must take place. These countries are set
almost to double the size of their economies by 2030 and hence their
carbon footprints, but that is not to say that they are simply doing
nothing to reduce the associated impacts of growth. China, in
particular, is making major investments to reduce its dependence on
fossil fuels for power, investing in sustainable energy and
transport. For instance it operate 98% of the world’s electric
buses and the use of electric cars is growing massively but, because
of the sheer size of the economy and the scale of the problems much,
much more remains to be done.
cannot just be overwhelmed by the size of the problem and simply do
nothing. It is not just about “trade-off” of stop doing
something and that is it, carbon footprint problem done and dusted.
For instance, “I know air travel is highly polluting, must I give
up al holidays abroad: do I sell the car, give up meat and so on?”.
The answer is not entirely but yes, you can do something and make
some changes to the way you live. Some potential changes are
relatively easy while some changes are really difficult, disruptive
and so inconveniencing that making the change may not happen.
– Jared Diamond – Upheaval:
How Nations Cope with Crisis and Change 2019.
– ecopush blog – How
can renewable energy help in the battle against climate change? May
38.2 billion tons of CO2
was released into
the atmosphere from burning of fossil fuels, coal and oil – (Nature
2012). The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the world’s
volcanoes, both on land and undersea, generate about 200 million tons
average car emits about six tons of CO2
each year. Burning one gallon of petrol creates 20 pounds of CO2.
average short haul flight, based on a Boeing 737-400 averaging 780
km/hour, creates 90 Kg of CO2
The average long haul flight, based on a Boeing 747-400, creates
about the same amount of CO2
This equates to about 101 gm of CO2
passenger km, and because aviation CO2
released into the upper atmosphere it is thought to have a greater
greenhouse effect giving a UK estimate of ¼ metric ton CO2
equivalent per hour flying.
is the third largest contributor to global emissions by sector, with
methane accounting for just under half of total agricultural
emissions, nitrous oxide for 36% and CO2
14 %. Digestion
of organic materials by livestock is the largest source of
agricultural emissions at 37% of the total and one way to reduce
agricultural emissions is for people to minimize their consumption of
meat and dairy products – (Worldwatch
Climate change at a global level: The Paris Agreement 20163
Agreement’s long-term goal is to hold the increase in global average
temperature to below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to limit
the increase to 1.5°C, which would substantially reduce the risks
and effects of climate change. Also included were: –
limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to
the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally,
beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.
review each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five
years so they scale up to the challenge.
rich countries to help poorer nations by providing “climate
finance to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.
change at UK level:Committee
on Climate Change 20183
– a progress report
report seeks progress in the reduction of UK emissions of greenhouse
gases within 7 main areas: Economy-wide progress, Power, Buildings,
Industry, Transport, Agriculture and land use, land-use change and
forestry, Waste, and Fluorinated gases – (F-gases). It
has 4 clear messages: –
- Support the simple, low-cost options;
- Commit to effective regulation and strict enforcement;
- End the chopping and changing of policy
- Act now to keep long-term options open
1990 emission have fallen by 43% and 3% in 2017, but the progress
across the 8 defined sectors is variable. In
the past ten years, as emissions in power and industry have
transport has become the largest emitting sector of the UK economy,
accounting for 28% of UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2017. Between
2012 and 2017 emissions fell
Paris Agreement 2016 (Accord
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,
– Reducing UK emissions 2018 Progress Report to Parliament: Committee
on Climate Change June 2018.
Approximately from power by 55%, waste 23%, industry by 10%, agriculture by 3%, buildings by 2%, F-gases by 1%, but transport rose by 4%. In October 2017, the UK Government launched the Clean Growth Strategy (CGS)5, fulfilling its legal obligation to set out policies and proposals to enable the carbon budgets set by Parliament to be met: –
out the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by
as many homes as possible to Energy Performance Certificate band C
by 2035, including all rented and fuel-poor homes by 2030.
out installation of high-carbon fossil fuel heating in homes and
businesses off the gas grid during the 2020s.
the route to market for renewable technologies and progressing
discussions with developers of new nuclear power, with a view to
reaching 85% of UK generation from low-carbon sources in 2032.
business energy efficiency by at least 20% by 2030, including
through an Industrial Energy Efficiency Scheme and changes to
building regulations and standards.
publish a plan to
UK aviation emissions to the level at around 2005 levels in 2050.
11 million trees in England between 2017 and 2022 (equivalent to
over 2,000 hectares per annum).
carbon capture use and storage at scale in the UK in the 2030s.
Government has launched its Strategy, it has legislated on certain
aspects and it now need to formulate the policies and provide the
funding to to deliver and cut emissions to zero by 2050. Much of
actual action to deliver the Government’s renewable energy depends
on increasing the proportion of electricity generated by nuclear
massive capital cost of nuclear power plants, raw materials, safe
disposal of waste, the danger of malfunction, security, the decade
plus time frames for planning and development, complex political and
environmental considerations make the future of nuclear power and
therefore the possibility of achieving the targets uncertain. The
replacement of Sizewell B for instance is en-mired in escalating
costs and political problems, and proposals for a £16 billion plant
in Wales and another in Cumbria have been scrapped2.
To summarise where we are now in the UK, the risks of failure to deliver existing policy commitments are high and low-cost opportunities to reduce emissions such as home insulation, business energy efficiency and tree planting are being missed.
can I do?
massive global problems but can I contribute to stabilising global
warming? Can I reduce my carbon footprint by changes to the way I
live and can this be achieved without radically reducing my life
style? For instance, must I never eat meat, never fly, or drive a
car, grow all my own food, because these may prove so difficult,
disruptive so inconveniencing that making the change may be
impossible to sustain and, therefore just won’t happen. Yes you
can! It is a balance between the relative ease of undertaking any
action and its efficacy and by doing the simple things now work
toward reducing your carbon footprint from the more complex and
Mike Berners-Lee (academic and consultant) proposes a “10-tonne lifestyle” target of causing no more than 10 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year for each person living in the
polluting developed world. For the average
American or Australian and, that’s a reduction of around two-thirds
from the current level of average footprint of about 30 tonnes
per year, taken from a number of studies. People living in the Third
World generally produce much less than this and the
current global average is more like 4 tonnes.
year of 10-tonne living means equals 833 kg CO2e per month, or 27.4
No-one is saying it’s easy or you have to do it, it is about your
life style and a question of your values.
The table sets out examples of the carbon footprint impacts of some
common activities and includes some which give reductions. For
some, achieving a 10-tonne lifestyle may be difficult if not
impossible, but everyone should try.
equivalent per year
many days of a 10 tonne year
10,000 miles/yr based on the average car
consuming about 33 miles/gal.
instead of driving short trips (25%
of trips are less than a mile)
makes a saving
10 km each way each day to work
hour return flight.
trips = 10 tones)
night stay in a standard UK hotel with air conditioning, sheets
and towels changed each day, full English breakfast and dinner
with imported ingredients.
a computer every work day 9 to 6.00pm, plus 2 hours at home and
at weekends (about 3070 hours/yr), plus about 500kg for average
desk top electricity, servers and network.
cheese burger eaten twice a month.
kg of steak
litre of milk
pair of Levi jeans
 – BEIS (2018) 2017 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Provisional Figures; BEIS (2018) 2016 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Final Figures.
 – How Bad Are Bananas?: The carbon footprint of everything: Mike Berners-Lee 2010
 – There Is No Planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years: mike Berners-Lee 2019
SIMPLE WAYS OF REDUCING YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
is not a comprehensive list, but sets out a number of “easy wins”.
You can do more and adopt more complex means of reducing your
forms 20% of the average person’s carbon food-print and from
amalgamation of food writers’ view: –
- eating what you buy (e.g., saving leftovers and keeping things in the fridge) leads to a 25% reduction
- reducing meat and dairy consumption a 25% reduction
- eating produce in season, avoiding hothouses and air freight a 10% reduction
- avoiding excessive packaging and recycling a 6% reduction.
- cooking using less energy (use a pan lid where possible and turn off power asp) a 5% reduction
or cycle more and use public transport. Use electric or carbon
neutral cars, which use synthetic fuels.
Turn down the central heating 1 degree or more and perhaps put on a sweater. For use of electricity use energy saving technologies such as smart plugs. Use green energy. Use LED lighting as incandescent lights which waste 90 percent of their energy as heat. Insulate the loft, and insulate walls (more complex and expensive) and double/triple glaze.
Waste, wrapping and plastic
Reduce your food waste and compost if possible. Try and avoid purchases being “over wrapped”, particularly if in plastic and try to leave the excess wrapping in the shop.
The issue of waste recycling is now a “cause celebre” of national and international importance and how best individuals can reduce then amount of unnecessary wrapping. Similarly, the question of single use plastic.
Extending the average life of clothes by just three months per item would lead to a 5-10% reduction in each of the carbon, water and waste. 85% of fast fashion ends up in landfills and as most comes from the Third World, China and Bangladesh, it is shipped using highly polluting of fossil fuels. In 2015, the clothing industry was responsible for 1.750 million tonnes of CO2 emissions (source Pulse of Fashion report). The production of clothing is very water demanding as it takes 10 to 0,000 litres of water to make 1 kilo of cotton, equivalent to a pair of jeans and a shirt (source Wrap report 2017 Instead, buy quality clothing that will last.
A tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of CO2 per year and can sequester 1 ton of CO2 by the time it reaches 40 years old: that is about 2 2kg/yr or 455 kg in the same period. Taking an average figures for the average person, planting about 1000 trees year would off-set their annual carbon footprint: less depending on where they live and the individual life style.
Use Green Energy
Changing your energy provider, to one focusing on green energy (and offsetting gas use). This makes sure you use energy from renewable sources. Additionally it creates a clear market demand for such providers, which in turn drives investment and development of cleaner energy sources. Use smart plugs to source electricity at the lowest tariff, optimal generation time and to suit your life style and values.
At Ecopush we really value your views and ideas on reducing peoples’ carbon footprint and on ways of doing this, so let us know.