2 September 2006

Deadly gas emissions must be reduced

By Andrew Boswell

A recent Christian Aid report describes how climate change is threatening development goals for billions of the world's poorest people, and that a staggering 182 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone could die of disease directly attributable to climate change this century. Many millions more throughout the world face death and devastation due to climate-induced floods, famine, drought and conflict.

"What can you do to make a difference?". An exhibition currently on at Norwich Anglican Cathedral asks this, and "What exactly is climate change?" and "How will it affect us?".

Two recent news stories show there is much we can do from conscientious behaviour to high finance.

28-year-old Barbara Hadrill will take a 7-week over land adventure from Wales to Australia to be a bridesmaid. To fulfil her best friend's request, she will travel to Brisbane by coach, trains and large cargo vessels: that is, she will travel without using extremely polluting air travel. Instead of creating 5.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide from flying - equivalent to that generated heating five modern houses for a year - her intrepid, eco-journey is estimated to create just 1.4 tonnes of the deadly climate gas.

At the other extreme, the World Bank announced earlier this week that European and Asian companies will pay two Chinese chemical companies $1.02 billion to reduce about 19 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually. This 'carbon trading' will help China expand its renewable energy – it does, however, have a major downside that the rich Western companies can go on polluting.

In both case, carbon emissions are not completely eliminated – this is the dilemma, it is difficult to reduce them completely. Cracking this nut is the issue that the 'Changing our climate, changing ourselves' exhibition addresses – how to reduce these deadly climate gases to avoid runaway and catastrophic climate change.

Norfolk is well represented. Local company, LSI Architects, have a display on integrating renewable energy into local buildings, such as schools, and there is a display about low carbon buildings that already exist in Norfolk from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). There are photographs of Norfolk's weather beaten coastline from Pat Gowen and paintings of the devastating aftermath of coastal erosion by his wife Norma.

Local artists Peter Offord and Juliet Wimhurst explore the human and spiritual dimensions of the climate crisis through art.

Peter's apocalyptic 'Spirit of Free Enterprise' expresses the consequences of twenty-first century global power and materialism. In his words "war, energy, achievement and the exploited… who are the victims, who are the heroes and heroines, what are the hidden agendas, what does global power entail and what are its consequences?"

Juliet's 'Choose' shows our dualistic relationship with nature. In her words "either we can inhabit that side of ourselves which, having decided nature has no rights nor soul, ruthlessly pushes it aside so as to pursue our own separate path; or we can strengthen the links we have with the planet to which we belong, relish its diversity and beauty, and try to nurture and care for it as best we can."

Norfolk and Norwich Campaign against Climate Change highlight the damaging effect of cheap flights, the aviation industry, road transport, and large scale production of biofuels on the climate. These campaigners ask that we all lobby the Government to prevent the potential human catastrophe highlighted by Christian Aid.

First, the Government should enact a law legally binding the UK to cut CO2 emissions by 3% per year with progress being monitored via an annual carbon budget. The proposal is already backed by over half of MPs who have signed an early day motion, EDM 178. Now Government itself must be lobbied to include a Climate Change Bill in the 2006 Queen's Speech in November.

Second, the Government must urgently review its 2003 Aviation White Paper that announced a massive programme of airport expansion. These plans will produce huge increases in our carbon emissions just when we are trying to reduce them. The Government must deal with CO2 emissions from aviation urgently if it is serious about tackling climate change.

Both these are urgently needed steps to start putting UK emissions, which have risen in recent years, back on the crucial reduction track. As individuals, we can all take inspiration from Barbara Hadrill, a heroine of our times, and take whatever steps we can to reduce our emissions. Do visit the exhibition to find out more.

The 'Changing our climate, changing ourselves' exhibition is at Norwich Anglican Cathedral until September 16th, admission free.