“Climate Change Must be Treated as an Immediate Threat”

Posted by chdot on September 8, 2006

These are not the words of some stereotype sandal-wearing bearded-leftie, but John Ashton, the UK’s ‘climate change envoy’ in an article published today on the BBC’s News web site. Full quote in the article “Human-induced climate change must be treated as an immediate threat to national security and prosperity”.

He goes on to say “Governments will need, as a matter of security, to build the avenues of trust and opportunity that will divert investment from high carbon to low carbon infrastructure….they will need to do all of this very fast. It is now becoming increasingly clear that it is what we do in the next 15 years that matters most.”

Transport is of course one of the most significant sources of carbon dioxide (CO2) which is why cycling is important – both as a small individual contribution and as an indicator of a different way of how we live and work. This is why the current ‘parking problems’ in Edinburgh are both comical and serious.

It is recognised that air travel (especially short haul) is the worst offender. At present 10 times as many people fly between Edinburgh and London as use GNER and there are plans to significantly increase the size of Edinburgh Airport and build a new rail line to it – EARL.

At some point, air travel will have to be taxed ‘realistically’. Increasingly environmentalists are suggesting that there will have to be a massive reduction in air travel. One such person is Meyer Hillman. He was in Edinburgh recently giving a gloomy (but perhaps not unrealistic) view of the future. He is keen on Personal Carbon Trading. (Some of his thoughts and useful practical suggestions.)

But instead of tax or other measures to discourage air travel, the current political answer is to promote High Speed Rail. Yesterday, Edinburgh’s new Council Leader, Ewan Aitken, backed a call for a brand new rail line to London. (Evening News story)

However the previous evening (ironically in the City Chambers), respected rail expert and campaigner David Spaven had presented a strong argument (Are High-Speed Railways Good for the Environment?) against such a massive infrastructure project. It would not only involve a lot of CO2 during construction, but also more in service, as energy use increases significantly with speed.

It was suggested, by a member of the audience, that the new railway could use electricity from renewable sources. Unfortunately sustainable energy supply seems as far off as a sustainable transport policy.

It will be interesting to see how Governments (Westminster and Holyrood) react to Ashton’s thoughts.

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