Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Will the Recession Save the World?

Humanity is destroying itself. We're lopping down forests, burning through fuel supplies and we're polluting the planet to a point where crops will start to fail. I don't personally believe humans as a species will last for another 1000 years, or even 500 years.

Yet there is still a glimmer of hope. We still have time to rectify the situation. To stabilise greenhouse gas levels at a safe level would cost 1% of the world's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the Stern Review published in October 2006. The alternative is struggling to pay for failing ecosystem processes. Our planet is fantastic. It provides a huge range of habitats to support teeming millions of creatures and plants. We benefit from food, clean drinking water, pharmaceuticals from plants, regulated climate, pollination of crops, nutrient cycling, waste decomposition and disease control, not to mention all those processes we do not fully understand yet! If carbon emissions continue at the current rate we will lose some of the most vital things that Earth provides for us. The cost to the global economy will be 5-20% of the GDP, or 20 times more than the cost of acting now to prevent the loss.

Do people want to go green to save the planet? Can they be bothered? Until recently the answer was “no” in most cases.

The recession has been rubbish for everyone, with millions of people unemployed in the UK and a huge hike in the cost of living. In the news the other day they reported that people weren't planning to turn on their central heating until it gets colder because of the 18% rise in energy costs. As long as people are staying safe, surely this is a good thing! People feel that they should be able to walk round their home in shorts and a t-shirt, even in the middle of winter! By putting on a few extra layers instead of flicking on the heating you are saving yourself money as well as cutting down your carbon footprint. I'm currently writing this from the comfort of a blanket and shawl, with fluffy woolly socks keeping my toes toasty. A safe room temperature is about 16°C (61°F), which isn't warm but it's not uncomfortably cold (older people and young children may need a slightly higher temperature). If you're only going to be in one room (for example at night), just heat the one room instead of your entire house!

Another “benefit” of the recession is the ridiculous price of petrol/diesel. The cheapest prices in our area currently are 133.9 pence per litre for petrol and 138.9p/L for diesel. (It's quite harsh that Cornwall has some of the highest fuel prices in the country, yet some of the worst public transport and lowest wages to boot!) The days of going for a drive for something to do are over. A year ago, The Boyfriend and I would occasionally drive to the 24hr Tesco (~25 mile round trip) to get a DVD to watch, but lately we've said “ehhh.. fuel costs too much”! I'm sure a lot of people are reducing their weekly miles to save money, which has got to have a good impact on the environment!

The question is how much of a reduction will be enough? The Government has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 12.5% by 2012 (from 1990 levels) and by 80% by 2050. Will we meet these targets, and will it be enough to stop global climate change from escalating?

The recession is causing people to live more frugally and environmentally friendly. Will the recession save the planet?

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