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First, we need to decide if we’re actually going to do something about rising CO2 levels, increased air pollution and rising sea-levels, or whether we’re on yet another PR junket to a UN Climate Change Conference.
See: UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021, October 31 through November 1, 2021.
Once we’ve decided that, we’re in a better position to decide if this conference is the one that will save humanity (from itself) or whether we must wait for a future COP summit to make concrete progress toward clean air in cities, lower pollution levels generally, and decreased sea-level rise.
At Present, We’re On Track to Lose
It’s being widely reported by major media outlets that even if every government on Earth kept it’s best CO2 reduction promises, we’d still be far below meeting our CO2 reduction targets… by such a large margin that instead of limiting global warming to +1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels, we’d actually experience a global warming of +3ºC by 2050.
That is not acceptable.
Widespread crop failures due to agricultural drought (in some areas) massive flooding (in other areas) a huge uptick in wildlife die-offs, millions of square miles of low-lying land lost to the sea forever, and catastrophic consequences for human life in developing countries — and maybe even our own countries — would be the result of missing our global warming target by such a large margin.
And if we end up in such a situation, we’ll have no one to blame except the politicians of today… for it is their job to create legislation and regulations, pass them into law, and then enforce those regulations.
It isn’t the responsibility of hockey players, nor is it the responsibility of bus drivers, waitresses, fast food workers, airline pilots or English literature professors to do this — it’s the responsibility of policymakers to protect us from the poor environmental policies of previous generations of politicians.
Is Climate Change ‘Too Big’ an Item to Leave to the Politicians?
Well, don’t look now, but yes, it is ‘too big of a problem’ to leave to politicians… if past experience is to guide us.
Yet, there have been signs of excellence in some jurisdictions.
California, for one, which used to have the worst air pollution in the United States along with astronomical respiratory related healthcare costs, is now among the best in the world in advanced clean air policy. The beautiful country of Norway is another shining example that sources almost 100% of its electrical power from renewable energy and is a place where 40% of new cars sold are electric vehicles, and by 2025, petrol-engined cars won’t be available for sale. Existing petrol and diesel-engined cars will still be legal to own and drive in Norway, but you won’t be able to buy or import a new diesel or petrol-engined car in Norway.
There are other stellar examples in the world of farsighted environmental policy by governments, but not enough.
But California, Norway and others have proven that it is possible to reduce vehicle emissions and switch to a renewable energy grid at the same time — and both have extremely robust economies — so don’t even try that argument.
Switching to a green economy does cost money, but saves more money than it costs over the medium and long term.
Three Concrete Ways the UK Could Take Real Action Against Climate Change:
- END ALL ENERGY SUBSIDIES. People who receive subsidized energy… use more energy. Lowering energy wastage is the best way to lower consumption. Whether petrol or diesel motor fuel subsidies, primary energy subsidies from utility companies, or renewable energy subsidies — ALL SUBSIDIES = MORE ENERGY USAGE/WASTAGE/CONSUMPTION/DEMAND. Therefore, even renewable energy subsidies, yes, even renewable energy subsidies, must be discontinued in order to lessen total electrical demand and total motor fuel demand. When you lessen demand, you meet your clean air and CO2 targets.
- SWITCH ALL MOTOR AND AIRCRAFT FUELS TO BIOFUEL BY 2025. Biofuel burns 80 per cent cleaner than conventional petroleum fuel in cars, light trucks and semi-trailer transport trucks. Even moreso in jet aircraft engines, as Boeing, Etihad Airlines, Virgin Air, Alaska Air and the US Navy have proven beyond any doubt whatsoever. Those jets burn 94 per cent cleaner than conventional kerosene fuel and they have a lighter maintenance schedule because they don’t produce as much byproduct (soot) in the combustion process. When you burn ultra-clean biofuel, you meet your clean air and CO2 targets.
- LEGISLATE THAT ALL CARS, TRUCKS AND SEMI TRUCKS BE POWERED BY ELECTRICITY BY 2025, AS NORWAY HAS ALREADY DONE. Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV’s) are wildly popular with those who own them, they require far less maintenance, they’re more reliable, have far fewer moving parts to wear out, they don’t pollute and batteries will become about as recyclable as petrol engines are at the end of their lifecycle. And you can charge BEV’s at home from an ordinary wall socket. Plus, they have astounding acceleration from a standing start. And no noise. If you like peace and quiet, you’ll love electric vehicles. When you drive EV’s, you meet your clean air and CO2 targets.
It is important to state that by utilizing any one of those above three choices, the UK
(or any country) would easily meet its Paris CO2 emission reduction targets.
The Time for ‘Kicking the Can Down the Road’ is Long Past
Now is the time for real and concrete action designed to meet all of our clean air and CO2 targets.
There can be no excuse at this late date for inaction or tepid moves toward clean air/CO2 emission reduction, or people (voters) will become convinced that climate change/clean air targets/CO2 emission targets/sea-level prevention problems are ‘too big’ for mere politicians to solve, and at that point, politicians will increasingly find themselves disrespected and marginalized in every future decision-making process — and the corporate world will love that!
Academia wouldn’t have a chance to become the climate problem solver for citizens because they just don’t have the money that the corporate world has…
Save Our Planet or Leave!
So, by not solving the climate crisis now, today’s political leaders will have handed their remaining power to the corporate world and will become almost irrelevant — mere shills for the corporate elite.
In contrast, by solving the climate crisis now when it matters, it means that policymakers will save our democratic way of life, create a less toxic environment for people and wildlife, help to prevent floods, droughts, pestilence, a loss of biodiversity, and will help to lower healthcare costs and sea-level rise costs… and for politicians, it means saving their profession from utter contempt and eventual marginalization.
Whether you believe in global warming and sea level rise or not, most people would agree that breathing clean air is better for you than breathing toxic exhaust fumes and that drinking clean water is healthier for human beings. If you don’t believe that statement, you’ve got bigger problems than polluted air in cities.
“The UK ranked 36th in the world for its CO2 emissions from consumption spread across its population, totalling at 8.34 tonnes per person in 2017 – the last year when such data for the UK was available. The global average for that year was 4.7 tonnes of CO2 per person.” — The Independent
As always, there’s a hard way to go about accomplishing something and an easier, more efficient way of getting things done. Which brings me to the point of this particular blog post, and that is… there is no reason that UK cities need to ‘go it alone’ in their quest to lower CO2 emissions — rather, by aligning with the C40 Cities initiative which provides expertise and other supports to member cities, UK cities can streamline their progress and get even better results by taking the C40 cities route to clean air and water.
“Human civilisation is facing an environmental crisis on a global scale. The world has failed to stop carbon emissions rising in a way that is consistent with a sustainable future for humanity and now we face a climate emergency. But the world’s leading cities are taking action to respond to the climate crisis and create the future we want.” — C40 Cities
There is help in numbers. There is also an unparalleled degree of technical assistance offered by the C40 Cities organization, and member cities share the results of their various CO2 reduction programmes with other member cities. And, being part of a larger group dedicated to clean air and water and better health for citizens means that UK cities won’t be ‘going it alone’.
Clean Air and Clean Water Works to Lower Healthcare Spending
Macmillan Cancer Support says that half of the UK population will develop cancer in their lifetime — which puts an unbelievable strain on the NHS, on families where half of them will face some kind of cancer in their life, and on the GDP of the United Kingdom.
Although there isn’t a direct link from highly polluted city air to cancer, it is widely acknowledged that respiratory ailments of all kinds are common in cities known for poor air quality and respiratory cancers represent some percentage of those ailments.
The number of people in the UK who will get cancer during their lifetime will increase to nearly half the population by 2020, a report has forecast. Macmillan Cancer Support said the projected figure of 47%, up from the current 44%, would put huge pressure on the NHS. But the charity said that more people were surviving cancer compared to 20 years ago. — BBC
Even though cancer survival rates have improved in recent years, it becomes ever more costly as new (and astonishingly expensive!) technology comes online to improve the survivability odds of cancer. Prevention therefore, becomes more important as the incidence of various cancers increase and treatment becomes more expensive.
“In the 1970s, only 1 in 4 cancer patients would survive their disease for ten years or more. By 2010, this had risen to 2 in 4, and survival continues to improve today. This is due to groundbreaking research, innovative new treatments, and the tireless efforts of staff right across the NHS. However, there is still much to be done. This report summarises the current state of cancer in the UK, recognising where progress has been made, and highlighting the challenges that we continue to face. Cancer Research UK’s ambitious vision to see 3 in 4 people with cancer survive for ten years or more by 2034 serves as a driving force […] across the UK to achieve this.” — cruk.org
By working to improve air quality in UK cities, respiratory disease rates will fall — including cancers of the respiratory kind — which will help to lower NHS spending. See how it all weaves together? Investing in clean air in cities means lower healthcare spending.
And that’s a point sometimes forgotten by some of the good-hearted clean air purists pushing for lower CO2 emissions. Clean air in cities will save us money! Even hard-nosed business tycoons should understand that kind of logic.
What Can You Do?
What can you do to help improve the air in UK cities and lower your chances for air pollution caused illness?
Here are five ways to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem:
- Leave your car at home and use public transit to commute to any UK city.
- Install a programmable thermostat in your home and set it to ‘Eco Mode’.
- Install double-glazed windows, insulated exterior doors and seal drafts.
- Once per week, consume plant-based protein instead of meat protein.
- Shop locally. Decide to buy your meat and veg from local suppliers.
By choosing to lower your CO2 footprint, you’ll be working to lower the overall air pollution in the city in which you live or work, and you’ll help lower your chances of contracting some kind of respiratory disease (including respiratory cancers) and you’ll be setting a fine example for your family, friends and associates.
Living a healthier life, emitting less CO2, and living in cleaner cities will help to deliver the kind of transformation that Britons and UK cities need to survive and thrive in the 21st-century.
- The UK Grows its Economy as it Replaces Coal with Renewables (LettertoBritain)
- The U.K. Cut Emissions to the Lowest Level Since 1888. Here’s How (Fortune)
- How Westminster Politicians Could Help the UK Environment (LetterToBritain)
- UK power cut: National Grid promises to learn lessons from blackout (BBC)
- How UK Utility Companies Select Power Producers (LetterToBritain.com)
- What will it take for the UK to reach net zero emissions? (The Guardian)
- Want realtime energy information on the UK grid? (GridWatch.co.uk)
- Floating wind farms just became a serious business (Quartz)
- Building a Failsafe Energy Grid post-Brexit (LetterToBritain)
- Will 2020 Be the Year that Britain Shines? (LetterToBritain)
- Theresa May: Environment Speech, 2018 (LetterToBritain)