Monday, 30 April 2007

The carbon debate - irrelevant?

Much has been written about the carbon debate, specifically the way that man's carbon dioxide emissions are either contributing, or not contributing to, global warming, depending on which group of experts you choose to listen too. Famously in recent years, Al Gore's excellent documentary An Inconvenient Truth has left viewers in little doubt as to the inexorable effect our modern industrial lifestyle is having on CO2 levels, and how that is throwing the planet's delicate environmental balance out of sync, with devastating physical and social implications. Equally, Channel 4's recent Great Global Warming Swindle paints a very different picture, suggesting (with evidence every bit as compelling as Mr Gore's) that rising CO2 levels are a consequence of global warming, rather than the cause, illustrating this with a Goresque graph showing an 80 year lag from temperature rise to carbon dioxide increase.

I'm not an environmental scientist. I haven't studied meteorology since S-level Geography at school. I don't know whose graphs to believe, Al Gore's or Channel 4's. Whatever the cause though, there's no denying that global warming is happening and redefining the landscape at an alarming rate - just recently I read how maps of Greenland need to be redrawn. Of course on the same day, and in the same paper, there was an article on how corporations are hijacking global warming for commercial gain which, in its own way, is almost as alarming.

What I do know is this: whether carbon dioxide is a cause or side-effect of global warming is, in a way, irrelevant. Because even if it doesn't cause the problem, why would anyone want to pollute any more than they could help? Surely it is common sense, both ethically and economically, to cut down on consumption, re-use materials and recycle whenever possible anyway, regardless of any carbon debate motives for doing so? One undisputed fact from Gore's documentary is that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are going off the chart, higher than any level discernible from any ice core samples for hundreds of thousands of years. So why should anyone in their right mind want to make it even worse, regardless of their view on the relationship between carbon emissions and global warming? Other than to justify, to themselves at least, that it's okay to jump in their gas-guzzling 4x4 (which, incidentally, only ever goes off-road if they park on the pavement, but don't get me started on that) and drive past the bus-stop on their way to the airport for their fourth overseas holiday of the year...

And just think of the air quality! Burning less fossil fuels through greener practices, and switching to cleaner renewable sources of energy, surely means less pollution... hence cleaner air for us all to enjoy. Makes sense, doesn't it?

So... the carbon debate. I leave that decision to your own conscience. But living a greener, more environmentally friendly life is surely a must, whichever side of the fence you come down on. I've mentioned them before, and I'll mention them again no doubt, but for advice and guidance on ways that you can do your bit, take a peek at CRed.