Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Climate change: The way we must live now

The Guardian, Tuesday 1 September 2009
All great causes involve a tension between collective belief and individual action. A shared agreement that something must be done is not enough to win the battle if people do nothing. This is especially true of the fight against climate change, which must involve all of humanity over many decades, working together to achieve something that none can see or touch and that can only be measured by scientists: an end to the rapid increase of climate change gases in the atmosphere. Faced with this, even the most generous-spirited of people could be forgiven for feeling daunted – surrendering, perhaps, to the hope that someone else will solve the problem.
Urged to do their bit, individuals may wait instead for governments to act, or engineers to come up with technical fixes, or just give in to the comforting but scientifically-unsupported gamble that calamity may be avoided if things go on as they are. Today, the Guardian lends its support to a new movement that aims to defy such fatalism. The 10:10 campaign does not claim that climate change can be wished away through a series of small personal measures taken in Britain alone; it fully supports the need for a deal at the Copenhagen summit in December and for great economies such as the US and China to change too. But if the international agreement is to mean anything, the way people live in this country must change. The 10:10 campaign – named after its target of helping people reduce their individual carbon emissions by 10% in 2010 – will put pressure on government to meet its promises, but it will also have an immediate effect. Climate change gases, once in the atmosphere, stay there. The faster emissions fall now, the less will have to be done later.
All calls for individual environmental responsibility tread a tricky path. On the one hand there is a large and committed green movement, represented this week by the climate camp now in place where the Peasants' Revolt once gathered in Blackheath in south-east London. Many of its supporters, for the best of reasons, want human life to change radically and immediately: an end to the global free market, to meat-eating, to air travel, to all coal-produced electricity. They disapprove of mechanisms to bring down carbon emissions such as the European Union's carbon trading scheme; some dislike technological solutions such as carbon capture and storage. The trouble with these ambitions is that they are never likely to be supported by the majority of the population, who, if told that such things are essential to stop climate change, may simply give up trying altogether. But at the other extreme lies an even more unrealistic response: to pretend that all that individuals need to do is make tiny adjustments to their lives – change a light bulb and save the world – while government sorts out the rest at very little cost. The fight is going to be much harder than that. And even if it eventually repays its costs, as Lord Stern has argued, the bills will arrive first and the savings later.
The new campaign hopes to avoid both pitfalls. As writers explain in the Guardian today and through the next year, individuals have a moral obligation to act which can be met without abandoning the good things about life as it is lived today. Houses can still be heated, but must be insulated too. All sorts of food can still be eaten, but perhaps less meat and less often, and where possible that food should have travelled less far. Walk more, drive less – such things are so obvious that they can seem petty, and yet if enough people and organisations in Britain do them regularly, the effect can be immense. Britain's emissions have fallen since 1990. They must keep on falling sharply: current emissions of over 10 tonnes per capita must drop to two tonnes by 2050. This new campaign will not be enough to achieve that. But it is more than a start; it is the direction Britain must take, if the world as we know it is to survive.

How to reduce your carbon emissions by 10%

If you are signed up to 10:10, you need to cut about 1.4 tonnes of your carbon emissions by next year. It could be easier than you think …

Chris Goodall
The Guardian, Tuesday 1 September 2009
Every year, each person in the UK is, on average, responsible for about 14 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. (The government's published figures suggest a lower amount, but they omit things such as international aviation.) So, if we want to make a genuine cut of 10% across the board, we need to reduce our emissions by about 1.4 tonnes each. Let's call it 1.5 tonnes, just to be sure.
To aid the process, I have broken the average citizen's lifestyle-related emissions into 10 distinct categories. Some emissions, of course, we can't do much about ourselves, as they arise from energy use outside our control. However, about two-thirds of that 14-tonne annual total comes from the way we run our homes, our personal transport and the things we buy.
To be clear: the figures I'm using are only averages. People lead very different lives; a person living in a small, city-centre flat without a car may have half the emissions of someone who flies every month and lives in a large, detached house. My suggestions for CO2 savings are intended simply as a yardstick for where best to focus your attention (the annual projected savings are all calculated for an "average" energy consumer using the latest widely accepted figures). The choice of how to achieve a 10% cut in your emissions next year is down to you.
Domestic gas
(Responsible for just under two tonnes of CO2 per person)
The amount of gas used at home is the most significant component of most people's carbon footprint. Gas use is largely driven by home heating, so it is the size of your house and how well insulated it is that determines how much energy you use. (Heating the hot water and running the cooker aren't anywhere near as important.)
In a year, the average home uses about 20,000 units (kilowatt hours) of energy via gas use. Your gas bills should give a figure for your usage each quarter – but remember you use very little in the summer months, so you'll need to add up the total across all four quarters. In our estimates, we've used the gas consumption habits of the typical UK home, lived in by the average 2.3 people, and assumed the house is on the mains gas network.
Annual savings in tonnes of CO2
Major improvement in your home's insulation 0.4
New boiler if yours is more than 10 years old 0.3
Cavity wall insulation 0.3
Double glazing if you don't have it 0.2
Solar hot water 0.2
Increase loft insulation, seal doors
and skirting boards, etc 0.2
Better controls for boiler, hot water tank
and radiators 0.2
Buy a wood-burning stove 0.2
Reduce your thermostat temp by 1 degree 0.2
Heat one less room 0.1
Slow-flow showers, not baths 0.1
(One tonne of CO2)
The average home uses about 4,000 units of electricity a year. Using this figure, and knowing that that there are an average of 2.3 people in each household, we can calculate that domestic electricity use accounts for about a tonne of CO2 per person per year. The most significant users of domestic electricity are tumble dryers, fridges and large televisions, particularly plasma TVs.
The level of emissions produced in generating your electricity depends, of course, on the fuel used in the power station, which is why the government is encouraging the development of renewable power sources such as wind. In addition, recent changes to the subsidy scheme now make it more financially attractive to generate your own power from the sun or wind.
Annual savings in tonnes of CO2
Install 2 kilowatt solar PV panels 0.4
Buy a new A++ refrigerator if yours is more than 4 years old, and only use a small-screen TV 0.1
Use LED or fluorescent lights where you currently have halogen lights installed 0.1
Buy an automated system to turn off appliances when not in use; get a meter that shows actual energy use and use it to monitor your household 0.1
Only use your washing machine and dishwasher
when full to capacity and at lowest temperature 0.1
Never use the tumble dryer 0.1
Get rid of the freezer if you can, and replace your small appliances with "eco" varieties 0.1
(1.5 tonnes of CO2)
There is one car for every two people in the UK, and each one travels an average of about 9,000 miles a year. Old MOT certificates usually have a mileage figure on them, so you can use them to estimate the annual mileage of your household cars. Emissions are directly related to the amount of fuel you buy, and smaller, newer cars are about twice as energy-efficient as older, four-wheel drive vehicles.
For many city dwellers, a car-share scheme may be the best way of reducing emissions. Those who must have their own car can reduce their petrol bills by a surprising amount by taking a one-day eco-driving course that shows how our bad driving habits increase the amount of fuel we use.
Annual savings in tonnes of CO2
Cut your annual mileage in half 0.7
Sell the second car 0.7
Buy a new car with emissions in car tax bands A or B, then scrap the old one 0.5
Join a car club or set up an effective local car-sharing scheme 0.4
Share car to work 0.3
Go on a day's eco-driving course, fit low-resistance tyres and check air pressure every month 0.2
Don't ever use a car for shopping. Buy online 0.1
Work from home one day a week rather than commuting by car 0.1
Air travel
(1.2 tonnes of CO2)
Almost half the people in the UK won't travel by air this year. Those who do fly take an average of about two trips a year. Nevertheless, this is an important source of emissions because of the long distances involved. One flight to Los Angeles and back is further than most people travel in their car during the entire year. I've also adjusted the figures to reflect the detrimental effect of aircraft emissions other than C02, though there is still fierce scientific debate about the exact impact of these other pollutants.
Annual savings in tonnes of CO2
Never fly 1.2
Restrict yourself to one short-haul return flight a year on a carrier with a fuel-efficient fleet 0.3
Consumer electronics
(0.5 tonnes of CO2)
The gadgets we love to buy are another major source of carbon emissions, albeit "hidden" because almost all our living-room appliances are made in the Far East. Our mobile phones, computers, games consoles and DVD players are packed with components from all over the world, often containing trace amounts of precious metals that have taken huge amounts of energy to refine. The best study on the footprint of home computers was carried out by Apple; it showed that a single new desktop machine created emissions of almost half a tonne during its manufacture. The simple rule is: buy less stuff, keep it longer and then ensure it is properly recycled; there are many organisations that will do this for you.
Annual savings in tonnes of CO2
Buy secondhand mobile phones and ensure that three of your electronic devices are recycled 0.3
Keep your electronic devices (eg phones, TVs, computers, DVD players, games machines) one year longer than you would have 0.2
Switch from a desktop computer to a laptop at home, and recycle the desktop 0.1
(1.5 tonnes of CO2)
This always surprises people, but the global food production system is a really important source of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Except for a few air-freighted foods, the main cause of the emissions isn't "food miles". Packaging is not particularly important either. The high emissions come from livestock farming and from the heavy use of fertilisers, some of which break down into nitrous oxide, a global warming gas hundreds of times more powerful than CO2. The best way to make a real difference to food-related emissions is to reduce your consumption of meat and dairy products. Veganism might not be popular, but it can make a big difference to CO2 and methane emissions.
Annual savings in tonnes of CO2
Go vegan three days a week 0.5
Change to an almost entirely vegetarian diet, using mostly unprocessed wholefoods such as grains, seeds and nuts 0.5
Never buy processed food or ready meals 0.2
Buy more carefully and never throw food away 0.2
Grow all your own fruit and vegetables for July, August, September 0.1
(0.8 tonnes of CO2)
How can clothing be so important? The main reason, for people in the UK, is the use of wool and cotton fabrics that, when being produced, have very high greenhouse gas impacts. We buy 20kg or so of new clothes every year and each garment made from natural fibres has a typical greenhouse gas footprint more than 20 times its weight. Manmade fibres such as polyester are a better choice in terms of reducing emissions.
Annual savings in tonnes of CO2
Buy 50% secondhand clothes 0.3
Reduce purchases by a more than a quarter compared to last year (eg buy four new T-shirts not the UK average of seven) 0.2
Buy only manmade fibres 0.2
Focus on new fabrics made from bamboo, hemp or other cotton substitutes 0.1
Water, sewage and waste disposal
(0.3 tonnes of CO2)
Pushing large volumes of water uphill to your house uses energy. After its use, the waste water then has to be treated, and some methane from the sewage escapes into the atmosphere. Some solid waste sent to landfill also generates emissions.
Annual savings in tonnes of CO2
Install a 'grey water' recycling system to take water from your washing machine into your lavatory 0.1
Use showers, not baths. Install a flow-reducing aerator for the shower head 0.1
Regularly use soap, a basin of water and a sponge instead of a shower 0.1
Buy ultra-low water use cisterns, new water-saving dishwasher, washing machine. Recycle old ones 0.1
Install – and carefully monitor – a water meter. Put bricks in all the loos to reduce water. Carefully recycle all waste, compost all organic matter 0.1
Install a composting toilet 0.1
Public transport
(0.2 tonnes of CO2)
While we are all encouraged to use public transport more, the emissions aren't inconsequential. Faster types of ferry and high-speed trains (particularly diesel) can be worse than cars. But long-distance coaches are very energy efficient indeed.
Annual savings in tonnes of CO2
Cycle everywhere 0.3
Always use coaches instead of the train 0.1
Work from home two days a week instead of taking public transport to work 0.1
(0.3 tonnes of CO2)
Taking a tree and breaking it up into tiny fibres, turning it into a slurry that is then pressed into sheets of paper is incredibly energy intensive. Newspapers such as the Guardian are now made from nearly 100% recycled newsprint, thereby avoiding much of this energy use, but the embedded energy use should be considered. However, magazines made from virgin paper have far higher footprints. It also doesn't help that Britons are said to be among the largest consumers of toilet paper in the world.
Annual savings in tonnes of CO2
Only buy newspapers, magazines, books, toilet paper and copier paper made from recycled materials 0.1
Block direct mail, choose electronic bills and statements, buy secondhand books and share papers 0.1
'I'm a frequent flyer. I haven't got a chance in hell of pulling this off'
Yes, flying a lot does drive up your carbon footprint considerably. More than anything else, flying habits cause the largest fluctuations in people's lifestyle-related emissions. While almost half the population doesn't fly at all in any typical 12-month period, some people take up to 20 flights a year. This table shows how emissions can vary enormously depending on the distance flown:
Two return trips on holiday to the Med 2.4 tonnes
Ski flight to Geneva 0.5 tonnes
Business conference in New York 2.7 tonnes
Quarterly meetings in Frankfurt 1.4 tonnes
Sales trips to Hong Kong and Sydney 14.3 tonnes
Source: Latest Defra estimates, adjusted to reflect current seat occupancy levels (75% according to IATA, August 2009) and using a multiplier of 2 to reflect the non-CO2 impacts of aircraft in flight)
Anyone taking all these flights over a year might rack up a carbon footprint totalling more than 35 tonnes. For such a person, the 10% reduction could conceivably come from making savings in other areas, but probably they'll only get there by cutting one or two flights. It isn't too difficult.
Option 1 Take holidays by car or rail. Southern France can be easily reached in a day from London. Paris to Aix-en-Provence is three hours by TGV and about £50.
Option 2 Cut one of the quarterly Frankfurt meetings and take the Eurostar ski-train to the Alps.
Option 3 Participate in that New York conference by video link.
Option 4 Merge the two sales trips to the Far East and Australia into one itinerary.
Perhaps you think you can't cut your flying. But about five million flights from Heathrow last year were to internal meetings with people in the same organisation. Perhaps some of these would have been excellent candidates for replacing with video conferencing?
'I've never knowingly done anything green in my life. Where do I start?'
You're going to find this easy. It will only take a few simple changes to take a substantial slice off your carbon footprint. Just cutting out the obvious wastes of energy will almost certainly reduce it by 10% without any significant change in your lifestyle. The savings in cash may be noticeable as well. Here are some easy suggestions . . .
• Adjust the central heating controls so that the boiler is only on when you need it. Large numbers of households still don't use their central heating controls properly. Set the timer correctly, make sure the temperature sensitive valves on the radiators are in the correct position, and use the thermostat to control temperatures (a lot of people use it simply as an on/off switch).
• Reduce electricity bills by turning off appliances at the wall when they are not in use, rather than leaving them on standby. This won't save a huge amount of electricity, but it helps.
• Put energy-efficient bulbs in all your lampshades. This alone might save 10% of your electricity bill.
• Never drive on journeys of less than a mile or so. Almost 30% of journeys are less than two miles. Would a bike be better, more convenient and more fun?
• Almost everybody recycles newspaper now. But what about composting food waste, sorting the plastics and giving the clothes to the charity shop? All these things will make a small difference individually, but taken together they might shave a few percent off your total carbon footprint.

The beauty of 10:10 is that it's both achievable and meaningful

The world's response to global warming is a classic case of all mouth and no trousers. This new initiative aims to show that we can all act now - and achieve something significant

Ian Katz
The Guardian, Tuesday 1 September 2009
Future generations writing the history of climate change may be struck by an apparent paradox: while millions of educated people – perhaps most of them – alive in the first decade of the 21st century acknowledged the threat posed by the buildup of greenhouse gasses and their part in creating it, only a tiny number did anything about it. Poll after poll underlines this disconnect; one extensive survey carried out by the Department for Transport last year found that 81% of adults were very or fairly concerned about climate change and three quarters said they were willing to change their behaviour to help combat it. But go looking for examples of that changed behaviour beyond putting out the recycling and you're likely to be disappointed. With the exception of a small, saintly portion of the population, our response to global warming is a classic case of all mouth and no trousers.
And seen from this end of the century it's not hard to see why. Even if most of us appreciate, as my colleague Leo Hickman describes it, that sawing away at the branch we are sitting on can't be a good idea, actually doing something about it requires us both to execute a leap of imagination and to stretch our ideas of self-interest and moral responsibility. We are asked to make real sacrifices now to protect future generations from a risk, the precise nature of which is still uncertain. Homo sapiens has never been terribly good at this kind of long-term thinking – some evolutionary biologists suggest the very wiring of our brains conspires against it – and the rise of liberal individualism has made it harder, if anything, to forge collective responses to problems that do not threaten our short-term self-interest.
Then there is the awkward reality, often glossed over by the those seeking to promote action on climate change, that the children and grandchildren of those of us in the rich north will not be among those worst hit by the effects of warming. In fact, how many Britons do not hear talk of a two- or three-degree increase in average temperatures and secretly wonder if a climate more like Seville than Stockholm might be rather pleasant?
Even those well-intentioned enough to want to do their bit, can quickly find themselves feeling powerless and paralysed in the face of an issue of this scale. What's the point of acting individually to reduce your emissions if most other people carry on just as they are? In fact what's the point of doing anything in Britain when it accounts for just 2% of world emissions? What about that new coal-fired power station the Chinese are building every week? Doesn't it make a mockery of anything I, or even Britain, might do?
Climate change is perhaps the most extreme example of what the American ecologist Garrett Hardin called a tragedy of the commons. Hardin considered the example of herders raising cattle on a shared field. It was in each herder's narrow interest to keep adding more cows, since each enjoyed all the benefits of an extra cow, while the effects of the extra cow on the pasture were shared by all. And so the herders moved ineluctably towards disaster.
At the same time, much of the discourse about climate change does little to convey a sense of urgency. Scientists and politicians talk about "stabilising" carbon dioxide levels some time later this century. Diplomats wrangle over targets for 2020 and 2050. It all sounds like something we can afford to put off worrying about until next month or next year. The penny that has not yet dropped with most of us is that we have arrived at a make-or-break moment: if we are to have any real chance of avoiding dangerous warming, the scientists now agree, global emissions must peak within the next five to 10 years and then begin to fall. And if we are to have any chance of achieving that goal, we need to start cutting now. Tomorrow, next week, next month.
The environmental thinker Tim Helweg-Larsen explains the urgency by likening climate change to a bath with the tap running. Since warming is caused by the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, it is the volume of water in the bath, rather than simply how much water is flowing into it, that we must worry about. If the bath is close to overflowing and we are still running water into it quicker than it can flow out of the plughole, we need to begin closing the taps immediately, or our chances of stopping it overflowing will be far slimmer.
A gathering of some of the world's most eminent scientists in London in May was quite precise about how quickly we must begin turning the taps: unless world carbon emissions begin falling within just six years, they concluded, we have little chance of avoiding warming beyond the critical level of two degrees. Above that level, scientists fear so-called "feedbacks" could kick in, leading to runaway warming and extreme weather events such as droughts and floods that would leave millions homeless and starving.
The 10:10 campaign, which is launched today in partnership with the Guardian, is designed both to answer the call for immediate action, and to offer individuals and organisations a meaningful way of taking it. It is the brainchild of Franny Armstrong, the irrepressible film-maker behind The Age of Stupid, a powerful docudrama about our failure to tackle climate change. The idea is compellingly simple: by signing up, individuals and organisations from multinational companies to schools and hospitals commit to doing their best to cut their emissions by 10% by the end of 2010, precisely the sort of deep, quick cut the scientists say is needed.
A modest challenge
Central to the 10:10 campaign is an acknowledgement that the kind of action we are typically urged to take to combat climate change is all too often either footling or forbiddingly hair-shirted. As the environmental writer George Marshall has powerfully argued, focusing on easy, "achievable" targets such as recycling has both distorted public understanding of the impacts of our lifestyle and risks trivialising the issue. At the same time the kind of scorched-earth lifestyle transformation some environmentalists demand is more than most of us are willing to embrace. At least yet. "You are being asked not only to change your life but to make your life very different to the people around you," says the low-carbon expert Chris Goodall. "It's almost an aggressive act. All of a sudden you move outside the mainstream milieu."
At the risk of evoking Blair's third way, 10:10 aims to find a space between these poles by promoting action that is both achievable and meaningful. While collectively cutting 10% of emissions in the next year or so would represent a significant step on the road to a low carbon Britain, it is for each of us – and for most businesses – a relatively modest challenge. The first 10% is what the experts call the low-hanging fruit, the savings we can make through relatively small sacrifices such as changing lightbulbs, insulating our homes more effectively, turning down our central heating or swapping one or two flights a year for rail journeys. Even for those of us who have already taken these easy steps, the next 10%, as some of our case studies show, is within reach without wholesale renunciation of a western consumer lifestyle. A group of Oxford householders who recently embarked on a carbon diet managed to reduce their emissions by between 25% and 30% during the course of the last year.
Over the next 16 months we'll be offering plenty of advice on how to do it and following the progress of a number of families, businesses and other organisations as they try to hit the 10% target. We'll also create space online and in print for you to swap your own know-how, experiences and support. The emphasis will be on properly quantifying the changes you can make so you can decide what is meaningful and what is simply symbolic.
The campaign has already created a remarkable degree of buzz and excitement. Even before it is formally launched today, it has attracted a diverse and formidable legion of supporters ranging from the online grocer Ocado, three major energy companies, a Premiership football club, unions and NGOs to influential figures in the arts, showbusiness, religion, TV and politics.
One measure of the power of its central idea is the improbable alliances it has forged. CEOs of energy companies find themselves in bed with activists who a few months ago might have been chained to the fences outside their power stations. The Women's Institute marches to the rhythm of painfully cool indie bands Stornoway and Reverend and the Makers (who will play for free at this evening's launch event at Tate Modern).
A moral obligation
Over the next few months, the 10:10 team hope tens – perhaps hundreds – of thousands more will don a 10:10 tag made from scrap metal salvaged from retired aircraft. (The hurried manufacture of large numbers of these over the summer produced one of the campaign's moments of black comedy when a rumour began circulating that they were tags which would be used to label the thousands of fatalities the government was expecting to be caused by swine flu.) The 10:10 team have no intention of stopping there; once they have amassed a significant number of pledges from individuals, companies and institutions, they plan to challenge the government to match their commitment.
Though the British government has recently taken some significant steps towards decarbonising the economy, the fact that we find ourselves in need of something close to a miracle to avert disaster reflects a profound failure of leadership by the political classes of all the world's major nations. Most governments and their electorates have been locked in a disastrous standoff, neither willing to take action till the other shows they are serious about the problem. 10:10 is partly about breaking that destructive impasse.
Sceptics will retort with the usual questions: why take any form of unilateral action when we are months away from what has been billed as a critical international climate conference? How can any campaign in marginal little Britain have an impact on the ultimate global problem?
Reflecting the pluralism of the 10:10 coalition, different answers emerge from different corners of the campaign. Talk to Goodall and he will answer unashamedly in terms of simple moral responsibility: "If there is a problem that has been caused by us and is being caused by us then we have a moral obligation to do something about it. As individuals we have to live our lives as we want other people to live their lives." The trouble, Goodall reflects a little sadly, is that the rise of aggressive materialism has made such a categorical position look quaint, if not outright lampoonable.
Ideas have power
Armstrong has a more pragmatic view of the role 10:10 could play in bringing about significant global action. Few who know anything about it believe the best deal on the cards in Copenhagen, the key conference in December at which world leaders will attempt to hammer out a global climate-change treaty, is anything like tough enough to avert dangerous warming. Armstrong believes forcing the British government to move faster could put it in a leadership position that would enable it to push for a tougher deal. It is an optimistic but not completely far-fetched vision. Developing nations – in particular China and India – have consistently argued that they won't submit to binding carbon limits until they see real evidence of the rich world tackling the problem it substantially created. I have heard Chinese diplomats talk about the importance of seeing meaningful action from Britain and Europe. Helweg-Larsen talks compellingly about the value of taking an inspirational lead: "We have to demonstrate progress and we have to be inspiring each other with action. Ideas have power."
More radical critics will argue that 10:10 is just "feelgood" window dressing designed to paper over the cracks in a broken economic model. Even the moving spirits of the campaign would not claim it was more than a useful first step towards the deeper transformation of our lifestyles that will be required. But it is significant that some of the most exacting experts in the field have endorsed the campaign as being in line with what the science demands – figures such as outspoken British climatologist Kevin Anderson who has criticised both politicians and his colleagues for failing to be honest about the perilousness of our position.
A while ago I had a dispiriting conversation with another eminent European scientist. He is a natural optimist but sounded unusually low. He had recently been asked to brief a leading European political figure on the latest scientific understanding of climate change. The leader listened then described the best deal he believed possible at Copenhagen: a 50% global cut in emissions against 2000 levels – by 2050. The scientist explained that such a deal would give us only a 50% chance of avoiding a temperature rise above the critical two-degree level that experts believe could trigger runaway warming, but the politician insisted that a tougher deal would never get off the drawing board. "I asked, who would fly on an airline that had a 50:50 chance of crashing?" the scientist told me.
10:10 is about declaring that we do not accept those odds. It is about grabbing the wheel from the bus driver who is steering us directly towards an oncoming juggernaut. It is about old-fashioned ideas of responsibility, but also about a more enlightened understanding of our collective self-interest. It is about an optimistic view of what ordinary people can achieve, and of human nature itself. Now over to you. •

The Sermilik fjord in Greenland: a chilling view of a warming world

'We all live on the Greenland ice sheet now. Its fate is our fate'

Patrick Barkham at Sermilik fjord, Greenland
The Guardian, Tuesday 1 September 2009
It is calving season in the Arctic. A flotilla of icebergs, some as jagged as fairytale castles and others as smooth as dinosaur eggs, calve from the ice sheet that smothers Greenland and sail down the fjords. The journey of these sculptures of ice from glaciers to ocean is eerily beautiful and utterly terrifying.
The wall of ice that rises behind Sermilik fjord stretches for 1,500 miles (2,400km) from north to south and smothers 80% of this country. It has been frozen for 3m years. Now it is melting, far faster than the climate models predicted and far more decisively than any political action to combat our changing climate. If the Greenland ice sheet disappeared sea levels around the world would rise by seven metres, as 10% of the world's fresh water is currently frozen here.
This is also the season for science in Greenland. Glaciologists, seismologists and climatologists from around the world are landing on the ice sheet in helicopters, taking ice-breakers up its inaccessible coastline and measuring glaciers in a race against time to discover why the ice in Greenland is vanishing so much faster than expected.
Gordon Hamilton, a Scottish-born glaciologist from the University of Maine's Climate Change Institute, is packing up equipment at his base camp in Tasiilaq, a tiny, remote east coast settlement only accessible by helicopter and where huskies howl all night.
With his spiky hair and ripped T-shirt, Hamilton could be a rugged glaciologist straight from central casting. Four years ago he hit upon the daring idea of landing on a moving glacier in a helicopter to measure its speed.
The glaciers of Greenland are the fat, restless fingers of its vast ice sheet, constantly moving, stretching down into fjords and pushing ice from the sheet into the ocean, in the form of melt water and icebergs.
Before their first expedition, Hamilton and his colleague Leigh Stearns, from the University of Kansas, used satellite data to plan exactly where they would land on a glacier.
"When we arrived there was no glacier to be seen. It was way up the fjord," he says. "We thought we'd made some stupid goof with the co-ordinates, but we were where we were supposed to be." It was the glacier that was in the wrong place. A vast expanse had melted away.
When Hamilton and Stearns processed their first measurements of the glacier's speed, they thought they had made another mistake. They found it was marching forwards at a greater pace than a glacier had ever been observed to flow before. "We were blown away because we realised that the glaciers had accelerated not just by a little bit but by a lot," he says. The three glaciers they studied had abruptly increased the speed by which they were transmitting ice from the ice sheet into the ocean.
Raw power
Standing before a glacier in Greenland as it calves icebergs into the dark waters of a cavernous fjord is to witness the raw power of a natural process we have accelerated but will now struggle to control.
Greenland's glaciers make those in the Alps look like toys. Grubby white and blue crystal towers, cliffs and crevasses soar up from the water, dispatching millenniums of compacted snow in the shape of seals, water lilies and bishops' mitres.
I take a small boat to see the calving with Dines Mikaelsen, an Inuit guide, who in the winter will cross the ice sheet in his five-metre sled pulled by 16 huskies.
It is not freezing but even in summer the wind is bitingly cold and we can smell the bad breath of a humpback whale as it groans past our bows on Sermilik Fjord. Above its heavy breathing, all you can hear in this wilderness is the drip-drip of melting ice and a crash as icebergs cleave into even smaller lumps, called growlers.
Mikaelsen stops his boat beside Hann glacier and points out how it was twice as wide and stretched 300 metres further into the fjord just 10 years ago. He also shows off a spectacular electric blue iceberg.
Locals have nicknamed it "blue diamond"; its colour comes from being cleaved from centuries-old compressed ice at the ancient heart of the glacier. Bobbing in warming waters, this ancient ice fossil will be gone in a couple of weeks.
The blue diamond is one vivid pointer to the antiquity of the Greenland ice sheet. A relic of the last Ice Age, this is one of three great ice sheets in the world. Up to two miles thick, the other two lie in Antarctica.
While similar melting effects are being measured in the southern hemisphere, the Greenland sheet may be uniquely vulnerable, lying much further from the chill of the pole than Antarctica's sheets. The southern end of the Greenland sheet is almost on the same latitude as the Shetlands and stroked by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.
Driven by the loss of ice, Arctic temperatures are warming more quickly than other parts of the world: last autumn air temperatures in the Arctic stood at a record 5C above normal. For centuries, the ice sheets maintained an equilibrium: glaciers calved off icebergs and sent melt water into the oceans every summer; in winter, the ice sheet was then replenished with more frozen snow. Scientists believe the world's great ice sheets will not completely disappear for many more centuries, but the Greenland ice sheet is now shedding more ice than it is accumulating.
The melting has been recorded since 1979; scientists put the annual net loss of ice and water from the ice sheet at 300-400 gigatonnes (equivalent to a billion elephants being dropped in the ocean), which could hasten a sea level rise of catastrophic proportions.
As Hamilton has found, Greenland's glaciers have increased the speed at which they shift ice from the sheet into the ocean. Helheim, an enormous tower of ice that calves into Sermilik Fjord, used to move at 7km (4.4 miles) a year. In 2005, in less than a year, it speeded up to nearly 12km a year. Kangerdlugssuaq, another glacier that Hamilton measured, tripled its speed between 1988 and 2005. Its movement – an inch every minute – could be seen with the naked eye.
The three glaciers that Hamilton and Stearns measured account for about a fifth of the discharge from the entire Greenland ice sheet. The implications of their acceleration are profound: "If they all start to speed up, you could have quite a large rise in sea level in the near term, much larger than the official estimate by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) would project," says Hamilton.
The scientific labours in the chill winds and high seas of the Arctic summer seem wrapped in an unusual sense of urgency this year. The scientists working in Greenland are keen to communicate their new, emerging understanding of the dynamics of the declining ice sheet to the wider world. Several point out that any international agreement forged at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December will be based on the IPCC's fourth assessment report from 2007. Its estimates of climate change and sea-level rise were based on scientific research submitted up to 2005; the scientists say this is already significantly out of date.
The 2007 report predicted a sea level rise of 30cm-60cm by 2100, but did not account for the impact of glaciers breaking into the sea from areas such as the Greenland ice sheet. Most scientists working at the poles predict a one metre rise by 2100. The US Geological Survey has predicted a 1.5 metre rise. As Hamilton points out: "It is only the first metre that matters".
Record temperatures
A one metre rise – with the risk of higher storm surges – would require new defences for New York, London, Mumbai and Shanghai, and imperil swaths of low-lying land from Bangladesh to Florida. Vulnerable areas accommodate 10%of the world's population – 600 million.
The Greenland ice sheet is not merely being melted from above by warmer air temperatures. As the oceans of the Arctic waters reach record high temperatures, the role of warmer water lapping against these great glaciers is one of several factors shaping the loss of the ice sheet that has been overlooked until recently.
Fiamma Straneo, an Italian-born oceanographer, is laboriously winding recording equipment the size of a fire extinguisher from the deck of a small Greenpeace icebreaker caught in huge swells at the mouth of Sermilik fjord.
In previous decades the Arctic Sunrise has been used in taking direct action against whalers; now it offers itself as a floating research station for independent scientists to reach remote parts of the ice sheet. It is tough work for the multinational crew of 30 in this rough-and-ready little boat, prettified below deck with posters of orang-utans and sunflowers painted in the toilets.
Before I succumb to vomiting below deck – another journalist is so seasick they are airlifted off the boat – I examine the navigational charts used by the captain, Pete Willcox, a survivor of the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985. He shows how they are dotted with measurements showing the depth of the ocean but here, close to the east coast of Greenland, the map is blank: this part of the North Atlantic was once covered by sea ice for so much of the year that its waters are still uncharted.
Earlier in the expedition, the crew believe, they became the first boat to travel through the Nares Strait west of Greenland to the Arctic Ocean in June, once impassable because of sea ice at that time of year. The predicted year when summers in the Arctic would be free of sea ice has fallen from 2100 to 2050 to 2030 in a couple of years.
Jay Zwally, a Nasa scientist, recently suggested it could be virtually ice-free by late summer 2012. Between 2004 and 2008 the area of "multiyear" Arctic sea ice (ice that has formed over more than one winter and survived the summer melt) shrank by 595,000 sq miles, an area larger than France, Germany and the United Kingdom combined.
Undaunted by the sickening swell of the ocean and wrapped up against the chilly wind, Straneo, of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, one of the world's leading oceanographic research centres, continues to take measurements from the waters as the long Arctic dusk falls.
According to Straneo, the rapid changes to the ice sheet have taken glaciologists by surprise. "One of the possible mechanisms which we think may have triggered these changes is melting driven by changing ocean temperatures and currents at the margins of the ice sheet."
She has been surprised by early results measuring sea water close to the melting glaciers: one probe recovered from last year recorded a relatively balmy 2C at 60 metres in the fjord in the middle of winter. Straneo said: "This warm and salty water is of subtropical origin – it's carried by the Gulf Stream. In recent years a lot more of this warm water has been found around the coastal region of Greenland. We think this is one of the mechanisms that has caused these glaciers to accelerate and shed more ice."
Straneo's research is looking at what scientists call the "dynamic effects" of the Greenland ice sheet. It is not simply that the ice sheet is melting steadily as global temperatures rise. Rather, the melting triggers dynamic new effects, which in turn accelerate the melt.
"It's quite likely that these dynamic effects are more important in generating a near-term rapid rise in sea level than the traditional melt," says Hamilton. Another example of these dynamic effects is when the ice sheet melts to expose dirty layers of old snow laced with black carbon from forest fires and even cosmic dust. These dark particles absorb more heat and so further speed up the melt.
After Straneo gathers her final measurements, the Arctic Sunrise heads for the tranquillity of the sole berth at Tasiilaq, which has a population of fewer than 3,000 but is still the largest settlement on Greenland's vast east coast. Here another scientist is gathering her final provisions before taking her team camping on a remote glacier.
Invisible earthquakes
Several years ago Meredith Nettles, a seismologist from Colombia University, and two colleagues made a remarkable discovery: they identified a new kind of earthquake. These quakes were substantial – measuring magnitude five – but had been invisible because they did not show up on seismographs. (While orthodox tremors registered for a couple of seconds, these occurred rather more slowly, over a minute.)
The new earthquakes were traced almost exclusively to Greenland, where they were found to be specifically associated with large, fast-flowing outlet glaciers. There have been 200 of them in the last dozen years; in 2005 there were six times as many as in 1993.
Nettles nimbly explains the science as she heaves bags of equipment on to a helicopter, which will fly her to study Kangerdlugssuaq glacier. "It's quite a dramatic increase, and that increase happened at the same time as we were seeing dramatic retreats in the location of the calving fronts of the glaciers, and an increase in their flow speed," she says. "The earthquakes are very closely associated with large-scale ice loss events."
In other words, the huge chunks of ice breaking off from the glaciers and entering the oceans are large enough to generate a seismic signal that is sent through the Earth. They are happening more regularly and, when they occur, it appears that the glacier speeds up even more.
The scientists rightly wrap their latest observations in caution. Their studies are still in their infancy. Some of the effects they are observing may be short-term.
The Greenland ice sheet has survived natural warmer periods in history, the last about 120,000 years ago, although it was much smaller then than it is now. Those still sceptical of the scientific consensus over climate change should perhaps listen to the voices of those who could not be accused of having anything to gain from talking up climate change.
Inuit warnings
Arne Sorensen, a specialist ice navigator on Arctic Sunrise, began sailing the Arctic in the 1970s. Journeys around Greenland's coast that would take three weeks in the 1970s because of sea ice now take a day. He pays heed to the observations of the Inuit. "If you talk to people who live close to nature and they tell you this is unusual and this is not something they have noticed before, then I really put emphasis on that," he says. Paakkanna Ignatiussen, 52, has been hunting seals since he was 13. His grandparents travelled less than a mile to hunt; he must go more than 60 miles because the sea ice disappears earlier – and with it the seals. "It's hard to see the ice go back. In the old days when we got ice it was only ice. Today it is more like slush," he says. "In 10 years there will be no traditional hunting. The weather is the reason."
The stench of rotting seal flesh wafts from a bag in the porch of his house in Tasiilaq as Ignatiussen's wife, Ane, remarks that, "the seasons are upside down".
Local people are acutely aware of how the weather is changing animal behaviour. Browsing the guns for sale in the supermarket in Tasiilaq (you don't need a licence for a gun here), Axel Hansen says more hungry polar bears prowl around the town these days. Like the hunters, the bears can't find seals when there is so little sea ice. And the fjords are filled with so many icebergs that local people find it hard to hunt whales there.
Westerners may shrug at the decline of traditional hunting but, in a sense, we all live on the Greenland ice sheet now. Its fate is our fate. The scientists swarming over this ancient mass of ice, trying to understand how it will be transformed in a warming world, and how it will transform us, are wary of making political comments about how our leaders should plan for one metre of sea level rise, and what drastic steps must be taken to cut carbon emissions. But some scientists are so astounded by the changes they are recording that they are moved to speak out.
What, I ask Hamilton, would he say to Barack Obama if he could spend 10 minutes with the US president standing on Helheim glacier?
"Without knowing anything about what is going on, you just have to look at the glacier to know something huge is happening here," says the glaciologist. "We can't as a scientific community keep up with the pace of changes, let alone explain why they are happening.
"If I was, God forbid, the leader of the free world, I would implement some changes to deal with the maximum risk that we might reasonably expect to encounter, rather than always planning for the minimum. We won't know the consequences of not doing that until it's way too late. Even as a politician on a four-year elected cycle, you can't morally leave someone with that problem."

The Guardian's 10:10 pledge

How we intend to take the 10:10 challenge and cut our carbon emissions by 10% in 2010

Jo Confino and Claire Buckley
The Guardian, Tuesday 1 September 2009
The Guardian often criticises politicians and business leaders for failing to do enough to combat climate change, but in recent years we have found that reducing our own carbon footprint is no easy task.
While we are justly proud of our new low-carbon offices in King's Cross, London, behind the scenes we remain largely dependent on old-style heavy industry, and do not yet fully understand the impact of our increasing digital presence. We rely on trees being cut down and energy-intensive factories to turn wood pulp into paper. We use large-scale print sites to create our newspapers and magazines, and the road network to distribute our products.
Paper is by far our biggest concern, both in terms of the carbon footprint of its manufacture and ensuring we do not buy from unsustainable sources. In fact, 96% of the paper used in the Guardian and the Observer main sections is recycled, while 82.7% of the virgin fibre used in our magazines is certified as coming from sustainable sources. We also measure the carbon footprint of each of our paper suppliers, and use this to help inform our purchasing decisions.
Measures we are taking in other areas include reducing the amount of plastic in the polywrap used to hold together our multi-sectioned weekend papers (having failed to find a suitable biodegradable alternative), and improving the efficiency of our newspaper distribution network by increasing the number of shared routes with competitor titles.
Given that we have already taken steps to reduce our carbon emissions, reducing them by another 10% next year is going to be challenging. Our main concentration will be on our two newspaper print sites in Manchester and London, given that they accounted for nearly 60% of the 14,567 tonnes of CO2 we generated last year through energy use and travel. Next on our list is our head office, which accounts for the second largest slice of last year's carbon emissions. Given that our new building has been awarded a B-rated energy performance certificate, further improvements are going to be tough. Another difficulty is that the building is multi-tenanted, so we will have to put our heads together with the building management and other tenants to see what more can be done.
In our own part of the building, we are reviewing the lighting systems and encouraging staff to be more conscious of the impact of their behaviour – although there are limits here too, as lighting and temperatures are all centrally controlled. In addition, given that we are increasingly a digitally based business, we are now looking to measure the footprint of our ICT infrastructure, including computers, servers and printers. We have also put in place a system for measuring our UK and overseas travel, and have greatly improved video- and audio-conferencing facilities over the last year, with plans to develop and promote use of these facilities.
It's also worth making the point that while there will always be a cost to the planet of producing newspapers and websites, we can and do make a significant difference by informing and influencing our millions of readers, with this special issue of G2 just one example. Key to our editorial ambitions is the aim of creating the world's leading environmental website, supported by what we believe is already the strongest specialist team of environmentally focused writers in any English-language media organisation.
As the Guardian's editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger says: "The role of government is infinitely harder in this area unless you have an informed citizenry, because politicians are not prepared to risk giving us unpopular and uncomfortable messages. At the same time, there is a role for individuals to put pressure on governments because they sometimes find it more comfortable not to act decisively. One of the roles of the media is to boil down intensely complex subjects and make them comprehensible. If these issues are not aired and placed on the public agenda and debated with facts that are reliable, then it lets everyone off the hook."
For more details, go to our independently audited website guardian.co.uk/sustainability. For a free copy of the 2009 Living Our Values sustainability report, please email sustainability@guardian.co.uk with your name and postal address

10:10: What's it all about?

What is the 10:10 campaign and why are 10% emission cuts in 2010 important?
Ian Katz
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 1 September 2009 00.05 BST
What is 10:10?
10:10 is an empowering climate change campaign with the aim of getting individuals, companies and institutions to reduce their carbon footprints by 10% during 2010.
Why 10% in 2010?
Although politicians argue about targets for 2050 and 2030, the scientists say world emissions must peak and begin to fall within the next few years. That means we need deep cuts in the developed world as quickly as possible. The longer we leave it, the smaller our chance of avoiding disastrous warming.
What does signing up entail?
For individuals it means what it says on the tin: pledging to cut your emissions by 10% by the end of 2010. We'll be offering lots of advice on how to do it and 10:10 has teamed up with the major energy companies who will help by showing customers how much energy they are saving on their bills.
What about companies?
The pledge for companies is slightly more flexible to allow firms that have made deep cuts over the last few years to join. They will commit to getting as close to the 10% target as possible – and to encouraging customers, staff and suppliers to sign up too. There are also specially designed targets for schools and other institutions.
Who is backing it?
The campaign is backed by a broad coalition ranging from the Guardian and several major NGOs to major companies, leading political figures and the Carbon Trust.
Who has signed up so far?
A number of high-profile figures including artists, writers, chefs and sportsmen have agreed to sign up and support the campaign and we are in the process of recruiting more. Among the organisations that have already signed up are a Premiership football club, a major museum and several NHS trusts.
Will 10:10 have any effect on government policy?
The aim is to sign up a large number of individuals, companies and institutions as quickly as possible, and then challenge the government to match their commitment.
But isn't getting a deal in Copenhagen the really important thing this year?
It's crucial, but no one believes that any deal struck at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen in December will set targets to cut as many emissions as the scientists say are needed. We need to start cutting our emissions regardless. And those involved in negotiating the Copenhagen deal say the chances of getting developing countries to sign will be increased if they see the rich world leading by example.
Does signing up require a major change in your lifestyle?
No. Unless you've already slashed your emissions, the first 10% is the easiest. It's all about saving energy at home and cutting down on unnecessary journeys. It will save you money.
Aren't individual efforts just a pointless drop in the ocean?
Not if they're part of a mass movement. 10:10 makes the efforts of individuals meaningful by ensuring that lots of people will be pledging to make the same cuts.
What's the point of just getting people in the UK to sign up when the country accounts for only 2% of world emissions?
10:10 is being launched as a UK campaign but the scientists say it is the right target for the whole developed world. The hope is that the campaign will be cloned in other countries and we'll be making it as easy as possible for that to happen.
Will there be a symbol like the Make Poverty History wristband?
10:10 is producing metal tags that can be worn around the wrist or neck (or anywhere else). They are made from scrap metal salvaged from old airliners. They will be on sale for £1.
Who is running 10:10?
It is the brainchild of Franny Armstrong, director of the Age of Stupid. It is being run by Franny's team with help from the Guardian, Comic Relief and Freud Communications.
How is 10:10 different from other climate campaigns?
10:10 is unique because it asks people to take a simple but meaningful action that everyone can understand and contribute to. As a result, it is already receiving unparalleled support from media, business, NGOs and the public sector.
How will people sign up?
On 1 September there will be a mass sign-up event at Tate Modern in London. But individuals and organisations will be able to sign up on the 10:10 website at any time.

Public figures and business sign up to 10:10 climate campaign

David Adam, environment correspondent
The Guardian, Tuesday 1 September 2009
An unprecedented coalition of scientists, companies, celebrities and organisations spanning the cultural and political spectrum will today commit to slashing their carbon emissions as part of an ambitious campaign to tackle global warming.
The 10:10 campaign, which will be launched at London's Tate Modern this afternoon, aims to bolster grassroots support for tough action against global warming ahead of the key global summit in Copenhagen in December.
Those signing up for the campaign, which is supported by the Guardian, pledge to make efforts to reduce their carbon footprints by 10% during the year 2010.
Groups committed to the 10:10 cause range from Tottenham Hotspur football club, online grocer Ocado, the Tate galleries and the Women's Institute to dozens of schools, universities and NHS trusts. Four of the major energy companies, British Gas owner Centrica, E.ON, EDF and Scottish and Southern, have promised to help customers hit their 10:10 targets by providing information on how their energy use compares with past consumption.
The campaign is backed by public figures ranging from the climate change expert Lord Stern to Radio 1 DJ Sara Cox, chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Delia Smith, screenwriter Richard Curtis, directors Richard Eyre and Mike Figgis, designers Nicole Farhi and Vivienne Westwood, TV presenter Kevin McCloud and actors including Samantha Morton, Jason Isaacs, Pete Postlethwaite, Colin Firth and Tamsin Greig.
A clutch of Britain's most eminent artists including Anish Kapoor, who has produced a special cover for today's G2, Anthony Gormley and Gillian Wearing, have pledged to cut their emissions as have several literary heavyweights including Ian McEwan, Sarah Waters, Irvine Welsh, Anthony Horowitz, Antony Beevor, Ali Smith, Carol Ann Duffy and Andrew Motion.
The campaign organisers, led by Franny Armstrong, the film-maker behind The Age of Stupid, hope 10:10 could replicate the way the 2005 Make Poverty History (MPH) movement captured the public imagination and helped to drive political change on debt relief. The 10:10 campaigners will distribute signature metal tags made from melted-down aircraft.
Armstrong said: "After every screening of The Age of Stupid people came up to me and asked what they could do. I was saying very generic stuff and I thought we needed a better 'here's what you can do'. Hence 10:10."
She said the campaign aimed to convince Ed Miliband, the energy and climate change secretary, to take the significant step of committing Britain to slash its emissions by as close to 10% as possible by the end of next year. The campaign will be officially launched with a massive sign-up event and free concert at the Tate Modern gallery in London.
Armstrong said: "Once we've got a critical mass of support we will go to the government and say the people of Britain are ready to cut by 10%, now we need you to move. If Ed Miliband could go to Copenhagen and say Britain is going to step forward and start cutting as quickly as the science demands, that could potentially break the deadlock in the international negotiations."
The December talks in Copenhagen aim to agree a successor to the Kyoto protocol and are widely viewed as the last chance for humanity to get to grips with soaring greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists warn that temperatures could soar across the globe by a catastrophic 6C or more by the end of the century.
Kevin Anderson, the head of the Tyndall Centre on Climate Change Research, one of the leading scientists backing the campaign said: "A widespread acknowledgment of the scale of the challenge coupled with meaningful actions will provide a political mandate for effective low-carbon polices that it is difficult for decision-makers to ignore."
Chris Rapley, the head of the Science Museum in London, said: "What's unprecedented about this is that it's an attempt at an harmonious coalition between people, politicians and organisations. We know Copenhagen is going to be really, really tough and we can't leave this all to the politicians."
Some experts warned it was not realistic for Britain to aim for a 10% emissions cut by 2010.
Brian Hoskins, the head of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, who sits on the government's climate change committee, said: "This is a good idea for individuals, but 10% cuts by next year would be very difficult for Britain and could be problematic. It could encourage short-term measures rather than proper long-term planning."
Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, said: "The Guardian is backing 10:10 because it offers us a way to take small actions that together add up to something meaningful and significant."

Masterclass in carbon-cutting construction

Published Date: 01 September 2009
A PIONEERING school in a remote part of the Highlands could give lessons to other areas in developing energy-efficient classes, it has been claimed.
Education secretary Fiona Hyslop visited Acharacle in Ardnamurchan to see Scotland's first wholly sustainable school, which accommodates 48 English-speaking and Gaelic-speaking medium primary school pupils and 14 in the nursery.The school is so well insulated and draught-proofed that the heat from the children, staff and computers is enough to warm the building. All internal materials are natural, including untreated timber, linoleum, clay plaster and vegetable-based paints. Most of the school is made from wood and there is a wind turbine on the hill behind the school to provide hot water. Rainwater is collected from the copper roofs to flush the toilets. Electricity consumption is cut through the use of large, triple-glazed windows to increase daylight, and by using very energy-efficient appliances.Ms Hyslop said: "It is important that we have a low-carbon school estate, both for the environment and also to help authorities reduce rising fuel costs. "I am in no doubt that what we are seeing here at Acharacle is the future of school construction. It is important we learn lessons from this school for the rest of Scotland."The community waited 22 years for a new school and it finally arrived in kit form on the back of a lorry from Austria last year. It replaced a building described by parents as "dreadful", which included a "temporary" classroom that was used for 20 years.

Hot Job: Calculating Products' Pollution

Until a few years ago, Nuno da Silva's arcane occupation -- professional pollution calculator -- was of little utility to the corporate world.
But in these days of global-warming worries and greener-than-thou marketing, companies suddenly can't get enough of his services. Revenue at the division he manages exploded 150% in 2008 and continues to expand this year, despite the recession. Since the beginning of 2008, he has added 13 people to his staff, bringing the number of employees to 16.

"We used to be the environmental geeks," said Mr. da Silva, who oversees the U.S. division of a German environmental consulting company, PE International. "Now we're mainstream."
Concerns about greenhouse gases and other environmental hazards have spurred governments and companies to try to reduce the environmental impact of everything from auto fuels to water bottles. The first step in doing that is to assess the pollution those products impose on the Earth.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s most recent environmental effort -- a bid to tag all of its products with information about their environmental impact -- will force hundreds of its suppliers to inventory their pollution, which many expect will create a boom for the pollution-counting profession.
Enter the growing class of "pollution counters" like Mr. da Silva. Using computer models, they process information about the energy and resources consumed by making, using and disposing of a product. At each stage, a product's effects on the soil, water and air are tracked to come up with what is known as a life-cycle assessment.
At chemical maker DuPont Co., the in-house group that does life-cycle assessments has grown from three members to 10 in the past six years.
At New Balance, a Boston-based maker of sneakers and athletic clothing, a "green team" has begun calculating the environmental cost of the plastic soles used in the company's shoes as well as the impact of shipping from New Balance's Asian factories. What the team has found so far suggests that the materials that go into the shoes, rather than the trip from overseas, take the bigger toll on the environment.
Although life-cycle assessments have been around since the 1970s and are fairly common in Europe, the practice has taken off in the U.S. only in the past few years, industry experts say.
But the profession can be lucrative. Calculating the life-cycle impact of a single product can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and Mr. da Silva said that starting salaries in his field average about $60,000. The first step in doing a life-cycle assessment is collecting data on the environmental impact of the different processes involved, from extracting raw materials to transforming them in a factory. Sometimes that means measuring emissions from a smokestack or a tailpipe, but the statistical information often comes from databases compiled by companies like PE International.
Most serious counters abide by guidelines from the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization. It is up to the assessor to determine precisely what in a product's production to count and what to leave out.
But no clear rules govern the assessments, whose conclusions can vary sharply. While several organizations are trying to come up with standards, they don't agree, and there are no enforcement mechanisms. There is also nothing to stop companies from looking around for a pollution assessment that will favor their products or points of view.
The American Christmas Tree Association, which represents companies that produce artificial holiday trees, says it did its best to make accurate a life-cycle assessment that compared its products to natural Christmas trees. The assessment, which is still being reviewed, found that an artificial tree was slightly more environmentally friendly, mainly because the biggest source of pollution for either type of tree was consumers driving to get it, and consumers tend to reuse artificial trees.
But the National Christmas Tree Association, which represents tree growers, disputes the findings. "It is patently absurd to think that using a nonbiodegradable, nonrenewable product from a factory is somehow more environmentally friendly than buying a real tree," said spokesman Rick Dungey.
He pointed to a 2009 Christmas tree life-cycle assessment by a different pollution counter that found that natural trees are better for the environment unless an artificial tree is reused for at least 20 years.
Robin Jenkins does assessments for DuPont. To evaluate a potential project to make ethanol out of corn stalks, she talked to farmers, auto makers and regulators. Her recommendations included leaving half of the stalks on the field to prevent soil erosion, a practice the company plans to adopt at a pilot plant it is building in Tennessee.
But sometimes pollution counters find that just doing a calculation has little effect. For example, a life-cycle assessment done for the consumer-products giant Unilever found that smaller bottles of more-concentrated laundry detergent would save water, reduce packaging material and cut greenhouse-gas emissions from transportation.
But consumers continued to choose bigger bottles, which they assumed were a better value, said Gavin Neath, senior vice president of global communications and sustainability at Unilever.
Only after Wal-Mart banned nonconcentrated detergents from its shelves did Unilever make inroads with its pollution-counter-approved product.
Write to Ana Campoy at ana.campoy@dowjones.com

How Spurs, Delia and Tate Modern are facing up to the 10:10 challenge

New floodlights for Tottenham Hotspur, long johns for Delia Smith and Thames riverwater for the Tate
Interviews by Alok Jha, Leo Hickman and David Adam
The Guardian, Tuesday 1 September 2009
Compared with other working days at the White Hart Lane stadium, match days are in another league of energy use. Which makes things a bit tricky for Tottenham Hotspur as it tries to work out whether it will make its 10:10 target. While executive director Donna-Maria Cullen is keen to make her club a green beacon, she's also keeping her fingers crossed for a run of FA Cup matches this season. In football, success can be a real hindrance to being green.
But Cullen has already got the club working on cutting its carbon footprint. One of the most energy-hungry parts of a stadium is its lighting: sun lamps must be trained on the pitch all winter to keep the grass in pristine condition and, for evening matches, floodlights are a necessity. Last year the club spent more than £100,000 replacing the 136 floodlamps, each 2KW, with more efficient 1.5KW lamps.
The carbon footprint of fans on match days has also been reduced by dissuading them from arriving in cars (around a quarter now arrive by car, down from a peak of 36%). For 10:10, Cullen wants to focus on the day-to-day business side: everything from making sure kettles are not over-filled in the offices to turning down temperatures in the constantly-running laundry at the training ground.
And the players? Will any give up their Land Rovers and Jaguars? "We'll be asking them to buy into it and do their bit," says Cullen. The team captain, Ledley King, is due to make an appearance at the 10:10 launch, and Cullen is confident he won't be the only player there.
She says the club signed up to 10:10 because it's a climate campaign that can really achieve something. "We have millions of supporters so, apart from addressing our own footprint, we're an excellent conduit for getting the message out. Any business that isn't taking cognisance of the fact that this is probably the biggest challenge facing us all is being very short-sighted."
Delia Smith
Last year Delia Smith, the cookery writer and broadcaster, decided to conduct a little experiment. She popped down to her local Marks & Spencer, bought herself some long johns and thermal vests, then headed back home to her cottage set deep in the Suffolk countryside. Smith was intrigued to see how much energy – and money — she could save by wearing extra layers of clothing.
"We pay our electricity bills via direct debit so the same amount goes out each month," she says. "So I was really pleased when my electricity company sent me a cheque for £300 this spring because I'd managed to cut down so much on our energy use."
Despite the success of this experiment, Smith is frustrated by the lack of information on offer for people wanting to reduce their carbon footprint. "I've bought several books and I'll look up, say, smokeless coal versus conventional coal in terms of carbon emissions and it won't tell me anything. I'm trying to do my best, but I know there's lots more I could do."
Smith's house has no central heating; it relies on electric heaters, a fireplace in the sitting room, underfloor heating in the conservatory and an oil-fired Aga in the kitchen. "I know there are questions over the efficiency of Agas," she says. "But, again, where do we get this information? I'm totally willing to not have the Aga if someone educates me about its impact."
For heating hot water, Smith and her husband, the publisher Michael Wynn-Jones, have an electric immersion heater. As a complete package, it's among the most inefficient ways to heat space and water in a home. Huge savings in emissions could be achieved by installing a modern condensing gas-fired boiler. Or better still, a boiler fired on wood pellets.
Smith has already improved the insulation of their six-room cottage. "I've been trying very hard since last year. Everything is insulated now – as much as you can with an old cottage. We've got double glazing and a thatched roof, which is fantastic: cool in the summer and warm in winter. We have more to do but, because we're both over 60, we can now get it done for free."
Smith is particularly proud of what they have done outside, including a pond given over to wildlife and the planting of 300 trees. But it's the two cars parked outside the cottage that leads to my next line of inquiry. Smith has a Renault Clio "to pop down to the local shops"; Wynn-Jones has a Jaguar.
"We're not on a bus route so we have to use the car," she says. "When it's time for me to change, though, I will get a greener one. And although I'd be happy not to have the Jaguar, we've both found we are able to work in it – you can read and write comfortably. So it's for longer distances."
As directors of Norwich football club, Smith and Wynn-Jones travel to all the team's away matches. It is here that perhaps their greatest emissions vice is revealed: "We go to away matches on an eight-seater propellor plane. But how," she asks, "does that compare, in terms of emissions, to four cars going with two people in each?" Smith promises to find out the model of the aircraft so I can make that calculation.
She also admits to taking around two flights a year on holiday. "We don't actually like flying for holidays. We hate the whole airport experience, and have recently had several holidays in the car, going through the tunnel or on the ferry into Europe."
But it is over food, as you might expect, that Smith displays the greatest passion. She quickly interrupts my suggestion that meat and dairy both carry a significant emission burden. "If you put Britain under siege conditions, it wouldn't be able to feed itself without meat because we are mostly hill country. Yes I'd like to have less intensively reared meat, but there is a lot of meat that isn't and it's the same with dairy."
Instead, Smith steers the blame on to processed foods. "I don't know how many emissions are produced making a million and one different types of chocolate bar – it's totally superfluous to what we need. I'm not a killjoy, but people are knocking meat and dairy and not talking about all the processed junk food."
Smith accepts there are many areas of her life where impressive reductions could be made to her carbon footprint, and says she's ready and keen to take up the 10:10 challenge. But what, I wonder, will she find hardest to cut back on? "I could easily do without ever going to an airport again. That would probably be the easiest thing to give up if I had to."
The Tate group
The giant turbine hall at Tate Modern in central London hums with electricity. In its former life this hall was a cathedral to fossil fuels; now it is the centrepiece of the 10:10 campaign that aims to undo some of the damage those fuels have caused to the atmosphere. The campaign's official launch party is hosted here tonight.
The turbine hall looks like it should have a gigantic carbon footprint. Just how much must it cost to heat this cavernous space? Not a penny, as it turns out: the hall is left unheated in winter and uncooled in summer. Staff on duty in the colder months work shorter shifts and are encouraged to wrap up.
But sensitive paintings in the rest of the museum must be kept under precisely controlled conditions, and this is where the building's carbon footprint starts to mount. The relative humidity is kept within 40% and 60%, and the temperature must not exceed 24C. The same goes for the rest of the Tate galleries around the country. Judith Nesbitt, chief curator at Tate Britain, says: "Our biggest energy load is electricity for climate control of the galleries, and we are looking at how to reduce that burden."
Outside Tate Modern, at the top of the long ramp leading from the turbine hall, an industrial looking pipe has been crudely wedged into the ground, as part of an experiment into whether water from the Thames gravel beds below could be used to help cool the museum's sensitive artworks. Museum experts are also looking so see if waste heat from the transformer next door could be tapped. The trials aren't just about improving the energy efficiency of the iconic building; the museum plans to build a £215m extension next door for 2012, which it says will use 54% less energy and emit 44% less carbon than building regulations demand.
The organisation is taking other steps to curb electricity use. Away from the public spaces, lights have been made motion sensitive, and the gallery lights at Tate Britain now switch off automatically in the evening. But Nesbitt says they are less able to tackle the group's emissions from air travel. "We borrow and lend each others' works. This is what we do."
Helen Beeckmans, head of communications at Tate, says the group was already working to reduce its environmental impact before it got involved in 10:10. "Part of the reason we are participating is that we want to communicate outside the museum sector on this subject. The cultural sector has seen enormous growth over recent years, bringing it a high profile – and with that, the responsibility to take a lead in wider issues of society."