Norvergence: Taking full advantage of the spare time made available to me by lockdown, I have written a book, Carbon Choices. It tells the greatest story on planet Earth. How one group of sociable animals came to emit 40 billion tonnes (40,000,000,000) of an invisible gas each year, changing the chemistry of the atmosphere and the oceans, and steadily destroying the environment and life support systems that we depend on?
We have unwittingly driven the world into a climate and biodiversity crisis by the endless extraction of raw materials and our excessive consumption – primarily by wealthier people and countries.
With a focus on Scotland, a small country trying to set a good example for others to follow, this book also looks at international examples of good and bad practice. It reflects personal experiences from trips to Greenland, India, Morocco, Lapland, Botswana and Namibia.
Writing Carbon Choices arose from the frustration that people are still unaware of the basic facts around climate change and its serious implications. Incorporating nature loss into the book is ambitious, but necessary, as nature is integral to climate change and wildlife is fragile.
This book was instigated by my alarm that society is still not taking these issues seriously despite the science being increasingly more certain and the warnings becoming more alarming. The announcement of the United Nation’s climate conference in Glasgow in 2020 (rescheduled to November 2021) catalysed me into writing urgently.
We all know and understand that the use of electricity, driving, flying and heating our homes drives our carbon emissions. But the four ‘hidden’ elephants in the room are our excessive consumerism including fast-fashion, our dietary demands including beef and dairy, society’s use of cement and concrete, and the refrigerant gases and energy used for cooling.
Carbon Choices explores the impact of humans – population and consumption – and the reasons why it is so difficult to tackle climate change. Why does our society still choose to subsidise fossil fuel? Why do we destroy nature? Why don’t we act on what the scientists tell us? Knowledge is the first step to action. Although not a science book, the effects of climate change are summarized, including the dangerous tipping points that may change the world forever.
Perhaps in an ideal world business would only offer us ‘green’ choices, but in the meantime how can consumers hope to make sensible choices if manufacturers and retailers do not inform us of the environmental impact of their products?
To tackle this, ten building blocks are identified; including sensible economics, regulations, design, innovation, investment, education and behaviour change. Our carbon emissions are driven by our excessive consumption of goods and services in a wasteful manner, therefore understanding psychology and peer pressure are important to combat climate change.
These ten building blocks are the foundations to help us build a low carbon economy that works in harmony with nature. Without these in place, tackling climate change is at best, an uphill battle. Those who try to be ‘green’ find there are obstacles – we need to clear these.
Governments can then set the policy direction and sensible regulations, businesses can respond and provide innovative low carbon products and services, and consumers will know to make better carbon choices.
By applying these principles to our daily lives – our diets, homes, and travel, shopping and leisure activities – we can regenerate nature and improve our society, make us healthier, happier and lead more fulfilled lives.
The solutions to climate change and nature loss could come from three sources:
- A top-down, formal process with governments cooperating through the United Nations, setting targets, policies and regulations.
- Business pushed by shareholders and investors – influencing their supply chains and consumers.
- Community and consumer choice – whom we vote for, what we invest in, what we buy and how we influence one another.
The reality is that we need all three to work together but led by government regulations. For example, how can consumers make good choices if products and services do not have a carbon label on them? Governments need to regulate; business needs to apply the regulations and then retailers can offer consumers clearer carbon choices.
Amidst all the bad news, there are grounds for hope – this popular science book concludes with a green action plan for government, business and individuals to make better Carbon Choices.