Thursday, 14 January 2010

What if science is trying to save us?

I'd like to tell you a joke:
The land was struck by a tremendous flood. Everyone escaped to higher ground, but a vicar found himself stuck on the roof of his house. A man in a boat came by and said "Come on Father, get in my boat and I'll row you to safety". "Oh, no thank you -- God will save me!" said the vicar. Next, a helicopter flew overhead and a rope ladder was lowered. "Climb up, and we'll fly you to safety". Again, the vicar declined: "No thanks. God will save me!"

Eventually, the waters rose above the roof of the vicar's house and he drowned. When he arrived in heaven he sought an audience with God and complained "Why didn't you save me?" God replied: "I sent a boat and a helicopter... What more did you want?
One of the responses that I often hear to the threat of climate change is "science will save us". Unfortunately, like the vicar on the roof of his house, I fear that these people are failing to notice that science is trying to help us right now: scientists are telling us that we must reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to below 350 parts per million, and we must keep the increase in global temperature to below 2 degrees.

We as consumers can contribute to this. We are each personally responsible for our own carbon footprint, and if we don't all reduce the amount of greenhouse gas we are responsible for emitting (by consuming electricity, gas, petrol and consumer goods), the science will not be able to save us.

One of the difficulties for us as consumers is that we just don't know how big our carbon footprint is, or how we can reduce it, and therefore what we can do to help. Systems like AlertMe provide people with a way to monitor and understand their own personal contribution to the impact on the environment, and thus what they can do to reduce that impact.

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