Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Carbon Bullshitters

This one's already been covered by other bloggers but it's a classic so here goes. It comes from an Evening Post story posted last Friday which reported that an Easyjet passenger flying from Bristol to Inverness had inadvertently carried some shotgun cartridges onto the plane in his coat pocket and that this had not been picked up by the security screening at Bristol Airport, although they managed to detect and confiscate his toothpaste and aftershave.

But the really interesting bit of the story, apparently unnoticed by the Post reporter or editor, is that the passenger was one of a group of four from the 'green consultancy' Carbon Managers, of Beckington near Bath, who were on a business trip to plant trees in the Highlands of Scotland. I need hardly spell out the contradictions in this. According to the Carbon Neutral flight calculator the four of them together will have generated no less than 1,200 kilograms of Carbon Dioxide by flying the 750 kms between Bristol and Inverness, plus of course that generated by driving at either end, hotel accommodation, etc.

It would of course have been much less damaging if they'd travelled by train, even taking account of the longer distance by rail (900 kms instead of 750 kms). According to CO2 balance their CO2 emissions if travelling by train would have been around 440 kgs, although if the four had shared a small car this would have brought the figure down to 330 kgs of CO2. But even these levels of CO2 emissions are nothing to be complacent about since they're still more than the emissions of one person making the return flight.

The strangest thing about the story is that it didn't appear to occur to these so-called 'green consultants' that publicising their flight to Inverness to plant trees might not make terribly good publicity. I guess they are so out of touch with the green debate that they thought it was the most natural thing in the world to do.


ramtops said...

Even better - why not just ask *someone in Inverness* to plant the trees?

Chris Hutt said...

Or plant them near Bath?

But really tree planting is just a distraction from the kind of action that might actually make a difference.

Trees don't absorb significant amounts of carbon until they're quite big, say more than 20 years old. During the early years they have very little mass and therefore hold very little carbon.

To avoid the worst of Climate Change we need to make dramatic reductions in carbon emissions within the short-term, so tree planting now is at best irrelevant and at worst a dangerous distraction.

Opal said...

You don't generally need to plant trees anyway. Trees are perfectly capable of growing and reproducing themselves naturally in most places without any human interference. Ecologists call it succession and it can be seen in any infrequently mown grassy area like parts of Vassals in Fishponds.