Many Britons failing to act on climate change

Posted: 2 April 2007

The British government, which prides itself on its green credentials, will have trouble hitting its carbon-cutting targets judging by a survey highlighting the deep gap between public awareness and actions, says this report by Planet Ark.

The first Green Barometer survey by the Energy Saving Trust (EST) showed that while 80 per cent of people are well aware of the looming climate crisis, many are doing little or nothing in their own lives to try to tackle it.

"We are very disappointed that just north of 40 percent of people are still not doing anything about it at all. Not even the smallest things," said EST chief executive Philip Sellwood.

The survey comes as the government is setting a legal obligation on itself and its successors to cut climate warming carbon dioxide emissions by one-third by 2020 and 60 per cent by 2050 from 1990 levels - 10 times what it has so far achieved.

Scientists warn that global average temperatures will rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century because of carbon gas emissions from burning fossil fuels for power and transport, putting millions of lives at risk.

The government is calling on all sectors of industry to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, and telling people they too must join the fray with actions like switching off electrical appliances and buying local produce.

Emissions rising

But figures last week showed that carbon emissions from power stations are rising strongly as electricity suppliers switch from expensive gas to cheaper but carbon-intensive coal.

The survey found one quarter of people admitted to leaving lights on in empty rooms and more than one-third said they left electrical appliances on standby when they still consume about 10 percent as much the power as they use when turned on.

"It is very concerning that people are still not taking the low or zero-cost actions - like turning off lights or pulling out plugs - that can make a real difference," Sellwood said.

"It is this key issue of small actions multiplied by millions of people and millions of households. What we need to move on is saying that you can make a very significant difference if everybody acts together," he added.

Environmentalists say flying is increasingly adding to global warming not only because the industry is booming worldwide but because carbon emissions in the upper atmosphere are more than twice as harmful as those at ground level.

But the government is actively promoting aviation and, its popularity falling over the Iraq war, is fearful of losing more votes by steeply raising taxes to curb journeys.

The Green Barometer illustrated an equally confused public attitude, with 56 per cent willing to walk rather than drive short journeys but only 22 per cent prepared to cut the number of holiday flights they took.

"Probably more depressingly is that despite the fact that these people say they are prepared to choose a holiday destination that doesn't require flying, the evidence is that only four per cent are doing anything about it," Sellwood said.

Source: Planet Ark

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