Global Warming only interests young people

Global Warming, with all its effects, will profoundly concern the young people of today, who will have to live with its effects. Does it also interest older people?

This question came to my mind when I saw in the Sunday newspaper Le Matin today, 18 December, the section particularly aimed at youth, called "Le Petit Matin Dimanche", and entitled "Coup de chaud sur les glaciers de l'Himalaya" (hot air on the Himalayan glaciers). It explained in alarming detail how the glaciers there have retreated by over 20% these last 30 years, and the terrible effects that a continuation could have on the region: both a water shortage, because these glaciers feed the 8 greatest Asian rivers, and floods when natural dams are formed by the released rocks and then break.

So are us older people listening and taking notice? In the climate conference in Durban it was reported that the Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard defended the record of Switzerland, in particular citing a CO2 tax on combustibles aimed at inciting people to switch away from oil-fired central heating. However, the WWF representative there pointed out that the effects of this are insufficient: a tax on carburants would be better. He also noted that Switzerland lagged behind in 31st place for the evolution of CO2 emissions, as well as being only 45th, out of 58, for renewable energy.

Last week I blogged about how small is the take-up for compensating the emissions of travel, in particular air travel, in Switzerland. This was confirmed in an article in the 14 December edition of Tout Compte Fait , which remarked that not only did only a tiny minority of people contribute, but also that the ridiculously small sums paid via the airlines could hardly influence the pollution effects.

A particular criticism, aimed at the airlines in general, and easyJet in particular, was the calculation of a reasonable amount. The calculations of easyJet for a flight to Barcelona somehow arrived at a carbon compensation of 1.75 Swiss francs (half the price of an economy light bulb!). For the same flight Air France would suggest 2.50 Swiss Francs, whilst the calculation  via MyClimate, suggested by the airport and referenced by some major airlines (KLM, Swiss etc.) would be between 10 and 39 Swiss Francs according to the choice of compensation method of the contributor.

The magazine also commented that, in a rather quiet manner, even the minimal easyJet suggestion had been suppressed since 22 November. This was stated to be in anticipation of a 15% emissions tax to be levied as from 1 January 2012 (it is not obvious to me why this change, via the easyJet Web site, could not have been continued until the end of this year!).

On 16 December it was reported that the Swiss parliament has rejected the idea of a tax on carburants: a tax initially thought necessary to allow Switzerland to reduce its CO2 emissions by 2020 to 80% of those of 1990. I think that only a blind optimist would imagine that this target will be met: personally, the way things are, I would bet on there being actually an increase (unless there is a cataclysmic event between now and then).

Of course, the vast majority of the politicians in the Swiss parliament are no longer in the prime of their youth, and the same thing is probably true for the people actually buying items (air tickets etc.) which contribute to increased CO2. If only we could have a vote by a parliament of young people, elected by their peers, on these issues which will shape their future!

A pipe dream, of course!

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