Tools for carefully estimating carbon footprints have tended to be difficult to use and clunky in appearance. Two recently introduced calculators make real improvements and allow individuals and companies to carry out effective analysis of carbon emissions.
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1) If you buy just one new appliance in 2010, make it a really efficient fridge-freezer. The improvements in the energy use of the best fridge-freezers have been really impressive in the last few years. If you have an old refrigerator, it may be responsible for as much as a sixth of your electricity bill. A good new machine might use less than a half as much power, particularly if it is not too large. A second benefit is that by choosing to buy a really efficient refrigerator you will be sending a clear signal to the manufacturers that energy consumption matters. An impressive new web site – www.energytariff.co.uk – allows you to compare the electricity used by almost all the appliances currently in UK shops. You can make well-informed choices from your computer.
I think that once people understand the great risks that climate change poses, they will naturally want to choose products and services that cause little or no emissions of greenhouse gases, which means ‘low-carbon consumption’. This will apply across the board, including electricity, heating, transport and food. A diet that relies heavily on meat production results in higher emissions than a typical vegetarian diet. Different individuals will make different choices. However, the debate about climate change should not be dumbed down to a single slogan, such as ‘give up meat to save the planet’.
Wittingly or unwittingly, many manufacturers make it difficult to compare the electricity consumption of home appliances such as TVs and refrigerators. Although many appliances have been through standard EU tests and then been awarded a letter grade for energy efficiency, these grades are increasingly unhelpful in distinguishing between the excellent and the merely satisfactory. As in British school exams, an A grade doesn’t mean much because it covers such as wide range of performance.
10:10, a campaign to get individuals and organisations to reduce their emissions by 10% in 2010 is launched today, 1 September. The idea is simple and has proved surprisingly easy to communicate so far. Of course it has helped that the human tornado Franny Armstrong has been pushing it.
An important recent paper looked at the links between economic prosperity and carbon footprint. It compared the average emissions per head in 73 different countries at all different stages in development. Unsurprisingly, it showed that richer countries have much higher greenhouse gas outputs. The interesting and somewhat depressing finding is that a country with 10% higher GDP per head than another will generally have emissions about 8% higher. The correlation is strong – very few countries diverge much from the norm for their level of income.