How green is the public?

On Wednesday a leading retailer presented some findings on how the public think about green issues, whilst telling us of their progress in greening their company.

In a recent survey 26% of the public said it was not their problem. 38% asked what was the point of doing something, when whatever they did would be swamped by China and India. 28% said they would do something if it was easy. Just 8% said they would do what it takes because they strongly believed in the cause.

They also discovered that the biggest source of CO2 in their activities, including their supply chain, was the dairy industry producing dairy and meat products for their food sales. People would have to eat less meat and we would need to keep fewer cows to make a difference to that. The second biggest user of power and generator of CO2 is apparently washing all the clothes people buy in the shops. Cutting the wash temperature from 60 to 30 degrees would make a huge saving in power, far more than the retailer could do in their stores.

Like many big companies this retailer is working hard on reducing their energy use and controlling their waste. They are discovering like others that it makes good business sense, cutting costs and improving quality through better methods of working. It was a timely reminder that greenery begins at home, and can save you money.

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24 Comments

  1. Bill
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I’m beginning to think there may be something in this climate change after
    all. Four months ago it was very warm and now it’s quite cold.

    There’s been a 20 degree fall in four months if it goes on at this rate we’re due an ice age.

  2. DennisA
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I have no problem with saving energy costs. We could save even more if we were not funding ridiculous windfarms which destroy our wild upland areas and do nothing to resolve the probably inevitable power shortages a few years down the road.

    Energy supply should be divorced from the global warming scam and should be based on the most appropriate systems at the most effective cost. CO2 is not a pollutant, it is not driving temperature as is perfectly obvious. It was also obvious in the past as temperatures fell in the sixties and seventies in spite of increasing CO2 emissions, most of which comes from natural sources. The classic nu-speak of the moment is that global warming will bring more snow.

  3. Stuart Fairney
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    There is also the point that people may well make a “throw-away” response to surveys, but not actually act upon their supposed views.

    If I may, if you advocate a course of action the burden of proof is on the advocate and there are five questions, viz:

    1. Is global warming happening? This is unclear
    2. Is it man-made? This is very unclear
    3. Is it harmful? Faked shots of polar bears on ice flows notwithstanding, this is unproven
    4. Can we do anything practical and effective to control the weather? (The question seems almost laughable)
    5. Could the huge cost of various proposed measures be better spent on adaptation rather than on weather control? Kyoto is estimated to cost $50B and will postpone a 0.7 degree temperature increase in the year 2100 for 7 years even if the science is true. Bjorn Lomborg makes this case better than me in “The Sceptical Environmentalist” A must-read book for anyone seeking balance and actual referenced claims not wild scare-mongering. I may send a copy to Mr Cameron if he has not read it.

    and I might add a relevant sixth

    6. Isn’t it true that 97% of the worlds CO2 comes from non human sources?

    • Cliff.
      Posted February 8, 2009 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      Sending a copy to Mr Cameron may be a waste of time as it has been suggested on other blogs, that one major doner to the party only provides funding on the basis that we adopt and promote enviromentalist policies; There is much truth in the old saying; He who pays the piper calls the tune.

      I agree with your other questions. I always ask two questions myself which, to date, have been unanswered;
      1) When exactly was our climate set?
      2) Why are the ice caps on Mars melting at the same rate as our own?

      The whole climate change scam has developed a religious type following and we often see those that question it held in the same contempt as those that deny the holocaust with the use of similar terminology. The holocaust happened, man made climate change is not happening and if you take the time to research it and look at research, other than that funded by our two governments, (UK and EUSSR) one can make a more balanced assessment as to the reality.

      Saving energy and sensible recycling makes sense, the rest seems crazy to me…..The climate change con has more than likely caused some, if not much, of the current economic down turn. We cannot afford to follow the new religion and therefore it should be put on the back burner until such time we have recovered economically and hopefully, by then, more people would have been able to have seen through the con.

      • Stuart Fairney
        Posted February 9, 2009 at 7:12 am | Permalink

        Yes, he who pays the piper, that’s always true. Your first point is highly prescient. I always wince when I here bbc reporters saying that it is hotter/colder/wetter (etc etc ad nauseaum) than it is “supposed” to be.

        I didn’t know the ice caps on Mars were also melting but it seems to support the solar radiation theory of warming to some degree anyway.

        And right again, climate propaganda has become religous, some of them even refer to the earth as “mother gaia” or something? very odd, and like any religious fundamentalist they think heretics must be denounced or imprisioned. No dispute can be tolerated, even (especially) in the absence of any actual evidence.

        Where we slightly part company is your last point. Quite right that having higher energy bils than necessary is foolish, but government sponsored recycling is pointless. No-one from the government needed to “recycle” that 1937 Buggati found recently because it had an economic value, where as old newspapers etc don’t, (otherwise we could and should leave it to the market). If we genuinely start to “run-out” of aluminium or whatever, the price will rise and we will be paid to recycle. There is also the point that the recycling process of paper is toxic where as new trees grown for pulp suck up a good deal of CO2 (not that I especially care). I don’t mind if people want to recycle, I just hate being forced (on pain of imprisonment) being forced to pay for it

        For a fuller run over the green movement, check out the ever amusing Penn & Teller on the subject, I’m sure you will enjoy this

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3InQzsLltHE&feature=related

        The part where they get the greens to sign a petition calling for di-hydrogen monoxide to be banned rather sums up the movement (ie two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, H20 ~ water!)

        • Kim Ali
          Posted February 9, 2009 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

          Stuart,

          I enjoyed the Penn & Teller bit very much – thanks for the laughs. But it’s just for laughs. Have a look at this video response to Penn & Teller if you want some leads that would engage you with the seriouse facts:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xn6–jIz4Go&feature=related

          Kim

        • Stuart Fairney
          Posted February 9, 2009 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

          Kim, thanks for the link (for some reason I could not reply to your comment?) Don’t even start me on the IPCC ! Look at their membership and you will see that they are by majority, politicians and influence-peddlers not scientists. The very people in fact who fund research and if you want research money, guess what you have to say? There are many, many scientists who do not accept CO2 global warming.

          There have been many attempts to discredit Lomborg. It is true that the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty did find him guilty of scientific dishonesty, BUT the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation annulled that decision. Indeed, 308 scientists called for the DCSD to be disbanded for poor methodology and misleading conclusions. As ever, those who question the orthodoxy are vilified, but not for their science, just their views.

          The ‘facts’ you cite are a self-referenced, tautological orthodoxy.

        • Kim Ali
          Posted February 21, 2009 at 8:59 am | Permalink

          Stuart,

          Thanks for looking at the video. The authors of IPCC reports are actually scientists, aren’t they? The lead author that comes to mind for the first several reports was Sir John Houghton, who was a professor of atmospheric physics at Oxford. That strikes me as being very credible.

          I would expect that any group effort has political pressures, even among scientists. And there has been dissent and complaints about the consensus process. But that’s been minor relative to the overall conclusions reached. And as far as funding goes, the scientists who contributed to IPCC reports were not funded to do so. A scientist could choose not to participate – no need to pay the piper. I don’t see the threat to their funding. How exactly would one lose out on funding by not participating?

          Looking beyond the IPCC, I cannot find a major scientific body that does not accept the conclusions of the IPCC. Here’s a couple examples of major scientific bodies that accept the IPCC’s conclusions:

          * National Research Council (US)

          The IPCC’s conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue.

          * Royal Meteorological Society

          In response to the release of the Fourth Assessment Report, the Royal Meteorological Society referred to the IPCC as “The world’s best climate scientists

          Neither of these eminent scientific bodies is known for extremism. Quite the contrary.

          I hope the mainline scientific view is wrong. But one first has to accept that very credible scientists tend to agree on the conclusions of the IPCC. There is dissent, thankfully. We need to check such serious conclusions carefully. But the dissenters seems few. Here’s a list:

          http://tinyurl.com/2jorjm

          If you know of some scientists not listed that are worth looking into, please share some names. I don’t find Lomborg credible. I read his work, but he’s really not qualified to address the technical aspects of many things he gives opinions about. The journal, Science, addressed Lomborg’s work quite thoroughly, on its merits (lack of), not on the fact that he expressed dissent. You are correct that Lomborg had 308 supporters petitioning for the DCSD to be disbanded. They were mostly social scientists criticizing the DCSD’s process. Procedural integrity should be upheld. Did you know that there were 600 scientists, mostly natural scientists who petitioned to uphold the DCSD’s conclusions in the Lomborg case?

          What was self-referential or tautological about the scientific bodies mentioned in the video that support the conclusions of the IPCC?

          Regards,

          Kim

      • Stuart Fairney
        Posted February 22, 2009 at 7:48 am | Permalink

        Here is a peer reviewed assessment of IPCC 4

        http://www.fraserinstitute.org/Commerce.Web/product_files/Independent%20Summary5.pdf

        The authors are: Coordinator: Ross McKitrick, Ph.D. Writing Team: Joseph D’Aleo, M.Sc., Madhav Khandekar, Ph.D., William Kininmonth, M.Sc., M.Admin., Christopher Essex, Ph.D., Wibjörn Karlén, Ph.D., Olavi Kärner, Ph.D., Ian Clark, Ph.D., Tad Murty, Ph.D., and James J. O’Brien, Ph.D.

        Here are an additional 650 scientists who doubt man made global warming

        http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=2674e64f-802a-23ad-490b-bd9faf4dcdb7

        The science is absolutely NOT settled as they want you to believe

        • Kim Ali
          Posted March 2, 2009 at 5:46 am | Permalink

          Dear Stuart,

          Thank you for sharing the documents on which you base your skepticism of the IPCC conclusions regarding human contributions to global climate change. I’ve looked them over. Their arguments are extraordinarily weak, which I justify below. I recommend that you spend some time at http://www.realclimate.org/ where a group of bonafide scientists are doing solid work to help us separate the wheat from the chaff regarding global warming and climate change. I would like to have discovered that your assertions were solid. Unfortunately, the more I study, the more I find that we don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to bashing the IPCC findings. I wish we did.

          Inhofe’s list of 650 scientists who supposedly back his discredited view that there is no consensus on global warming, is a sham. After looking into the list and the document you sent me to, I conclude that it is misleading. Many people on the list lack relevant qualifications, and many actually support the IPCC findings, and were unaware that they somehow wound up on Inhofe’s list! See the following links for details:

          The New Rupblic magazine: http://tinyurl.com/6s74c6
          MSNBC interview: http://thinkprogress.org/2008/12/23/inhofe-650/

          I see that Senator Inhofe’s major campaign contributions are from the oil & gas industry. I have nothing against oil and gas. But Inhofe does not seem to be a good source of valid information regarding climate science.
          http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cid=N00005582&cycle=2008

          Regarding the Fraser Institute report, its science is horrible. It’s a sham piece of work, a distraction from understanding the science of climate change. RealClimate.org provides a detailed critique of the Fraser Inst report:

          http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/02/fraser-institute-fires-off-a-damp-squib/langswitch_lang/de
          or
          http://tinyurl.com/9l54w9

          One particular point that I’ve seen on websites like this one, which RealClimate.org addresses, is the assertion by the Fraser Inst report that IPCC conclusions are written by bureaucrats. (Note that SPM means Summary for Policy Makers):

          “This statement (charitably) shows that the Fraser Institute authors are profoundly ignorant of the IPCC process. In fact, the actual authors of the official SPM are virtually all scientists, and are publically acknowleged. Moreover, the lead authors of the individual chapters are represented in the writing process leading to the SPM, and their job is to defend the basic science in their chapters. As lead author Gerald Meehl remarked to one of us on his way to Paris: “Scientists have to be ok, they have the last check. If they think the science is not represented, then they can send it back to the breakout groups. “”

          Kim

          “.. . If the carbonic acid content of the air [atmospheric CO2] rises to 2 [doubles], the average value of the temperature change will be … + 5.7 degrees C”

          Svante Arrhenius, 1896

  4. chris southern
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    it’s not just the public and companies recycling, if councils and goverment just put it in a land fill when they can’t sell it then the whole excercise is pointless.

    they need to look at incenerating the products that aren’t recycled, that way we generate some energy from it (and it’s greener)
    when it comes to energy use, we need to look at more effecient ways of doing things, like you mentioned washing clothes at a lower temperature is a start, but other energy saving means are out their that don’t cost us more to implement (or use)

    the problem at the moment is that people are following flawed scientific (it’s not realy science when the stats are literaly made up) data, and those that are pushing it all seem to be profiting from it (it’s always good to ask, who benefits/profits from a decision that is made)
    the eu is going about it all wrong, it appears that they force decisions upon people that have come from unelected groups and do not listen to people who point out flaws in their plans.

    if people get fined no matter what they do, and for an activity that they have already been forced to pay for, then why should they bother, after all, they will get fined any way.
    this is the problem that the public faces.
    if we cut out the taxes and the fines then people will start to see the benefits when their electricity bills and council taxes are actualy lowered, even if by a small amount.

    • Bazman
      Posted February 10, 2009 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      This idea of incineration of waste for energy is very flawed. You are burning many different things that burn differently, at different temperatures. and give off different compounds. A piece of wood will not burn the same as a piece of plastic for example, and is burning something like a printed circuit board or an old toaster very clever? I think not.
      The incineration company will tell you they can control the emissions from this process, but I have seen this is not true. In a street where I once lived you could see the chimney of an incinerator at the end, seemed close due to its height, but was in fact about two miles away.
      Now most of the cars that where parked in the street had faded paint on the panels that faced the chimney. Most brands of cars, so it could not be put down to bad paint on a particular brand or panel. There was also a very fine sand coloured dust on the cars, which though I do not know, think was dioxins. Locals also complained about breathing problems.
      Another fundamental problem is that once this rubbish has been burned it has gone from the reach of future recovery techniques yet to be imagined.

      • chris southern
        Posted February 10, 2009 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

        Many of those items can be recycled, a lot of the waste we throw away can be incinerated safely, but as you say there are a lot of items that cannot, and as such should be recylcled where apropriate.

        A lot of the incinerators that were put into operation were botch jobs, not apropriate for the task they performed (same problems as you mentioned from one that was in operation in a town near myself)

        It’s something that hasn’t been looked into in a big way due to the brain washing of the tax called global warming, as it’s easier to make money and think short term (typical of beurocrats) instead of looking at long term solutions which aren’t good for short political careers, but more beneficial in regards to cost and performance in the long run.

        I definately agree about the research into alternate recovery techniques, unfortunately that is a long term solution and not many politicians are interested in those as they don’t help political careers.

  5. alan jutson
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Most of the public would probably support a more Greener Policy if it was explained and run on a more open and sensible basis.

    Just making us pay extra Taxes using the excuse that they are green taxes is “absolute rubbish”.

    The proposed Bin Tax is lunacy when you double the period between collections, and can be fined for not closing the lid properly.

    What is the so called green tax take spent on ?????
    It seems to me to just go into the General Tax pot, it does not go into research, which is usually funded by Private Companies.

    An efficient Green Policy if it is to work, has to start with the basic efficient provision (less waste/packaging etc) of any service provided, and should not be a tax on the user/customer.

    Collecting part seperated waste in the UK and sending it half way around the World to be finish sorted, is a complete waste of energy, is not very cost effective.

    The solution is in part to burn all waste locally, to provide power locally.
    Aware that emissions have to be controlled, but surely this is not beyond the scope of our engineers. If it is then heaven help our future.

    Battersea Power Station built about 80 years ago and coal powered, used a system where the water used for cooling (then hot) was pumped and fed into a system which used to heat thousands of houses in the local area.

    Perhaps this was ahead of its time, then but how many similar utilities operate this way now.

    An efficient and green system recycles as much waste as possible for alternative uses.

    Taxing the user is pointless if they have no other option but to use what is provided. Unless you simply want to increase the Tax take for other purposes.
    Increasing the recent tax take for petrol and diesel is an example.
    A proposed mileage charge/Tax for use of our roads is another, as cars cannot run on anything else other than a road.

    If Public Transport was a viable option then perhaps more people would use it, but outside of London or any other major City it falls well short of being a service, let alone an intergated one.

    Rail fares are a joke to understand (so many different types of fare) and are not cost effective if more than two people are going to travel at short notice.

    We have a very long way to go if we really want to become Greener, and some sensible joined up thinking needs to take place if we are to move forward sensibly.

    The carrot usually works better than a stick !!!!!!!

  6. David Eyles
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    I suspect that the statistics about emissions are very misleading. Is there a web address for the survey and does it state where it got the statistics from?

    Nevertheless, it does illustrate nicely that public attitudes towards “being green” are very sceptical and that most probably consider that the problem is so big that they cannot do anything about it. This is rather a shame, given your point about saving energy equals saving money – which of course I agreee with.

    It depends upon when the survey was conducted. Attitudes will have hardened against green issues with the recent recession……. depression…….whatever……..Gordon has saved the world.

    My other point is that the public are bombarded with so much in the way of information and doomsday predictions, they don’t believe anything anymore and are too apathetic because of the daily grind of their own stress-ridden lives. It is difficult to be enthused about doing things which often involve a good deal of thought and alteration of your way of doing things when so much brown smelly stuff is descending upon you.

  7. Robert Eve
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    Climate change is a quite natural and there is precious little the human species can do.

  8. Mark Shillaker
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    My big concern about the environmentalist agenda is that speaks far more about our Western fears and preoccupations, which due to a chronic loss of confidence in our ability to create a better world have morphed into a horrible misanthropy, than it does about a rational response to global warming. Instead of piffling measures to combat the number of plastic bags or getting everybody sifting through their rubbish, we should put all our efforts into developing new sources of clean, cheap, abundant energy (not expensive, unreliable windmills) and encourage free trade and real development in the developing world. Energy saving is useful but we need to broaden our horizons and stop apologizing for existing! We need more human agency/ingenuity and less ‘sustainababble’

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted February 8, 2009 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      “sustainababble” Ha Ha

      Great word.

    • Kim Ali
      Posted February 21, 2009 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      Mark,

      I like the positive and hopeful direction your post suggests. Very active, creative. I don’t think of myself as an environmentalist. I don’t really find the term helpful. I do see that we indeed face resource scarcities, toxins showing up in human breast milk, ocean fisheries nearly wiped out, and so on. People tend to label me an environmentalist when I talk about such challenges, and that’s actually a barrier to a real conversation. I’m quite optimistic about human ingenuity. I like people, and I don’t feel guilty about being one.

      So here’s my question for you. Suppose we have cheap clean energy. How do we apply it to development in such ways that we do not overuse other resources? We currently use more renewable material than is regenerated each year. It’s cheap energy that mobilizes more harvesting, paving, building, etc. I don’t see how the developing world can have the lifestyle we have, if only we found clean cheap abundant energy. There aren’t actually enough other resources for everybody, with our current levels of technology. What else do we need to do, in addition to new energy sources?

      Regards,

      Kim

    • Kim Ali
      Posted February 21, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Mark,

      As a follow on, here’s a brief assessment of what it will take to raise living standards around the world to what we enjoy. We’d need to increase resource use 11 fold. It assumes static technology, but it gives some sense of how far we need to go with reducing waste and developing clean tech.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/02/opinion/02diamond.html

      Kim

  9. APL
    Posted February 8, 2009 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    JR: “How green is the public?”

    Greens need to get out and have more sex, the poor frustrated dears.

  10. Cliff.
    Posted February 8, 2009 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    When I was young, to be described as “green” meant you were naive or inexperienced in the real world…..I think nothing has changed!!

    The greens are similar to the Jehova Witnesses in so much as, when you question their beliefs, they asssume it is the devil that has put you up to it and therefore they ignore it…….You cannot debate with a person that will not debate or will refuse to listen to anything that their religion does not endorse.

    What I find interesting is this, although the government has thrown millions of pounds at promoting the new religion, the majority of adults in this country, according to a recent poll, doubt the climate change message.
    Where much of the pressure comes from is school children. They are being brainwashed to believe the climate change message without any other views or data that question the governments preferred message being put forward. I always thought that science was not about consensus, it was about evidence and so far, the evidence does not support the man made climate change case that the government and EUSSR promotes. It should be noted that at one time, there was “Scientific Consensus” that the Earth was flat.

  11. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted February 8, 2009 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    As M&S are on course to get a £1 million to Groundwork UK and will have slashed carrier bag usage by some 80% since bringing in the 5p charge on carrier & cake bags I think we can say that the UK’s favorite grocer is doing its bit ! Sir Stuart Rose had 500 letters over Christmas – only 15 where about bag charging and only 7 where hostile . Both The Daily Mail and Daily Mirror want lower plastic bag usage so that suggests that a desire to improve the environment crosses Party lines as the Tory Mayor of London Boris Johnson , the Labor-Left ex-Minister Michael Meacher and the Liberals Democrats all want carrier bag usage reduced. Those two papers are reacting to what their readers are saying and so one can conclude that there is a consensus behind curtailing plastic bag usage which means lower carbon emissions , less litter and less suffering for marine life.

    Left & Right obviously are being responsible on this and consumers have to decide whether they care more about their own ease or do they care more about future generations with regard to carrier bag usage. Insulting people who work in shops who charge for bags is no positive contribution to any debate….

  12. Bernard Palmer
    Posted February 10, 2009 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Maybe the title should be ‘How green is John Redwood?’

    Come on John, tell us. Are you a closeted greenie?

    Don’t worry, you’re amongst friends. We’ve all believed it at some time.

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