Is Global Warming a Hot Issue...or Hot Air?


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Is the earth warming up? Are the polar ice-caps melting? If so, at what rate? These and a multitude of other global warming questions are mounting up across the world. Are there any answers to these questions? You bet! Take your pick. The answers range from “global warming doesn't exist" to doom and gloom prophecies that it is already too late to save the planet.

The problems is that the environment has become a political and economic issue and the formidable forces of politics and economics have drowned out proper science. We can't even hope for a consensus of opinion because views are too polarised. Apart from political considerations, there appears to be a genuine failure to agree between scientists themselves. By scanning the wide vista of opinions out there, the only deduction I can make is that there is an approximate consensus that there is some warming of the earth taking place. That's about it. Many say that this is not to be treated as unusual and is not man made. Others say that the whole phenomenon is man made and requires urgent action.

So what about those governments and those in government that simply want to do the right thing? Do they risk wrecking global economies by drastically cutting back on CO2 emissions and other pollutants? Or do they do nothing and risk catastrophe? And what of the rest of us? Are we to remain powerless while the world slugs it out? Can anybody or any organisation give us some definitive statement of the true position and precisely what is to be done?

Businesses also need facts. They are not against taking whatever action is necessary to deal with the situation. After all, they need to protect the interests of their owners as well as their staff and management. They will act if they are told exactly what is to be done. The trouble is that one business will not act in isolation if it means they will be disadvantaged in their market. Because many markets are global, this requires global decision making. There are a few business who are actually demanding some kind of legislation - that is, some leadership - so that they can act multilaterally on a level playing field and get the job done, whatever it takes. I am sure these demands will grow louder as the uncertainty continues.

So, we are back to square one. No global decisions, no global consensus and no significant action.

There are some shafts of light that can be seen through this obstruction. The above assumes that reduction in CO2 emissions and other pollutants will harm businesses. If it is done at too short notice and without proper consideration then that is probably true in nearly all cases. Let us consider, though, that energy costs money and the use of energy is the major cause of CO2 emissions. Companies can do something about their CO2 emissions and gain a financial advantage. Why? Because of simple mathematics. Cutting energy consumption reduces bills and - may help to save the planet.

Take building design as an example. Using solar panels fixed to the roof of a building can allow that building to supplement its energy requirements.

Another example: distribution companies can invest in software and working practices to reduce empty running. Today there are many regions where vehicle utilisation falls below 50%. We know this can be improved. Why is it that frozen food vehicles have a higher vehicle utilisation rate than dry goods vehicle when they both carry long life goods? Answer: because frozen goods transport is more expensive. Because of this higher cost, carriers have found ways to consolidate loads to reduce empty running. So it can be done when the incentive is there. The point I am making is that the financial incentive is already there - there just happens to be a greater financial incentive for the frozen food sector. The environmental incentive therefore goes hand-in-hand with the economical incentive.

With the advent of home shopping over the internet we have seen the growth of small vans that are driving up and down the nooks and crannies of the country making deliveries of one or two parcels or a couple of bags of shopping. Isn't it time some of these operations were consolidated? For what it is worth, we are doing our bit. Arkay Hygiene dispatches goods using a national UK courier or by using Royal Mail. By using such large carriers we know that routes are planned to carefully avoid excessive dedicated journeys.

When environmental requirements and economical requirements coincide - as they so often do - I see no reason why unilateral action cannot be taken to reduce energy consumption - whatever the scientists and governments say about the wider picture. And the sooner we agree on the global way forward the better for all of us.

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