Saturday, 18 July 2009

Is global warming the fault of the rich?

Interesting blog post by TonyDGreens, or at least that's the name by which he's known on Twitter - a local Green Party activist, I believe. I met him at the Vegan Fayre (although I don't think he is one).

An analysis has been done of carbon emissions by postcode in the UK. Bristol - or to be more accurate the Bristol postcode area which stretches some way outside the city's boundaries - have 12 in the top 1000, and 12 in the bottom 1000.

Here's the list (with credit to Tony for directly lifting this from his blog).

The 12 BS postcodes with the highest carbon emissions per household are:

1) BS9 1 Stoke Bishop, Sneyd Park at 28.88 tonnes of carbon per year
2) BS8 3 Clifton, Abbots Leigh, Failand at 28.59
3) BS40 8 Winford, Chew Magna at 28.25
4) BS48 3 Backwell, Barrow Gurney at 27.94
5) BS32 4 Almondsbury, Tockington at 27.65
6) BS48 4 Nailsea, Brockley, Backwell at 27.57
7) BS6 7 Westbury, Redland at 27.5
8) BS9 3 Westbury-on-Trym at 27.45
9) BS28 4 Wedmore, Blackford, Theale at 27.21
10) BS40 5 Wrington, Langford, Redhill at 27.1
11) BS20 8 Portishead, Weston-in-Gordano at 26.68
12) BS31 3 Saltford at 26.28

Whilst the 12 BS postcodes with the lowest carbon emissions per household are:

1) BS2 0 St Philips, St Philip's Marsh at 15.63
2) BS13 0 Hartcliffe at 16.01
3) BS5 0 Easton, Lawrence Hill at 16.63
4) BS13 9 Withywood at 16.81
5) BS5 9 Redfield, Barton Hill at 17
6) BS23 1 Beach Road, Weston super Mare at 17.06
7) BS11 0 Shirehampton, Lawrence Weston at 17.08
8) BS4 1 Knowle at 17.2
9) BS23 3 Locking Road, Weston super Mare at 17.73
10) BS2 8 Kingsdown, St Pauls, St James at 17.87
11) BS13 8 Bishopsworth at 18.3
12) BS10 5 Westbury-on-Trym, Southmead at 18.41

For those unfamiliar with the Bristol area, those in the top 12 are, I think without exception, either in the rural areas outside the city or in the very wealthiest parts of Bristol. Those in the bottom 12 are generally inner-city or estates with high levels of social and economic deprivation. (I don't know about the places in Weston). Numbers 1, 3 and 5 in the bottom 12 are in my constituency, whilst numbers 2, 4 and 8 are in Dawn Primarolo's constituency of Bristol South.

As Tony says, and I hope he'll forgive me for the direct lift:
"The obvious, and depressing conclusion looking at the two lists is that, in general, people's effect upon the environment has much more to do with their level of disposable income than with any conscious effort to behave in a more environmentally aware manner - a conclusion that has been apparent to most of us in the environmental movement for some time. Simply put, and allowing for some rare exceptions, the richer people are, the more they pollute."

It would be interesting to see a breakdown of this. How much is down to flying, and car ownership, and how much is down to greater consumption of consumer goods and higher fuel bills because they've got bigger homes? And does this signal that personal carbon trading schemes, as once floated by David Miliband and still I think 'being explored' by Government, might be a good tool for not just tackling emissions but tackling poverty too?


Chris Hutt said...

Would it not be simpler to incorporate 'carbon costs' into the prices of all goods and services so people simply choose on the basis of one price rather than in effect two prices (the monetary price and the carbon price)?

This could be done via carbon taxes imposed near the original production of carbon (e.g. crude oil price) which would then be passed down the chain ultimately to be reflected in consumer prices.

I have been giving this some thought and it seems a much more flexible and user friendly approach that fits better with the free market model (not that I expect that aspect to score many brownie points on this blog).

Man in the Street said...

Great, just what Labour wants. Tax the rich to bu**ery, all be on the breadline and reduce the mythical devil that is MMGW.

When I was at school in the 70s we were all being told to write stories about the impending ice age and what we were going to do about being rather cold.

No more calling wolf, irrespective of how much the tax take will be thanks.

westcoast2 said...

'Global Warming'? I thought it was 'Climate Change' and now it seems there maybe a 'Pause' in any warming. Apparenly decadal cycles and El Nino/ENSO. Oh well.

Why do commercial growers increase CO2 in green houses?

What exactly is meant by a 'Carbon tax'? Are all forms of Carbon pollutants? How much 'Carbon tax' on a pencil or diamond?

The problem with the question is that it is based on a series of assunptions that may/may not be true.

Steven_L said...

Turning pollution rights into a currency is asking for trouble.

Governments have made a complete hash of managing the money supply, they will probably have a complete hash of managing the 'carbon supply' too.

It will probably lead to a major economic crisis sooner or later. What happens if we 'run out' of carbon as a nation? Do we print some more or close down the economy?

As for the povery angle, I think international carbon trading will cause more poverty. Corrupt dictators in the developing world will simply sell their allowance, stuff the proceeds in their Swiss bank accounts and leave their populations living in the dark age.

Martin said...

Class war much?

thebristolblogger said...

Some old-fashioned Class War seems like a good idea.

With inequality increasing and power increasingly being dominated by the wealthy - according to Alan Milburn anyway.


What are we supposed to do? Doff our caps and wait for all those terribly nice privately educated chaps to sort it all out for us rather than themselves?

seebag said...

Well, well, welathier people spend more on consumables and luxury goods - hold the front page why don't we.

James said...

I'm certainly not an expert, and I haven't read the report you've listed, but I think I'm right in saying that cattle farming accounts for a substantial amount of our CO2 emissions in the UK.

If that's the case then perhaps the areas in the top list got there because there's more cows and sheep in those countryside areas? There aren't that many cows in inner city Bristol!

Independent article "Cow 'emissions' more damaging to planet than CO2 from cars"

Kerry said...

I think it was asssessed by household, or individual, so cows wouldn't come into it - but you do raise a very interesting point, and if you do a quick search on this blog you will find that I've blogged about it and spoken about in Parliament rather a lot! Search under livestock, or possibly climate change.

thebristolblogger said...

Kerry's too modest.

Her comments on cow flatulence are legendary and have been explored at length in the local press:

Kerry said...

And in respect of the second article, I have made clear that 'vegans' did not say anything of the sort! Somewhere on this blog...

BTW Blogger, Milburn report is out tomorrow, going to be interesting.

cowbutt said...

seebag said...

Well, well, welathier people spend more on consumables and luxury goods - hold the front page why don't we.

I suspect it's not as simple as that. I suspect we'd actually see a significant rise from the breadline demographic to the living-on-benefits demographic (greater saturation of things like satellite TV etc, plus reliance on cheaper goods which don't last as long), then a slight dip to working/professional-households (buying better quality stuff which lasts longer) and a further significant rise to the rich and super-rich.

TonyD said...

James, there aren't that many cows in the wealthy suburbs of Bristol either despite the large gardens.

The information about carbon emissions by postcode was put together by collating information from various sources, some of which was from the ONS (e.g types of holidays or food categories chosen by specific neighbourhoods), some from utility companies (energy use) and some from Government figures (e.g distances travelled).

It is worth noting that even the figure for St Philips is, at 15.63 tonnes, still 3.5 times higher than the target proposed by the IPCC (4.5 tonnes per household)as an average for the UK.

As for Personal Carbon Trading Schemes, surely it would make more sense to channel any funds generated from richer neighbourhoods by their greater emissions back into their own neighbourhoods rather than into poor ones? After all if a particular energy-efficiency scheme saved 10% of a household's carbon emissions than simple maths would show that a 10% saving from an average Stoke Bishop household (like local multi-millionaire Steve Lansdown's)would be more beneficial to the environment than a 10% saving from an Hartcliffe household (like my OAP mum in her RSL house).

Poorer neighbourhoods will still benefit because it is likely that many of the jobs created in energy-efficiency installation project will recruit from those areas - after all I can't see Mr Lansdown installing his heat insulating cladding himself, can you?

Tony Dyer (TonyDGreens)

cowbutt said...

I'm of the opinion that it's splitting hairs to say that some subgroup of the developed world is more or less responsible for environmental damage than some other subgroup of the developed world. It's the billion-odd of us, and the factories in China making stuff for us that are doing the damage and we all need to find ways to make our lifestyles less harmful (there's no such thing as a free lunch, though, and I'd favour living over sackcloth-and-ashes).

Besides, there are more less-consuming people in the developed world, than more-consuming. Yes, the more-consuming are using more per-capita, but it's probably more important to improve everyone else's profile by 10% or so.

Unless, of course, one wishes to use environmental issues to incite class war, of course...

cowbutt said...

Oh, whilst I'm here, I'd support abolition of the road fund licence (bar a strictly-minimal administrative charge) and replace it with an increase in duty on fuel such that it's cost-neutral for a vehicle that travels X thousand miles per year with efficiency of Y MPG .

Every year, increase Y by A% to encourage manufacturers to improve their designs, without immediately making older vehicles uneconomic (remember there's an energy cost in manufacturing and recycling vehicles already in existence!). As (or, if) public transport improves, reduce X by B% to encourage individual travellers/hauliers to reduce their road mileage.

X, Y, A and B to be determined by someone with better access to data than me!

cowbutt said...

Tony D said...

It is worth noting that even the figure for St Philips is, at 15.63 tonnes, still 3.5 times higher than the target proposed by the IPCC (4.5 tonnes per household)as an average for the UK.

Thanks for the data points. Backs up my intuition nicely; the difference between 95% of the UK population using 3.5 times what they 'should' and the richest 5% using ~7 times what they 'should' is neither here nor there if we want to make serious reductions to the amount of environmental damage the UK causes.

Paul said...

Climate Change - its the rich wot gets the profit and the poor that gets the blame

Paul N said...

Arguing about the rich versus the poor and how much of a green house gas (and I include all of them, not just C02) one demographic produces versus another really is missing the point. This is the central point in the argument of countries like China, whose government thinks it's OK to build hundreds of coal fired power stations a year and won't do anything about it as they point out they still have a lower per capita pollution ratio than the UK or the US.

There is one reason, and one reason alone that is the cause of this. People. Too bloody many of them ! Until all governments realise this and start to do something about it, things will just get worse and no amount of carbon trading, wind power, home insulation grants or whatever will fix it.

Imagine the whole world reducing the average per capita CO2 emissions per year by 30% by 2040.

Sounds great doesn't it, until you realise that the world's population will have grown by 50% in the same period - see this graph

Yes of course we can switch to using energy that does not produce green house gases and greatly increase energy efficiency, but until the world population starts decreasing, thereby reducing rampant consumerism, things will just get worse.

Can I have my Portishead railway line now please ?

Kerry said...

So are you advocating a one child policy or the Blake Seven option?

thebristolblogger said...

Cowbutt: We're not talking about the top 5% here. We're talking about the top 40% (as in the 30:30:40 model).

Kerry: I'm quite looking forward to Milburn's report. Although I suspect the solutions may be weaker than the analysis.

How come politicians who leave government start talking sense? I read an interview with Purnell at the weekend and found myself (on occasions) agreeing with him. That's never happened before.

Paul N said...

No, Malthusian belts ala Brave New World.

Population control is one of those taboo subjects at the moment, as people view it as being socially unacceptable and practically unenforceable. I don't disagree with those sentiments.

Put yourself in the place of a politician who is dealing with a world population of 2,30, 40 billion. What are your solutions then, any different ? Which do you prefer then, mass starvation, war, disease, or birth control. Unpalatable decisions indeed.

For those who haven't read it Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is a good examination of what might happen and a ripping yarn to boot.

cowbutt said...

thebristolblogger said...

Cowbutt: We're not talking about the top 5% here. We're talking about the top 40% (as in the 30:30:40 model).

OK, I was unfamiliar with the term so I googled 30:30:40 and found

That article seems to imply that the model is talking more about financial security rather than income, let alone disposable income. That's certainly of importance (indeed, some studies say it's critical to happiness, and that feels correct to me), but it's possible to have lots of disposable income, but be rather insecure in your employment and vice versa - people involved in the construction industry vs. nurses, say.

If I've misunderstood 30:30:40, please correct me.

westcoast2 said...

It is worth noting that even the figure for St Philips is, at 15.63 tonnes, still 3.5 times higher than the target proposed by the IPCC (4.5 tonnes per household)as an average for the UK.

What will meeting this target achieve? What happens if (inspite of the 'concensus') it gets cooler over the next decade?

On Population control John Holdren (Obama's Scientific advisor) had some 'interesting ideas' on that when writmg with Paul Ehrlich, makes Jonathan Porritt's (and Paul N's) thoughts seem modest.

cowbutt said...

PaulN said...

There is one reason, and one reason alone that is the cause of this. People. Too bloody many of them !

Now that does sound like 'the poor that gets the blame', since evry fule kno that population growth in the developed world is slowing, so it "must those pesky Africans and Asians and their massive families" to blame!

I'm sure many of them aspire to standards of living found in the developed world, but it remains to be seen if their governments will be able to deliver that or not, and they're certainly not consuming anything like the level of resources we are. In the meantime, though, their larger families are merely a substitute for pension funds; your kids are your care plan for when you're unable to work yourself, and, child mortality being what it is, you need a few spare just in case some get struck with malaria or dysentery or what-have-you.

Humans are adaptive, one way or the other. I sometimes wonder whether things like wars and starting families later in life are unconscious responses to increases of survival pressures.

thebristolblogger said...

So if we, like, get rid of the wealthy that'll be a carbon emissions double whammy. We lose their mega-sized emissions and reduce the population ...

Old Holborn said...

Just for that Kerry, I am going teach a baby to smoke cigars whilst driving a 4x4.