Box ticking won’t save the planet

PUBLISHED: 13:14 29 June 2007 | UPDATED: 22:54 28 May 2010

It s clearly going to become one of the most quoted phrases of the 21 century – carbon footprint. Equally clearly it s going to adopt cliche status and the words are in danger of being rendered meaningless to the ordinary man in the street. This will almo

It's clearly going to become one of the most quoted phrases of the 21 century - carbon footprint.

Equally clearly it's going to adopt cliche status and the words are in danger of being rendered meaningless to the ordinary man in the street.

This will almost certainly be the case if we continue to be bombarded with silly gimmicks like the latest Government attempt to ensnare us into monitoring the size of our footprints - the level of carbon dioxide emissions for which we are personally responsible.

I refer to the website unveiled by Environment Secretary David Miliband last week.

The idea is for people to log on to the site and calculate their carbon footprints, which, on the face it, seems all very worthy.

But is this not just another example of the box-ticking culture?

Some civil service department has won Brownie points for coming up with this super public relations stunt which creates the illusion of a Government actually tackling global warming. And members of the public will feel they've done their bit once they've been on the site and decided (by ticking the right boxes) that they're pretty green.

Apparently the estimated average annual carbon footprint is more than four tonnes per person. People using the site will be motivated to get their figures into the green zone, and so the answers to the questions will be seen as more important than the future of the world.

It's a bit like being asked by your doctor how many units of alcohol you drink in a week, and then lying so that your alcohol consumption is perceived to be within sensible limits.

There will, doubtless, be those who will take it all very seriously. They will be horrified by the amount of carbon dioxide they generate and will look to adjust their lifestyles, including their travelling and other pleasures, to help save the world.

Even it we all did that it would, in practical terms, be pointless.

I know making people aware of what causes global warming can do nothing but good, but instead of scoring political points by posturing, the Government and other governments, particularly those of America, China, Russia and India, should be tackling the problem head on.

Until that happens the carbon footprint of a granny from Gorefield or a butcher from Benwick, is of no real significance.


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