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Charles Laffiteau's Bigger Picture

Last update - Thursday, August 27, 2009, 13:00 By Charles Laffiteau

While I know some sceptics still remain out there, the world is already beginning to suffer the ill effects of climate change due to rising global temperatures. The only real question is how long we as consumers, as well as our political leaders, will wait before we take action to avert the most catastrophic environmental and economic consequences.

We must all make some difficult choices in the coming years. We can either continue to avoid voluntary steps to conserve energy and government policies that raise the price of fossil fuels, or we can be forced to implement even more draconian measures a decade or so from now. It should be no surprise that I favour the latter; indeed, I’ve even gone so far as to list some suggestions here:

l Park the car and use public transport whenever possible While not all citizens have public transport options like buses and trains available to them, it is completely irresponsible for those who do to continue to use cars or SUVs to get to school or work. Sure, it may be a bit inconvenient at times, but you can also console yourself by thinking about how much money you are saving every week by doing so. Then make sure you vote and campaign for politicians who want to invest more money in public transport.
l Push political leaders to change the motor tax system If motor tax was computed based on the estimated carbon emissions per kilometre of a particular car engine and the distance travelled the previous year, then every car owner would have an incentive to reduce how far they drive each year.
If a person lives in an area without access to public transport, then they should receive a credit that will reduce their motor tax. But if someone living in a city with access to public transport elects to continue driving, why should we pay for the costs of the consequences associated with their carbon emissions?
l Conserve electricity, and be ready to pay more for energy It isn’t a matter of if we will start paying carbon taxes for the fossil fuels we use, only when and how much. And since most of our carbon emissions are the result of electricity generated by coal, oil and gas, one should expect that carbon taxes would impact our electricity costs. Turning off lights and computers or buying more energy efficient appliances is a start, but what about that dishwasher and TV? They’re the biggest energy-guzzlers in our home, so we should learn to use them less frequently.
l Use less paper and plastic, and recycle what you do use Pulp and paper producers are responsible for most carbon emissions due to the tropical deforestation occurring in southeast Asia. But you can reduce demand for paper through recycling.
Manufacturing plastics adds to global carbon emissions, so making consumers pay for plastic shopping bags is a step in the right direction. But we also need to expand this tax to all plastic bottles or containers and get much better at recycling plastics so we can reduce their production.
l Eat more fresh vegetables and consume less meat Clearing tropical rainforests for grazing land for cattle or growing soybeans used for cattle feed and producing biofuel is a huge contributor to carbon emissions in the Amazon region of South America. I save more than money by reducing my meat expenditure and consuming more locally grown vegetables.
Now stop and ask yourself – what actions will you tell your children you took to counter the effects of climate change?

Charles Laffiteau is a lifelong US Republican from Dallas, Texas who is currently pursuing a PhD in International Relations at DCU with a focus on environmental policy

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