The big eco-news today is the launch of the Green Barometer by the Energy Savings Trust. This report explores the attitudes of a sample of UK citizens to climate change and the lifestyle choices required to address it.
The results are depressingly predictable. While 75% of people believe they should make some lifestyle changes, very few are prepared to make major changes like "not buying a plasma TV" (21%) and "only taking one foreign holiday a year rather than two" (22%). Barely half think that they should walk occasionally rather than driving. Only 4% say they have made major lifestyle changes already.
However, some of these statistics require a bit more investigation. For example, the low number of people willing to give up that second flight. Well, the average number of flights taken by a UK citizen in a year is 0.75, according to "How to Live a Low Carbon Life" by Chris Goodhall (see my review here). Which means that either people are not willing to give up the right to do something they're not doing, or they don't know they're not doing it! Whichever it is, the picture is more complicated than it first looks.
When Tory leader David Cameron recently announced a proposal to heavily tax flights, but give each individual one tax-free trip a year, he was denounced by the right wing press and quickly ducked back under the parapet. The Telegraph harrumphed that the proposals would hit the 'ordinary traveller', but as we've seen above, the average person would be pretty much unaffected. Cameron's problem (and that of all politicians trying to crack climate change) is that the so-called 'opinion formers' in the press have 6 figure salaries and matching lifestyles. They are the people who would be hit by such taxes and, naturally, the people who will fight most virulently against them (but in the name of the ordinary citizen of course).
What's needed is a way of simplifying this complicated message, getting it past the opinion gatekeepers, and into the minds of the man or woman in the street, but it ain't going to be easy.