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Turn off the heat: the carbon count has started

January’s here and at last the weather is seriously cold. But don’t think that means global warming is over, says NCE editor Antony Oliver.

I may have been at the controls when it crashed, but I still maintain that the very cold weather was to blame for breaking my nine year old neighbour’s remote control car.
As I have repeatedly explained to my wife, the plastic must have become brittle in the sub-zero temperatures. It was, after all, only a very small crash. Honestly. And that’s the truth.
So minor domestic dramas aside, there is something quite reassuring about starting a new year with proper, seriously chilly British winter weather.
Moan though we perhaps all do, frost, frozen puddles, snow and bitter winds are supposed to be to norm in this part of the world in January. Remember?
While it by no means undermines the reality that the world’s climate is changing, it does at least give the impression that the world is still capable of “normal” weather and so it perhaps isn’t too late to act.
On the other hand it also probably demonstrates that our standard response to coping is to whack up the heating or, in the case of one of my colleagues, leave it on all day and night.
And if you are like me it probably also demonstrates that you still haven’t got around to that planned draught proofing, extra insulation in the loft or curtain lining upgrades.
The result, we know, will be higher fuel bills. But what will it cost in carbon? What impact will it have on the planet?
Who knows? The fact is that we are just not really geared up to measure the impact in terms of carbon. But we will have to soon. Last November’s Climate Change Act has started the UK on a path towards carbon accounting.
As you will see in the magazine this week, over the Christmas break we have been examining our own carbon footprint. It was quite a revealing process in many ways.
To be honest it was hardly a surprise to find out that the process of turning trees into magazines is a high carbon activity which accounts for over three quarters of our footprint. And it was hardly a surprise to find out that a couple of transatlantic flights accounted for the bulk of our business travel.
What was really revealing was just how little we really know about what we do and what it costs in terms of carbon. And it was also revealing how hard it is, under our current monitoring, reporting and measuring systems to find out.
The work we have done is just a start. As the feature points out, there is a very long way to go before we can accurately understand what constitutes our footprint and how it can be reduced.
But we have now at least made a start and hopefully it’s not too late.
So enjoy the cold weather while you can. I’m off to my local model racing car specialist to locate a new plastic bodyshell.

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