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The ethics of climate change reporting: part two

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In the second instalment of a three-part investigation, Gavin Smith analyses the media’s coverage of climate change, and looks at the role played by politics and economics in determining the nature of the reporting.

The need to save the planet has become a cultural norm in the developed world, as evidenced by the blogs of marketing specialists. Not only does the “environmental culture permeate all walks of life”, but “the other problem for marketers is that ‘the environment’ is a very broad term, encompassing greenhouse effects, global warming, disappearing rain forests [et al]”.

That there is a wider interest in protecting our planet is arguably a healthy development. However, for scientists and commentators who inherit this ‘green’ consciousness, their empiricism may be compromised by a compulsion, in the widest sense, to find a given result.

The same principle may apply to scientists and commentators who for whatever reason belong to the inevitable counter-culture. Columnist and presenter Jeremy Clarkson has taken an iconoclastic stance on the faddishness of environmentalism. Speaking to The Telegraph, he pondered the consequences of global warming: “Switzerland loses its skiing resorts? The beach in Miami is washed away? Anything bothering you yet?

Such levity belies the fact that a belief in humanity’s power over the planet is substantial enough to form the basis of litigation as well as policy. In Kivalina v Exxonmobil, Alaskans threatened by melting permafrost are suing “major energy companies” for the cost of moving their village to higher ground, countering the difficulty in proving a causative link by arguing that such companies have “conspired to create a false scientific debate about global warming in order to deceive the public”.

Conversely, in Texas v EPA, the US Environmental Protection Agency is being sued by the state of Texas on the grounds that “it used invalid science to determine that CO2 is harmful.”

Arguably, belief in AGW has become a civic virtue. Even powerful corporations which find it highly inconvenient feel compelled to pander to their demographic’s new, green prejudices. ExxonMobil’s website boasts about its “long-standing policy to conduct business in a manner that considers both the environmental and economic needs of the communities in which [it operates]”.

However, organisations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists allege that, indirectly, ExxonMobil is adopting “the tobacco industry’s disinformation tactics…and personnel…to cloud the scientific understanding of climate change and delay action on the issue” at a cost of $16million over seven years.

One of ExxonMobil’s alleged media outlets, the George C Marshall Foundation, could not be more stereotypically pro-oil and anti-green. It declares that “actions must not be predicated on speculative images of an apocalyptic vision of life in the near future” and condemns a tax hike for high earners as “increasing the tax burden on our domestic oil companies”, “[penalising] success” and increasing “our dependency on the federal government.”

Yet the Marshall Foundation’s subversion of apocalyptic language hints at an ancient cultural habit that may have sprung from organised religion but naturally grafts itself to some very secular issues and their presentation in news bulletins.

Writing about Christian Europe in the eleventh century and its sure and certain expectation of the second coming of Christ in 1033, Tom Holland asserts that “we in the West are never more recognisably their descendants then when we ponder whether our sins will end up the ruin of us.” After all, “for a long while, the notion that the world would be brought to an end….had been a kind of answer.”

As if to prove that our venerable, millenarian habits of mind can be amplified rather than eradicated by science, Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, wrote in 2004: “Earth itself may endure, but it will not be humans who cope with the scorching of our planet by the dying sun; nor even, perhaps, with the exhaustion of earth’s resources.”

It is acknowledged that there are ample, empirical grounds for such a bleak view of humanity’s future. However, such a view does intersect neatly with the norms of a once millenarian culture and may contribute to the fact that AGW is frequently conflated with other climate changing factors beyond our control, such as volcanic activity, oscillations in Earth’s axis of rotation, solar fluctuations and the eccentricity of our solar orbit.

Along with the tropes of good story-telling, an expectation of apocalypse contributes to the artificial polarisation of AGW news stories. Few teachers of hard news journalism would accept stories that didn’t impose an angle on a climate change story that didn’t either spell doom or else harangue the doom-mongering boffins. Painstaking empiricism makes poor copy.

Such storytelling is mirrored by fictional worlds or religious tracts, where moral transgressions are logically resolved by cathartic acts which are often physical in nature. These acts may take such plausible forms as personal violence, or more fanciful forms such as planetary extinction. The relevant point is the pervasive notion that cataclysm can result from moral failure.

Read part one of this three-part investigation here. The final instalment will be published tomorrow.

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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