We gathered in the cosy back room in The Abbey Tavern last night for a talk from George Marshall, founder of Climate Outreach Information Network.
He explored what life will be like if we reduce our carbon emissions by 80 per cent or more. Though it can seem a huge and daunting task, and in many ways it is, it is relatively easy to imagine what 80 per cent cuts looks like.
For example, how far back would you have to go to reduce by 80 per cent the amount that British people fly? 1972. Not so far back after all.
An interesting theme of George’s talk
Although many other indices of energy consumption don’t map as neatly to the 80 per cent figure as flights, a recurring theme of George’s talk was that if we combined the living patterns of 1972 with the technological efficiencies that we have achieved since then 80 per cent cuts in emmissions are very achievable.
For example, house insulation and boiler efficiency are far superior now to the 1970s, but rather than just heat a few well used rooms like the living room as we did then, now we heat the entire house to the temperature of the living room, which cancels out the efficiency gain.
Occupancy was another big theme of his talk. A car carrying one person is a quarter as efficient as a car carrying four people: the same applies to houses with empty bedrooms. The more we share transport, homes and stuff: the lighter we live upon the planet.
We had a wide range of ages in the room, so we had an interesting discussion about the pros and cons of life in the 1970s and 2010s. A theme we kept coming back to was technology: its revolutionary effect on labour, communications and living patterns. Someone who worked for BT described how he had helped set up an advanced teleconference that day between companies in different countries, who would never now consider flying staff around just for a meeting.
So it was quite an optimistic evening, envisioning a low carbon society that could combine the best of the past and the present.