16 May 2006

Poor Guardian Writing

The lead headline in today's Guardian is "New figures reveal scale of industry's impact on climate".

As someone concerned about climate change I read this a bit more to see what all the fuss was about. First paragraph:

Five companies in Britain produce more carbon dioxide pollution together than all the motorists on UK roads combined, according to new figures which reveal heavy industry's contribution to climate change.

and then:
The figures, which have prompted new calls for tighter restrictions on corporate pollution, show that efforts by individuals and households to cut their carbon footprints will make little difference unless accompanied by greater action by industry.

Indeed. What's the point in doing anything when just one of these nasty industrial polluters is spewing out more CO2 than the whole of Croatia (does that comparison enlighten anyone, incidentally?)?

So, I was keen to find who is doing this polluting. And, lo and behold, 4 of the 5 companies are electricity power generation companies. The other company is Corus, the steel manufacturer, supplying the steel used in, er, those cars that we all drive, or the concrete in the roads/tunnels that we use, or the steel in the out-of-town malls we all drive to. There is not a single mention in the article about who the customers of these polluting industrialists are - only the suggestion that you're all wasting your time on your own initiatives.

I don't consider such reporting to be passable in any newspaper, and certainly not the Guardian. While there are plenty of people who can see the anomaly here, there are many who will read the article, decide who the enemy is and have one less reason to change their own behaviour. Then, when the companies charge more for their product to invest in reduction technology, they will encounter even more opposition from their less-informed customers.

It is also ironic that the article is based on statistics produced as part of an effort to reduce emissions through trading - a perfectly legitimate way to achieve a result. While a certain shame factor may be a useful tactic applied on top of the actual emissions trading to achieve better results, promoting the fallacy that it all starts and ends with the big guy is just ridiculous.

I should also suggest that the reporters of such articles be forced to write as a footnote their own preferred alternatives such as massive expansion of wind power or nuclear.

1 comment:

Charles said...

Well, today's Guardian does point out that Tony B is "pushing the nuclear button". So that might make some difference to the amount of pollution that gets pushed out.

And Gdn Technology did have a cover story last week all about a CO2-reducing, carbon-sequestering (sort of) cement alternative.

Ah, these things you miss.. such as the cost of black paint these days...