Interesting Ideas from George Monbiot

Here is a transcript of a lecture by George Monbiot about climate change and what we need to do. The latest scientific evidence suggests that we need to cut emissions to zero by 2030 to avoid significant increases in the sea level over the next century, George describes some options that will form part of a solution to this problem. Below are my comments on what I consider the most interesting (the ideas that I hadn’t heard of before), I recommend reading the full article for the rest.

  1. Have a carbon ration for each citizen. Wealthy people who want to use more resources could buy carbon rations from poorer people on an open market. That way people who use less than their ration still have an incentive to save more because the extra savings are worth money! As everyone would then have a financial incentive to reduce emissions there would be a lot of new development of methods and technologies for eliminating or compensating for carbon emissions, capitalism works!
  2. Build battery powered cars with interchangeable batteries. The idea is that you rent a battery from a fuel company, and whenever it runs low you go to a service station and swap it for a fully charged battery (for a small fee). If doing this the service station could use cheap night-time electricity to charge the batteries, and the batteries that are charged could be used to put electricity back into the grid at times of peak demand. A common idea is to have Prius+ type vehicles charge from the grid when not being used and then sell electricity back to the grid at peak times. Implementing such a system for millions of homes is technically challenging and expensive. But having a much smaller number of service stations sell larger quantities of electricity back to the grid is easier to manage.
  3. Reduce air travel by 90%. I wonder how much of this can be achieved by using high-speed trains for all national travel systems and for most travel within the EU. I have often travelled between Amsterdam and London by train, it’s much more civilised than flying.
  4. Classic quote from George on John Howard: “if Howard believes a slight reduction in consumption is a recessionary measure he ought to see what a total reduction of land area would be as a result of the melting of the west Antarctic ice sheet. The two things are just completely out of proportion..”

George Monbiot also has recently released a new book Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning.

4 comments to Interesting Ideas from George Monbiot

  • […] Efron Interesting Ideas from George Monbiot » This Summary is from an article posted at etbe on Friday, August 31, 2007 Here is a […]

  • Kamil JabÅ‚onowski


    Latest i watch your blog and i find your ideas about environment quite interesting for me. i quess threfore i study environmental protection;-]

    I’d like to behave to 3th point of your comments. I live in not much sopfisticated country(Poland) and we even dont have something what would be recognize high-speed trains. Arevage train speed is 80km/h. Statistically on our railways there is ” thight throat” ever 5 kilometers which means the train must reduce speed to 20km/h. Economist and engineers calculated that Poland need 130 years to get close to EU standards and reach speed of trains of 150km/h.

    Flights between state cities are not common among average people, but its popular to go abroad. 1 liter of gasoline costs 4 PLN and average salary is something about 1500+PLN.

    I think itsnot the point to travel in civilized way to us, but in cheaper way. I dont know if i convinced you in some way, but thats the view point of people living there. i know you write about global problems but i just wanted to let you know about the situation here, nevermind. I like first two points of your comments however for me they are abstract.


  • etbe

    Kamil: If you are ever in Utrecht in the Netherlands then I recommend that you visit the train museum. Take a look at the Dutch trains from the early 80’s, they look like something out of a WW2 documentary! In less than 20 years the Dutch went from very primitive trains to a train system that leads the world. The same can be done in Poland. Judging by the people I met during my visit to Warsaw I expect that the Polish people can solve these problems more quickly than the Dutch did if they make it a priority.

    You are correct to note that different measures need to be taken in different countries, and in some countries efficiency is compelled by cost (as it will be in many other countries very soon).

    I think it would be good if you could write some posts about the environmental situation in Poland on your blog. I will be happy to link to any posts in English to help get you some readers.

  • I definitely recommend “Heat” from George Monbiot. Makes a very interesting read. “The Age of Consent” is very promising, too, but I have just started reading it today.