Letters, calls and emails: You can never plant enough trees to offset all this

Dear Editor

Carbon offsetting is worthwhile in many ways, except that it doesn't address the problem of climate change (GP, 25 May).

Even as an informed GP, I am surrounded by my computer, its printer, an electronic sphyg and thermometer and a laptop for visits. None of this was on my desk 15 years ago, and this mirrors an increase in our consumption of energy in all sectors and in all nations.

Given that the average mature tree only sinks 5kg of carbon annually, I would have to plant thousands annually to offset my carboniferous sins.

Another way of looking at it is the most accurate economic cost for CO2 - £50 or so a tonne. This means that the average person should pay about £500 a year to emit the average amount of CO2, and why not? We pay to bury rubbish in the ground, or dump it in the sea, so why not the air?

Fossil fuel depletion and climate change are not simply problems that will shape the health service of the future; they will undermine it by destabilising economies and shifting priorities to other areas, such as provision of basic needs, fighting resource wars and adapting to the changing coastline and millions of ecological immigrants.

The only just way to manage the problem is to reduce our carbon emissions by at least 60 per cent by 2050. This would still leave us with significant climate change, along with loss of human life and of 30 per cent of the world's species. The policies to deliver this reduction will need as-yet-awaited political courage, but it is right that as doctors we should warn the population about the difficult future we face.

Carbon offsetting is a start, but the real answers will come through reductions in carbon emission driven by trading schemes that make our carbon footprint the most significant part of our budgets.

The millions of ways of living more sensibly will then make economic sense and become the norm. With locally produced, organic food, significant exercise a part of daily life and stronger communities, perhaps the health service can shrink for the best possible reason: better health.

Dr Colin Bannon, Plymouth, Devon.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in