In 1995, Britain produced C02 emissions totalling 543m tonnes in the following percentages:

  • 30% from power stations
  • 24% from industry
  • 22% from road transport
  • 15% from home heating
  •   6% from commercial and public services
  •   3% from aircraft, railways and shipping

Most industrialised countries share more or less the same percentages. The most worrying figure is that produced by road transport, or, more specifically, that produced by the private car.

Americans use 5 times as much gasoline as Europeans. In the more compact European cities, 20% of journeys to work are made on foot, whilst in the more spread out cities of the U.S.A. only 5% of workers walk. In California, something is being done - if not getting people out of their cars, then at least in making the cars less polluting. By the year 2003, 10% of all cars sold in that state must run on fuels other than petrol, ie. electricity and natural gas.


 [embossed bonsai]

A report released in Paris September 23, 1997, put the health costs of air pollution in that city at around a billion francs (100 million/$160million) a year. A single day of 'moderate' pollution can cost up to $750,000 in medical bills and loss of production, the report says, rising to $1.5m when levels of sulphur and nitrogen dioxide climb to 'high'. The report is the first to measure the actual cost of exhaust emissions on the health of the city's 12 million inhabitants by linking pollution levels over five years to heart and respiratory problems.

Paris had several pollution scares over this past summer. Speed limits were lowered and free parking offered to persuade Parisiens to leave their cars at home during an August heatwave.

Do the authorities in Paris have any solutions? Environment Minister Dominique Voynet of the Green Party, favours an environment tax on cars, rather than more complex measures, such as a ban on half of all cars in Paris on peak pollution days.

Subsequent events required a change of tack.


On October 1, 1997, pollution levels in Paris reached such a high level that all cars with odd-numbered licence plates were banned from the city the following day. There was much confusion, but, at the end of the day, a marked decrease in pollutants - so much so that the even-numbered cars, due to be banned the following day, were let off the hook...until the next crisis, that is.

Are we all mad? Is this the way we're going to muddle through the rest of our time on this planet - waiting until the eleventh hour to take action which not only falls way short of the mark, but is about as effective as trying to lassoo a runaway train with dental floss?

We must congratulate Madame Voynet for her intent, if not for her strategy. We've really got to try much harder, and be far more draconian in our actions if the damage we are doing to the chemical balance of the Earth's atmosphere is to be halted.

 [Bonsai tree]

Go Back