Using a Land Rover on a project about climate change?

It’s a fair point.  We are travelling around the Atlantic, talking to people about the problems of sea level change,  in a great big car – a touch hypocritical?  It’s a question frequently levelled against environmental projects whose activities require travel and other carbon emissions – Al Gore, fire control in Australia, even lawnmowing.  A lot of people answer it by examining whether there is a ‘net carbon gain’ to the project i.e. will the carbon costs of the project be offset by longer term reductions in carbon emissions as a consequence of the project.  With an activity like lawnmowing that is fairly easy to measure, but with something like an education project it’s not so quantifiable.  Yes, we hope that people’s behaviour will change as a result of being involved in our project or hearing about it, but there are also a wider set of questions we asked ourselves:

Is this project essential enough to justify the carbon emissions?  We think it is.  The problem we are addressing is an immediate problem – people are already suffering as a consequence of sea level change.  Not many people know about this.  The expedition is vital for raising awareness because it allows us to get first hand accounts of what is happening and gives us the chance to reach places that would otherwise fall outside the media and policy spotlight.

Do we really need a Land Rover?  Some elements of the schools project can be set up over the internet.  But the other dimension is researching places that are already under threat due to sea level rise – providing the body of material for the schools’ curriculum project.  These places are remote, some only have seasonal access, and a Land Rover is one of few vehicles that can get us there.

What is our footprint?  We have calculated our emissions based on travelling 31,000km by car (9.021t), 11,000km by container ship (1t) with another 1t factored in for our food and waste carbon production.  This gives us a total of 11.021t between the three of us.  The Carbon Trust – the carbon footprinting specialists – estimate that the average UK consumer has footprint of 11 tonnes per year.  By camping, not using heating, using solar powered electrical sources and minimising our consumption, we are hoping to reduce our footprint by 2/3rds of what it would be if we stayed in the UK.

Diesel or biodiesel?  Where we can be guaranteed high quality bio-diesel, we will be using it.  However, we are also cautious about doing damage to the engine by using low grade fuel.  In some places (the Sahara) we will be several days travel from fuel and need to be sure that our safety is not compromised.

So this is where we are, as of today.  We have asked Land Rover to remove as much excess weight from the vehicle, to make it as efficient as possible.  As the project develops, we hope that we can make more carbon savings.  So if anybody has any ideas please let us know.

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