World / Asia-Pacific

Make a change, invest in the future

By Lan Lan (China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-06 02:20

I am dismayed by the sight of two giant SUVs showed at an exhibition in the Doha Exhibition Center, which is running during the climate change talks.

Admittedly, both were low-emission, I am told ― one installed with a carbon dioxide capture system, while the other had a thermoelectric generator and a photovoltaic cell on its sunroof.

No doubt they're more environmentally friendly than gasoline versions of equal proportion. But, why the need for such size? To cut emissions, why not just drive a smaller car?

Commercializing these kinds of technologies would be incredible expensive.

So changing the world's consumption habits must be a better goal.

If Chinese consumer incomes were as high as those in Qatar, and the prices of cars and gasoline were as affordable as they are here in its capital city, I have no doubt we would have even more large SUVs on our roads in China.

If only people could be convinced to live simpler, use less rather than more, then it wouldn't be necessary to gather so many negotiators from more than 200 countries to discuss how to cut the world's carbon footprint.

Many NGOs have set up information booths around the conference, and are hosting side events during the talks.

One colorful brochure, in particular, caught my eye ― teaching materials from the Environmental Quality Protection Foundation, a Taiwan-based NGO focused on climate change education.

Hsieh Ying-shih, the foundation's chairman, tells me it has hosted lectures in more than 200 primary schools back in Taiwan.

The youngsters work out the carbon footprints of the transport they use to get to school, the electricity they use eating, and on other everyday activities. With funny cartoon stories, videos and interaction, kids get to know how emissions are contributing to the earth's problems.

With this kind of thinking firmly implanted in their young minds, hopefully they can adjust their lifestyles for the rest of the lives.

I can't help thinking, "what a pity this kind of education wasn't available when most of us were young". Though it's risky to blame single events on climate change, it has become a reality that we are seeing more extreme weather events, which are affecting everyone's lives.

As a Beijing citizen, I experienced the extraordinary heavy rain which swept across the city in late July, taking the lives of 79 people including a journalist in his early 30s.

When typhoon Haikui hit Zhejiang in August, a former colleague lost her aunt and uncle. With its complex climate system, China has one of the world's most vulnerable ecological environments.

Its coastal areas have witnessed significant rises in sea levels, with historic highs set for the past three years.

Public awareness is key in addressing climate change.

Some may feel frustrated by the slow pace of the climate change talks, but it's hard to influence negotiators from so many different countries, each with different experiences. In the meantime, everyone could adjust their lifestyles.

A small car is all you need to commute; getting one would indicate a person's awareness of climate change and their hopes for a greener future. Make a change, and your neighbors will follow.

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