With Euro 2020 in full swing, here’s a reminder that climate change, like football, is a matter of life and death. From ‘Climate Change for Football Fans’ by James Atkins.
In this extract, Joe and his mates gather round Professor Igor Rowbotham to hear about the nuances of climate change and the human forces that drive it.
In the Pub
“You what?” said Joe, taking an interest. “Climate change is all about psychology? I though it was about aeroplanes and recycling. You know, windmills and that kind of b*llocks.”
“On the surface, yes. Perhaps that’s the dull bit. Technology, industry, taxation and finance. Very dull; we’ll skip over that. Once we dig deeper, it’s about psychology, evolution, neurology, biology, and … well, sex.”
“Sex?” cried Darren, alert. A hundred faces turned towards him.
“You see,” said Doris. “I said it’d be interesting, Joe.”
“Another beer, Prof?” asked Joe hurriedly, picking up the empty glasses.
The Professor sat back with his fresh pint.
Joe said: “Er … I don’t want to waste your time. I mean, we do know about this stuff. It’s on TV all the time. Doris is always going on about her carbon footprint. She’s always reusing plastic bags and turning the lights off.”
Igor shook his head. He wiped the foam from his white moustache. “A complete waste of time.”
Doris bridled: “Are you saying it’s a waste of time to use plastic bags and turn your lights off? How can you say that?”
“I’m sorry, my dear. I didn’t mean to upset you. But think of plastic bags. Manufacturing a plastic bag causes emissions of 20 to 30 grammes of CO2.” He took a deep sigh. “How many times do you go to Tesco a year?”
“Once a week.”
“Let’s say you use 5 bags a time?”
“I dunno. Maybe.”
“So that’s 250 bags a year?” said Joe.
“Not bad, Dad. Mr Numbers from Planet Maths.”
“Watch it, Darren, you’ll be paying for the next round,” warned Joe.
“250 bags a year. Meaning 6 kg of carbon dioxide,” said the Professor with a smile.
“Well it’s better than nothing,” sniffed Doris.
“Do you know how much emissions come from your household, each year?” Igor continued.
“Not quite sure,” said Joe. He’d got distracted by the highlights. “I think I heard, like … could it be a ton of … you know?” “A ton of?” Igor raised his eyebrows.
“Well, carbon … carbon dioxide … er … or is that carbon monoxide?” Joe hazarded.
“Carbon dioxide, my friend.” The Professor opened another pack of pork scratchings, offering them round. “It could be 10 tons … in a year. For a person.
10, 15 … depending on how you calculate it. Per head.”
“10 tons? But that like weighs …”
“Yeah. It weighs 10 tons, Dad,” laughed Darren.
“Yeah, but, I mean …like … I weigh 90 kg … How’s that compare?” “It’s over 100 times your weight,” replied the Professor. “So in one year, like, I cause a 100 times my own weight in carbon dioxide?”
“Wow. And millions and millions of people are doing that all day?”
“Billions, my friend.”
“Jesus. You don’t think of it like that, do you? I mean if it weighs 10 tons, how come it doesn’t just come back down again? I didn’t think gases weighed anything.”
“I think,” said Igor, “that we should start at the beginning” Then he added: “There might be times when what I have to say isn’t so exciting. Just like sometimes I’ll have to sit through games without goals. But believe me. Like football, it’s a matter of life and death.”