Carbon Selections: ‘We have now unwittingly pushed world right into a local weather and wildlife disaster’, says former Perth profession changer
Michael Alexander speaks to Perth-raised accountant who turned environmentalist Neil Kitching about the environmental choices everyone faces on the planet.
In a parallel universe, up to 180 world leaders and 30,000 delegates would descend this week to the Scottish Events Campus (SEC) in Glasgow for the United Nations’ annual international summit on climate change.
Ahead of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 26th Conference of the Parties, known as COP26, was intended to spark an international response to the climate emergency.
The Glasgow summit is now due to take place a year later, in November 2021.
However, the unprecedented events of the global pandemic have not stopped a former Perth man from publishing a book he originally planned for the 2020 summit, as the climate emergency is coming and we arguably have no time to waste.
Carbon Choices by former Perth Academy student Neil Kitching (53) focuses on the “sensible solutions” to our climate and natural crises.
© Courtesy of Neil Kitching’s Carbon Choices, by former Perth man Neil Kitching
It describes what climate change is, the “10 building blocks needed to solve the problem” and the solutions to our daily lives – our homes, travel, diets and leisure activities.
Neil, a former accountant who has made a career change toward environmental protection, is an energy specialist who works for a government agency to support water and water technology companies.
In his spare time, however, he felt compelled to write this book to see if in his own little way he could “help people make the changes necessary to prevent humans from causing climate change and from destroying wildlife “.
“Carbon Choices comes from Scotland, the host of the 2021 global climate conference, and tells how a group of sociable animals emitted 40 billion tons (40,000,000,000) of an invisible gas every year, constantly changing the chemistry of the atmosphere and the oceans and destroying the environment and the life support systems we rely on, ”said Neil, a married father of three who lives in Dunblane.
“We have unintentionally driven the world into a climate and wildlife crisis through the endless extraction of raw materials and our excessive consumption – especially by wealthier people and countries.
“Carbon Choices takes into account the psychology that drives us to buy more ‘stuff’ and whether that makes us happier.
“In plain language, 10 building blocks are described that offer us a basis for developing sensible solutions for climate change. and five sound principles that guide us in our decisions.
“By applying these principles to our daily lives – our diet, home, travel, shopping, and leisure activities – we can regenerate nature and improve our societies, making us healthier, happier and more fulfilled.
“The book concludes with a green plan of action for government, businesses, and individuals to make better carbon choices.”
Neil was born and raised in Perth. He is fortunate to have grown up in a family that loves visiting the countryside and observing nature.
At the age of five he climbed his first Munro (Ben Vorlich) and enjoyed cycling and exploring the countryside.
© Courtesy of Neil Kitching Neil Kitching, author of Carbon Choices
When he left Perth Academy, his love of nature led him to study geography at Edinburgh University.
After graduating in a period of global recession in the early 1990s and realizing that few “geography jobs” were available, he trained as an accountant at KPMG in London and worked in the capital for one year and five years in Sheffield with the Central Regional Council in Stirling.
Although he didn’t hate accounting or the security that came with it, he realized that after nearly 20 years it had “done nothing for him” and he wanted to revive his previous ambitions to work in environmental protection.
When tackling the very real challenges of mid-life career change when he had a family, he managed to earn a decent salary as an internal audit manager to secure a job as a sustainable development officer with a government agency.
While his daily job as an energy specialist was much more satisfying and awareness of the climate emergency was gaining traction, he considered writing a book in his spare time that would help people make choices that would make a real difference.
Climate change protesters outside the Scottish Parliament in 2019
He originally considered writing the book when he retired.
However, when he realized that this could realistically take another 10 years or so, he felt that it would be a little late as we now have a worsening climate emergency – and took advantage of the announcement of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in 2020 be held to maximize the publicity.
He stresses that the views in the book are his own and independent of his employer, and hopes this will help businesses and consumers influence governments in setting the right legal framework. Encourage businesses to offer consumers better choice; and empower individuals to make better choices for our climate and wildlife.
“What frustrates me is that people don’t really know the facts about climate change, and a lot of it is that they never learned it in school, they never learned it in college, they didn’t learn it at work learned, “said he said.
“There are entire generations who don’t know the basic facts.
“Everyone knows a little bit, but when you get into it you realize that they don’t know the basic things that I think everyone should know as it’s one of the not big problems of our time.”
Josephine Becker, 21, was one of the members of the Extinction Rebellion calling on the council to take action in Dundee in 2019
For example, Neil said that most people are aware of carbon dioxide and its effects on climate change.
They know the effects of electricity and gas at home and the effects of travel.
However, his research made it clear that far fewer people are aware of the effects of diet – that food and agriculture account for at least 25% of all climate change.
“The problem is with what we consume – it’s what we buy,” he said.
“We buy products from China and other countries that are more harmful to the environment when manufacturing goods.
“It’s a much broader picture that people are not aware of.
“They know about carbon dioxide, but they don’t know about methane, which is produced when burping cattle and even growing rice in rice fields and flaring oil and gas in the North Sea. People just don’t realize it. “
© Shutterstock / Jussi Lindberg Cattle grazing in the pasture
When asked if he practices what he preaches when it comes to leading a “green” lifestyle, Neil admits that he is “not an angel” and never claims to be.
He put solar panels on his house roof over 10 years ago, now he buys oat milk instead of milk, he only tries to buy what he needs to minimize waste and buys second-hand goods where possible.
But he admits that a few years ago he bought the “most economical car”, but not an electric one because it was too expensive.
He’s not a vegan either – although he believes that people should cut out meat and dairy products to reduce carbon emissions.
“I just think it’s very difficult because society isn’t quite there yet,” he added.
“One of the messages in my book is that individuals can change to some extent, but we have to get our systems right. We have to get our taxes right, our subsidies right, our investments right, to help people change.
© PA A car is refueled at an electric charging station.
“It’s hard to buy an electric car right now when it’s maybe £ 10,000 more than a gasoline car.
“There are some things that will happen because technology has changed so much.
“We moved from reliance on coal-fired power to wind power, and that’s only happened through some mechanisms that the government put in place. The consumer did not notice any difference.
“I think the switch to electric cars will happen a lot sooner than anyone thinks because electric cars perform better, are better quality, last longer and require fewer repairs. This is coming, you can see it coming.
“But I also think there are things that are harder to change.
“I’m going back to food and agriculture – that requires social and cultural change. I don’t see much of it.
“I know there are a lot more people going vegan, but it’s not exactly mainstream and I think it takes a whole educational thing, not just for school kids, but also for adults and retirees.”
Neil said the key to real systemic change is getting the government in place. Businesses will then respond and consumers will be able to make better decisions.
“That’s why the book is called Carbon Choices, because decisions have to be made.”
He hopes the year’s delay for COP26 will be a “chance for the US to clear its sense of direction and policies” while encouraged by China’s recent announcement that it will be “net zero” by 2060.
“Things are moving on a political level,” he added.
© Delivered A century of climate change in the Alps
“Covid is obviously complicated, but it’s a forced change that nobody could have predicted.
“It probably shows that we can change if we want to. We just decide against it.
“I hope from this summit that they will reach a stronger agreement – very easy!
“The Paris Agreement is fine, but it is far too weak to make the necessary changes.”
· Carbon Choices by Neil Kitching is available now on Amazon, Kindle and Meldrum Newsagent in Dunblane.