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10 Solutions for Climate Change

The enormity of global warming can be daunting and dispiriting. What can one person, or even one nation, do on their own to slow and reverse climate change? But just as ecologist Stephen Pacala and physicist Robert Socolow, both at Princeton University, came up with 15 so-called "wedges" for nations to utilize toward this goal—each of which is challenging but feasible and, in some combination, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions to safer levels—there are personal lifestyle changes that you can make too that, in some combination, can help reduce your carbon impact. Not all are right for everybody. Some you may already be doing or absolutely abhor. But implementing just a few of them could make a difference.

Forego Fossil Fuels—The first challenge is eliminating the burning of coal, oil and, eventually, natural gas. This is perhaps the most daunting challenge as denizens of richer nations literally eat, wear, work, play and even sleep on the products made from such fossilized sunshine. And citizens of developing nations want and arguably deserve the same comforts, which are largely thanks to the energy stored in such fuels.

Oil is the lubricant of the global economy, hidden inside such ubiquitous items as plastic and corn, and fundamental to the transportation of both consumers and goods. Coal is the substrate, supplying roughly half of the electricity used in the U.S. and nearly that much worldwide—a percentage that is likely to grow, according to the International Energy Agency. There are no perfect solutions for reducing dependence on fossil fuels (for example, carbon neutral biofuels can drive up the price of food and lead to forest destruction, and while nuclear power does not emit greenhouse gases, it does produce radioactive waste), but every bit counts.

So try to employ alternatives when possible—plant-derived plastics, biodiesel, wind power—and to invest in the change, be it by divesting from oil stocks or investing in companies practicing carbon capture and storage.

Infrastructure Upgrade—Buildings worldwide contribute around one third of all greenhouse gas emissions (43 percent in the U.S. alone), even though investing in thicker insulation and other cost-effective, temperature-regulating steps can save money in the long run. Electric grids are at capacity or overloaded, but power demands continue to rise. And bad roads can lower the fuel economy of even the most efficient vehicle. Investing in new infrastructure, or radically upgrading existing highways and transmission lines, would help cut greenhouse gas emissions and drive economic growth in developing countries.

Of course, it takes a lot of cement, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, to construct new buildings and roads. The U.S. alone contributed 50.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2005 from cement production, which requires heating limestone and other ingredients to 1,450 degrees Celsius (2,642 degrees Fahrenheit). Mining copper and other elements needed for electrical wiring and transmission also causes globe-warming pollution.

But energy-efficient buildings and improved cement-making processes (such as using alternative fuels to fire up the kiln) could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the developed world and prevent them in the developing world.

Move Closer to WorkTransportation is the second leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. (burning a single gallon of gasoline produces 20 pounds of CO2). But it doesn’t have to be that way.

One way to dramatically curtail transportation fuel needs is to move closer to work, use mass transit, or switch to walking, cycling or some other mode of transport that does not require anything other than human energy. There is also the option of working from home and telecommuting several days a week.

Cutting down on long-distance travel would also help, most notably airplane flights, which are one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions and a source that arguably releases such emissions in the worst possible spot (higher in the atmosphere). Flights are also one of the few sources of globe-warming pollution for which there isn’t already a viable alternative: jets rely on kerosene, because it packs the most energy per pound, allowing them to travel far and fast, yet it takes roughly 10 gallons of oil to make one gallon of JetA fuel. Restricting flying to only critical, long-distance trips—in many parts of the world, trains can replace planes for short- to medium-distance trips—would help curb airplane emissions.

Consume Less—The easiest way to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions is simply to buy less stuff. Whether by forgoing an automobile or employing a reusable grocery sack, cutting back on consumption results in fewer fossil fuels being burned to extract, produce and ship products around the globe.

Think green when making purchases. For instance, if you are in the market for a new car, buy one that will last the longest and have the least impact on the environment. Thus, a used vehicle with a hybrid engine offers superior fuel efficiency over the long haul while saving the environmental impact of new car manufacture.

Paradoxically, when purchasing essentials, such as groceries, buying in bulk can reduce the amount of packaging—plastic wrapping, cardboard boxes and other unnecessary materials. Sometimes buying more means consuming less.

Be Efficient—A potentially simpler and even bigger impact can be made by doing more with less. Citizens of many developed countries are profligate wasters of energy, whether by speeding in a gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicle or leaving the lights on when not in a room.

Good driving—and good car maintenance, such as making sure tires are properly inflated—can limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from a vehicle and, perhaps more importantly, lower the frequency of payment at the pump.

Similarly, employing more efficient refrigerators, air conditioners and other appliances, such as those rated highly under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, can cut electric bills while something as simple as weatherproofing the windows of a home can reduce heating and cooling bills. Such efforts can also be usefully employed at work, whether that means installing more efficient turbines at the power plant or turning the lights off when you leave the office.

Eat Smart, Go Vegetarian?—Corn grown in the U.S. requires barrels of oil for the fertilizer to grow it and the diesel fuel to harvest and transport it. Some grocery stores stock organic produce that do not require such fertilizers, but it is often shipped from halfway across the globe. And meat, whether beef, chicken or pork, requires pounds of feed to produce a pound of protein.

Choosing food items that balance nutrition, taste and ecological impact is no easy task. Foodstuffs often bear some nutritional information, but there is little to reveal how far a head of lettuce, for example, has traveled.

University of Chicago researchers estimate that each meat-eating American produces 1.5 tons more greenhouse gases through their food choice than do their vegetarian peers. It would also take far less land to grow the crops necessary to feed humans than livestock, allowing more room for planting trees.

Stop Cutting Down Trees—Every year, 33 million acres of forests are cut down. Timber harvesting in the tropics alone contributes 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere. That represents 20 percent of human-made greenhouse gas emissions and a source that could be avoided relatively easily.

Improved agricultural practices along with paper recycling and forest management—balancing the amount of wood taken out with the amount of new trees growing—could quickly eliminate this significant chunk of emissions.

And when purchasing wood products, such as furniture or flooring, buy used goods or, failing that, wood certified to have been sustainably harvested. The Amazon and other forests are not just the lungs of the earth, they may also be humanity’s best short-term hope for limiting climate change.

Unplug—Believe it or not, U.S. citizens spend more money on electricity to power devices when off than when on. Televisions, stereo equipment, computers, battery chargers and a host of other gadgets and appliances consume more energy when seemingly switched off, so unplug them instead.

Purchasing energy-efficient gadgets can also save both energy and money—and thus prevent more greenhouse gas emissions. To take but one example, efficient battery chargers could save more than one billion kilowatt-hours of electricity—$100 million at today’s electricity prices—and thus prevent the release of more than one million metric tons of greenhouse gases.

Swapping old incandescent lightbulbs for more efficient replacements, such as compact fluorescents (warning: these lightbulbs contain mercury and must be properly disposed of at the end of their long life), would save billions of kilowatt-hours. In fact, according to the EPA, replacing just one incandescent lightbulb in every American home would save enough energy to provide electricity to three million American homes.

One Child—There are at least 6.6 billion people living today, a number that is predicted by the United Nations to grow to at least nine billion by mid-century. The U.N. Environmental Program estimates that it requires 54 acres to sustain an average human being today—food, clothing and other resources extracted from the planet. Continuing such population growth seems unsustainable.

Falling birth rates in some developed and developing countries (a significant portion of which are due to government-imposed limits on the number of children a couple can have) have begun to reduce or reverse the population explosion. It remains unclear how many people the planet can comfortably sustain, but it is clear that per capita energy consumption must go down if climate change is to be controlled.

Ultimately, a one child per couple rule is not sustainable either and there is no perfect number for human population. But it is clear that more humans means more greenhouse gas emissions.

Future Fuels—Replacing fossil fuels may prove the great challenge of the 21st century. Many contenders exist, ranging from ethanol derived from crops to hydrogen electrolyzed out of water, but all of them have some drawbacks, too, and none are immediately available at the scale needed.

Biofuels can have a host of negative impacts, from driving up food prices to sucking up more energy than they produce. Hydrogen must be created, requiring either reforming natural gas or electricity to crack water molecules. Biodiesel hybrid electric vehicles (that can plug into the grid overnight) may offer the best transportation solution in the short term, given the energy density of diesel and the carbon neutral ramifications of fuel from plants as well as the emissions of electric engines. A recent study found that the present amount of electricity generation in the U.S. could provide enough energy for the country’s entire fleet of automobiles to switch to plug-in hybrids, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the process.

But plug-in hybrids would still rely on electricity, now predominantly generated by burning dirty coal. Massive investment in low-emission energy generation, whether solar-thermal power or nuclear fission, would be required to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And even more speculative energy sources—hyperefficient photovoltaic cells, solar energy stations in orbit or even fusion—may ultimately be required.

The solutions above offer the outline of a plan to personally avoid contributing to global warming. But should such individual and national efforts fail, there is another, potentially desperate solution:

Experiment Earth—Climate change represents humanity’s first planetwide experiment. But, if all else fails, it may not be the last. So-called geoengineering, radical interventions to either block sunlight or reduce greenhouse gases, is a potential last resort for addressing the challenge of climate change.

Among the ideas: releasing sulfate particles in the air to mimic the cooling effects of a massive volcanic eruption; placing millions of small mirrors or lenses in space to deflect sunlight; covering portions of the planet with reflective films to bounce sunlight back into space; fertilizing the oceans with iron or other nutrients to enable plankton to absorb more carbon; and increasing cloud cover or the reflectivity of clouds that already form.

All may have unintended consequences, making the solution worse than the original problem. But it is clear that at least some form of geoengineering will likely be required: capturing carbon dioxide before it is released and storing it in some fashion, either deep beneath the earth, at the bottom of the ocean or in carbonate minerals. Such carbon capture and storage is critical to any serious effort to combat climate change.

Additional reporting by Larry Greenemeier and Nikhil Swaminathan.


By David Biello  | November 26, 2007

Courtesy: Scientific American,

Filed under: Article of the Week,

World on course for hottest year since 1880


The world is on course for the hottest year since records began in 1880 after record-breaking temperatures in four of the first six months of the year, according to meteorologists.

The first six months of 2010 brought a string of warmest-ever global temperatures – not only was last month the hottest June ever recorded, it was the fourth consecutive month in which the standing high mark was topped, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The records show that 2010 has surpassed 1998 for the most record-breaking months in a calendar year, reports The Telegraph, Britain.

The January to June period registered the warmest combined global land and ocean surface temperatures since 1880, when reliable temperature readings began, NOAA said.

The combined land and ocean temperature for the first six months of 2010 are 57.5 degrees Fahrenheit (14.2 degrees Celsius), which is 1.2F (0.68C) above the 20th century average for the January to June period.

In June the combined land and ocean temperature was 61.1F (16.2C), which is 1.2F (0.68C) above the 20th century average of 59.9F (15.5C).

Arctic ice cover – another critical yardstick of global warming – had also retreated more than ever before by July 1, putting it on track to shrink beyond its smallest area to date, in 2007.

On the face of it, these numbers would seem to be alarming confirmation of climate models that put Earth on a path towards an environmental catastrophe.

Without steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the global thermometer could rise by 6C (10.8F) compared to pre-industrial levels, making large swathes of the planet unliveable, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned.

June was the 304th consecutive month with a global surface temperature above the 20th century average, the NOAA reported.

The most recent month to dip below that average was February 1985, more than a quarter century ago.



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Yugratna’s speech to UN


Summit on Climate Change

22 September 2009

Speech of Yugratna Srivastava

Respected UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki – moon,
Honourable Dignitaries and August Assembly.
I am 13 years young Yugratna from organisation Tarumitra,
meaning Friends of Trees, which is an NGO of 1600 high
schools and involved in promoting environmental awareness.
I feel privileged to represent children and youth, 3 billion of the
world’s population in this Summit on Climate Change.
I am so much concerned about climate change because I don’t
want our future generations to question us just as I am
questioning the need of more concrete action on climate change

The Himalayas are melting, polar bears are dying, 2 of every 5
people don’t have access to clean drinking water, earth’s
temperature is increasing, we are losing the untapped
information and potential of plant species , Pacific’s water level
has risen,
Is this what we are going to hand over to our future generations?
We received a clean and healthy planet from our ancestors and
we are gifting a damaged one to our successors? Is their any
justice in this?
Honourable Excellencies, we need to call for an action now. We
have to protect the earth not just for us but for our future

If not here then where, if not now then when and if not us then
Please listen to our voices. The future needs strong vision and
One month ago, we had a TUNZA International Children and
Youth Conference in Korea. The 800 participants and several
thousands online developed a statement requesting you as
leaders to:
1. Agree on a more fair, just and action oriented post-Kyoto
agreement adopted and implemented by all countries
Not just formulate policies but also enforce them by
translating them into actions.
1. Please stop the people who are making Mother Earth Cry.
2. Why cut the oxygen generating forests to create CO2
generating industries?
3. Include carbon and ecological footprint information in
4. Adapt to a green economy and sustainable production.
5. Develop a multi-national climate facility to monitor
climate response strategies.
The high tech. society and currency deposits in bank are of no
use if we don’t have a compatible biosphere.
In the awareness, it is not just about solving an environmental
problem….but it is exclusively about changing the mindset and
attitude of people!

Educate students about the climate change by making
environmental education mandatory at all the levels of learning.
To get a sustainable Earth, we don’t need to stop the
developments. The need is quest and expansion of affordable
eco-friendly technologies available to common man like Energy
Efficient Campuses, Bio-fuels and Renewable energy sources.
I just want to ask all the world leaders two questions:-
1. Do environmental problems recognize any geographical or
political boundaries and age groups? My answer is certainly no.
This is why; we have the UN to talk each other about these
issues. I request you to please include the voices of children and
youth in all your decisions.
2. If national security and peace, and economic growth are
priorities, than why not climate change?
I know that you all are great leaders but overall we all are
humans. We all have a kind heart. I am sure that UN
negotiations at Copenhagen this year will end with
recommendations for good of humanity…and they have to.
Whatever has happened in the past is over. We just have present
and future in our hands. Let’s act in the present to secure our

We have one Mother Earth: Care it and Share it.
Respected leaders, when you all make policies, please think of a
child suffering in greenhouse heat and think of the species
craving to survive.

Mahatma Gandhi said “Earth has enough to satisfy everyone’s
need but no one’s greed"
A bird can fly in air, a fish can swim in water, a leopard can run
far faster, But we the humans have been supernaturally gifted
with mind….a capability to think, change and reform ….so
come on let us all use these abilities to save our birthplace….
our home…. our mother earth!
Thank You



What she says about the event

It was really a great experience to attend the summit. Three billion of world’s population was counting on me. It was not only me but it was United Nations Environment Programme which I was representing. Overall, it was a wonderful experience to speak in front of more than 100 world leaders.
I was basically appealing to the world leaders to include the voices of children and youth in all their decisions before they finally act. I also asked them to agree on a more, fair, just and action-oriented post-Kyoto agreement adopted and implemented by all countries. They have to seal the deal in Copenhagen.
I asked them two questions:

  • If national security, peace and economic growth are priorities for them, then why not climate change?
  • Do environmental problems recognize any political or geographical boundaries and age groups?

I interacted with our Secretary General Mr.Ban-Ki-moon. He congratulated me and my efforts as well. Amongst noble laureates, I interacted with three excellencies:-

  • Honorable Ms.Wangari Maathai
  • Honoralbe Mr.Al Gore
  • Honorable Mr.R.K. Pachauri

Amongst the various Heads of State I met Head of State of Sweden, Japan, Costa Rica, Gambia, Denmark and Nepal.
I owe my success to United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for giving me such a wonderful opportunity. UNEP helped me a lot with my speech as well as provided a lot of support and encouragement too.
I have been working as an active member of Tarumitra since 2006. Since then, I have been involved in promoting environmental awareness at grass root level as well as speaking at national and international conferences at the Global level.
In the coming time, I will be interacting with youth and children all across the country to encourage them to come up with several ideas for environment conservation. As well I am going to start Plant-for-the-Planet to plant 1 million trees in India.


Know more about Yugratna

Yugratna is a 13+ years old girl from India. She represents Asia and the Pacific region
in TUNZA- Junior-Board.
She is studying in grade 9 at St.Fidelis College, Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh).
Yugratna also holds the rank of District child speaker champion.

She is prodigiously interested in taking steps to prevent environmental problems. One
steps in this direction was TUNZA’s International conference held last year in
Norway in which she got elected in Junior Board. She is the first Indian child to ever
get elected in the Junior Board.
The aims of her organisation of which she is a member is “Tarumitra” are:
• To spread ecological sensitivity.
• To equip its members with skills in handling local environmental problems.
• To organise campaigns for the preservation of bio-diversity.
• To promote spirituality and a world view that is earth friendly.
The main activities in which Yugratna is involved are:-
• To resist the felling of trees and forests and maintaining bio-diversity.,
• Promoting to built roadside gardens,
• Generating environmental awareness among parents during school functions
• Participating in Environmental related quizzes.
• Working at a global level to encourage POLITICIANS.
In their school, they collected funds for Bihar flood victims.
Funds for Cancer patients were also raised.
She has delivered speeches in and outside India and is on a constant crusade to create
a sustainable environment.
She uses media as an effective way for spreading environmental awareness.
She has represented Tarumitra at many conferences which includes “Caritas
International”, Tunza Conferences etc.
She launched a slogan in Nairobi which says “DEPOSIT GREEN GOLD TO
At the Tunza Internetional Children Conference held last month in Korea, she gave a
rousing speech with ended with a call “If not now, then when?…..If not us then who?”

Yugratna believes that to solve any environmental problem 3 things are required:-
• Awareness…….of environmental problem
• Attitude…….. to be environment-friendly
• Determination………to create a sustainable environment
• Support………of the Politicians
But she considers that the support of the politicians is one of the most important
aspects required.
Last month, she also agreed to join Plant-For-The-Planet to plant one million trees in

“There is an inevitable need in the society to create awareness about climate change
and the policies and actions required to tackle it. In fact, a tremendous result can be
achieved by changing choices and attitudes.”
“There are no political or geographical boundaries for
Environmental Problems. Blaming anyone for any Environmental
Problem is of no use…..”


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Twenty ideas that could save the world

Ingenious, madcap and perhaps not strictly legal: the Guardian’s search for the greatest plan to tackle climate change

Ian Katz, Monday 13 July 2009

Planet Earth

A world of books … planet Earth from outer space. Photograph: Corbis

Ask Chris Rapley, the ebullient physicist and director of the Science Museum in London, why he seems more sanguine about our prospects of taming climate change than many of his peers, and he’ll tell you about the day he first toured the museum’s library and archives. Surrounded by the thousands of designs and patent applications that traced the great Victorian lurch into modernity, he was struck by the power of human ingenuity. "It seemed clear that if we could somehow focus all that creativity and energy on clean energy then we’ll be OK."

Anyone watching an hour or two of the "hearings" in Manchester last weekend on which this report was based could not fail to have been similarly cheered. The idea behind them was simple: we hear endlessly about the havoc unabated climate change will wreak, about long-term emissions targets and diplomatic wrangling over who will commit to them. But the countless ingenious ideas for tackling the problem emanating from universities, thinktanks, front rooms and sheds across the planet get rather less attention. So the Guardian teamed up with the Manchester International Festival to mount a search for the best of them.

Why Manchester? As the world’s first great industrial city, it was arguably the birthplace of man-made warming. So just as Robert Angus Smith pioneered our understanding of atmospheric pollution here in the 1840s, experts and thinkers from around the world would gather in the city to grapple with the longer term legacy of its once mighty mills and factories.

To underscore the project’s connection to the city’s carbon hungry past, the hearings were held in Manchester Town Hall, Alfred Waterhouse’s neo-gothic cathedral to manufacturing and mercantilism. Above the scientists, entrepreneurs and inconoclasts presenting their ideas, the great vaulted ceiling documented the countries and cities to which the city once dispatched its wares; outside the mosaic floors were decorated with the bees that embodied its 19th century self-image as a hive of industry.

The hearings themselves were perhaps best described as a cross between a judicial inquiry and an episode of the British TV show Dragons’ Den. Chaired by Lord Bingham – formerly Britain’s most senior judge – a panel of experts heard half hour pitches from advocates for each of 20 ideas shortlisted following a global appeal for innovative solutions to climate change. The panel, in consultation with the eminent climate scientist John Schellnhuber, picked the 10 most promising ideas – somewhat reluctantly since our experts felt all of the proposals aired in Manchester were worthy of more consideration. Now it’s over to you: you can watch short video presentations of each of the ideas featured in this supplement on our website and vote for the ones you think will be most effective. Better still you might help to implement them by offering support or capital.

The ideas heard in Manchester ranged from the wackier edges of science fiction to well-advanced products poised to roll off production lines. From the wilder shores came Professor Stephen Salter, an Edinburgh University engineer with a plan to increase the whiteness of clouds using a fleet of remote-control sailing ships spraying a fine mist of seawater into the air. But anyone tempted to dismiss his plan as the product of a crank who has spent too much time in the shed would do well to note that Salter was the man behind the Edinburgh Duck, a pioneering 1970s design for harnessing wave energy.

Another variation on the marine theme came from former management consultant Tim Kruger who proposed tipping large amounts of lime into the ocean. This, he claimed, would increase the sea’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as well as reduce the dangerous acidity which has also been a byproduct of decades of emissions. His compelling presentation was only slightly undermined by his own admission that such a plan would currently be illegal.

Mark Capron, a former naval engineer from California, was also frustrated by prosaic legal considerations. His idea involves farming algae out at sea and then digesting it in thousands of "giant stomachs" under the surface. The algae would absorb carbon dioxide and produce methane which could be used to produce energy. The trouble is that he fears building a prototype in his garage would breach local safety regulations.

Among the more developed ideas presented, Peter Scott made the case for simple, super-efficient cooking stoves. Burning wood (and other biomass) for cooking, largely in the developing world, was responsible for 10-20% of global emissions he told the panel. His stoves could cut the annual CO2 emissions of a household by 1-3 tonnes. The only downside, he noted ruefully, was that a local manufacturer in Malawi had been so successful that he had splashed out on a fleet of SUVs. "I haven’t worked out the CO2 implications of that yet."

Another idea tantalisingly close to crossing the threshold from brainwave to reality was proposed by entrepeneur Mike Mason. He described dishwasher sized "ceramic fuel cells" which could produce enough electricity to power a home as well as hot water. Because they were vastly more efficient than the power stations which produce electricity for the grid, and also obviated the need for hugely wasteful transmission of power along along hundreds of miles of cable, they could achieve massive carbon savings. And the first domestic models would go on sale next year with a price tag of around £3,000.

Many green activists are intensely sceptical about the search for technological "fixes", particularly those that aim soley to mitigate the effects of warming. They warn that trying to invent our way out of trouble is a way of avoiding the changes to our way of life that are really required. But by no means all the advocates presenting in Manchester placed their faith in technology.

One of the most quietly inspiring presentations came from Rosemary Randall, a Cambridge psychotherapist who had been puzzled by the ability of people at the same time to acknowledge the threat of climate change and in no way change their high carbon lifestyle. Randall designed a series of "carbon conversations" in which she encourages people to explore their attitude to consumption, identity and status. People who have been on her course of six meetings typically reduce their emissions by a tonne immediately and then plan to cut in half within two to five years. Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation offered an even simpler prescription: consume less. It might even make us happier too.

Some of the ideas presented were so lateral that even our panel of seasoned experts looked wide-eyed at times. An engaging Australian accountant and farmer called Tony Lovell showed photographs of arid, dust-blown landscapes alongside images of lush vegetation. The difference? The farmer on the green side had been forcing his cattle to mimic the great migratory wildebeest herds of the Serengeti.

If some of the schemes outlined in Manchester would once have seemed too radical to attract serious attention from governments and money men, the presence of climate secretary Ed Miliband at the event suggested that policymakers now recognise that they must cast the net for solutions wider than in the past. Here we lay out the best ideas that our net brought in. Now, Mr Miliband, what will you do with them?

• Ian Katz is deputy editor of the Guardian responsible for environment coverage.

Courtesy: The Guardian, UK

Filed under: Article of the Week,




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