Monday, October 08, 2007


Everyone agrees that climate change is happening and that we need to do something about it. It has taken a while to get to this level of awareness, but of course the real issue now is to decide what to do. Of course, to carry out these plans seems to be another thing again.

In a recent report, Finland ranked 36th in CCPI, or Climate Change Performance Index. This index measures trends in CO2 emissions (50% of the index), actual emission levels (30%) and climate policy (20%). Finland is cosily situated between Algeria and Belarus, and far behind the leaders Sweden and the UK. Being used to being on top of various indices, this came as a shock to many Finns. I think people genuinely believe we've done a lot already and do well, or that we are an ecological nation because we have lots of forests.

I think we have very high thoughts about ourselves. Usually Finns (as a nation) are blamed for low self-esteem, but I think that's nowadays just a myth we like to perpetuate as it serves us well to offset the newly found arrogance and self-righteousness. Unfortunately self-image isn't a good substitute for researched truth. Another recent study ranked Helsinki as the top city for culture in Europe, according to opinions of inhabitants themselves. Now, there's a lot of good culture going on in Helsinki, but I think the result tells more about people than cultural activities if people in Helsinki give their city a higher rating than people in Paris, Berlin, or Rome give to theirs.

I'm sure that Finland would top all the charts if the CCPI would be based on interviews and opinions. Luckily it isn't, and luckily there are hard facts to show that we are not doing enough, in fact we are doing precious little, and things can't go on like this.

Finns are good at making excuses, and almost as good at coming up with reasons to not change anything as the Brits are (things have moved forward in the UK in this front, which gives a lot of hope for the rest of us). As a response to the CCPI, the prime minister said that the discussion about energy production and our energy choices needs to shift from just talking about price to talking about the impact to the environment and climate change. Spot on. I was positively surprised to see him take this stand so clearly. And not surprised at all to see that it took about 3 minutes for the National Coalition Party (the other big party in the government) to chime in and say that of course price is important, as well. For Pete's sake, of course. It just can not be the ONLY criteria or the only factor any more.

And how about light bulbs. I'm surprised that Finland, so proud of it's engineering and so dependent on artificial lighting for most of the year hasn't already moved on to better and more efficient ways of producing light. I can't see what's so good about producing light with an inefficient heating device that eats a lot of electricity, is so fragile and even in the best scenario needs to be replaced every year. Yet, as a suggestion to "ban the bulb" was made in the parliament, people were flocking to praise the bulb, how it is not that inefficient, how the light is of better colour, how the fluorescent bulbs are not suitable for every single lamp, how they take almost a minute to light up properly, and how they are expensive and that they are hazardous waste due to the mercury in them. In short, all sorts of excuses for not changing anything were made. I don't think a ban would work as well as taxing the bulb would, but talking about is a great way to speed up the change and bring this to people's attention, and to involve the legislative and executive machinery into looking into this thing.

Some people have lost all sense of proportion in this discussion. Some have even provided calculations about how the money saved from replacing the bulbs with mini-fluorescents would be wasted on having to turn up the heating. Some of these people are engineers. Surely they should be the first ones to say that it is not that smart to heat your house with a 40W light source that is at the ceiling. Something about warm air moving up, something about purpose-built devices vs. unplanned side-effects? Something about apartments being too hot as it is? Something about being able to save a lot of energy by changing something small and relatively insignificant? Since when did the current state of affairs, heating houses with short-lived lightbulbs become the norm and ideal state?

I thought the Americans were the only ones who'd get deeply offended by any suggestions to having to change their way of life because it is unsustainable.

I'm not even going to start about traffic or how having long distances in Lapland justifies planning the communities in densely populated cities around everyone using their own cars. It's another story.


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