Future Projects Inspired by the Climate Train

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Siberian Scientists For Global Responsibility

Inspired by what SGR was able to achieve with the Climate Train" Sergey Pashenko,Yuri Dublianski and other colleagues in Siberia have set up a new organisation "Siberian Scientists for Global Responsibility". Although there are already NGOs working on environmental projects in Novosibirsk such as the Siberian Ecological Foundation and ISAR Siberia who organised our conference, this new organisation will fill a specific scientific niche - enabling unusual research projects and acting as a bridge between researchers and the general public. Its’ three basic aims are:

  1. It will carry out expert appraisals of ecological problems in Siberia, and publicise these in local and national media. This information will also be disseminated to the public and governmental organisations.
  2. It will defend at the scientific and legal level the rights of the population of the Siberian region to live in an ecologically healthy and clean environment.
  3. It will organise exchange of information with other organisations and groups in other countries.

Some specific projects have already begun:

1. Problems of motor transport in Novosibirsk

Summarising the results of many years of research, particularly aerosol measurements, in the city of Novsibirsk where atmospheric pollution is rising due to the aggressive expansion of motor transport, and preparing a report about this jointly with the "Regional Committee for the Protection of the Environment and Natural Resources", to be given to the Deputies of the Regional Soviet. Volunteers from SSGR are also organising an expert technical team for the determination of emissions of CO from motor transport between spring and autumn of 1988.

Together with citizens organisations and the local media, arranging a referendum about the establishment of a pedestrianized zone in Novosibirsk, and opposing the further construction of car-parks.

Together with ISAR Siberia, organising a "hot-line" for rapidly warning the public, the media, and the authorities when there is a smog situation in the city of Novosibirsk, for receiving complaints from the public, and for carrying out an environmental public inquiry on the problems of motor transport and car parks which would be submitted as evidence during court cases.

2. Examination of problems connected to the radioactive pollution of the environment from natural and anthropogenic sources.

3. Problems of pollution from rockets in the Altai mountains:

Together with organisations of the Republic of the High Altai continuing experimental research of aerosol pollution in the area around Teletskaya Lake due to the falling stages of rockets launched from the "Baikonur" cosmodrome which launches telecommunication satellites.

4. Leading the organisation of an ecological research expedition along the river Ob on the yacht "Anastasia"

The yacht would be equipped to carry out direct measurements of greenhouse gases and aerosols in the northern part of Siberia, which are practically non-existent, due to the inaccessibility of the region. However this region contains both large natural sources and sinks of greenhouse gases from swamps and forests, and emissions from gas flaring and leakage due to oil and gas production. There have been some short-timescale aircraft measurements, however due to the logistics, the accuracy and the duration of such measurements are clearly insufficient. Much data from satellite monitoring of these regions already exists (for example for ozone and aerosols), but basic calibration against ground-based measurements would permit much greater application of this information.

The emissions of gases and aerosols during siberian forest fires, including fires in areas of the forest polluted by oil spills, would also be determined.

The background concentrations of aerosols and ozone for the northern regions would be compared with the results of many years monitoring of various air masses in Novosibirsk (1989-1998) and during expeditions made on the mobile laboratory during 1995-1998 (Lake Baikal, Tomsk, Tatarsk, Chik).

The expedition will also collect samples of aerosols gases, water and soil for subsequent analysis either in branches of the Siberian Academy of Sciences or with other interested organisations, for the assessment of the distribution of radioactivity in Siberia. This will provide an opportunity to investigate radioactive pollution of the water and soil from nuclear testing on Novaya Zemlya.

There is also a social dimension to the expedition, which would help to inform the wider world about the people and ecosystem of these northern regions, which are little known elsewhere. We hope that a television crew would accompany the yacht. Meanwhile the people of these regions could become better acquainted with the developments in the modern world, by series of public lectures - on climatic change in these regions, on the problems of gas flaring, on the problems of radon during the Siberian winter, on the proposals for burying nuclear waste in the permafrost and on the possibilities for renewable energy including a demonstration of photovoltaic cells which would be used to provide power on the yacht.

Colleagues of SSGR have considerable experience of leading scientific expeditions accompanied by the media for the production of television films. Such expeditions and surveys have been undertaken on boats of various types on lake Baikal, on the Black Sea, and on the Atlantic Ocean (Sergei Pashenko and others 1985-1993).

The yacht "Anastasia" is in itself a work of art created completely by hand according to a traditional Swedish design by the Siberian yacht master Vladimir Alekseyev in 1997. Using such an ecologically clean mode of transport will minimise contamination during atmospheric measurements and enable the expedition to proceed without backup for 2-3 months.

The work of Siberian Scientists for Global Responsibility will be supported by SGR in the UK, and funding is being sought to assist the development of the organisation.

The Climate Ship

In our speech to the COP, we announced that we would organise a climate ship from Europe to COP 4 in Buenos Aires. We felt that we had set a precedent with the Climate train and wanted to continue promoting eco friendly travel. So, in February of this year we began an email discussion about this. We considered either travelling all the way by ship, or going overland from Spain to West Africa, crossing the sea to Brazil, and from there continuing overland, organising workshops on route and conferences in strategic places for example in Spain, Senegal and Rio-de Janeiro.

We considered both hiring sailing ships and "hitching a ride" on large cargo ships. For example the "Bright Green Ship Co" operates two sailing cargo ships between Canada and the Caribbean. These ships could take up to 12 passengers, and only use engines when really necessary, so they would use 70% less fuel than a similar capacity conventional cargo ship. However these boats would not be available until Spring 1999. We also discussed charting 'Tall Ships' such as one of the former Soviet Bloc's considerable fleet of square riggers, and Research ships travelling between Europe and Antarctica, but few were willing to take passengers. Some large cargo ships regularly take passengers, but they charge very high prices for luxury accommodation which we don’t need, and probably they are not so environmentally friendly anyway as international shipping tends to use poor quality fuel which causes high emissions of sulphur gases.

So we did not find any ideal means of crossing the Atlantic, nor a core group of people committed to the hard work of organising such a project, although as for the Climate Train mnay people said they might be interested to join the journey once it was all planned. Without such a core group and definite plans it would have been impossible to raise funds and eventually we had to accept that the project was not going to happen in time for COP4 at Beunos Aires although the many weeks of email discussion had raised some interesting ideas which might be deleveloped further in the future.

The great success of the Climate Train was partly due to the fact that it is a viable alternative to suggest that people travel overland to Kyoto, the train routes are well established and already carry many people on business/trade journeys. But to suggest that many people should take six weeks or so just to travel one way in a sailing ship from Europe to Buenos Aires was not realistic, as most people would simply dismiss the idea by saying ‘nice if we had the time’. Moreover, we were unsure whether bringing more people to attend the COPs is the best way to tackle climate change. This is disucssed further in the section on "Telepresence" below and in the Conclusion..


One of the most effective ways of combating climate change, is to reduce the amount people travel. This will require a change in patterns of work so that people do not need to travel long distances frequently. The use of video and tele conferencing is slowly being developed but this will need to be accompanied by infrastructure and attitude changes to really provide a solution. Here Alexander Kuzmenko, who works in this area in Kiev, explains,

One of the reasons to develop teleworking is aspiration to cut trips including trips between workplace and homeplace. Advanced telecommunications and multi-media allow questions to be decided without meetings face-to-face. So further development of information and communication technologies will provide effects of presence and confidence which are necessary and will allow to avoid many tiresome trips. There are large social questions regarding innovations and our culture which must also be discussed.

Whilst attending COP 3, Alexander made many new contacts for his organisation in Ukraine and is in the process of establishing new projects to develop the use of telecommunications in Eastern Europe. Bob Kenyon is also using information and experience gathered at COP 3 to develop his small scale telecommunications business in London and Madrid.

Whilst in Kyoto, we noticed the efforts of the UNFCCC secretariat to encourage the use of telecommunciations at the Climate Convention. These included email conferences and live video of the main sessions and some of the special events, which was available on the internet around the world (this can still be viewed on the web -see "contact information"). Some of our colleagues in Europe said they had been watching this live video. However as explained earlier - most of the delegates to the Climate Convention still prefer traditional diplomacy -chance conversations over a glass of wine in evening receptions, and travel to conferences makes delegates feel more "important". So it will take much effort to persuade many of them to swap their jet-setting lifestyle for a video-conference.

"Ecotravel" book

We plan to write a popular book about "sustainable travel" which would be distributed in many countries, in order to try and spread the idea behind the Climate Train, that travel by train and boat is much less damaging to the environment and society than travel by air, and also provides an opportunity to experience diverse scenery and cultures along the way. The book would include the following sections:

Explanation of the problems caused by greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution from air transport, and basic figures enabling readers to calculate for themselves an "ecobalance" for their planned journey by various means of transport. To put such figures in context, the basic scale of the climate change problem needs to be explained, including the greenhouse gas emissions per year per person in different countries and the levels to which these will need to be reduced in order to "save the climate". A voluntary eco-travel tax could be proposed for people who occasionally have to travel by plane.

Discussion of other environmental impacts of various forms of transport - including noise pollution and destruction of ecosystems and communities by the construction of new airports and other transport infrastructure.

Discussion of the cultural impact of tourism. Large airports impose a similar mass culture everywhere in the world - shopping malls selling identical products, international hotel chains, golf courses wasting land and water resources, etc.. Moreover people who go "round the world" in a few weeks never see beyond the big cities, and the true diversity can only be experienced by travelling overland. However all travellers need to consider their impact on the local communities which they pass through.

We would also discuss how "bureacractic barriers to sustainable travel" such as those as experienced by the Climate Train might be reduced in the future.

We then intend to include a practical "how to get there" guide focusing on the main trans-continental and inter-continental routes, rather than on local details which are already covered by existing travel guides. This would provide information about border crossings, visa formalities, crossing remote mountain passes, etc., which is often hard to obtain. It would also discuss various ways of crossing the oceans (see "Climate ship" above). The information in the book would be backed up by a frequently updated web page and email discussion forum and links would be made to other organisations which may be able to help.

Long distance overland travel requires purchasing of tickets and services locally, rather than through travel agents in ones home country. To do this, and to experience the local culture, it is essential to learn a little of the local language and this can also be a very rewarding experience. A chapter would introduce the basic structure and vocabulary of the main language groups around the world.

Other issues which would be discussed include food and nutrition while travelling, health issues, and coping with racial, cultural and religious prejudice.

An email discussion list specifically about the ecotravel book has been set up by colleagues of Oras Tynkynnen in Finland. We have plenty of ideas and people willing to write specific sections of the book, and sections of this Climate Train report could also be incorporated. Various people involved in this discussion will soon be travelling overland from Europe to Africa or India and will be able to contribute their experiences of these routes, although more such investigative journeys would be needed to provide a comprehensive "how-to-get-there" guide. What we need now to ensure that this enthusiasm is not wasted is sufficient funding to employ an editor and coordinator, who would delegate the research tasks and the writing of various sections of the book to others, bring the material together and link it together, and approach publishers.

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