Page last updated at 12:58 GMT, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Dreaming of a green Christmas

Felix Dodds (left) and Michael Strauss
Felix Dodds and Michael Strauss

Environmentalists Felix Dodds and Michael Strauss use this week's Green Room to pass on a message from a seasonal contributor. They write: "Though he usually prefers to act anonymously, he has been rumoured to be active in many different countries under various personae that include Father Christmas, Pere Noel, and San Nicolas."

A little girl peering through a decorated shop window (Getty Images)
The production of all the toys, being in the North Pole, needs a lot of heating and lighting

Dear children,

As many of you know this time of year is very busy for me. The elves are also really busy, making the Obama dolls (although they appear to be less popular than last year), the train sets, and the computer games.

But before I pack up the sleigh and set off on this year's big ride, I wanted to share with you an update on how things are going.

I wanted to share with you some worries I have, because here at the North Pole it has been a difficult year.

Dancer hurt a leg earlier this year and almost had to be replaced in this year's team.

It happened during a spring training run, when the ice - which had always been very strong here - turned out to be much thinner than we expected, and she almost fell all the way through into the Arctic Sea.

Fortunately, she was soon on the mend, but it did give us quite a scare.

But the thin-ice issue really got my attention. I had already been noticing how much the weather had been changing over the past 10 years.

Changing times

The polar bears keep pointing out to me that they've had to travel much further to find solid ice and snow. The Arctic terns and puffins have been flying away and back at unusual times of the season. And the permafrost has been turning to mush near the coastlines, which means it no longer is permanent at all.

Polar bear (Image: AFP)
Some of Father Christmas's neighbours are finding themselves on thin ice

I've had to re-route the take-off and landing patterns on all my maps, and each year that has been making delivering the presents much more difficult.

So I decided to find just what was happening. And guess what I found out?

It is this thing called climate change.

I hadn't realised how much damage that all this travelling around had been doing and how much our lifestyles had impacted on the Earth. It seems to me as I looked back that we have been dashing to disaster.

But you might say what would I know? After all I am just Father Christmas.

Well, I read these Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Reports, which I have to say they were a little boring, but all these scientists from around the world have been saying the same thing and each of the reports they produce says things are getting worse.

They tell us that people's use of oil, gas and coal has been putting thousands of extra tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air. It's causing the Sun's heat to build up in the atmosphere of the Earth. The reports say things are getting worse and worse.

Well, now it's starting to affect everything all over the world. Giant storms are flooding coasts and valleys, even big cities.

Farmers aren't getting enough rain for their crops, so they are having trouble growing enough food for people to eat in many countries. Even those hot -weather animals like elephants, tigers and lions, are struggling terribly as their natural homelands disappear.

Green Pole

I have to say it put the frighteners under me. I thought what can I do. After all, I am just one person with a lot of elves and reindeer.

President Obama meets Father Christmas (Image: AP)
Has President Obama been a good boy this year?

Well the first thing was to find out what my carbon footprint might be. Well blimey, it was a lot!

I mean, if you are delivering to all the good girls and boys around the world, that's a lot of methane from the resulting reindeer poo. Then there is the production of all the toys and, being in the North Pole, we need a lot of heating and lighting most of the year as it is cold and very dark.

I then thought I would see what the experts had to say, so I asked them to carry out an energy assessment of our operations. They found that most of our power needs could be delivered by renewable energy.

So, this year there has been lots of building work around the grotto.

We now have wind turbines, which are powering most of the workshop and the housing. The reindeer have fun racing around it.

I bought some nifty electric cars for the elves to move around in, and a small methane collection plant for the… well, you know, with reindeer, we do get a lot of it, for the heating.

Of course, with reindeer powering the sleigh, my air travel is extensive so I still needed to deal with the methane. I found a nice offset scheme that enabled me to contribute to a forest in Brazil.

I am proud to say we may not have reduced yet all our fossil fuel uses but we are close to doing so. I always say, where there is a will there is a way.

Brazil, one of my favourite places, is hosting a new Earth Summit in 2012.

And that brings me to the plea. I watched that chap Al Gore in Copenhagen who says we have to cut our emissions if we want to stabilize our temperature at 1.5-2.0C above pre-industrialised levels.

We had better do it, or I am going to have to replace the reindeer with camels if I am going to be able to deliver presents in the future.

So I am asking all of children out there - and you adults too - to let your president or prime minister know your views. Copenhagen was a start but not enough.

I will also keep an eye on those politicians too. I think some of them will not be on my list of good boys and girls next year. I hope I am wrong on that.

Anyway, I hope you each have a peaceful and wonderful holiday this year. Let's all try to make it a very merry green Christmas.

And let's remember to enjoy what we have, and to share it together.

Father Christmas

Felix Dodds is executive director of Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future, and Michael Strauss is executive director of Earth Media

The Green Room is a series of opinion articles on environmental topics running weekly on the BBC News website

Do you agree with Felix Dodds and Michael Strauss? Is the way of life for millions of people, including Father Christmas, being affected by climate change? Do we need to rethink how global climate policy is formulated? What are your environmental hopes for the new year?

We need to reduce carbon emissions for example by wasting less money and energy on, for example, unnecessary or unwanted Christmas presents, wasteful use of paper to make wrapping paper and cards that go straight in the bin afterwards, obscene consumption of food, and cut down on extravagant and riduculous Christmas lights. All of this excessive consumption is a disgrace in the light of climate change and global poverty.

All of these measures to reduce eissions and waste will SAVE money, contrary to the statement from James from Southampton.
Daniel , Felixstowe, Suffolk

The BBC has hopped on the "green" sledge too it would appear. Thank you for putting the frighteners on all our children and ruining Christmas. All this garbage about global warming need to stop!
Marie McMillan, Glasgow,Scotland

Loooking at James' comment, it's clear that they money spent on his "eductaion" [sic] wasn't good value.

More seriously, it's very clear now that climate change will devastate all the areas he mentions. Reports such as the Stern report show that NOT dealing with it now will cost far more in the future and will have a far greater financial impact. But people have always wanted to put off hard choices and find excuses not to do something...
Mark Strong, Brighton

Like James, I am disgusted that an overt political campaign using Santa Claus to promote climate change is being pushed to brainwash children.

Science is all about debate but with climate change any person who espouses an opinion that is contrary is maligned. Climate Change is becoming a religion of fanaticism and that fact they are resorting to using Santa Claus demonstrates this fact.
Mike, Canada

Global warming has been going on for more than the last 10 years and even more than the last hundred years. Fact is, were I sit here at my computer, was buried under a mile (2 km) of ice and snow 8000 years ago, and the ground is still rising after being compressed by all that ice and snow. Global warming is going on, it is a natural process and no amount of tax on the people of the world will stop it. Maybe if we could all get along like the good little children we should be, the massive amounts of money spend on weapons of mass destruction could be used to curb pollution and coexist with each other and our environment. Imagine what new technologies could be developed with a wee bit of tolerance for the way others wish to live their lives.
Paul Grapp, Charlevoix, Michigan, USA

I disagree with James.Whether you agree with climate change or not is your own view. I do but I also believe that we waste finite resources. Not wasting what we have got is free and will actually save us money. So even if you do not agree with climate change surely you can believe in using less of what we have got and not creating waste so that future generations have some of these precious resources left. The world is changing whether man made or not so we still need to adapt and I hope that the resulting technologies will help those people to still have homes in future. Sadly it is the poorer countries who have wasted the least who will suffer if we do see rises in sea levels etc. They know this and have asked for our help. As far as Father Christmas writing a letter goes, it encourages debate which I think is a good thing.
Rachel, North Lincs

Global warming is a natural phenomena and we are accelerating it! We are facing a lot of global issues including the health and wellbeing of people around the globe but without taking down global warming there won't be enough of anything else to focus on curing diseases, irrigation, vaccination, and education.

Warmer Earth means less species survive, so a cure for cancer, aids, or other life threatening diseases that may be based off species found in the Rain Forest or as of yet undocumented means there will be no cures to be found.

Warmer Earth means less water which means irrigation will be useless and people will die from the lack of fresh drinkable water.

Education cannot grow if people continue to limit themselves to one way of thinking. We must all open our minds, step into each others shoes and find a middle ground. This is not a one country, big money, or let someone take the lead issue. We all have to come together to solve this for everyone.

It's time for everyone to begin making steps in their lives. This article is one step by those with a greater reach than most. I applaud the effort made here and look forward to sharing this with everyone I know.
Kelly, Gainesville, Florida, USA

The article is very nice which will stimulate most of the world political leaders to rethink the impact of climate change. I am completely agreed with this article. Yes, of course million of human being and natural creatures are being affected by climate change. Climatologists have analyzed the global warming that has occurred since the late 1800's. A majority of climatologists have concluded that human activities are responsible for most of the warming. The main human activities that contribute to global warming are the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) and the clearing of land. Most of the burning occurs in automobiles, in factories, and in electric power plants that provide energy for houses and office buildings. The burning of fossil fuels creates carbon dioxide. Extreme weather conditions might become more frequent and therefore more damaging. Changes in rainfall patterns could increase both flooding and drought in some areas. More hurricanes and othe!

r tropical storms might occur, and they could become more powerful. Due to the rising of sea level many coastal areas would experience flooding, erosion, a loss of wetlands, and an entry of seawater into freshwater areas. High sea levels would submerge some coastal cities, small island nations, and other inhabited regions.

Widespread shifts might occur in the natural habitats of animals and plants. Many species would have difficulty surviving in the regions they now inhabit. For example, many flowering plants will not bloom without a sufficient period of winter cold. And human occupation has altered the landscape in ways that would make new habitats hard to reach or unavailable altogether. Through global warming, the surface waters of the oceans could become warmer, increasing the stress on ocean ecosystems, such as coral reefs. High water temperatures can cause a damaging process called coral bleaching. When corals bleach, they expel the algae that give them their color and nourishment. The corals turn white and, unless the water temperature cools, they die. Added warmth also helps spread diseases that affect sea creatures. Continued global warming could have many damaging effects. It might harm plants and animals that live in the sea. It could also force animals and plants on land to move t!

o new habitats. Weather patterns could change, causing flooding, drought, and an increase in damaging storms. Global warming could melt enough polar ice to raise the sea level. In certain parts of the world, human disease could spread, and crop yields could decline.

Copenhagen summit is not the final discussion of world leader; rather it is just beginning conference of climate change summit. In the New Year I hope that nation might help to reduce emissions by replacing fossil fuels in some applications such as, alternative energy sources that do not emit CO2 including wind turbine, solar panel / sunlight, nuclear energy, and underground steam as well as renewable energy are to be used. Future generations of people would have to keep the ecosystems intact by more plantations, improving rain forest and changing agriculture technology by using Biochar.
Engineer Md Abdus Salam, Kushtia District Council, Bangladesh

Whether man made global warming is true or not, surely acting on climate change will creater a much cleaner and healthier environment for all. Is it not worth the effort to ensure we & the future generations have a better quality of life regardless of the climate change debate? Spending millions on talking about carbon reduction will cost lives. Actions speak louder than words.
Alison, Bristol


"Spening millions on carbon reduction will cost more lives than spending the money on irrigation, vaccination and eductaion."

It sure beats spending billions on wars in faraway places! We need to work on two fronts here: carbon reduction AND irrigation, vaccination and education - and regarding the latter, some basic climate science would not go amiss for many of the hordes who have been flocking to these threads of late!

Let's take this time to quietly reflect that if the environment dies, then so do most of us - and therefore as stable an environment as possible should be our number one priority from now on.

The environment feeds us. It provides us with drinking water. It is NOT just somewhere that we visit for our holidays. So raise a glass with me:

To The Environment!!!

Cheers - John
John Mason, Machynlleth, Powys

Dear Father Christmas,

Please would you ask people to consider growing things for their decorations then compost them rather than buy things that need electricity to light them - or make them. It is good fun to make your own decorations with things from your garden

human, DEvon

I agreed with this article. All of natural creature including human being are affected by human made climate change. Through this message it is warned to rethink the survival of this planet. So all human beings are responsible to reduce the greenhouse gases from the atmoshphere by using the clean energy technology avoiding fossil fuel. More tree plantation including improvement of rain forest and marine environment, using renewable energy,using Biochar technology for agricultural product are very essential to reduce the global warming in the new year 2010.
Ms Sharmin Salam, Lahini,Kushtia,Bangladesh

I am very impressive what Felix Dodds and Michael Strauss have said ,One small step like this will make people aware of this ,I am also more glad that making this statements in the articles and poster "GREEN" makes people aware of it .I am happy for all the efforts put in by lot of people who are making use of the clean energy and making the environment more safe place for future though These New green technologies
Prasad , Washington DC,USA

I think this is really effective and a good way to get the message across in a simplistic way. I've certainly told my friends about it and we think it's really clever how the writers managed to include the key ideas (excessive CO2 emmisions, renewables etc). Well done!
Fiona, London

The type of climate change we are experiencing right now in Europe? Many records, both cold and snow, are being broken as this tosh is pushed at our children.

The wind anomaly that caused the low Arctic ice in 2007 went away guys. The ice extent has quickly recovered and is nothing at all to be alarmed about, especially when compared to the 1920s.

But then you knew that, didn't you.

Facts don't sit right with an agenda, so spin rules the day.

An example would be where "Himalayan glaciers will be gone by 2035" was trumpeted far and wide, yet the truth- "...the UN authors got the date from an earlier report wrong by more than 300 years." is buried. We will probably be in an ice-age again before then.

Santa will be pleased.
John, Bath, UK

This is the nice and sophisticated article which, may be stimulated most of the world political leaders to rethink the impact of climate change. I am completely agreed with this article. Obviously, million of human being and natural creatures are being affected by climate change. Temperature of the planet has been rising from past decade and it is the natural phenomenon. Human activity is one of the major factors causing this global warming. Man made climate change has been started when, the people of the world have been changed their life stile. A lot of species of natural creatures are disappeared due to this. Royal Bengal Tiger of world famous mangrove forest Sundarban are likely to be migrated and this animal intruded into local villages and killed man and their cattle. Again man killed the tiger and one time this species will be disappeared. In a new report, a leading charity has warned that climate change could kill more than 400,000 children every year in the future !

because of floods and droughts. According to the Telegraph, the effects of climate change on children was compiled in a special report by a charity known as 'Save the Children' before the UN climate summit in Copenhagen. It has warned that global warming could cause the death of a quarter of a million children next year as a result of natural disasters causing an increase in injuries, water-borne diseases and starvation.By 2030, the figure will almost double to 400,000 unless more is done to help poor countries adapt to a changing climate.

Climate change will also make it more difficult for children to attend school in affected areas and the charity warns of a rise in child labor in countries like Bangladesh as families struggle to survive. There have already been reports of an increase in trafficking and child brides in areas where families are separated or forced into destitution by extreme weather patterns.

Copenhagen summit is not the final discussion of world leader; instead, journey is started from here to overcome the crisis. My environmental hope in New Year is fight against global warming and accelerates the use of renewable energy in everywhere of the world.
Engr Salam, Kushtia,Bangladesh

This is outrageous. Propaganda spewed out to adults is bad enough, but to children? The BBC has managed to sink to new lows. Absolutely disgusting made all the worse due to the complete fraud that is anthropogenic global warming. What has the world come to?
John Meyer, liverpool england

Sorry, but this is disgusting. It's exploitation of children and sets a new low and lack of character for the bolshie BBC - "Where the end justifies any means!".

I've never been so disappointed in the BBC as I am now.
Ian, San Francisco, California, USA

Sorry to disagree with James but I think this is brilliant! It gets across a sometimes dry message in a humourous way. We'll need even more money for irrigation, vaccination & education if global warming continues at this pace.
Louise Bloom, Southampton UK

Howcome you can preach green morality and not good sense family values?
george fRANKLIN, charlotte usa

Nice try, guys, but the cat really is out of the bag now as far as "man-made global warming" is concerned. A majority of the population does not believe you and that majority is growing all the time. You had your chance but you just lied too much in an effort to force your environmentalist agenda onto the world and, unfortunately for you, were caught green-handed. Now, it really would be even more despicable if you tried to hit on young children with your twisted propaganda. If you can't win the argument against adults, then please just accept that you've lost. And I'd urge the BBC to do the same. You backed the wrong horse and you've been left with egg on your face. Deal with it.
Bruce, Carnoustie, Carnoustie

Of course I agree with Felix Dodds & Michael Strauss -- and Father Christmas! What a wonderful investment of time and energy, to have Father Christmas write! And what a wonderful suggestion for children, that they write letters to the politicians (and not just their own country's)! If I were still teaching (as I have in the past) I would use this letter in a lesson, and indeed have my pupils & students write those letters! I would also encourage those children to take good care of their toys so they can share them when they get tired of them with those children who have few toys; and to really think about what they ask Father Christmas to bring; to talk over their own habits with Mum & Dad & friends & siblings; to form some connection to the good earth by learning how to garden a bit for themselves (even if it is just by taking care of one little potted plant); to remember that it really is important to shut off the lights and unplug things not in use; not to waste food -- and to spread Goodness, Light, Love & Laughter, as much as possible, wherever they are. A joyous Christmas to all who celebrate, a blessed rest & end of the year to everyone -- especially in the magical UK -- and a Happy, Wise, Healthy New Year & 2010! Peace, Love, Health, Joy!
Maria Ashot , London, UK (but in California at this moment)

Although, we do not have control on automatic set up of nature but definitely we have got control on the 'Knob of the balance' through adaptation of 'suitable automatic combinations' in the time to come. Single child, bicycle, minimum use

of fossil fuel, electricity and concrete, more space for forest lands and protected marine areas, sympathy for other creatures of planet are important to our success.
Sanjay Singh Thakur, Indore,India

This is despicable. Using a children's christmas icon to further the belief of man made global warming is a pretty dirty trick.

Whether man made global warming is true or not one thing is for certain. Spening millions on carbon reduction will cost more lives than spending the money on irrigation, vaccination and eductaion.
James , Southampton

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