Global Warming – Some counterintuitive facts

If you’re serious about reducing your carbon emissions, you might want to check out a recent TimesOnline article before completely changing your lifestyle. Chris Goodall, member of UK’s Green Party and author of the book “How to Live a Low-Carbon Life,” made some calculations that reveal some environmental “facts” to be false. For example:

Walking contributes more CO2 than driving. Driving a car puts 0.9 kg of CO2 into the atmosphere. Walking uses 180 calories, which would require 100g of beef (3.6 kg CO2) or 420 mL of milk (1.2 kg CO2). Apparently organic beef is even worse, because those cattle emit more methane (same with organic milk).

Cloth diapers are just as bad as disposable, because of the energy, water, and detergent necessary to clean them.

There are many more examples given, some more surprising than others. I’m not sure how I feel about the car example – for instance, did he take into account all of the energy that goes into producing a car? The article doesn’t say. Also, these calculations are based on UK numbers…but I would imagine they apply to the US as well.

Additionally, there is an Economist article that confronts the “buy local” myth (perhaps not necessarily a myth, but should be viewed with a dose of skepticism). It seems obvious to most people that if you buy local produce, those veggies don’t have to travel as far on the roads, less fuel is needed for transport, thus less CO2 in our atmosphere, right? Wrong:

“It turns out to be better for the environment to truck in tomatoes from Spain during the winter, for example, than to grow them in heated greenhouses in Britain. And it transpires that half the food-vehicle miles associated with British food are traveled by cars driving to and from the shops. Each trip is short, but there are millions of them every day. Another surprising finding was that a shift towards a local food system, and away from a supermarket-based food system, with its central distribution depots, lean supply chains and big, full trucks, might actually increase the number of food-vehicle miles being traveled locally, because things would move around in a larger number of smaller, less efficiently packed vehicles.”

So much confusion, what’s an environmentally-conscious person to do? I know…I’ll just become a hermit – then I’m not driving or walking anywhere. Ha! Take that, global warming!

Via SciGuy


1 Comment

  1. DrKuha said,

    November 16, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Both articles are ludicrous and absurd. People who walk do not contribute more to global warming than people who drive and it’s ridiculous to think it’s the case. The example given is comparing the amount of carbon emitted for someone consuming beef which is foolish because beef is not a particularly good source of energy (unlike grains and vegetables). Also, people who exercise regularly and walk from place to place have a natural tendency to eat less food and more healthful.

    As for the local greenhouse nonesense, the point is not to grow food all year round, but to preserve food in season. Buy two or three bushels of tomatoes in season and can them, and you’ll be saving far more carbon than any of the other options. Hasn’t the writer of the article ever heard of a farm?

    People should actually not have fresh tomatoes in January. It’s unnatural and inefficient. North Americans and Europeans should probably never buy bananas, though we have a tendency to eat them by the bunch. It’s about priorities, and the writer of the Economist article is a fool.

    Thank you for pointing it out, however. Very interesting to see what some people are thinking.

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