I am confused about Going Green, and pollution, and especially not… - Sally's Journal
I am confused about Going Green, and pollution, and especially not flying. My friends list are knowledgable, and so will probably be able to help me. Google is full of lots and lots of opinionated people quoting other opinionated people, often in direct contradiction to each other, and I am short of brain today.
Does anyone know of any decent stats on pollution / CO2 emissions compairing going 500 miles in a typically full car, plane or train?
|Date:||October 9th, 2007 01:12 pm (UTC)|| |
no idea on stats, but generally - the faster you go, the more energy you burn to go that fast... just a general thing :) something to do with air resistance i think.
also, planes dump their polution real-high-up(tm) and apparently that's worse globally speaking than down here with us.
i'd be interested in your results though.. on the air resistance front, trains should win - but they do haul a lot more mass around per person than cars, so i dunno.
on a related note - which burns more energy? corridor lights (3 fluorescent tubes), or a room with a permanently cracked open window?
And you don't go the same distance, because you go up a long way, which while it is a small distance in comparison to the acrossness, uses much more energy per mile because of lifting a big lump of metal against gravity and all that.
Almost certainly the cracked window. Depending on how high you have your heating, of course - if your heating's off, then the corridor lights.
For a typical journey from London to Manchester, given average occupancy and modern gear, a car will emit 36.6kg of CO2 per passenger, a train will emit 5.2kg/passenger, and a coach will emit 4.3kg/passenger. That's with the car holding 1.56 people, the train 70% full, and the coach carrying 40 people. Source: parliamentary answer, Hansard column 786, 8th July 2004, quoted in the highly opinionated but otherwise excellent book Heat
(which I have summarised here
. For a less biased, more physicsy approach, Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air
looks good, but I haven't read it all.
Planes, by the way, emit about a quarter of the CO2 per passenger-mile as fully-laden cars, but also emit water into the upper atmosphere, which (depending on who you ask) doubles the warming effect of the CO2 emitted or even quintuples it. The IPCC uses a multiplier of 2.7.
The other great problem with flying is that it makes it possible for you to travel long distances that you wouldn't otherwise, thus emitting lots and lots of greenhouse gases.
|Date:||October 9th, 2007 01:47 pm (UTC)|| |
I'm always a little confused by the upper-atmosphere multiplier used for planes. Because while the warming effect may be substantially more, shouldn't that be a pretty short-term effect?
I'm generally less worried doing something that would stop in a few weeks if we all stopped doing it, and the water condensed again. But it is probably more complicated than I think.
Those figures look quite familiar and plausible.
But it gives rise to an awkward question I never see satisfactorily answered: how can cars be cheaper than buses or trains when they emit so much CO2
, especially when cars are taxed punitively but buses and trains are subsidised?
I see several possibilities:
- Public transport's expense is in terms of resources that don't emit carbon. Use of metals, perhaps?
- Only the carbon emitted by fuel consumption is considered; the carbon footprint of vehicle manufacture, road/track provision, a driver, stations, etc. is disregarded.
- Buses and trains in the UK emit a lot more carbon than elsewhere in the world.
- Public transport companies in the UK make obscene profits.
- The bus and train occupancy figures are wildly optimistic for the UK.
|Date:||October 9th, 2007 01:59 pm (UTC)|| |
Flying stats only...
I've seen a huge wealth of stats on this, but the assumptions are so varied (though I find the consensus convincing) that I haven't mentally bookmarked any except this one, which isn't exactly from an unbiased source:http://www.eurostar.com/UK/uk/leisure/travel_information/before_you_go/Green_Eurostar.jsp
I'm also inclined to support analysis which puts less weight on the fixed CO2 emissions of trains (ie the CO2 cost of moving the train, regardless of how many passengers are on it) because trains are generally emptier than planes. Hence if I go by plane, I may be encouraging the company to put another flight on the route, whereas if I am going by train, I am probably only encouraging the train company to maintain the route, which gives other people options apart from planes or low-occupancy cars and does not increase fixed CO2 emissions.
|Date:||October 9th, 2007 02:26 pm (UTC)|| |
Re: Flying stats only...
It also just occurred to me that Eurostar probably has unusually good per-passenger CO2 stats for a train, because I've never seen an empty seat.
As for the "opinionated people arguing about it" bit: if you don't have a friendly climate scientist you can ask, you can still get a good idea of whether climate change is real by following the money and asking yourself the following questions:
- Is there much money to be made by convincing everyone that climate change is real when it isn't?
- Is there much money to be made by convincing everyone that climate change isn't real when it is?
- Who has the money for a big campaign of disinformation, the establishment or the green movement (or whoever their shadowy bankrollers might supposedly be)?
- Has the fossil fuel industry displayed any evidence of scruples before, ever?
The answers are, respectively:
- Yes, a bit: wind turbines, insulation, etc..
- Yes, a fsckload.
- The establishment.
Hence, it seems clear to me that sites like junkscience.org (beloved of the deniers) are, in fact, corporate shills. As a special case, which is more likely: that the IPCC exaggerates its claims to sound more important and advance people's careers (as the deniers claim), or that they are under huge pressure from governments to tone them down, as the green movement claims?
It's also worth noting people habitually over-state risks imposed on them by big business or government, however.
In terms of the skeptics and nay-sayers, the arguments I find most persuasive come from people like Bjørn Lomborg: global warming is a problem, but not nearly as serious a one as many in the environmentalist lobby claim. In any case, it is a problem that gets linearly worse over time where technology is advancing exponentially so trying to deal with it now is precisely the wrong thing to do: put the money in the bank and spend it on cheaper, better, remedies in a few decades' time. Or, even more sensibly, spend the money on improving the plight of people in the third world now and rely on the increased GWP to support climate-change remedies in the future.
Bjørn gave quite a compelling argument that the cost per life saved would be orders of magnitude lower if we bought mosquito nets for the third world instead of trying to combat climate change.
I'm not completely convinced by that argument, but it deserves not to be dismissed out of hand.
1. It seems obvious to me that there must be a great deal of money to be made from climate change technology. Look at it this way. People will want, so far as possible, to maintain their standard of living. It is more expensive to do a given thing in a carbon-efficient way than a carbon-inefficient way. Therefore, the proportion of world wealth which is spent on energy will increase in a low-carbon world. Clearly this proportion will go to those who provide the low-carbon energy. Unless the amount of wealth in a low-carbon world is massively less than the current amount of wealth (which is admittedly a possibility), then the providers of green energy will, in the future, be richer than oil-princes today.
This is not to deny that climate change is real. I don't think that any one here is doing that. But I am convinced by rational argument, rather than by anti-establishment paranoia.
|Date:||October 9th, 2007 02:18 pm (UTC)|| |
Oh, and if you are considering going 500 miles, do you know www.seat61.com?
It won't help you much with the problem of everyone using different assumptions to calculate CO2 emissions, but it does suggest a bunch of cool ways of getting to various places, some of which are not as intimidating/ expensive/ inconvenient as one might have expected.
(One or two of them have turned out to be exactly as expensive and inconvenient as might have been expected, but more fun).
BTW, you know that a random bit of googling now turns up this post?
|Date:||October 9th, 2007 04:02 pm (UTC)|| |
Many of the more interesting destinations are both more expensive and more inconvenient - to go to Japan and back you will need a month for all the travelling (if you make good connections, especially on the ferry from Vladivostok) and a multiple entry visa for Russia amongst other inconvenient things. It costs about twice as much as a cheap flight too.
More amusingly it is (apparently) possible to go from Beijing (get there on the trans-siberian or via Almaty) south through China and then *across into India* but you need to be on a registered tour group through Nepal and Tibet otherwise you can't cross the border (and a special sort of Chinese visa). You can then get into Pakistan and thence Iran (on a bus), eventually you will find yourself in Tehran from where there are trains that run more often than monthly back into Turkey).
Doesn't it sound so much fun to go all the way 'round like that? Months of travelling though with some pretty crap services in the Pakistan-Iran section.
On the other hand most of Europe is very easy to get to indeed.
|Date:||October 9th, 2007 04:02 pm (UTC)|| |
Take a sailing ship...
|Date:||October 9th, 2007 03:24 pm (UTC)|| |
I would walk 500 miles.
|Date:||October 9th, 2007 03:57 pm (UTC)|| |
And I would walk 500 more
|Date:||October 9th, 2007 03:57 pm (UTC)|| |
A note on planes - Most of the fuel used by planes is (apparently, according to physics lecturers) used in take off and landing, which means that a plane to Glasgow is much much worse than a car but a plane to Cape Town is probably better than driving there (if the plane is full). I don't have very good figures on that though.
|Date:||October 9th, 2007 04:17 pm (UTC)|| |
A plane at takeoff or landing is running engines to full power; they don't do this when crusing (why do I know this? Because MatSci metallurgy lectures are all about turbine blades). Additionally, the atmosphere is thicker at sea level so there'll be more air resistance.
Nobody seems to have given you the Wikipedia page with the stats
on yet, so here it is. I have not read it yet, but might do later.
It disagrees with what others have said above, but Seat 61 / The Observer
put taking the train as costing 10% of the carbon as flying - and that's before you calcluate the upper atmosphere multiplier.
I've gone with `just don't fly' for the last two years (erm, apart from when my sister invites me on a free cruise to Alaska
), largely going on the Seat 61 stats and George Monbiet telling me to in a talk I went to. Will be following the outcome of this discussion interestedly.
But anyway, you do know that you can get bargain berths on night trains to Scotland
? Circumvent the issue by declaring a night train to be much more fun!
|Date:||October 10th, 2007 08:50 am (UTC)|| |
Oh yeah, you can get bargin births if you phone up after 12 weeks and 1 day in advance but before 11 weeks and 6 days in advance (if you want to travel at any reasonable point such as Friday and Sunday night) and as soon as you miss those, it's £180 each for the two of us.
|Date:||October 9th, 2007 08:22 pm (UTC)|| |
I'm going to put in an entirely unrelated point, which is that if you drive/train we could possibly kidnap you and take you out for/cook you dinner. Bwhahahaa.
|Date:||October 10th, 2007 08:59 am (UTC)|| |
That is a good plan. Although it works less well if we take the sleeper train, which is our preferred method at the moment because then we don't need to take time off work.
We are sleeper training up at the end of the month, and then my parents are coming down for Christmas, so it will probably be February time before we wend our way up to Scotland again...