Are cyclists really bad for the planet?

Ieuan Compton (@welshboy) asked me what I thought of an article that suggested that cyclists following a Paleo diet were travelling in a worse way for the planet than those driving cars.
The answer is really that the Paleo diet is the problem, not the cycling.
Cycling a kilometre uses an additional 30-50 calories (actually kilocalories but calories that dieters count). These calories are additional to the normal metabolic energy use that will happen whether we are active or not. The way that we obtain these, say, 50 calories can have big implications for the carbon impact of cycling (or any other activity that uses 50 additional calories, like running at the gym).
One of the lowest carbon impact ways of fuelling activity is with sugar. British Sugar calculated the carbon footprint of sugar as 600 g using the PAS 2050 standard. 1 kg of sugar has about 3800 calories so you can get 50 calories of energy for 8 grams of CO2.
Walkers Crisps calculated the carbon footprint of a packet of crisps as 80 g of CO2 for a 23 gram, 130 calorie packet. So if you us crisps to fuel your 50 calories there will be 31 g CO2.
But beef has a footprint of around 13300 g CO2 per kg, with a calorie content of about 2000 per kg. this means 50 calories has 266 g CO2 associated with it.
So you can see that there are plenty of low impact ways to cycle. But how does this compare to driving. The average petrol car produces about 240 g of CO2 per km, accounting for direct emissions from the vehicle and the emissions associated with producing the fuel. But an efficient, small diesel car could have much lower carbon emissions. As the driver is not active in the car, he has no additional calories to fuel so it is right that a Paleo cyclist would have a similar impact to a typical car travelling the same distance. But if the driver used the gym to get his exercise after driving to work say, whereas the Paleo cyclist cycled to work but didn’t go to the gym, then it would be pretty equal if the driver used sugar. But if he too was Paleo with a big car then driving would be terrible.
And if the cyclist used anything other than beef then cycling would be less damaging, with sugar being close to zero impact compared to driving.

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Companies that listen to climate science on Climate Change and the need to Act

155 companies have signed up with Science Based Targets to set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets based on climate science.

These included the construction and real estate related companies Autodesk, Owens Corning, Kingfisher, Outokumpu Oyj and Land Securities.

The full list can be found here.

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Would concreting over the UK to build housing reduce house prices?

IMG_6255.PNGThe government could cover the whole of Britain in new housing and property prices would continue to rise if monetary policy remains as loose as it is now, according to notorious Societe Generale strategist, Albert Edwards.
Let’s test the hypothesis. Urban land use, meaning all buildings and infrastructure, including parks and gardens, is less than 12% of land use in the UK. If we build at 16 homes per hectare, the typical rate for the green belt, we could build 330 million new homes on all the remaining land.

Methinks such oversupply (enough for every man, woman and child to have five houses each) might affect house prices!

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President Obama on Climate Change and why it gets him anxious and keeps him up at night

Plus some other important stuff too

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Why it’s worse to pay too little than too much

“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

John Ruskin

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Why we should celebrate the “goatman”

In the Toaster Project, Thomas Thwaites took a toaster, bought for less than £5, and tried to remake it from basic raw materials. By trying to refine iron to make the element and mould recycled plastic to make the case, he demonstrated how fantastic our materials science and manufacturing expertise has become that we now take these products entirely for granted. He showed how totally disassociated we have become from the supply chain and impacts of our consumption. When you see him spending nearly a day burning LPG to try and reduce iron ore to iron with little success, the reality of embodied energy and the successful efforts of industry to increase energy efficiency become very much more real.
I am sure that the complete change of mindset required to “become a goat” will generate ideas which will stimulate innovative thinkers and designers like Thomas for many years to come. I look forward to reading his book, ‘Goatman: How I took a holiday from being human’.
Thinking outside the box in this way is a skill which should be nurtured.

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Michael Morpurgo on Climate Change and the need to act

A short film written by Michael Morpurgo for the Climate Coalition’s “Show the Love” campaign.

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Floods will worsen across Europe

A new report by the EAA predicts more five times more damage from floods across Europe by 2050 as climate change increases, but also blames where we build, highlighting that our use of flood plains.

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U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Climate Change and the Need to act

Speaking at a U.N. Investors conference on 27th January.

Today I call on the investor community to build on the strong momentum from Paris and seize the opportunities for clean energy growth. I challenge investors to double – at a minimum – their clean energy investments by 2020.”

“Sustainable, clean energy is growing, but not nearly fast enough to prevent excessive global warming that would trigger profound economic disruption and human suffering. The investor community is of critical importance if we are to move from aspirations to action.”

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The future of steel…

Very insightful article by Dr Julian Allwood celebrating the achievements of the European steel industry but explaining its problem and how it could move positively into the future.

Of particular relevance to me are the 50% wastage rate for steel sheet, that 66% of scrap is exported, that the best Chinese plant has the same emissions intensity as the best European plants and that India will be building new capacity soon.

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