It's been revealed this week that the best thing we can all do for the environment is … wait for it … get back in our cars!
Environment "expert" Chris Goodall (that's "expert" in the convenient modern sense, meaning someone who bangs on and on about something the rest of us can't be arsed to take an interest in) has calculated that walking does more than driving to cause global warming. Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk to the shops than a car would emit over the same distance. The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes. Provided, of course, they remembered to switch off the TV rather than leaving it on standby.
Chris Goodall is author of "How to Live a Low-Carbon Life", and is one of the few environmental campaigners who occasionally talks a little sense - he has been very scathing about the benefits of bio-fuels, for instance. Sadly this isn't one of those occasions. "Driving a typical UK car for 3 miles adds about 0.9 kg of CO2 to the atmosphere," he says. "If you walked instead, it would use about 180 calories. You'd need about 100g of beef to replace those calories, resulting in 3.6kg of emissions, or four times as much as driving. "The troubling fact is that taking a lot of exercise and then eating a bit more food is not good for the global atmosphere. Eating less and driving to save energy would be better."
His broad and rather silly assumption is (a) that most of us would necessarily eat any more just because we'd walked to the shops and back, and (b) that if we did, we'd choose beef rather than chicken or chocolate. The fact is, of course, that very few people regulate their food intake according to the amount of exercise they take, and that even fewer eat beef as often as they go to the shops.
Mr Goodall, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford West & Abingdon, has also turned his attention to a few other popular myths about the environment. Milk isn't much better than beef as a "clean" source of human energy. The average person would need to drink 420ml - three quarters of a pint - to recover the calories used in the walk to the shops (except that they wouldn't: see above - GOS). Modern dairy farming emits the equivalent of 1.2kg of CO2 to produce the milk, still more pollution than the car journey.
Cattle farming is notorious for its perceived damage to the environment, based on what scientists politely call "methane production" from cows. The gas, released during the digestive process, is 21 times more harmful than CO2 . Organic beef and milk are most damaging because organic cattle emit more methane and produce less meat and milk.
Traditional nappies are as bad as disposables. While throwaway nappies make up 0.1 per cent of landfill waste, the cloth variety are a waste of energy, clean water and detergent
Paper bags cause more global warming than plastic. They need much more space to store so require extra energy to transport them from manufacturers to shops.
Diesel trains in rural Britain are more polluting than 4x4 vehicles. Douglas Alexander, when Transport Secretary, said: "If ten or fewer people travel in a Sprinter [train], it would be less environmentally damaging to give them each a Land Rover Freelander and tell them to drive"
Burning wood for fuel is better for the environment than recycling it.
Someone who installs a "green" lightbulb undoes a year's worth of energy-saving by buying two bags of imported veg, as so much carbon is wasted flying the food to Britain (pretty damn stupid, this one. Why assume that anyone who buys a green lightbulb immediately goes out and gets two bags of imported veg? - GOS)
Trees, regarded as shields against global warming because they absorb carbon, were found by German scientists to be major producers of methane, a much more harmful greenhouse gas.
The more you read about this stuff, the more you realise how very silly it all is. And that's even before you remember that it's all based on a pretty dodgy premise in the first place - the theory that Global Warming is man-made is nothing more than that, a theory, and sadly one that doesn't even fit the known facts. 30,000 years ago there was no polar ice-cap, but there was no intensive beef-farming in those days. Or Sprinter trains with only ten people in them.
And in any case, the notion that CO2 and methane are somehow poisonous and inimical to life is ludicrous. Both are entirely natural gases and part of the normal life-cycle for almost all terrestrial species. Let's face it, aren't we all composed mainly of carbon? Well, not Cliff Richard, obviously.
The GOS is going to follow the example set by many well-known environmentalists and declare himself "an expert". After all, he bangs on about quite a lot of things, so he's amply qualified. He's working on a press release now. Watch out for the headlines in all the dailies: "Global Warming all b*ll*cks, expert claims".
The GOS is not alone. Here is the text of a Sunday Express article by author Frederick Forsyth …
CLIMATE CHANGE IS NOT ALL MAN'S FAULT
Where is the Ice Age? I would be much more susceptible to the screams of the by now rather hysterical "climate change" maniacs if they would only make their minds up. Thirty years ago we were all being told to rush out and buy thermal underwear for the coming New Ice Age. What happened to it?
Two years ago we were assured that "global warming" would give us warmer, wetter winters but long, hot, dry summers. Is that what has been happening in Tewkesbury?
Now we are told global warming has given us the wettest summer since records began. Maybe. But this year's downpour is just one inch more than nine other years and eight of them took place when there wasn't a car or jet engine on the planet. So what caused the broken records?
It is clear the climate is changing and man is a contributory factor. But as to man's exact percentage contribution, we simply do not know. Climate has simply billions of variables which even huge computers cannot solve. What effect on climate does violent solar activity (in this area the sun has been going crazy for several years) have? And why do Pacific currents such as El Nino and La Nina have such a staggering effect on the entire global climate when they malfunction (as they both just have)? And why do they do it? We just do not know.
But we do know some things. We know that there have been rhythmic warmings and coolings of the climate. And we know they occurred when mankind had nothing to burn more than a few logs from the forest. We know that trees create moisture which becomes rain and changes the local climate for the better. In 1948, Palestine (contrary to fashionable propaganda) was nearly barren. I do not know how many millions of trees the Israelis have planted since then but today it is green and lush and the forests lure in the rain clouds.
We know that the Horn of Africa is a hell of dust and desert sand but once it was clothed in vast oak forests. The natives cut them down, burned them, never replanted and moved on. The wind blew away the soil that the tree roots had once held firm and turned forest into desert.
We know that scientists will soon produce the hydrogen-based fuel cell to power cars and houses. Until then we can generate electricity with nuclear fission and later fusion. Even later we will derive geothermal energy from the blazing core of the Earth to create steam to drive turbines and make electricity without smoke or pollution.
No, I do not believe man is doomed. Nor do I believe he should behave as if he is insane. But I do believe our Big Brothers will use the headless chicken hysteria to rip vast quantities of money from our pockets, shouting "save the planet, save the planet" while they gorge themselves on our sweat and labour.
The GOS says: Save your breath, Fred. Nobody's listening. The self-important, power-hungry little dictators have got the bit between their teeth and have realised the power they can exercise simply by spewing out simplistic, skewed, pseudo-scientific data to show us that everything we do is wrong, everything we think is mistaken, and everything we want is unworthy. And we keep falling for it.
You know I'm right, Fred. I'm an expert.
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