Trains vs. planes

18th January 2011 by

The industrial-age old debate goes on and on, although the proposed expansion of Heathrow Airport has been withdrawn (and the village of Sipson saved with it) train travel in the UK is the most expensive in Europe, while airlines continue to fly on tax free fuel. Luckily the Campaign for Better Transport are on hand to explode a few common myths about flying.

Myth No.1: Passenger jets are just 2% of global CO2 emissions.
In the late 1990s aviation accounted for 2% of global CO2 emissions, since then there has been a huge expansion of airports and short-haul flights. CO2 isn’t the only greenhouse gas emitted by flying and those effects are magnified at high altitude (to work out the full greenhouse impact of a flight multiply its CO2 emissions by around 2.7). It’s also worth remembering that most of the world isn’t flying. The British population, on the other hand, takes more flights per capita than any other country in the world (and aviation makes up 13% of the UK’s climate impact).

Myth No.2: Cheap flights are helping poorer people to fly for the first time
Low-skilled people and those on benefits take 6% of flights (despite making up 25% of the population), meanwhile the wealthiest 25% of the population take almost half of all flights. While air travel has been getting progressively cheaper over the last decade, the cost of bus travel (the most common mode of public transport for the poorest 25% of the population) has increased by 24% in real terms.

Myth No.3: We can expand airports and tackle climate change
Not according to the UK’s top climate scientists we can’t. The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research predicts that the UK’s aviation emissions alone could exceed the government’s target for the country’s entire output of greenhouse gases in 2050 by up to 134%.

Thanks for the 5000 bikes Boris, but we weren't expecting 30,000 cars too

4th August 2010 by

Written by Lewis Merdler, cross-posted from the Client Earth blog (check them out, they’re cool)

If you are one of the 12,000 people who have already signed up to London’s shiny new Barclay’s Cycle Hire scheme I’d recommend a crash helmet is not the only bit of safety gear you invest in. You might want to think about picking up a gas mask too.

As thousands of novice cyclists join their more seasoned two wheeled travellers on the streets of London they are being exposed to a risk from traffic in more ways than one. Road congestion in the city is contributing to some of the worst air pollution levels in Europe, ready and waiting to be breathed in during all that puffing and panting on the saddle. London scores particularly badly on amounts of dangerous particulate matter (PM10) and oxides of Nitrogen (NOX), with levels of both breaching EU air quality laws. Read the rest of this entry »

Sustainable housing in Malmo

13th January 2009 by

Malmo used to be an industrial port town. Now it’s at the cutting edge of low-energy, low-impact sustainable housing design.  I tour to find out more, and here’s what I learned:

I took a walking tour of Malmo’s Wester Harbour, which is aspiring to be a completely sustainable community (it’s powered by 100% renewable energy, for example). Since I took, oh, about a million photos, I thought I’d share some of them with you.

When the creaters of this neighbourhood got together make it happen, they took lots of different aspects of sustainability into account, from materials to energy use and from community life to asthetics. This means that, in addition to being as low-impact as possible, the houses, commercial spaces and common areas aren’t too shabby to look at. To make sure that the buildings were diverse, the city of Malmo worked with about 17 different architects and a host of developers to create buildings that are built in different styles, sizes and colours – like these here:

Most of the streets in the Western Harbour are completely pedestrianized – so no cars allowed! As you might have guessed, bikes live everywhere. Here are just a few:

You can see water from anywhere in the Western Harbour, either sea water or rainwater collectors, which are alongside most roads.  The collectors add a bit of green space to the otherwise completely paved neighburhoods, plus the rainwater helps to increase biodiversity in the area by encouraging more local plant and animal life.

One of the area’s main landmarks, the Turning Torso, was created by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to symbolize the city’s transition away from an industrial port town. (The skyline used to be dominated by a giant grane basically right on the building site.) I was a bit sad to hear that the building isn’t particularly environmentally-friendly though- instead, it’s made of luxury white marble. Sigh.


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