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Housing – part 6: Polluting the countryside

Written for a housing policy forum. Part 6

We pollute  the countryside

The countryside is not as clean and green as it seems. In part 2, I noted the large carbon footprint of modern non-organic agriculture, particularly the methane emitted by ruminants (cows, sheep, goats &etc.) and the use of nitrogen compounds derived from the energy intensive Harber Bosh process. I also discussed the carbon footprint of “modern”, non-organic, food production but there are other unwelcome impacts. Three of these:

  • Loss of soil fertility
  • Insectageddon
  • The nitrate time bomb
Soil fertility

Continue reading Housing – part 6: Polluting the countryside


Housing -part 5: Construction costs

Written for a housing policy forum. Part 5

Construction is a fraction of the cost

The cost of building a traditional house is a modest part of the cost of a new home: In York it is less than the cost of the land when it has planning permission. Not long ago it has been possible to build an individual 3 bed roomed house for about £50,000. I know someone had one built for £50,000 – on land they already owned.

Bricks and mortar houses built in the conventonal style

Regional prices for new houses

Continue reading Housing -part 5: Construction costs

Housing – part 4: We are not short of land

A note for a housing policy forum. Part 4

We are not short of land

Key point: Planning permission adds enormous value to land

A plot of land big enough for a house costs less than £1,000 at agricultural prices.

In places like York, that becomes £50,000, sometimes much more, once the planners give building the go ahead. Planning permission makes no immediate difference to the land: but its name on a certificate in a council office gives an enormous unearned bonus to the land owner. Continue reading Housing – part 4: We are not short of land

Sea Level Acceleration

Open Mind

Sea level isn’t just rising, it is accelerating. It did so during the 20th century, and has done so even more quite recently. ABC news reported the story, based on just-published research (Nerem et al. 2018), that the latest satellite data now show it plainly. The authors of the new study conclude:

When taken with a rate of sea-level rise of 2.9 ± 0.4 mm/y (epoch 2005.0), the extrapolation of the quadratic gives 654 ± 119 mm of sea-level rise by 2100 relative to 2005, which is similar to the processed-based model projections of sea level for representative concentration pathways 8.5 in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. Stated alternatively, the observed acceleration will more than double the amount of sea-level rise by 2100 compared with the current rate of sea-level rise continuing unchanged.

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Just a reminder: Productivity destroys the climate

More planet destroying stuff is produced if we have full employment and greater productivity

stuff =workers * productivity

We must cut planet destroying stuff.  A top planet destroyer is the car. As Car-free cities pointed out, a city without cars is pleasant and much cheaper. So stop the polluting production lines and have more local market gardens

Starting the misery of the Automotive Nightmare

Then… Continue reading Just a reminder: Productivity destroys the climate

Is CO2 Still Accelerating?

“In recent years, CO 2 emissions have been almost flat despite continued economic growth” GCP CarbonBudget 2017 HOWEVER …

Open Mind

Not only is the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere on the rise, the rise itself has been getting faster — so CO2 concentration has been accelerating. A reader recently asked whether or not there’s any sign of its increase flattening out, or even stopping its acceleration.

Here’s the CO2 data from Mauna Loa:

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Car-free cities: The Ripa di Meana study

“the car-free city costs between two and five times less”


An excerpt from a press release from the European Commission in 1992:

   Based   on  these  observations,  Carlo RIPA  di  MEANA,   the   European
   Environment Commissioner, has had a study carried out on car-free  cities
   in  an  attempt  to find the answer to  the  following  question:  Is  it
   possible,  and  if so to what extent, to conceive of a  city  which  will
   operate  more  efficiently than the type of cities we  have  at  present,
   using alternative means of transport to the private car?

   The  answer provided by the study is positive, even in  purely  financial
   terms:  the  car-free  city costs between two and five  times  less  (the
   costs  varying  depending on the population density  of  the  city). 

Anybody know what happened to the study ?

P.S. See also Mixed communities, car-free cities and pedestrian apartheid

Housing – part 3: Carbon budgets and transport

Carbon budgets, housing and transport

Written for a housing policy forum. Part 3

Some readers may have heard about a recent scientific paper
Emission budgets and pathways consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.

This paper estimated the remaining carbon budget to keep below a 1.5°C
temperature rise since pre-industrial times. It’s estimate is much larger than
that outlined in the IPCCs fifth report (AR5). Fact checks about this paper on
Carbon Brief and RealClimate show it should not be taken seriously.

UK Carbon budgets

The Climate Change Act of 2008 aimed to cut UK greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 in relation to emissions in 1990. Thes are measured in Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e), which also takes account of non-CO2 greenhouse gasses, such as methane. The  starting figure in 1990 was 799 million tonnes CO2e. Roughly 12 tonnes CO2e per person per year. This gives the target for 2050 as 2.5 tonnes CO2e per person.

According to 2016 UK GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS, PROVISIONAL FIGURES from the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, emissions for UK  in 2016 had fallen to 466 million tonnes of CO2e or 7.28 tonnes per person.

The  Carbon Budget 2016  from the Global Carbon Project gave the remaining carbon budget to keep the global temperature below 2°C as 816 billion tonnes of CO2. Adjustments and accounting for non-CO2 gasses means that averaged over the world’s population the budget is roughly 120 tonnes CO2e per person.

MORE… Continue reading Housing – part 3: Carbon budgets and transport

What can climate modellers tell us about flying and eating beef?

Representative consumption pathways

Representative concentration pathways (RCPs) are hypothetical emissions of greenhouse gasses and other climate pollutants.  (So why are they called concentration pathways?) The RCPs specify individual climate pollutants, such as CO2, CH4, N2O and black carbon for each year from 2000 until 2100. The RCPs were introduced in IPCC Assessment Report Five (AR5) in 2014. After a selection process four of these pathways – tables of numbers specifying the yearly emissions of each pollutant were chosen as representatives of possible future climate forcing over the century.

Four RCP’s were chosen as standard: RCP2.6, RCP4.5, RCP 6 and RCP8.5.  RCP2.6 specifies the lowest concentrations of climate pollutants was specified in RCP2.6.  According to climate models, RCP2.6 is the only RCP that keeps the rise in global average temperature since pre-industrial to below 2°C.  The others have worse outcomes i.e. higher average global temperatures.

Different climate pollutants have different warming and cooling effects on the Earth but the effects of different pollutants are often combined into a figure that would equal the effect of carbon dioxide alone. This measure is called carbon dioxide equivalent or CO2e. Combining the effects of the pollutants for the RCPs give this graph

Continue reading What can climate modellers tell us about flying and eating beef?