Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Leave the car at home - Link between car use, obesity and carbon dioxide emissions

Promote walking!!! Join Living Streets

A New IEEP report makes link between car use, obesity and carbon dioxide emissions
Aug 13, 2007

A new report by the Institute for European Environmental Policy and Adrian Davis Associates published on August 13, 2007 highlights the extent to which car use is implicated in the increase in obesity as well as rising carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

How trends in walking have changed.
One fifth of all journeys (22 per cent) are under one mile, a distance that can be easily carried out by foot. However in 1975/76 the proportion of journeys under one mile made by foot was 86 per cent, in 1985/86 and 1994/95 it was 81 per cent, and in 2005 it fell to 76 per cent. The
majority of the remainder of trips under one mile (21 per cent) were by car.

Therefore, if today all main drivers (amounting to more than 26 million people) reverted to the walking patterns they had before owning a car (ie miles walked by people with no car), at least 11.1 Mt CO2 could be saved, amounting to 15.4 per cent of total emissions from passenger cars.

Since 1975, the cumulative impact on CO2 emissions of new main drivers halving their walking reached 5.80 Mt CO2 in 2005, equal to approximately 22.2 per cent of the overall increase in CO2 emissions deriving from passenger cars in the last 30 years

The main points of the argument from the report :

Since the Second World War, the continuous increase in car ownership has led to a dramatic decline in walking as a means of transport - muscle power gave way to fossil power.
This report calculates that just by returning to the average distance walked by people in the UK without cars, the rising tide of obesity can be almost halted.

At the same time, a substantial share of individuals' contribution to national carbon dioxide emissions could be avoided.

The report goes on to argue that this could and should be done through renewed efforts to promote walking as transport. This would be vastly cheaper than dealing with the consequences of the obesity epidemic and climate change.

Some key findings from the report:
40% of all journeys in the UK are under 2 miles in length – distances easily covered by up to 30 minutes of brisk walking. Nonetheless, 38% of these journeys are currently by car.
If a typical British adult were to walk just an hour more per week (equivalent to the difference in walking between a typical driver and a non-driver) this would counteract a weight increase of 2 stones over a decade, and a longer-term slide into obesity.
This alone could make a major contribution to halting the trend of increasing obesity across the UK.
The extra walking could displace at least 11 million tonnes of CO2 from cars – amounting to 15.4% of the total emissions from passenger cars.

Lead author, Dr Adrian Davis commented "the substitution of car use for walking is a major contributor to the steep rise in obesity, as walking is the most obvious way for most people to burn calories. A small daily reduction in walking over a decade or more has a profound and damaging impact on body weight."

Carolina Valsecchi from IEEP added that "the twin crises of obesity and climate change are clearly interlinked through the switch from muscle power to engine power for transport. Concerted action is needed to reverse both these trends. Our research demonstrates that something as simple as walking short trips now made by car would be make an important contribution to tackling both obesity and climate change".
Download the full press release (PDF 38KB)
Get the full report
See also the report in the Guardian
Halt school run and get in trim, says report Rachel Williams Tuesday August 14, 2007 The Guardian Cars should be banned from the school run where the distance is walkable to fight obesity in parents and children, the authors of a new report suggest.