Part 6 of the six part series on Pune pollution and environment.
Sometime back a blogger left a comment on one of my earlier blogs, suggesting a number of ways to reduce pollution. Among the many was, "don't drive, walk as much as possible", the rationale obviously being that using less fuel is good for the environment. In these times, when global warming is one of the big talking points, walking is the healthy and responsible way forward. But is it?
A few weeks ago I read a strange article in the Times of London, where a calculation was presented. Apparently if a person walks to the store and around the neighbourhood for errands, let's say around 3 miles or 4.8 km, then providing that person with enough calories to replace those burnt, emits more CO2 than if the person had driven to the store. Driving to the store and back according to the calculation will emit around 0.9 kg of CO2. On the other hand, walking to the store will burn around 180 calories. To replace that with a mostly beef diet will result in 3.6 kg of CO2 emissions. With a straight face the report says “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.” This says a lot about how energy intensive the meat food production chain has become in developed countries. But not just the meat. If you try to replace those 180 burnt calories with milk, it will result in 1.2 kg of CO2 emissions, still more than driving. In 2002, in the United States, the food production system accounted for around 17% of fossil fuel use. Going vegetarian or "vegan"will reduce this burden. Another study has calculated that the difference in greenhouse gas emissions due to shifting to a veggie diet is as much as that achieved by shifting from an SUV to a standard car, a reduction of about 1.4 tons CO2 per person per year. Cutting meat altogether from our diet seems very unpopular at present. Recently, Michael O'Leary, the boss of budget airline Ryanair, came under heavy criticism when he remarked that global warming can be eliminated by slaughtering the world's livestock. Off course going veggie alone doesn't help as illustrated by this cartoon.
I walk a lot in Pune, so do I actually contribute more to global warming by walking and not driving. Suppose following the U.K example I walk around 4.8 km per day and burn about 200 calories. My diet these days is almost entirely vegetarian. Based on a Ford Foundation study on energy intensity of Indian agriculture I calculated that producing 1 kg of food will result in about 2 kg of CO2 emissions. This includes energy required for the entire food production chain including fertilizers and transportation. If I burn 200 calories, eating healthy I would have to eat about 300 grams of various vegetables to make up those burnt calories resulting in about 0.6 kg of CO2 emissions. Much less than the person walking in U.K. and gorging on beef later. Energy intensity of Indian agriculture is still much less than the industrialized food production of the west. If I drive those 4.8 km in my Fiat (that old beast still chugs along) this will result in about 1.15 Kg of CO2 being emitted. But if a person zips around on a two wheeler, driving 4.8 km to the store and back will emit around 0.19 kg of CO2. In Pune, walking over short distances is better than driving a car, but not better than driving a two wheeler when it comes to replacing burnt calories and emitting greenhouse gases.
This will work as long the person maintains a particular weight. If a person starts overeating then all those extra calories represents extra emissions of CO2. This is likely to be a problem in urban India with all the new found prosperity. Trends of weight increase in urban Indians suggest that 40 to 50 million Indians have become overweight over the last few years and it could get worse. To gain one pound a week one has to eat 500 calories extra per day. That is a total of 3500 extra calories. Urban Indians are becoming fat not by eating huge amount of healthy veggies, but by stuffing themselves with calorie rich foods like sweets and oil rich fried stuff. That would mean they will require about 900 - 1000 grams of extra food to put on 1 pound of weight or 20 kg of extra food to gain 10 kg weight. The energy intensity of producing smaller amount of sweets and oil is probably the same as consuming larger amount of veggies. Going by this assumption, that would mean additional emissions of about 230 kg CO2 for every 10 kg of weight increase. If 50 million Indians become overweight by 10 kg that will result in additional emissions of 11.5 million tons of CO2. The figure will be much more if they start eating more chicken, since poultry industry is becoming very energy intensive, western style. My calculations are probably off by some amounts but the intent is to show that obesity and consumption has unexpected consequences.
How are urban Indians doing when it comes to personal lifestyles and the contribution thereof to global warming? Why not find out? Use the personal CO2 calculators I have listen below to calculate how much you contribute to global warming.
Conservation Fund Calculator
Carbon Footprint Calculator
To help you out here is a conversion list:
1 Dollar ~ Rs 40
1 gallon = 3.37 litres
1 kg = 2.2 lbs
One unit on your MSEB electricity bill ~ 1 kwhr.
1 cylinder of cooking gas (Propane) ~ 16.5 litres
Fuel Economy: 1km/lit = 2.35 miles/gallon
1000 kg = 1 ton
Compare your emissions with those of households of other nations given below.
CO2 Household Emissions by Country:
Australia - 14 tons/yr
China - 2.4 tons/yr
U.K- 9.8 tons/yr
U.S.- 19.06 tons/yr.
In the interest of full disclosure, I emit about 4 tons per year, a little more I suspect than many Puneites, primarily due to international travel.
This has been a fun series to write. I will be writing on and off about Pune so watch this space.
Part1. Idling and Pollution
Part2. PMT buses and Pollution
Part3. Rickshaws and Pollution
Part 4. Urban Forests and Clean Air
Part 5. Sensing Corruption Remotely