May 2007

Letters to todays Times: Councillor Jenny Jones of the Green Party Group on the London Assembly writes “In London alone, homes produce enough CO2 every year to fill almost seven million hot air balloons.”
Why hot air balloons? you don’t use CO2 in hot air balloons because CO2 is heavier than air. Might it be to give a suggestion of unbearable heat? Why not enough CO2 to create an iceberg of incredibly cold frozen dry ice with a surface temperature of -78.5 degrees centigrade?

One can almost feel sorry for the average scaremongering global-warming thinktank when it’s accurately calculated headline-grabbing meaningless generalisation falls into the hands of the British media – in this case Sarah-Kate Templeton, Health Correspondent of the Sunday Times.

The Optimum Population Trust calculated the carbon emissions of an additional British baby as being the equivalent to 620 return flights to New York. I estimate that they did this by dividing total UK emissions per year: 566m tonnes CO2 by the UK population: c60 million and multiplying by a lifespan estimate of 76 years. This produces their estimate of 750 tonnes per head of population per lifetime – which comes in very similar to the 700-850 tonnes estimated to be produced by 620 average return flights to New York.

So far so good. Obviously one can quibble – were all the flights full? or ask more serious questions – have these people ever heard of economies of scale? obviously an additional head of population isn’t going to have that per capita impact – unless God help us, its Sir David Frost with his thousands of Concorde flights – but basically OK.

Not so Sarah-Kate who reports that it is the equavalent of 620 flights per year. This puts the unfortunate child at 1/750,000th of annual UK CO2 emissions: or in other words assumes a UK population of 750,000.

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