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Archive for August, 2014

Or should that be thought before food? Over the past week, the news has been full of stories surrounding the debate on eating meat. One article in particular has stirred up some interesting discussions in our paddocks – How safe is eating meat?

This article, based on academic studies, suggests that regularly eating around 85 grams of processed red meat, say 2 slices of bacon, is associated with a 20% increased mortality risk.  An increased mortality risk of 20% means a person’s risk of dying over the next year is 20% higher than if they did not eat the processed meat. Alternatively, as suggested by Prof Sir David Speigelhalter of Cambridge University, we can expect that someone who eats a bacon sandwich every day to live, on average, two years less than someone who does not (if the studies are right of course).  Pro rata, this is equivalent to losing an hour of your life for every bacon sandwich you eat. Hold on to this thought…

So let’s see what the true-er cost of a bacon sandwich would be:

A common concept used to evaluate health impacts is the ‘Value of Statistical Life Year’ (VOLY).  This measures individuals’ willingness to pay for an increase of 1 additional year of life expectancy.  VOLY, however does not provide a measure of the quality of life.

The VOLY in Europe as suggested by the Commission is ~£40,000*. So, the cost of losing an hour of your life per bacon sandwich can be calculated by dividing this value by the total number of hours in a year (8,760 hours) which is ~£4.56. Add this to the average cost of a bacon sandwich along Mortimer Street (£2.52) and the true-er cost of a bacon sandwich is closer to £7.08.

£7.08** for a bacon sandwich!!!

 

*€50,000; using a simple exchange rate of €1 = £0.80 this equals £39,983.

**This is a simple calculation that ignores many factors that would be included in a ‘serious’ valuation. We just wanted to play around with some numbers that might just get you thinking before gobbling up your next bacon sandwich!

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I’ve joined the herd from the United States, where, painfully, the decades-old debate over whether human-induced climate change exists continues. There is common sentiment shared by those who aren’t selective about whether to believe science (and so are on the side of believing its human-induced existence) that the conversation must be shifted from a debate about whether or not it exists, or is in fact human-induced, to one which involves a serious discussion of strategies to meet emission targets and stabilize the climate. Here in the UK, the occurrence of extreme weather events (expected to increase in frequency and intensity due to climate change) such as the recent landfall of the ex-hurricane Bertha, which saw some areas receiving more rain in 24 hours than they would expect in the entire month of August, further emphasises the need for a strategy.

Meeting the internationally agreed target of limiting the increase in global mean surface temperature to less than 2ºC, will require that global net emissions of greenhouse gases approach zero by the second half of the century. In other words, the profound transformation of political, societal and energy systems need be agreed upon and implemented in a smaller time frame than the ‘is there, isn’t there’ debate has existed.

The Deep Decarbonisation Pathways report, released in June by the UN secretary general, focuses on technically feasible pathways to deep decarbonisation with the aim of achieving the emission reductions consistent with meeting this international target. Strategies for twelve countries are highlighted, including the UK.

The report identifies the UK’s major drivers of future carbon emissions as economic growth and population growth, and explains their role within the strategy. The pathway presented for the UK allows for economic growth of between 2.2% – 2.5%, and focuses on the three sectors constituting the largest sources of emissions: power generation, transport, and buildings. The stages identified include the decarbonisation of the power industry by 2030, with low-carbon electricity allowing for emission reductions in end-use sectors (replacing gas use in buildings and liquid fuels in transport) in the years 2030-2050. Along with fuel switching to electrification within transport (65% of car travel to be met by electric vehicles by 2050) and buildings (20 million homes switching to heat pumps and heating district schemes by 2050), efficiency and technology retrofits by 2030 are also envisaged.

The report should draw scrutiny and incite debate, and is self-admittedly incomplete and preliminary. It presents feasible actions, timelines and scenarios, but more importantly can stimulate the necessary shift in the conversation towards zero carbon economy strategies.

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