Sorry to be the bearer of bad news just as Christmas is around the corner and many are looking forward to getting cosy in front of “hygge” wood burning stoves. The best New Year’s Resolution you can make for the planet is to ditch them completely.
Don’t take my word for it, listen instead to Dr Gary Fuller of King’s College who provides the title quote in this uncharacteristically brilliant episode of Start the Week which tackles the issue of clean air as well as our relationship to trees. The whole episode is worth 45 minutes of your time but Dr Fuller speaks in the last quarter about wood burning and the release of carbon into the atmosphere.
If you’ve not got time, Gary Fuller also writes Pollution Watch at the Guardian and some of the short articles talk about the effect of wood burning and also what happens when people stop using wood as a fuel.
What, 6 HGVs continuously or once a day ?
Ah well John, listen to the programme for the answer!
Don't have time today. Maybe Thursday.
It’s worth it. The chap talking about trees is fascinating - he mentions the loneliness of street trees (trees prefer to be planted in tree “communities”) and now I think about the lonely trees every time I walk up my road. *tree hugger moment*
That was, genuinely, a revelation, and interesting. Well worth a listen, as Liz said.
Well, having listened to the programme myself) the programme doesn't make that entirely clear - although he does make a comment along the lines of if you drove 6 HGVs up your road "all day" then your neighbours would be justifiably upset - so it does imply continuous use
We want to burn wood, we’ve got to plant many, many more trees to absorb the carbon and make it a carbon neutral fuel. Burning wood releases more CO2 than gas, oil and even coal for the same amount of heat. Some cities have already taken action, the Mayor of London is considering it. More stats from Gary - in London, one home in 12 burns wood, but this accounts for more than a quarter of the particle pollution produced in the capital. I just don’t think aesthetics is a good enough reason to continue burning wood in cities particularly given the attitude to trees in cities, where not enough are being planted, or left to mature even, for wood to achieve a carbon neutral status.
Ditching cars is of course also important. I recall a few years ago I wrote something on here to that effect and the flaming I got from angry car owners would have warmed a hundred Harringay toes on a winter’s night.
While I sympathise with the sentiment, it’s probably more effective to curb enforceable pollution such as automobiles. How the hell is the government going to enforce limitations or outright ban on wood burning stoves? Also the common statistic that 10% of UK homes have a wood burning appliance doesn’t mean they are using them all the time. The use is also seasonal, and subject to DEFRA standards.
The amount of car pollution is persistent, all year round and perfectly within legislative and enforcement reach for government to act upon.
I’m also stunned by the amount of private vehicles on our streets - parked or in motion. It’s utterly bewildering. Especially when considering the cost and inconvenience of owning an automobile in central London - and the convenience of public transport.
How did they ban coal fires after the great smogs? Where’s there’s a political will there’s a way. I guess you prevent sale of new wood burners and then like diesel cars set targets for eradication of existing burners. Back to Gary again, there’s definitely other cities we can look to for guidance
Think restricting car use for the able-bodied will prove to be the harder job. Cars are as much about people’s identities and status as they can be about getting from AtoB. Getting people to use alternative transport is not always about convenience or accessibility.
Dont know about the great smogs - 30 years before my time. The key difference is that you can tax and enforce taxation on vehicles - there are records of ownership, licensing, enforcement and collection agencies. Tax them and they’ll pay up and foot the health bill - or better - make different choices about getting from A to B. One can’t do this for existing wood burners or fireplaces without banging down doors...
Take a look at the article I linked to. Banning and fining people for the burning of wood during high levels of air pollution is possible - after all it’s quite easy to see who is doing it! - and it’s also about educating people to want to abandon them in the same way that is being done with plastic waste by making it undesirable to be seen to pollute the air with them.
It’s not either-or situation. All of these things need to be worked on if we are to clean up the air.
The great smogs were also before my time on the planet but they are a matter of public health history. I’d rather we didn’t allow them to return. 12,000 people died in the last one before the law changed.