Air Pollution in Lewisham

One of the justifications given for the “Healthy Neighbourhoods” schemes in Lee Green and Lewisham is that it will cut air pollution. It has even been suggested that it will contribute to saving the world from climate change (Lewisham Council has declared a “climate emergency”) when in reality any reduction in CO2 emissions in the UK will have negligible impact on total world emissions. The UK only produces 1% of CO2 emissions with China and the US being by far the biggest producers. That’s even assuming that CO2 is the major determinant of climate change which many people do not accept.

But the argument goes that removing vehicles from the roads of Lee Green will reduce atmospheric pollution significantly. The reality is very different. Let’s look at the facts.

A recent publication by Lewisham Council said “Domestic gas and electricity accounted for more than half of the boroughs carbon emissions”. Most domestic heating and that for offices, shops and schools is gas central heating which are major sources. In reality diesel and petrol cars contribute only 12% and 6% respectively of all emissions in London and they are falling rapidly – see the ABD’s full report on the subject here: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Air-Quality-and-Vehicles-The-Truth.pdf . There are many other sources such as cooking, wood burning stoves and industrial processes apart from emissions from larger vehicles such as HGVs which are not present on most roads in Lee Green due to width and other restrictions.

There is also a very busy train line that runs through the area via Hither Green station which undoubtedly contributes to particulate pollution. The whole area is also covered by speed humps on all the minor roads which is well known to increase air pollution very substantially – see  https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2016/06/13/speed-humps-and-air-pollution/ for details.

Air pollution in Lewisham has probably increased in recent years because of the growing population and “densification” of the borough. More people means more emissions of all kinds because human activity generates them. Cutting out road vehicles alone will not reduce them significantly and the proposed scheme will not reduce vehicle numbers – residents who own cars will just be taking longer routes to go anywhere thus generating more emissions to offset the small numbers who choose to walk or cycle more.

The proposals for Healthy Neighbourhoods in Lee Green and Lewisham will have negligible impact on air pollution or CO2 emissions and might actually increase them, particularly on certain roads. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn. If the Council really wanted to reduce air pollution, they would take other steps and adopt other policies.

I have asked Lewisham Council for the data to substantiate their claims about the impact of the Healthy Neighbourhood proposals and the current air pollution sources but have yet to receive an answer.

Roger Lawson

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The Population Growth Problem and Trump at Davos

7.7 Billion and Growing. That was the subtitle of a BBC TV Horizon programme last night on population. Chris Packham was the presenter. He said the world’s population was 5 million 10,000 years ago but by 2050 it is forecast to be 10 billion. He showed the impact of excessive population on biodiversity and on rubbish generation with lots of other negative impacts on the environment. It is surely one of the most important things to think about at present, and will have major economic impacts if not tackled.

The big growth is coming in countries such as Brazil and Nigeria. Sao Paolo is now 5 times the size of London and it’s running out of water. So are many other major cities including London. The growth in population is being driven by better healthcare, people living longer but mainly via procreation. A stable population requires 2.1 babies per family, but it is currently 2.4. In Nigeria it’s 5!

In some countries it is lower than that. It’s 1.7 in the UK (but population is growing from immigration) and it’s 1.4 in Japan where an ageing population is creating social and economic problems.

The FT ran an editorial on the 14th of January suggesting population in Europe needed to be boosted but it received a good rebuke in a letter published today from Lord Hodgson. He said “Global warming comes about as a result of human activity, and the more humans the more activity.  This is before counting the additional costs of the destruction of the natural world and the depletion of the world’s resources. In these circumstances suggesting there is a need for more people seems irresponsible”.

I completely agree with Lord Hodgson and the concerns of Chris Packham. The latter is a patron of a campaigning charity to restrain the growth in population called Population Matters (see  https://populationmatters.org/ ). Making a donation or becoming a member might assist.

For a slightly different view in Davos President Trump made a speech decrying the alarmist climate views and saying “This is a time for optimism, to reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse”. He was followed by a 17-year old with limited education who said just that and got more coverage in some of the media. I believe Trump and moderate environmental writers like Matt Ridley who suggest we can handle rises in world temperature and that the future is still rosy. But we surely do need to tackle the problem of a growing world population.

Too much population has a direct impact on air pollution and traffic congestion in London and the rest of the UK. More people means more vehicles – not just cars and buses but for delivery of goods.

Chris Packham reported how population reduction was done somewhat too aggressively in India and China but there are other ways to do it via education and financial incentives. Just ensuring enough economic growth in poorer countries will reduce population growth to the minimum. Let’s get on with it!

Roger Lawson

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London Congestion – It’s Only Going to Get Worse

London Population Trend

As anyone who has lived in London for more than a few years probably knows, the population of the metropolis has been rapidly rising. This has resulted in ever worse congestion not just on the roads but on public transport also. The roads are busier, rush hours have extended and London Underground cannot handle the numbers who wish to travel on some lines during peak hours. Even bus ridership has been declining as the service has declined in reliability and speed due to traffic jams.

The Greater London Authority (GLA) has published some projections of future population numbers for the capital and the conclusion can only be that life is going to get worse for Londoners over the next few years.

The current population is about 8.8 million but is forecast to grow to 10.4 million by 2041, i.e. an 18% increase. This increase is driven primarily by the number of births and declining death rates. The relatively high numbers of births in comparison with what one might expect is because London has a relatively youthful population. One can guess this is the case because of the high numbers of migration from overseas which results in a net positive international migration figure while domestic migration to/from the rest of the UK is a net negative, i.e. Londoners are being replaced by immigrants.

But population increase in London does not have to be so. The chart above shows you the trend over the last 100 years and as you can see London has only recently reached the last peak set in 1939. During the 1960s to 1990s the population fell. What changed? In that period there was a policy to reduce overcrowding in London and associated poor housing conditions by encouraging relocation of people and businesses to “new towns”. But when Ken Livingstone took power he adopted policies of encouraging more growth. His successors have continued with those policies and have promoted immigration, e.g. with Sadiq Khan’s “London is Open” policy.

Many Londoners complain about the air pollution in the London conurbation without understanding that the growth in businesses and population have directly contributed to that problem. More people mean more home and office heating, more transport (mainly by HGVs and LGVs) to supply the goods they require, more emissions from cooking, and many other sources. The Mayor thinks he can solve the air pollution issues by attacking private car use and ensuring goods vehicles have lower emissions but he is grossly mistaken in that regard. The problem is simply too many people.

Building work also contributes to more emissions substantially so home and office building does not help. But the demand for new homes does not keep pace with the population growth resulting in many complaints that people have to live in cramped apartments or cannot find anywhere suitable to live at all. Likewise new public transport capacity does not keep pace with the increased demand. There is some more capacity on the Underground but only on some lines and not much while Crossrail which might have helped has been repeatedly delayed.

The economy of London is still buoyant.  But all the disadvantages of overcrowding in London mean that Londoners are poorer in many ways. Those who can move out by using long-distance commuting or relocating permanently thus leaving London to be occupied by young immigrants.

Any Mayor who had any sense would develop a new policy to discourage immigration, encourage birth control and encourage emigration to elsewhere in the UK or the Rest of the World. But I doubt Sadiq Khan will do so because a poorer population actually helps him to get elected.

If Sadiq Khan wanted Londoners to live in a greener, pleasanter city with a better quality of life then he would change direction. But I fear only intervention by central Government will result in any change. In the meantime those who live in London might like to tackle their potential MPs, Greater London Assembly Members and prospective Mayors for what they would do about the problems covered in this article.

Go here for more details of the GLA projections of London’s population: https://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/projections-documentation

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