HOUSE WARMING -v- GLOBAL WARMING
Do you remember the saying “It’s the ECONOMY, stupid!”. It is a statement that has gone into political legend. But as far a global warming is concerned we need to recognise that “It’s the HOUSE, stupid”. In fact individual homes in Western Developed Nations are responsible for up to 50% of global warming – and hence climate change – problems.
Heating causes most of this because a great deal of the energy used comes from burning fossil fuels. It doesn’t matter whether this is in the home or at some remote electricity generating station. Wherever the fuel – the coal, gas, wood, oil and so on – is converted into energy it gives off carbon dioxide gas – the main “green house” gas that helps cause global warming.
In fact 25% of all the UK’s CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions come from household energy use, with 70% linked directly space heating and hot water.
Because the problem is so urgent the UK Government has decided this must be reduced by at least 20% by 2010. But at the same time it has committed to ending fuel poverty by 2015.
Both are tall orders.
Let’s first take a look at fuel poverty – where any household has to spend more than 10% of disposable income to make their home comfortable to live in.
The WHO (World Health Organisation) regards 21°C as being an adequate temperature for Living Rooms, and 18°C elsewhere. However, if it’s 2°C or less outside, 18% of UK homes fall way below this, recording only 16°C in their living rooms.
It 2000 AD there were over 5 million such homes in the UK, more than 3 million of which were solid wall properties – i.e. buildings that do not have cavity wall type construction..
Significantly 83% of people suffering from ‘fuel poverty’ are considered socially and economically ‘vulnerable’. That is to say older people, families with children and those who are disabled or have long-term illness occupy properties that are the most fuel inefficient.
Because many of them don’t spend enough on heating to reach even minimum comfort standards, their homes may be cold and damp – conditions associated with ill health and early deaths.
People living in rural areas often face additional problems, like no gas network, higher heat loss from detached properties, more solid wall construction, and general lack of good quality housing for those on low incomes.
In the UK over 60,000 cold-related deaths are recorded in the UK each year, some 40,000 of these in winter. Thus it is reckoned that exposure to cold is responsible for 30% more people dying than need to.
Cardiovascular disease accounts for 50% or more of these ‘excess’ winter deaths, while respiratory diseases are responsible for 30% or so. Although hypothermia itself is only responsible for less than 1% of these, for every degree C below the UK winter average there are 8,000 extra deaths.
Contrast this with …