More driving linked to obesity and higher CO2 emissions

Increased use of cars is causing higher levels of obesity as well as rising carbon dioxide emissions, says a new report published this week by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP).

The report - Unfit for Purpose: How Car Use Fuels Climate Change and Obesity - calculates that just by returning to the average distance walked by people in the UK without cars, the rising tide of obesity can be almost halted, and at the same time, a substantial share of individuals' contribution to national carbon dioxide emissions could be avoided.

The report further argues that this could and should be done through renewed efforts to promote walking as transport. This would be vastly cheaper than dealing with the consequences of the obesity epidemic and climate change.

Carolina Valsecchi, one of the report's authors from the IEEP said:

"The twin crises of obesity and climate change are clearly interlinked through the switch from muscle power to engine power for transport. Concerted action is needed to reverse both these trends."

The IEEP claims that if all drivers were to walk an extra hour per week (the same as non-drivers) the extra walking could displace at least 11 million tonnes of CO2 from cars - amounting to 15.4% of the total emissions from passenger cars.

Some of the key findings from the report include:

  • 40% of all journeys in the UK are under 2 miles in length - distances easily covered by up to 30 minutes of brisk walking. Nonetheless, 38% of these journeys are currently by car.

  • Extra walking could displace at least 11 million tonnes of CO2 from cars - amounting to 15.4% of the total emissions from passenger cars.

  • "Our research demonstrates that something as simple as walking short trips now made by car would be make an important contribution to tackling both obesity and climate change", said Carolina Valsecchi.

    Dana Gornitzki

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