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Environmental consequences of sports

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1320906.  Thu May 02, 2019 8:41 am Reply with quote

This thought occured while cogitating over the electric car and big cities threads (to which it is related), but rather than risk annoying people by posting in those threads I thought I'd start a new one.

The recent climate protests had a lot of people looking to persuade people to stop using cars and aircraft due to damaging CO2 emissions. A few days later there was the london marathon, and that started me thinking - was the lmarathon ALSO something they should have been looking to obstruct due to CO2 emissions? So I did some digging.

The default answer you get to this question is that because people are powered by food, and food is part of the natural carbon cycle, any CO2 emissions from humans cancel out. This may be true, but...

A static human emits about a third of a litre of CO2 per minute (taken from here), whereas a 100kg human jogging at 6mph emits about 3 litres per minute (taken from here. So if that person ran 26 miles at 6mph that would mean

4hrs 20mins = 260mins

260mins at 1/3litre/min = 87litres of additional CO2 emissions.

There were just shy of 43,000 people running in the marathon, so that suggests an extra 3.7million litres (about 6.8 tons) of CO2 produced.

That would be the same as burning over 2,500 gallons of biodiesel (which is also carbon neutral, based on 2661g/gall) which could drive a family diesel estate car for 10 years (at 40mpg, 10,000 miles/yr) or drive nearly 4,000 such cars around the marathon course. It's also five times the amount of fuel that would be burned by a full-blown F1 grandprix (20 cars, 200 miles, 105kg per car). People would probably object to the marathon car rally or the Grand Prix on emissions grounds, but not the marathon itself (which is strange) But that's not my point.

The above calc are indicative only, "big handfulls" approximations and probably mix UK and US gallons so take them as orders of magnitude numbers only. My actual point is this - in order to run the marathon many, many tons of additional food were consumed and burned both in the race and in the months of training leading up to it. That food needed to be grown, and it's food that someone else can't eat. So is it time we started clamping down on sports activities as being environmentally damaging?

And of course remember that a largely meat-fed runner can have a total carbon foot print up to 20 times higher than a vegan one...

Rather than the current promotion of sparts and fitness as an inherently "good thing" should we be taxing gymnasia, sports clubs, road-runners and joggers?


1320909.  Thu May 02, 2019 9:07 am Reply with quote

Actually I've just done some better sums on the F1 comparison. An F1 car has a maximum of 105kg of petrol per race, so at 2392g/kg carbon emissions from petrol (source) and 20 cars per race that means a maximum race emissions of just a smidge over 5 tonnes.

So a London Grand Prix and a London Marathon are actually in the same ballpark from a CO2 emissions viewpoint. This wasn't my point, but I just thought it was interesting!


Alexander Howard
1320910.  Thu May 02, 2019 9:56 am Reply with quote

Not to mention the additional diesel burn from the lorries stocking the shops with the extra food, and the greenhouse effect from the methane from cattle bred to supply that food (or in the case of vegetarian runners, the methane from the runners).

1320911.  Thu May 02, 2019 10:01 am Reply with quote

Also, if we can't shoot elephants for their ivory, what can we make billiard balls out of?

(Actually I just googled the answer)

Alexander Howard
1320930.  Fri May 03, 2019 6:52 am Reply with quote

Quite right. This demonstrates that we need to clone woolly mammoths and farm them for meat and ivory.

A farm / reserve would need a very large area to allow for the beasts' natural migration and grazing patterns and to support a large enough population to avoid genetic degradation of the herds though inbreeding. It might need an area the size of Belgium to be cleared and planted. I suggest Belgium in fact.


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