It isn’t news that smoking is bad for human health but now it seems it’s bad for the globe’s health too.
The number of outdoor heaters has increased since smoking inside was banned and environmentalists are concerned about the carbon emissions from them.
“100,000 homes all using a standard patio heater on average of one hour per week would generate a carbon footprint of approximately 18 000 tonnes, that’s equivalent to a medium-sized car travelling from Auckland to Wellington and back again around 60, 000 times,” says Kathryn Hailes, from Carbonzero programme.
“If these households stopped using their patio heaters cost savings could be potentially around $20 million dollars per annum, that’s a lot of savings that people could keep in their back pocket rather than using to heat the ambient temperature of the neighbourhood,” says Ms Hailes.
But do 100,000 homes all use a standard patio heater for an average of an hour a week?
We have a couple of patio heaters which we use for a few hours a few times a year – less than 10 hours in total.
We use a barbeque a lot more often, though usually for less than 15 minutes at a time.
“What seems very bizarre about them is that we’re busy insulating our houses so that we can minimise the amount of heat that we need to keep warm and here we are burning fuel outside with not even walls let alone insulation heating up the entire universe,” says Jeanette Fitzsimons, Green Party MP.
Environmentalists say they produce the same volume of climate-changing gases as a speeding truck. They’ve also calculated they consume as much energy as five electric fan heaters on full power.
The European parliament is in the process of banning the outdoor heaters and Australia is wondering about the environmental cost of them.
Here in New Zealand there are no plans for a ban but the energy efficiency and conservation authority says it’s keeping a close eye on developments in Australia.
Jeanette Fitzsimons doesn’t support a ban but says she is concerned about the heater’s carbon footprint. . .
“It’s a question of personal responsibility of the person using them and that’s one of the things that a price on carbon emissions will start to create as it will raise the price of fuel and then people can decide ‘Do I really want to spend that much on outdoor heating or have I got better things to do with the money and the fuel,’ and for those determined to head outdoors on chilly evenings there’s always the option of putting on another jersey,” says Ms Fitzsimmons.
Personal responsibility and letting people make their own choice based on price is a pleasant change of tone from the Greens which have in the past been more keen on bans.
However, has anyone thought that if people weren’t outside enjoying themselves they might be somewhere else doing something else which caused even more emissions?