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Truth Behind the Headlines: Working from home predicted to cause winter spike in air pollution
(10/11/20)

Modelling suggests that as more people than usual work and spend time at home this winter, due to the coronavirus pandemic, gas boiler use is set to rise by 56% as people heat their homes. This increase in gas burning has implications for urban air quality, potentially driving up NOx concentrations by approximately 12% in UK towns and cities.

 

The study from the think tank Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit warns that the predicted spike in emissions may threaten the UK’s legally binding air quality targets.

 

The report hopes to highlight the often-forgotten role of gas boilers in contributing to air pollution and wants to highlight the need for practical policies to de-carbonise home heating.

Using our recommended five tips, Global Action Plan reviewed the study:

 

Questions to ask to get to the truth Our response
1. Does the article refer to a report to back up its claims?

The article refers to a study by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), Gas boilers and NOx: the hidden emitter Air quality impacts of gas combustion in homes is put into focus this winter.

2. Who is behind the study it refers to?

The ECIU are a non-profit think tank, which supports informed debate on energy and climate change issues in the UK. All of their funding comes from philanthropic foundations.  

3. How fantastical and radical is the claim that is being made?

The study identified that in the peak of lockdown in March – April 2020 up to a third of people in the UK were working from home, as well as the fact that there are 21million gas boilers across the country. They modelled the increase in NOx from increased use of gas boilers for heating and hot water as more people stay at home more often, assuming no other changes (for example reduced traffic levels or reduced levels of heating in office buildings). It is not clear from the report how the model determined the level of increase in home boiler use.

 

4. What geographical region does the claim refer to?

The UK

5. What is the sample size of the study?

Behaviour of the UK population was studied and the number of gas boilers across the UK was calculated (21 million).

 

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