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The condition of our air

Feb 15th 2018

Coal-loving Poland struggles with killer smog

Smog kills tens of thousands of Poles each year, yet environmental activists say the right-wing government of the coal-loving nation has been dragging its feet on combating air pollution.

On some winter days, a grey haze obscures the lights of the Polish capital's skyscrapers and the air smells like burning plastic.

"It's starting again. Warsaw is second on Air Visual, just after Kathmandu, and ahead of Calcutta and New Delhi," says Maria, a Polish mother of three young children, as she checks an air quality monitor on her smartphone while sipping her morning coffee.

A 2016 World Health Organization report revealed that an eye-popping 33 of Europe's 50 most polluted cities were in Poland.

The European Environmental Agency meanwhile blames air pollution for an estimated 50,000 premature deaths per year in the country of 38 million.

Pollution is especially severe in the south, cradle of Poland's coal industry -- whose hub, the city of Katowice, is set to host the COP24 conference on global warming in December.

Feeding the smog dragon

Many Poles have lost faith in the ability of institutions to address the scourge, instead taking matters into their own hands.

"In our town of Pszczyna, Poland's second most polluted city, we have to do something," said Jan Franek, a 16-year-old member of a student group against smog.

"Many of our older residents don't believe in smog. According to them, you can't see it so it doesn't exist," he added while on a visit to Warsaw to back an anti-pollution petition.

The student activists, whose group name plays on the similarity of the words smog and smok (dragon in Polish) and translates as "Don't feed the smog", were on hand when the petition was delivered to the energy ministry.

Signed by 36,000 people, the petition launched by Greenpeace Poland and local politicians calls on the government to impose strict standards for coal quality.

Millions of Poles heat their homes with often low-quality coal, which is the main source of air pollution ahead of cars and industry.

The government pledged to introduce coal standards in March 2017 but has yet to do so. The only measure taken by the state has been to ban the sale of old, low-quality boilers.

But according to Marek Jozefiak, coordinator of Greenpeace Poland's climate and energy campaigns, "Modern boilers aren't enough if we continue to burn low-quality, polluting coal."

The same applies for garbage, which gives off hazardous fumes when burned in coal stoves, still a common practice.

Powerful coal lobby 

According to pollution watchdog Polish Smog Alert, part of the problem is that the official pollution norm hides the severity of the issue.

"If we applied the pollution threshold adopted in France here in Poland, many cities would be in a state of alert for dozens of days, some even for two months out of the year," says PAS activist Piotr Siergiej.

While PM10 particle pollution is considered dangerous in Poland from 300 micrograms per cubic metre, the threshold is 80 micrograms in France.

The government has promised no changes in the short term, and green activists accuse it of being influenced by the powerful coal lobby.

Technology Minister Jadwiga Emilewicz has voiced concern over the high death toll from pollution-related illnesses, promising that "an improvement" will be felt within five years.

She cites measures including higher coal quality standards, subsidies to help the poor insulate their homes, replace old polluting stoves or afford clean heating.

For Maria, the Warsaw mother-of-three, five years is too long to wait.

"By that point my children will have breathed in all these microparticles that will remain in their lungs or even their blood," she said.

Feb 10th 2018

More bad news on the subject of air pollution. We have known for many years that container ships and large cargo vessels, burn bunker fuel when they are away from land and the reason for this is simply that it is so polluting that port authorities will not allow them to use it anywhere near the docks.

There is another fuel that the ships could when out to sea, but the financial greed of the owners is so strong that against all other considerations they feel it is necessary to use bunker fuel purely because it is only 25% of the cost of the clean fuel.

The distressing fact that I have just discovered is that this scandal applies just as much to the giant cruise ships as it does to cargo ships, so you should think about this the next time you are planning to go on a cruise.

The most shocking statistic is that just 14 of these big ships put as much carbon into the atmosphere as all the world's millions of cars.

Feb 5th 2018

Health risks of shipping pollution have been 'underestimated'

One giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50 million cars, study finds 

Britain and other European governments have been accused of underestimating the health risks from shipping pollution following research which shows that one giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50 million cars.

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Confidential data from maritime industry insiders based on engine size and the quality of fuel typically used by ships and cars shows that just 15 of the world's biggest ships may now emit as much pollution as all the world's 760 million cars. Low-grade ship bunker fuel (or fuel oil) has up to 2,000 times the sulphur content of diesel fuel used in US and European automobiles.

Pressure is mounting on the UN's International Maritime Organisation and the EU to tighten laws governing ship emissions following the decision by the US government last week to impose a strict 230-mile buffer zone along the entire US coast, a move that is expected to be followed by Canada.

The setting up of a low emission shipping zone follows US academic research which showed that pollution from the world's 90,000 cargo ships leads to 60,000 deaths a year and costs up to $330bn per year in health costs from lung and heart diseases. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the buffer zone, which could be in place by next year, will save more than 8,000 lives a year with new air quality standards cutting sulphur in fuel by 98%, particulate matter by 85% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80%.

The new study by the Danish government's environmental agency adds to this picture. It suggests that shipping emissions cost the Danish health service almost £5bn a year, mainly treating cancers and heart problems. A previous study estimated that 1,000 Danish people die prematurely each year because of shipping pollution. No comprehensive research has been carried out on the effects on UK coastal communities, but the number of deaths is expected to be much higher.

Europe, which has some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, has dramatically cleaned up sulphur and nitrogen emissions from land-based transport in the past 20 years but has resisted imposing tight laws on the shipping industry, even though the technology exists to remove emissions. Cars driving 15,000km a year emit approximately 101 grammes of sulphur oxide gases (or SOx) in that time. The world's largest ships' diesel engines which typically operate for about 280 days a year generate roughly 5,200 tonnes of SOx.

The EU plans only two low-emission marine zones which should come into force in the English channel and Baltic sea after 2015. However, both are less stringent than the proposed US zone, and neither seeks to limit deadly particulate emissions.

Shipping emissions have escalated in the past 15 years as China has emerged as the world's manufacturing capital. A new breed of intercontinental container ship has been developed which is extremely cost-efficient. However, it uses diesel engines as powerful as land-based power stations but with the lowest quality fuel.

"Ship pollution affects the health of communities in coastal and inland regions around the world, yet pollution from ships remains one of the least regulated parts of our global transportation system," said James Corbett, professor of marine policy at the University of Delaware, one of the authors of the report which helped persuade the US government to act.

Today a spokesman for the UK government's Maritime and Coastguard Agencyaccepted there were major gaps in the legislation. "Issues of particulate matter remain a concern. They need to be addressed and we look forward to working with the international community," said environment policy director Jonathan Simpson.

"Europe needs a low emission zone right around its coasts, similar to the US, if we are to meet health and environmental objectives," said Crister Agrena of the Air Pollution and Climate Secretariat in Gothenburg, one of Europe's leading air quality organisations.

"It is unacceptable that shipping remains one of the most polluting industries in the world. The UK must take a lead in cleaning up emissions," said Simon Birkett, spokesman for the Campaign for Clean Air in London. "Other countries are planning radical action to achieve massive health and other savings but the UK is strangely inactive."

The calculations of ship and car pollution are based on the world's largest 85,790KW ships' diesel engines which operate about 280 days a year generating roughly 5,200 tonnes of SOx a year, compared with diesel and petrol cars which drive 15,000km a year and emit approximately 101gm of SO2/SoX a year.

Shipping by numbers

The world's biggest container ships have 109,000 horsepower engines which weigh 2,300 tons.

Each ship expects to operate 24hrs a day for about 280 days a year

There are 90,000 ocean-going cargo ships

Shipping is responsible for 18-30% of all the world's nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution and 9% of the global sulphur oxide (SOx) pollution.

One large ship can generate about 5,000 tonnes of sulphur oxide (SOx) pollution in a year

70% of all ship emissions are within 400km of land.

85% of all ship pollution is in the northern hemisphere.

Shipping is responsible for 3.5% to 4% of all climate change emissions

This article was amended on 25 August 2015 to correct the number of deaths per year attributed to pollution from the world's 90,000 cargo ships.



Jan 11th 2018

Airbus’ hold on EU aviation policy exposed

Published on December 5, 2017 - 10:45

Just released emails between Airbus and the European Commission expose the extent of the company’s hold on EU aviation policy. The aeronautics giant was given special privileges in determining essential aspects of the EU’s position when drafting climate rules for new aircraft at the UN aviation body, ICAO.

 between the Transport Directorate of the Commission (known as DG MOVE) and Airbus show the Commission allowed the company to directly amend the EU’s negotiating position for ICAO – even though Airbus is a major aviation player to be regulated by the rules under negotiation. The correspondence was obtained by T&E via an access to documents request, after Airbus and ICAO opposed the public disclosure of the emails. The documents were finally released after an 18-month appeal process.

In one email Airbus accepted the track changes made by the Commission while proposing ‘final comments’. These changes were made, the email states, after checking with Germany and Spain, which are regarded – along with France – as the ‘Airbus nations’ due to national stakes in the company and the employment that it provides nationally. Another email also shows that Airbus explicitly requested confirmation that the EU would ‘respect those red lines’.

The result is a global aircraft standard which will do nothing to cut the sector’s soaring emissions. The standard was agreed in 2016 behind closed doors at ICAO. At the time T&E said the measure was completely ineffective and essentially the result of negotiations between the US, the EU and the Boeing/Airbus duopoly. Now the emails show the extent to which that regulatory process was steeped in secrecy and corporate interests, entirely removed from the normal European democratic process.

T&E’s aviation manager Andrew Murphy said: ‘Now we know: when it comes to the climate, Europe lets Airbus write its own rules. The result of this direct interference in lawmaking is a standard tailored to Airbus’ needs, with climate and public health the losers.’

The EU’s willingness to go beyond such environmental standards set down by ICAO is currently at issue in talks between the European Parliament and EU governments. MEPs want the the EU aviation agency EASA, which currently adopts aircraft environmental standards into law in Europe, to be able to make more stringent rules for aircraft in EU airspace instead of simply copy and pasting ICAO rules into EU law. No other state in the world restricts their own sovereignty in such way.

But national governments don’t want to give the EU the power to adopt standards that go beyond ICAO‘s lowest common denominator requirements – rules on CO2 emissions but also noise, NOx, PM and potentially the sonic boom of supersonic jets. Both the Parliament and the European Council will eventually have to vote on any deal between the two that emerges.

Andrew Murphy added: ‘These emails and the latest EASA episode show there is a clear need to reform the way decisions are taken in Europe regarding aircraft environmental regulations. The Commission must act in an independent and transparent manner giving proper weight to environmental and climate considerations. Parliament must insist that European rules are decided in Europe through full parliamentary scrutiny and that officials in member states and the Commission act with complete transparency and independence. Without this, industry will continue to write its own rules and aviation emissions will continue to soar.’

Meanwhile, the European Commission and EU member states have controversially agreed to almost entirely remove sustainability criteria for bio jet fuel. They acquiesced to other ICAO member countries to trash 10 sustainability points out of 12, originally agreed by ICAO’s environment committee, which will mean that highly unsustainable biofuels would qualify for the aviation’s global carbon offsetting scheme dubbed CORSIA.

The sustainability rules also have implications beyond CORSIA because they will become the de facto global standard for biofuel use in the aviation sector. The EU and other ICAO countries removed sustainability safeguards such as rules on land rights, food security, labour rights and biodiversity protection. The only rules to survive are a -10% greenhouse gas reduction target for biofuels compared to regular jet fuel and a ban on crops grown on land that was deforested 

T&E’s analysis and climate manager, Carlos Calvo Ambel, said: ‘Commissioner Bulc has professed her support for advanced and sustainable bio jet fuel as key to decarbonising aviation. However, when it came to defending sustainability criteria for aviation biofuels at ICAO, the Europeans were quick to cave in to Brazil, rendering the global rules largely meaningless. This whole episode provides yet another warning that ICAO’s flagship initiative to decarbonise aviation, CORSIA, risks becoming a complete shambles.’


Dec 7th 2017

London's toxic air causing lower birth weights in babies, study finds

London's polluted air is leading to lower birth weights in babies, which in turn is linked to infant mortality and diseases later in life, a major study has found.

The study by scientists from Imperial College London, Kings College and St George's, published in the British Medical Journal, found that London mothers exposed to higher levels of damaging PM2.5 particles caused by traffic are up to six per cent more likely to give birth to a baby with low birth weight.

PM2.5s are smaller particulates that can bypass the nose and throat and penetrate deep into the lungs, causing premature mortality, aggravation of the respiratory system and cardiovascular diseases.

Dr Rachel Smith, research associate at Imperial, said the findings were significant but that Londoners should stay calm. "First of all pregnant women shouldn't panic," she said.

"The increased risk is relatively small compared with smoking, which we know raises the risk of low birth rate.

"But even if it is a small increased risk, all Londoners are exposed to air pollution and it's difficult for individuals to make an impact on their exposure."

She said the findings should be a wake-up call to policy-makers as they consider the impact traffic emissions have on ordinary people.

"It is exactly 65 years since the Great Smog of London that caused many deaths, and the response to that was the Clean Air Act. Air pollution is again damaging the health of Londoners even before they are born," she said.

She added: "Introducing policies restricting the use of diesel will have the most health benefit."

Low birth weight - defined as less than 2,500 grams - is consistently linked to higher rates of infant mortality as well as diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems in later life.

Although the study looked at various pollutants including nitrogen dioxide and ozone, PM2.5 was found to be the most influential factor on low birth weight.

Three per cent of all cases of low birth weight in babies born at term in London were thought by researchers to be "directly attributable" to exposure to PM2.5 concentrations of more than 13.8 micrograms/m3.

Data from the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory showed in October that every area of London exceeds World Health Organisation (WHO) limits for PM2.5 of 10 micrograms/m3. In central London the average annual levels are nearly double the WHO limit of 10 micrograms/m3.

Researchers said the study suggests that a reduction of 10 per cent in average PM2.5 levels would prevent 90 babies, or three per cent of cases, from being born at term with low birth weight each year in London.

The study, by scientists at Imperial College London and published in the British Medical Journal, examined birth data from inside the M25 from 2006 to 2010.

In what is believed to be the largest UK study on air pollution and birthweight, data from

about 670,000 births was cross-referenced against the mother's address.

Addresses were checked against a dispersion model based on London emissions data for average monthly concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone and PM2.5 and PM10 particles.

Children exposed to PM2.5s are more likely to grow up with reduced lung function and develop asthma.

Nov 31st 2017

If you can't wait to put up your Christmas tree, then take note before you deck the halls because experts are now warning that the festive must-have may pose an unexpected health risk...

And it's to do with the mould and dust that may be hiding on your real or fake tree.

Leading charity Asthma UK is urging people to be vigilant over the festive period, as their data shows that an average of 300 people are admitted to hospital on 25 December each year as a result of severe asthma attacks that may be linked to their Christmas trees.

Speaking to The Sun, Asthma UK's in-house GP, Dr Andy Whittamore, said: 'Mould can be a real problem for the 5.4 million people with asthma in the UK, causing allergic reactions that can trigger asthma symptoms and, in some cases, life-threatening asthma attacks.

'Most of the time mould is obvious in the home, but many people don't realise that mould also naturally grows on Christmas trees.

'This is made worse when people turn their heating on, as the warmer temperature encourages mould to grow faster.

'The best thing people can do to prevent asthma symptoms is to take their preventer medicine as prescribed.'

And, even if you prefer a fake tree, you're not necessarily in the clear, the charity explains on its website.

'Artificial/fake trees and decorations can gather mould and dust while they're in the garage, loft or spare room,' it says.

If you have asthma, the charity says the following steps should be taken to decrease your risk of symptoms:

Wipe down your artificial tree and decorations with a damp cloth to remove the dust.

When you pack the tree and decorations away, use plastic bags and boxes so they're less likely to collect dust.

Who knew this festive favourite could pose a health risk?

Nov 23rd 2017

Cooking a full English breakfast or stir fry could cause hazardous indoor air pollution, scientists have found.

Researchers from the Texas Tech and Utah State universities found hot oil sends tiny droplets of fat into the air which can be potentially dangerous when breathed in.

The microscopic droplets, formed by the reaction caused when oil meets water, then contribute to indoor air pollution, believed to kill millions each year.

In order to test their theory, scientists heated a pan of oil and recorded what happened when small amounts of water were added to the hot oil in the pan.

As the water evaporates, tiny explosions send oil droplets into the air. If the room is not ventilated properly, these small hazardous droplets can be breathed in.

According to the Daily Mail, assistant professor Jeremy Marston from Texas Tech said: “Regardless of culinary skills, most people who have used a stove top have encountered the result of water interacting with hot oil.

“We’ve discovered that a very large number of small oil droplets are released when even a single, small droplet of water comes into contact with hot oil.”

Foods with high water content were the most harmful, examples being chicken and vegetables, ingredients usually used in a stir fry.

Professor Marston said: “It’s known that millions of deaths worldwide occur due to indoor air pollution, but we don’t know yet how much cooking in poorly ventilated kitchens contributes to it.”

Nov 20th 2017

It's long been known that trees help keep our air clean, and new research now shows they could have a dramatic effect on the number of people admitted to hospital with asthma-related issues.

Experts are calling for more UK streets to be lined with trees, after the largest ever study looked into the impact of urban greenery on the respiratory condition – finding that planting greenery could help offset the dangerous effects of traffic fumes.

Here's what you need to know...

The study

Scientists from the University of Exeter looked at more than 650,000 serious asthma attack cases over the course of 15 years in England. They then compared roughly 26,000 urban neighbourhoods, after which a clear link was formed between areas with lots of trees and lower rates of asthma attacks.

The findings hold true even though tree pollen can often trigger asthma. This suggests that, in highly polluted areas, the pollution-absorbing effect of trees is greater than their allergic impact. All in all, it was concluded that trees do "significantly more good than harm," with every extra 300 trees per square kilometre resulting in about 50 fewer emergency asthma cases per 100,000 residents. Commenting on the study, lead researcher Dr Ian Alcock said:

"Greenspace and gardens were associated with reductions in asthma hospitalisation at lower pollutant levels, but not in the most polluted urban areas. With trees it was the other way round."

He added:

"It may be that grass pollens become more allergenic when combined with air pollutants so that the benefits of greenspace diminish as pollution increases. In contrast, trees can effectively remove pollutants from the air, and this may explain why they appear to be most beneficial where concentrations are high."

Also speaking on the matter was Dr Rachel McInnes – Met Office senior climate impact scientist and co-author of the study. She said:

"We also know that the interaction between pollen and air pollution, and the effect on health and asthma is highly complex and this study confirms that more research is required in this area."

July 10th 2017

Commuters who travel regularly on the London Underground are breathing in around 12 million toxic ‘nanodust’ particles every single minute, according to figures released by Transport for London.The tiny particles comprised mostly of iron oxide are generated by the train’s wheels as they interact with the rails and are small enough to directly enter organs and even the brain.

According to the British Lung Foundation, the particles can include copper, chromium, manganese and zinc.

Inhaling any of these particles then increase a person’s risk of asthma, lung and cardiovascular disease as well as increasing the risk of dementia.

The shocking figures were revealed after The Sunday Times issued a Freedom of Information request to TfL asking for the air quality figures from each of its underground lines.

Trawling through the monitoring data it was found that on the Central Line that particle levels reached a whopping 2 million particles per litre of air. Considering humans breathe on average 10-12 litres of air per minute it stands to reason that on average a person could be inhaling some 12-20 million particles at any given moment.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has long been highlighting the risks of both indoor and outdoor air pollution, citing that humans shouldn’t consume more than 50 micrograms of particles per cubic meter every 24 hours.

While the figures seemingly exceed that TfL has insisted that commuters are not at risk because they spend very little time actually commuting.


Air pollution is reportedly responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people in the UK every single year, while WHO reports that indoor air pollution alone is killing 99,000 people every year in Europe.

Yet despite these shocking figures cities are struggling to keep air quality under control.

London set a damming precedent after it breached its air pollution targets for the whole of 2017 within the first five days of the year.

Since then numerous air quality warnings have been issued with residents advised to stay indoors or minimise the amount of travelling they do outside.

Paris has taken drastic measures to try and curb its air pollution. At the beginning of this year it banned all vehicles registered before the year 2000 while imposing strict new parking rules, charging users ‘pollution tickets’ and reducing the costs of public transport.

In addition Paris officials started rolling out a network of ‘Smart Trees’ that combine advanced air quality sensors with moss cultures that can reduce the amount of fine dust in the air.

July 6th 2017

Air pollution is a LOT worse for your life expectancy than experts originally thought

Air pollution for city-dwellers is nothing new , but many might be horrified to learn how badly the problem could be affecting them.

Original estimates put the damage of exposure to air pollution at a couple of years off the average human's lifespan. But a new formula developed at a university in Denmark paints a much bleaker picture.

It estimates that air pollution will be responsible for knocking a DECADE off your life expectancy.

Professor Mikael Skou Andersen from Aarhus University calculated that an increase of pollution particles by 10 micrograms per cubic metre will kill the population 10 years earlier.

The UK government is currently facing legal action from environmental group ClientEarth for failing to properly tackle nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution.

But Professor Andersen believes governments will never take the problem of air pollution seriously until someone can prove the financial cost of premature deaths. This was the goal that spurred his research.

"The existing literature is ambiguous and there are differences in the approaches adopted in the EU and the USA for how to account for such costs," he said.

"People are willing to pay a price to reduce risks for dying prematurely, provided we have an understanding of the implications and magnitudes of such risks."

In the United States, cost-benefit analysis of reducing air pollution is calculated based on the number of lives saved - and each life is currently estimated to be worth $7.4 million (£5.7million).

However, Europe estimates cost based on life expectancy and assumes that most victims are in their 70s and 80s. If only a year or two is lost from this age bracket, then there's not much of a financial consequence.

But if between nine and 11 years - what Professor Andersen's research shows - is lost, then the financial impact is much greater. In fact, it could run into the billions

"There is concern about air pollution and its health impacts, more so following 'diesel-gate'," said Prof. Andersen.

"But many European countries are unable to meet the air pollution standards they have agreed to in the European Union. We need to understand the true impact of long-term exposure to air pollution to develop better informed policies and reduce fossil fuel consumption."

The study is set to appear in the August issue of the scientific journal Ecological Indicators.

June 20th 2017

Contaminated air supply on planes is causing short and long-term health problems, claims a new study published in the World Health Organisation journal Public Health Panorama.

The study, conducted by the University of Stirling in conjunction with the University of Ulster, says there is a clear link between exposure to air contaminated by oil and other aircraft fluids, and a plethora of health issues.

Dr Susan Michaelis of the University of Stirling’s occupational and environmental health research group says: “There is a clear cause-and-effect relationship linking health effects to a design feature that allows the aircraft air supply to become contaminated by engine oils and other fluids in normal flight. This is a clear occupational and public health issue with direct flight-safety consequences."

The study leader, who has a PHD in this field, tells The Independent that airlines have been aware of the problem for 60 years, but refuse to acknowledge the associated health risks of a design flaw on planes that means air can come straight from the engine, unfiltered, into the cabin.

“They won’t admit it because of money and liability,” says Dr Michaelis. “They knew about this problem in the 1950s. It’s unconscionable that they haven’t dealt with it.

“They have the technology to eliminate the problem – but manufacturers are refusing to use it.”

According to Dr Michaelis, airlines that have done studies in this field in the past have manipulated the data for their own ends.

“We need true independent studies. The studies from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and airlines themselves will say they’re independent. They’re not. The results they come out with are really just political statements to delay us.”

The study, which looked at over 200 cabin crew who had been exposed to a number of substances through aircrafts’ contaminated air, found a pattern of acute and chronic symptoms, ranging from headaches and dizziness to breathing and vision problems.

Dr Michaelis says long-term problems caused by exposure can include neurological and cognitive problems, heart arrhythmias, fatigue, long-term breathing problems and long-term gastro-intestinal problems. “That’s consistent with the toxicology of these substances,” she says.

Dr Michaelis, along with Vyvyan Howard, professor of pathology and toxicology at the University of Ulster, and Jonathan Burdon, a consultant respiratory physician, conducted two independent surveys to review the circumstances and symptoms of aircrew working in the pressurised environment of aircraft. The symptoms were confirmed using medical diagnoses.

April 22nd 2017

The National Grid has announced Britain’s first full day without coal power “since the Industrial Revolution”.

A combination of low demand for electricity and an abundance of wind meant the grid completed 24 hours relying on just gas, nuclear and renewables.

Engineers at the company said Friday marked a “historic” milestone in Britain’s shift away from carbon fuels, and that coal-free days would become increasingly common.

Use of the fossil fuel has significantly declined in recent years, accounting for just 9 per cent of electricity generation last year, down from 23 per cent in 2015, with the closure or conversion of coal plants.

The Government has pledged to phase out coal - the most polluting fossil fuel - from the system by 2025 as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions in the UK.

The electricity grid has been coal-free a number of times since spring last year, but until now the longest continuous period had been 19 hours, first achieved on a weekend last May.

By 10.50pm on Friday the UK had not needed to call on coal-generated power in 24 hours, since West Burton 1 power station went offline on Thursday, the only one of Britain's nine coal-burning plants that was operating.

The “watershed” moment marks the first day Britain’s electricity system has survived without coal since the world’s first centralised public coal-fired generator opened at Holborn Viaduct in London in 1882.

“The Industrial Revolution started with coal and it’s been the absolute backbone of our power for most of the time since,” said Duncan Burt, head of real-time operations at the National Grid.

“It’s a very proud moment for us to be there on the first day when we weren’t burning coal.”

He said he expected the grid to achieve more coal-free days as the summer progresses towards the period of low demand and high solar power in August, adding that overall demand for electricity was being tempered by more efficient homes and appliances.

“Days like this will become more and more common in the next two or three years, and by the early 2020s burning coal will become increasingly rare,” he said.

Cordi O’Hara, Director of System Operator said: “To have the first working day without coal since the start of the industrial revolution is a watershed moment in how our energy system is changing. The UK benefits from highly diverse and flexible sources of electricity.

"Our energy mix continues to change and National Grid adapts system operation to embrace these changes. However, it’s important to remember coal is still an important source of energy as we transition to a low carbon system.”

Greenpeace UK welcomed yesterday’s expected milestone.

The campaign group’s head of energy, Hannah Martin, said: “A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable, and in 10 years’ time our energy system will have been radically transformed again.”

April 19th 2017

For many people, the onset of spring means the beginning of the dreaded hay fever season, bringing symptoms including watery eyes, an itchy throat and frequent sneezing. Whilst over the counter medicines often help to reduce symptoms, these in themselves can bring with nasty side effects. However, alternative steps can also be taken for more natural relief, including incorporating different foods, vitamins and minerals into your diet. Leading nutritionist, Sarah Flower, gives us the low down on the best hay fever busting foods.

1. Quercetin: There have been numerous studies into the powerful anti-histamine effect of this flavonoid, which can help to reduce inflammation. Over the counter hay fever relief tends to inhibit the effect of histamine, but quercetin inhibits the release of histamine, stopping the reaction in its tracks. To up the quercetin in your diet, opt for foods including berries, parsley, onions, and peppers.

2. Biotin: Biotin is a B vitamin which helps to maintain the healthy function of mucous membranes which can be found in your nose, sinuses, throat and even the tear ducts. Try consuming more offal, fish, egg yolks, avocados, green leafy vegetables and nuts to get your recommended dose. For those who prefer a supplement form, I recommend New Era H (£8.79, available from powerhealth.co.uk) which contains Biotin. These 'FastMelt' mineral cell salts dissolve under the tongue instantly and get to work faster than other hay fever remedies thanks to their rapid absorption into the blood stream.

3. Herbal teas: Certain herbs have a natural antihistamine effect. Opt for green tea, chamomile, elderflower, ginger, peppermint and anise to limit the effects of hay fever and sip these throughout the day. They will also help to keep you hydrated, so it's a win-win.

4. Probiotics: A healthy gut flora is essential for a strong immune system. Don't be fooled by probiotic drinks - to really help replenish your gut flora, opt for a multi-strain probiotic supplement. You can also get probiotics naturally through fermented foods such as sauerkraut, bone broths, gelatine, natural and Kefir yoghurt.

5. Local Honey:There is some strong evidence to show that consuming local honey can help to limit the effects of hay fever as it exposes you to the same pollen, helping your body to naturally form a tolerance. If you like honey, it is certainly worth a shot, but it is key to source local honey, which can normally be found in local independent health stores.

6. Garlic: An underrated food which can help block the production of histamine and soothe hay fever symptoms. Try to incorporate garlic into your daily meals or opt for a good quality supplement.

7. Vitamin D: A vitamin D deficiency has been linked to the development of allergies and autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D also supports the healthy gut bacteria. Try to spend time outdoors every day, or incorporate a supplement containing Vitamin D into your diet.

What Foods to Eat to Beat Hay Fever

(Provided by Reader's Digest)

April 12th 2017

Air pollution is the fourth biggest public health risk in the country, alongside cancer, obesity and heart disease, the Prime Minister has admitted.

Replying to a letter signed by 220 doctors, warning that "time is running out" to deal with the UK’s "toxic air scandal" Theresa May also admitted: "It disproportionately affects some of the most vulnerable in our society, including the elderly, people with lung and heart conditions, and the very young."

The letter states that children’s lung growth is being stunted by toxic pollution, which is leading to other health problems, notably asthma.

In her letter, the Prime Minister blamed diesel vehicles as a major cause of the problem. Diesel cars received subsidies by the Labour government, on the basis that they emit less carbon dioxide than petrol-powered cars, but it is now known they emit other harmful pollutants, known as nitrogen oxides. It has also since been revealed their levels of emissions were covered up by Volkswagen, in a major scandal.

Emphasising the Government’s determination to tackle the problem, the Prime Minister said: "Poor air quality is the fourth largest risk to public health, behind only cancer, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

"It disproportionately affects some of the most vulnerable in our society, including the elderly, people with lung and heart conditions, and the very young."

The Prime Minister has been urged to begin phasing out diesel vehicles, but motorists who were encouraged to buy them by the government are now very angry that new incentives to discourage their use has rendered their cars worthless.

A recent study by the London Mayor’s office linked toxic air pollution to 9,000 deaths a year.

Replying to Professor Jonathan Grigg, Professor of Paediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine, Queen Mary University of London, the Prime Minister added: "I agree with you that one of the main reasons our cities continue to face pollution problems is the significant levels of NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions that diesel vehicles produce."

"Harmful emissions from transport contribute significantly to the air quality challenge we face."

Ministers had committed more than £2 billion since 2011 to encourage motorists to buy ultra-low emission vehicles and support greener transport schemes.

Tens of thousands of “smog refugees” have reportedly fled China’s pollution-stricken north after the country was hit by its latest “airpocalyse” forcing almost half a billion people to live under a blanket of toxic fumes. 

Huge swaths of north and central China have been living under a pollution “red alert” since last Friday when a dangerous cocktail of pollutants transformed the skies into a yellow and charcoal-tinted haze.

Greenpeace claimed the calamity had affected a population equivalent to those of the United States, Canada and Mexico combined with some 460m people having to breathe either hazardous pollution or heavy levels of smog in recent days.

Lauri Myllyvirta, a Beijing-based Greenpeace activist who has been chronicling the red alert on Twitter, said that in an attempt to shield his lungs he was avoiding going outside and using two air purifiers and an industrial grade dust mask “that makes me look like Darth Vader”. 

“You just try to insulate yourself from the air as much as possible,” said Myllyvirta, a coal and air pollution expert.

According to reports in the Chinese media, flights to some pollution-free regions have been packed as a result of the smog. 

Ctrip, China’s leading online travel agent, said it expected 150,000 travellers to head abroad this month in a bid to outrun the smog. Top destinations include Australia, Indonesia, Japan and the Maldives. 

Jiang Aoshuang, one of Beijing’s “smog refugees”, told the state-run Global Times she had skipped town with her husband and 10-year-old son in order to spare their lungs.

Jiang’s family made for Chongli, a smog-free ski resort about three hours north-west of the capital, only to find it packed with other fugitives seeking sanctuary from the pollution.

“It really felt like a refugee camp,” she was quoted as saying. 

Yang Xinglin, who also fled to Chongli, said she had requested time off from her job at a state-owned real estate firm so she did not have to inhale the smog. 

“You ask me why I left Beijing? It’s because I want to live,” Yang, 27, told the Guardian. 

Emma Zhang, a third “smog refugee”, told the South China Morning Post she and her young son had swapped their home in the western city of Chengdu, which has also been blighted by severe pollution, for a hotel in the temperate south-western province of Yunnan.

“I finally saw the blue sky. It was wonderful!” she said.

Li Dongke, a 27-year-old Beijinger, said her entire family had decamped to Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, or the tropical island of Hainan in the South China Sea. “It’s terrible,” she complained of the current pollution crisis.

Fleeing the danger zone has not been completely straightforward for China’s environmental exiles.

The China Daily reported that smog had paralysed airports in Beijing and across the country’s northern industrial heartland in cities such as Tianjin and Shijiazhuang, making escape impossible.

Beijing’s domestic Nanyuan airport cancelled all flights on Tuesday while the Beijing Capital international airport cancelled at least 273 flights.

Myllyvirta, the Greenpeace activist, said his group had been warning of a winter smog crisis since July when it began noticing the government was pumping economic stimulus into heavily-polluting industries such as cement and steel.

“A big part of what happened is that the steel price went up when the government started a huge wave of construction projects to stimulate the economy,” he said.

One consequence was that a large number of smaller, poorly-regulated steel producers had “gone on a tear” leading to increased emissions that were now blackening the skies over northern China.

Myllyvirta said he was convinced the future looked brighter for China’s environment, despite its latest airpocalypse.

A fall in the use of coal and air pollution were likely over the next three to five years as more urgent steps were taken to restructure the economy and preserve the environment.

For now, however, some locals saw temporary or permanent exile as their only option while many outsiders refused to come at all.

“People are definitely thinking about how to get out and … companies are complaining that it is hard to recruit talent [to come to China],” Myllyvirta said. 

“People don’t want to live in places with terribly polluted air.”

Oct 31st 2016

Three hundred million of the world’s children live in areas with extreme air pollution, where toxic fumes are more than six times international guidelines, according to new research by Unicef.

The study, using satellite data, is the fist to make a global estimate of exposure and indicates that almost 90% of the world’s children - two billion - live in places where outdoor air pollution exceeds World Health Organisation (WHO) limits.

Unicef warned the levels of global air pollution contributed to 600,000 child deaths a year – more than are caused by malaria and HIV/Aids combined. Children are far more vulnerable to air pollution, Unicef warned, pointing to enduring damage to health and the development of children’s brain and urging nations attending a global climate summit next month to cut fossil fuel burning rapidly.

“The magnitude of the danger air pollution poses is enormous,” said Anthony Lake, Unicef’s executive director. “No society can afford to ignore air pollution. We protect our children when we protect the quality of our air. Both are central to our future.”

Children are especially at risk, the Unicef report says, because they breathe more rapidly than adults and the cell layer in their lungs is more permeable to pollutant particles. The tiny particles can also cross the blood-brain barrier, which is less resistant in children, permanently harming cognitive development and their future prospects. Even the unborn are affected, as the particles inhaled by pregnant women can cross the placental barrier, injuring fetuses.Air pollution is world’s single biggest environmental health risk, according to the WHO, and is getting worse, with levels of toxic air rising 8% in the last five years. Over three million people a year die as a result of outdoor air pollution – six every minute on average – and this is set to double by 2050 as fast growing cities expand. Indoor air pollution, mainly from wood or dung stoves, causes another three million deaths a year.

Prof Jos Lelieveld, at the Max Planck Institute in Mainz, Germany, said the report was excellent: “Air pollution is typically a problem in developing countries, where infants have little resistance due to poor nutrition and where health care is insufficient.”

The Unicef study combined particle pollution data from a range of satellites with ground-level monitors to estimate the number of children in polluted areas. Of the 300 million exposed to levels of pollution six times over WHO limits, 220 million live in south Asia, where India hosts many of the world’s most polluted cities.

Another 70 million children living with very toxic air live in east Asia, mainly in China. But more children are exposed to air pollution levels above the WHO limit in Africa - 520 million - than in east Asia.

The air pollution crisis is worst in low and middle income nations, where 98% of cities do not meet WHO guidelines, but over half the cities in rich countries also fail to meet the guidelines. In Europe, 120 million children live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds international limits, and 20 million suffer levels over double the limit.

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “In the UK, we know that children’s health is being put at risk every day by unsafe levels of pollution in many of our towns and cities. At least 3,000 schools are located within illegal levels of pollution. Yet very few of these schools have monitors around them. It’s time for the government to enact a new clean air act to tackle this modern pollution problem and protect all our health.”

In the report, Unicef urges all countries to cut air pollution by reducing fossil fuel burning in power plants and vehicles, which also helps tackle climate change. This double benefit has led to significant action in China in recent years. Tackling air pollution is also cost-effective: the World Bank estimates that the welfare losses from air pollution are more than $5tn a year.

Unicef also recommends minimising children’s exposure by ensuring sources of pollution such as busy roads and factories are not sited near schools and playgrounds and by the roll-out of cleaner cooking stoves.

27th Oct

Last year, Derek and Lloyd both wrote about Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde's Smog Free Project where he installed giant air purifying towers in parks in Rotterdam and Beijing to provide clean air in public spaces and as an art project where the compressed filtered smog material collected from the machines was made into jewelry and other items that you could buy.

It was a compelling project because it was dealing with the issue of smog and air pollution while also making the issue highly visible.

Now, a team of Dutch inventors has unveiled a giant air-cleaning vacuum that they say filters out fine particle pollution from the surrounding air, but this project isn't about art, it's purely about functionality.

"It's a large industrial filter about eight meters long, made of steel... placed basically on top of buildings and it works like a big vacuum cleaner," Henk Boersen of the Envinity Group, the makers of the device, told the AFP.

The device can suck in air from a 300-meter radius and from up to four miles above and can clean 800,000 cubic meters of air an hour. It filters out 100 percent of fine particles and 95 percent of ultra-fine particles, based on prototype tests carried out by the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands.

Fine particle pollution, created by the burning of fossil fuels and industrial processes, can cause serious respiratory health problems like asthma and even cancer and 90 percent of European residents are exposed to levels above those recommended by the World Health Organization, according to the European Environment Agency.

Envinity Group unveiled the technology at this year's Offshore Energy trade show in Amsterdam, saying that a large column of air can be sucked through the filter and come out clear. The company says that a variety of airports, governments and businesses have already expressed interest in the device.

May 14th

Toxic, black smoke has forced 9,000 people from their homes in a city just 35 kilometres south of the Spanish capital.

A huge fire is raging at a sprawling tyre dump in Seseña, prompting an emergency to be declared amid fears for the health of local residents and the environment. Three nearby schools have also been closed.

“We knew it was going to happen. It’s happened now, but it could have happened ten years ago,” said one local resident.

Local mayor Guillermo Gross del Rio said there were a number of open complaints concerning the dump.

“Our city was actually invaded by this dump. There were several complaints open concerning the impact on the environment and the company was even convicted for crimes against the environment.”

The site’s owner has not been located. He reportedly owes more than 600,000 euros in fines relating to the dump, which is said to contain up to five million tyres.

The mayor revealed the fire appeared to have been started deliberately. Emergency services have the blaze under control, but say they have yet to determine its cause.

May 13th

Outdoor air pollution has grown 8% globally in the past five years, with billions of people around the world now exposed to dangerous air, according to new data from more than 3,000 cities compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

While all regions are affected, fast-growing cities in the Middle East, south-east Asia and the western Pacific are the most impacted with many showing pollution levels at five to 10 times above WHO recommended levels. 

According to the new WHO database, levels of ultra-fine particles of less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5s) are highest in India, which has 16 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities. 

China, which has been plagued by air pollution, has improved its air quality since 2011 and now has only five cities in the top 30. Nine other countries, including Pakistan and Iran, have one city each in the worst 30. 

For the larger, but slightly less dangerous PM10 particles, India has eight cities in the world’s top 30. Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan each have two cities in the top 10. The true figure for the growth in global air pollution is likely to be worse because only a handful of African cities monitor their levels.

The most polluted city in the world, according to the WHO data, is Onitsha, a fast-growing port and transit city in south-eastern Nigeria that recorded levels of nearly 600 micrograms per cubic metre of PM10s - around 20 times the WHO recommended level. 

Air pollution levels were generally much lower for cities in developed countries with Sydney, New York and London registering 17, 16 and 22 micrograms per cubic metre for PM10s respectively. However, the data only includes measurements for particulates and does not include forms of air pollution such as NO2 and ozone.

“We have a public health emergency in many countries. Urban air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate, wreaking havoc on human health. It’s dramatic, one of the biggest problems we are facing globally, with terrible future costs to society,” said Dr Maria Neira, director of public health at the WHO in Geneva. 

“The cost for countries is enormous. Air pollution affects economies and people’s quality of life. It leads to major chronic diseases and to people ultimately dying,” she said. 

The new data, drawn from city and academic records, shows a rapid deterioration in air quality as low-income cities grow unchecked and populations become unable to escape clouds of smog and soot from transport, industry, construction sites, farming and wood-burning in homes. 

Outdoor air pollution causes more than 3m deaths a year - more than malaria and HIV/Aids - and is now the biggest single killer in the world. The toll is expected to double as urban populations increase and car numbers approach 2bn by 2050. 

Air pollutants such as sulphates, nitrates and black carbon penetrate deep into the lungs and into the cardiovascular system, posing the greatest risks to human health, says the UN. 

“As urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them. When dirty air blankets our cities the most vulnerable urban populations - the youngest, oldest and poorest - are the most impacted,” said Flavia Bustreo, WHO assistant director general.

Encouragingly, there is evidence from the WHO data that many cities are addressing air pollution. More than half of the monitored cities in high-income countries and more than one-third of those in low- and middle-income countries reduced their air pollution levels by more than 5% in five years. Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, has banned large diesel cars from going into the city centre. 

Measures taken by cities include reducing industrial smokestack emissions, increasing the use of renewable power sources like solar and wind, and prioritising rapid transit, walking and cycling networks in cities. Many cities are also committed to reducing reducing car traffic and diesel vehicles in particular.

The UN’s third outdoor air pollution database suggests the cleanest cities in the world are generally small, wealthy and situated far from industrial centres. Muonio in Finland, a town above the Arctic circle, has the world’s purest recorded urban air, recording just 2 micrograms per cubic metre of PM2.5 pollution and 4 micrograms per cubic metre of PM10s. It is closely followed by Norman Wells in Canada, Campisábalos in Spain and Converse County, Wyoming in the US. 

Of 52 UK towns and cities included in the UN database, Port Talbot in south Wales, a hub for the UK steel industry, is the most polluted, ahead of London, Glasgow, Southampton and Leeds. The cleanest UK city in the WHO list is Inverness, followed by Bournemouth, Newcastle and Sunderland. 

The most polluted city in Australia, according to the data, is Geraldton, a major seaport on the west coast, north of Perth. The most polluted city in the United States is the inland city of Visalia-Porterville in California.

“More than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the World Health Organisation limits. While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted; 98% of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines. However, in high income countries, that percentage decreases to 56%,” said the WHO.

“It is crucial for city and national governments to make urban air quality a health and development priority,” said Dr Carlos Dora, co-ordinator of the WHO’s Interventions for Healthy Environment programme. “When air quality improves, health costs from air pollution related diseases shrink, worker productivity expands and life expectancy grows. Reducing air pollution also brings an added climate bonus, which can become a part of countries’ commitments to the climate treaty.”

May 7th

A toxic cloud of dirty air from the continent is heading towards the UK - and could hit our shores tomorrow.

The Department for Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (Defra) has issued a warning of “moderate” air pollution for the south of England from Thursday.

Forecasters have said the toxic cloud, formed from the Sahara desert, will then spread to northern parts of England by Friday, with a risk of “high” air pollution in some areas.

In many parts of the country the conditions will be “moderate” and a health warning has been issued by officials for people suffering with lung problems, reports the Manchester Evening News .

A forecast on the Defra Air Quality Index website said: “Moderate air pollution is likely to become more widespread on Thursday, potentially affecting much of England and Wales.

“Scotland and Northern Ireland, meanwhile, should retain predominately low air pollution levels.”

The forecast for Friday said: “With southeasterly winds from Continent dominating, the risk of moderate air pollution is likely to be widespread through this three-day period, with localised areas of high air pollution also possible.”

Health advice states adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, should reduce physical exertion particularly if they are outdoors.

People with asthma may find they need to the use their reliever inhaler more often, while older people should also reduce physical exertion.

The dust cloud is expected to become widespread, affecting much of England and Wales by Thursday.

It is expected to continue from Friday to Sunday.

The dust phenomenon is formed when air pollution levels are high and there is not much wind, during pleasant weather conditions.

This causes a combination of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) and ground level ozone to build up.

A yellowish or black fog is created, which can cause respiratory problems when breathed in.

Those suffering with lung and heart problems are particularly at risk.

May 7th

Air pollution warnings have been issued with temperatures forecast to climb towards 27C (80F) in south-east England and the Midlands this weekend.

Some parts of Britain will be hotter than areas of the Mediterranean, but the warm weather will be accompanied by moderate levels of air pollution, which can cause breathing difficulties in vulnerable people. Areas of south-west England and western Scotland could be at higher risk by Sunday. The highest levels are expected in Northern Ireland.

Thursday was the warmest of the year so far, with temperatures topping 20C, bringing Britons out to enjoy the sunshine in parks, streets and on beaches. Sunshine activates photochemicals in polluted air, however, creating problems with pollutants such as ozone, which can cause shortness of breath in susceptible people.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said those with lung or heart problems who experience symptoms should consider avoiding strenuous activity, -particularly outdoors.

A department spokesman said: “Strong south-easterly winds blowing in air from the continent could lead to moderate levels of pollution … over the weekend in parts of England and Wales. Levels are expected to fall after the weekend. This does tend to happen during the change in the temperature around springtime.” 

Pollution levels were classed as moderate over much of south-east England on Thursday, as winds brought air from continental Europe laced with industrial and agricultural pollutants. These chemicals then combined with locally produced pollutants, such as particulates and nitrogen oxides from diesel vehicle engines, to produce a toxic mix.

Diesel cars produce particulates – tiny pieces of unburned fuel that can lodge in the lungs and cause breathing problems – and nitrogen dioxide, another pollutant gas that affects breathing

Gary Fuller, of King’s College London, said: “As spring is moving towards summer the sun is getting stronger, and able to drive chemical reactions between pollutants that cause ozone to be formed, along with the particles [of unburned fuel].”

Simon Birkett, director of the campaigning group Clean Air in London, said there should be clearer public warnings about levels of pollutants: “This is the fourth air pollution episode this year, and the first summer ozone episode,” he said. “It is expected to reach moderate or high levels, and last through the weekend until the wind speed increases on Sunday evening or Monday. It may come and go into the following weekend.

“People may experience tightness in their chest or shortness of breath, and would be sensible to carry their medication if they are asthmatic. Organisers of marathon, half-marathon and other long-distance events this weekend should warn participants.”

Defra tweeted that pollution levels were low across the country on Thursday morning, prompting campaigners to accuse the agency of playing down the threat of air pollution levels, which rose during the day.

Birkett said: “Defra hasn’t published an annual media release warning of the first summer smog episode – like this one – since 2011. This is a national disgrace and explains why so many people are confused by Met Office, government and other forecasts that omit air pollution warnings or show pollution as low relative to alert levels, not according to [international standards].”

April 19th

Even though commercial aviation and ocean shipping are significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions, they were excluded from the Paris climate treaty, to be signed by more than 100 countries this week at the United Nations in New York.

Now governments and advocacy groups are pressuring these industries to take stronger steps to curb pollution.

A coalition of European, North African and South Pacific nations is lobbying the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations agency that oversees shipping, to start discussing an emissions-reduction commitment at a meeting in London that will begin Monday.

“We need to do something and go beyond what we already have, and set some very specific targets,” said François Martel, the secretary general of the Pacific Islands Development Forum. The forum’s members include the Marshall Islands and the Solomon Islands, two of six nations that have made a proposal, expected to be taken up at the meeting, that shipping contribute a “fair share” to reducing emissions.

Another United Nations agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization, has for years been considering a market-based strategy in which airlines could purchase “offsets,” or emissions reductions from renewable energy or conservation projects, to cover at least some international flights.

Advocacy groups are pressuring the agency to adopt as strict a system as possible when it meets for its triennial assembly in Montreal this fall.

 “If we’re going to have offsets, then they actually have to deliver the tons of reductions they say they will,” said Bill Hemmings, the director of aviation and shipping at Transport & Environment, an environmental group based in Brussels.

Nigel Purvis, the chief executive of Climate Advisers, a consulting group in Washington, said airlines were likely to increase spending significantly on offsets from forest conservation projects.

“Airlines know this sector and are ready to play,” he said.

While some previous forest projects have been criticized for not delivering the reductions that were claimed, “now we have new rules about how to do forests in a way that as we scale up we maintain integrity,” Mr. Purvis added.

Aviation and shipping each contribute a little more than 2 percent of annual worldwide human-produced emissions of carbon dioxide. Together that is more than the emissions from Japan, the world’s fifth-largest emitter.

Both industries are expected to grow over the next few decades, and their percentages of worldwide emissions may increase significantly as emissions are reduced elsewhere. Environmental groups say steps the industries have already taken, including regulations to reduce emissions from new aircraft and ships, will not help much because they are tied to baselines for improvement that are too low.

Yet after being included in initial drafts of the climate treaty, a paragraph on limiting or reducing emissions from the two industries was eliminated from the final version, which was agreed upon in Paris in mid-December.

The treaty commits nations to setting emissions-reduction targets, with a goal of keeping global warming “well below” a target of 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels.

Experts cite several reasons that aviation and shipping were not in the treaty, including a desire to keep the text as concise as possible to improve the chances of reaching an agreement. The issue also would have exacerbated disputes about the responsibilities of developed versus developing nations that could have threatened the overall accord, they said.

Industry representatives and environmental groups alike say that despite the lack of any mention in the treaty, there is still momentum for action on emissions by both industries.

Simon Bennett, the director of policy and external relations for theInternational Chamber of Shipping, an industry group, said that there was a “misunderstanding” about the Paris accord and that “somehow that means shipping has escaped.”

“That isn’t the case,” Mr. Bennett said. The chamber has filed its own proposal for the International Maritime Organization meeting; it uses language other than “fair share” but still calls for emissions-reductions targets.

But there are disagreements between the shipping industry and environmental advocates about the best ways to cut emissions. The industry generally favors a global fuel tax over carbon offsets, and notes that most ships have already reduced their emissions and that there is a maritime organization program in place, the Energy Efficiency Design Index, to reduce emissions from new ones.

Environmental groups, however, argue that the efficiency index program’s improvement standards are too low, and that most ships built in the last several years already meet the standards for 2020.

“They need to come up with more stringent targets,” Mr. Hemmings of Transport & Environment said.

The aviation industry also points out that it is not relying solely on so-called market-based measures like offsets to reduce emissions.

“The global offsetting scheme is just one aspect of the sector’s climate action, albeit a crucial one,” said Michael Gill, the executive director of theAir Transport Action Group, an industry organization.

Like shipping, aviation has adopted efficiency standards. The International Civil Aviation Organization approved them in February, and will limit emissions from jets built after 2023 from current designs, and from new models introduced after 2028.

Critics say that those standards are weak, and that most advanced jets being built already meet them. That makes adopting tough market-based measures more important than ever, they say.

“The level of the CO2 efficiency standard for new aircraft, set in February, was disappointing in its ambition,” said Kat Watts, a global climate policy adviser with Carbon Market Watch, in Brussels. With aviation left out of the Paris treaty, she added, the International Civil Aviation Organization “was handed the baton for climate action for international aviation.”

“Whether they run with, or drop, that baton will be decided in this October’s assembly,” she added.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has begun what is expected to be a yearslong process to develop emissions rules for aircraft, and has said the rules would be at least as strict as the international organization’s standards.

But environmental groups have argued that the E.P.A.’s rules must be far more stringent. Last week, several groups, including Friends of the Earth, sued the environmental agency in an effort to compel it to move faster to develop the rules

April 4th

A huge Saharan dust cloud is expected to bring 'blood rain' to the UK as the country basks in what could be the hottest day of the year.

Weather experts say that temperatures could soar to up to 19 degrees Celsius in parts of the country on Thursday.

This will make it hotter than Barcelona and Ibiza.

Officials warn we could be in for high air pollution in the South East as southerly winds sweep dust from the Saharan region northwards.

Met Office spokesman Marco Petagna said parts of Kent and the far South East would see the highest levels of pollution, reports the Birmingham Mail.

“On Thursday, dust from the Sahara region was lifted up into the atmosphere”, he said.

“At the moment, certainly across the south of the UK, we’ve got southerly winds that’s allowed that dust to transport northwards towards the UK.

“And with outbreaks of rain developing at times over the next couple of days, some of that will get washed out of the atmosphere and give a slight deposit of dust on cars.”

The pollution could pose a potential health risk to vulnerable groups.

At-risk individuals, including those with lung and heart problems, should “reduce strenuous physical exertion” if they are in an affected area, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.

The last time there was a warning over Saharan dust in the West Midlands was in December, when it was feared it would bring toxic smog and “blood rain.”

The West Midlands was said to be at ‘moderate’ risk of the smog and “blood rain” - which is caused by Saharan dust mixing with rain leaving a reddish residue on buildings and cars.

This phenomena is more common in southern European areas, such as Spain and the south of France, however due the dust can travel as far as Scandinavia.

March 6th

A new Greenpeace study shows that last year was the first year on record that the average Indian was exposed to more air pollution than the average Chinese.

Levels of the most harmful fine particulates, PM2.5 (short for “Particulate Matter up to 2.5 micrometres in size”), have fallen by 17 per cent in China between 2010 and 2015, while in India they have expanded by 13 per cent.

By comparison, in the United States they have fallen 15 per cent, and in the EU by 20 per cent in the period 2005-2013.

“Greenpeace analysis of satellite-based particulate matter measurements over the past decade shows that China’s systematic efforts to combat air pollution have achieved an impressive improvement in average air quality in the country in the past few years –although pollution levels remain alarmingly high,” Greenpeace India said in a report, Clean Air Action Plan: The Way Forward.

Greenpeace said the reduced levels were testimony to government efforts on a national level to tackle air pollution in China, including setting targets for air quality and for clean energy.

“In contrast, air pollution levels in India, and in particular North India, have risen rapidly, with 2015 being the most polluted year on record.”

According to the World Health Organisation, India is home to 13 out of

20 most polluted cities in the world with air pollution levels deteriorating during the past decade.

China still has more deaths per day from air pollution – 2,700 in 2013 compared to 1,800 in India (in the EU it was 640).

Last week, a government official said that air quality in Beijing has improved over the last two years despite the city’s first smog red-alert during the winter, when a blanket of air pollution shrouded the capital for more than three weeks.

“Many people feel things got worse, because the impression of the pollution in December remains very deep,” said city official Yu Jianhua.

Meanwhile, new research shows that air pollution has even wider health implications than previous thought, as it may lead to childhood obesity.

“In a rodent model, we found that breathing Beijing’s highly polluted air resulted in weight gain and cardiorespiratory and metabolic dysfunction.

“Compared to those exposed to filtered air, pregnant rats exposed to unfiltered Beijing air were significantly heavier at the end of pregnancy,” researchers said in a study published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

At 8 weeks old, the rodent offspring prenatally and postnatally exposed to unfiltered air were significantly heavier than those exposed to filtered air, the scientists found.

March 1st

China is surging ahead in switching to renewables and away from coal in what its officials say will allow it to surpass its carbon emissions targets.

The country’s solar and wind energy capacity soared last year by 74 and 34 per cent respectively compared with 2014, according to figures issued by China’s National Bureau of Statistics yesterday.

Meanwhile, its consumption of coal – the dirtiest of the fossil fuels – dropped by 3.7 per cent, with imports down by a substantial 30 per cent.

The figures back up claims last month in Hong Kong by Xie Zhenhua, China’s lead negotiator at at the UN climate talks in Paris last December, that the country will “far surpass” its 2020 target to reduce carbon emissions per unit of national wealth (GDP) by 40 to 45 per cent from 2005 levels.

Wind power record

Since China emits nearly a third of the world’s carbon dioxide, which is heating up the planet, this could make a major contribution to holding back temperature increases to the 2 °C degree maximum global target agreed by governments last December in Paris.

“The latest figures confirm China’s record-breaking shift toward renewable power and away from coal,” says Tim Buckley of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, an energy consultancy in Cleveland, Ohio.

“China’s official 2015 wind installations are an all-time global record of 32.5 gigawatts,” says Buckley. “China itself is the only nation to have come anywhere near this, delivering 20.7 gigawatts of new wind capacity in 2014.”

Competing with fossil fuels

The latest figures state that “clean energy” – a combination of hydro, wind, solar, nuclear and natural gas – now accounts for 18 per cent of all its energy, up from 13 per cent in 2011.

“We’re now at the point where these technologies can compete head-to-head with gas and coal on price, meaning that this growth is only going to accelerate,” says Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of RenewableUK, representing the UK’s wind and wave power producers. “The UK alone has increased the amount it generates from wind power from 1 to 11 per cent in a decade.”

“It’s a really positive signal, a perfect example of an emerging economy trying to shift the way it develops,” says Ranping Song of the World Resources Institute think tank in Washington DC.

Peak coal?

China is due to issue its next five-year economic plan this month. “So it’s a perfect time to see how serious they are about tackling emissions,” Song says.

Despite renewables gains, coal still provides almost two-thirds of China’s power consumption. But the dip in coal consumption over the past two years – which equals an entire year’s coal consumption in Japan – suggests that China may now have reached “peak coal”. “China’s market for coal consumption has started to become saturated, and should gradually decline,” Xie said in Hong Kong.

Feb 14th 2016

More than 5.5 million people worldwide are dying prematurely every year as a result of air pollution, according to new research.

Most of these deaths are occurring in the rapidly developing economies of China and India.

The main culprit is the emission of small particles from power plants, factories, vehicle exhausts and from the burning of coal and wood.

The data was compiled as part of the Global Burden of Disease Project.

Scientists involved in the initiative say the statistics illustrate how far, and how fast, some nations must travel to improve the air their citizens breathe.

"In Beijing or Delhi on a bad air pollution day, the number of fine particles (known as PM2.5) can be higher than 300 micrograms per cubic metre," explained Dan Greenbaum from the Health Effects Institute, in Boston, US.

"The number should be about 25 or 35 micrograms."

Breathing in tiny liquid or solid particles can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, respiratory complaints and even cancer. And while developed nations have made great strides in addressing this problem these past few decades, the number of citizens dying as a result of poor air quality in developing countries is still climbing.

According to the study, air pollution causes more deaths than other risk factors like malnutrition, obesity, alcohol and drug abuse, and unsafe sex. The Global Burden of Disease Project puts it as the fourth greatest risk behind high blood pressure, dietary risks and smoking.

Elderly factor

In China, there are said to be about 1.6 million deaths a year; in India, it is roughly 1.3 million. This data is from 2013, the most recent year for which it is available.

The key sources of pollution concern are slightly different in each nation, however.

In China, the dominant factor is particle emissions from coal burning.

The project calculates this source alone is responsible for more than 360,000 deaths every year.

And even though China has targets to restrict coal combustion and emissions in the future, it may struggle to bring down the number of deaths because it is acquiring an aging population and these citizens are naturally more susceptible to the illnesses associated with poor air quality.

"So, we think more aggressive policies are urgently needed to reduce the emissions from coal combustion and other sectors," stated project researcher Qiao Ma, a PhD student at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

In India, the problem that draws particular attention is the practice of burning wood, dung, crop residues and other materials for cooking and heating.

This "indoor pollution" causes far more deaths than "outdoor pollution".

And looking at the broad economic trends in India, the research team says the country runs the risk of having even poorer air quality in the future.

Chandra Venkataraman, from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, in Mumbai, warned: "Despite proposed emissions control, there is significant growth in the demand for electricity as well as industrial production.

"So, through to 2050, this growth overshadows the emissions controls (in our projections) and will lead to an increase in future air pollutant emissions in 2050 in India."

Cost benefit

Michael Brauer, from the University of British Columbia in Canada, said the statistics should make governments think hard about the scope of their anti-pollution policies.

They ought to spur greater ambition, he added.

"The trick here is to not take the 50 or 60 years that it took in the high income countries, and to really accelerate the process; and that's really where we think these statistics, the data, will come in handy," he told BBC News.

"In the US, we know that for every dollar spent on air pollution improvements, we can get between a $4-$30 benefit in terms of reduced health impacts."

The research team was presenting its findings here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Well it looks like the Paris talks on climate change and air-pollution have let the aircraft industry and  the polluting big ships  that use the low-grade fuel  off the hook for now, and it's a crying shame because they are responsible for a very big proportion of our atmospheric air-pollution.

having said that, the talks were very positive and it looks as if at last the powers to be are getting the message, it's a pretty that they talk of such long-term aims,  why can't they say you should do this now.

Jan 12th 2016

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — It will never soar into the wild blue yonder, but the dusty Peterbilt truck parked outside a hangar at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center here may represent the future of low-carbon aviation.

Perched on steel supports behind the truck’s cab is a 30-foot airplane wing, the kind found on a small plane. Instead of a fossil-fuel-burning engine or two, however, the wing is outfitted with 18 electric motors along its leading edge, each with a small red propeller.

The truck-plane mash-up, a NASA project called LeapTech, is meant to test a new approach to powering flight. Technicians and engineers have been driving the truck down a dry lake-bed runway at this desert base at more than 70 miles per hour, the battery-powered propellers spinning as if a takeoff were imminent.

“We’re able to simulate full takeoff and landing configurations and measure lift, drag, motor efficiency and aerodynamic performance,” said Sean Clarke, an engineer and a principal investigator on the project.

The concept, called distributed propulsion, is one of several being studied here and at other research centers to develop technologies that could lead to completely new and far less polluting aircraft designs. Future planes may be powered by batteries or hybrid gas-electric systems, for instance, and have lighter wings that can quickly change shape to better handle the stresses brought on by turbulent air. Others may eliminate the conventional wings-and-fuselage design in favor of one that blends the two elements, all to further the cause of lower emissions.

Commercial aviation currently accounts for about 2 percent of the global total of carbon dioxide emitted annually by human activity, or a little less than is produced by Germany. Although manufacturers and airlines have made air travel far more efficient — the Air Transport Action Group, an industry organization, estimates that emissions per seat-mile are down 70 percent from the 1960s, when jets began operating — the industry’s tremendous growth has resulted in higher total emissions.

That growth shows no signs of stopping. The International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations agency that oversees the industry, forecasts that the worldwide commercial fleet will double, to about 40,000 airliners, in the next 15 years. And a recent European Commission report noted that as countries and other industries rein in their emissions, aviation could eventually be responsible for more than one-fifth of the global total.

Although aviation was left out of the climate treaty adopted in Paris last month — that omission has some environmentalists questioning just how “historic” the accord actually was — reducing emissions remains a priority for the I.C.A.O., a spokesman said. Among other initiatives, the agency is expected to approve certification standards next year that would limit CO2 emissions for new aircraft.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year moved to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft, although the rule-making process is expected to be contentious and lengthy.

Because emissions are directly related to fuel consumption, and fuel accounts for one-third or more of an airline’s costs, carriers and manufacturers continue to make improvements. Planes have become lighter through the use of composite materials, like those that make up about half of the airframe of a Boeing 787. Jet engines have become more efficient. Alternative fuels, like biofuels, are starting to be used that sharply cut net carbon emissions. And operational measures like better management of airplane traffic, both at airports and in the air, have further reduced emissions.

Daniel Rutherford, who studies aircraft emissions as a program director at the International Council on Clean Transportation, a research group, said that improvements in fuel consumption, which have averaged a 1.3 percent reduction per year, should continue through the next decade.

“Efficient designs fleshed out in the ‘00s when fuel prices were high are coming to market now,” he said.

Many of the improvements involve changes to existing planes — like adding winglets to wings, which reduce drag and improve efficiency by a few percentage points, or replacing older engines with more efficient models. So-called re-engining, in fact, “has been the biggest single contributor to improving fuel efficiency over the long term,” Dr. Rutherford said.

Some aircraft have been partially redesigned. Later this decade, for example, Boeing will introduce a variant of its 777 model, the 777x, with new composite wings and more efficient engines.

Further improvements can be expected beyond the 2020s, Dr. Rutherford said, depending on how aggressively the industry adopts other advanced technologies like open-rotor engines, which improve efficiency by eliminating the shroud that surrounds most jet engines, and aerodynamic modifications that smooth the airflow over surfaces to reduce drag. (Boeing already uses such a system, referred to as hybrid laminar flow control, on the tail of its latest 787 model.)

But even with all the improvements, actual and potential, the basic design of an airplane remains the same — a tube and wings. “From a basic structure standpoint, a 787 doesn’t look a whole lot different from a 707,” said Jay E. Dryer, who Directs NASA,s advanced air vehicles program. 

To achieve the drastic emissions reductions that may be required by the middle of the century and beyond — to make aviation as carbon-free as possible — new “clean sheet” aircraft designs may be needed, incorporating new technologies and approaches. That’s where the Armstrong Flight Research Center comes in, developing technological concepts that manufacturers may one day use in radical new designs.

Not far from the LeapTech truck is another hangar containing a Gulfstream business jet that has been stripped bare and wired with hundreds of sensors. It is a flying technology test bed, and is testing modifications to the trailing edge of the wings. Where a flap would normally be, there is instead a continuous, bent surface, which changes the aerodynamic characteristics of the wing.

The concept is still being developed, but the eventual goal would be wings that could morph in response to real-time conditions. “The idea is to ultimately replace the entire trailing edge of an aircraft wing with technology like this, so you could continuously change the shape of the wing to reduce drag and increase lift,” said Ethan Baumann, chief engineer for the test jet. The technology could also allow the drag and lift forces to be shifted around the wings to avoid overloading, so the wings could be lighter than conventional ones.

The idea behind distributed propulsion is to take the engines from their usual position hanging below the wings and put them elsewhere. Since jet engines are complex, heavy devices, distributed propulsion designs almost always involve simpler and smaller electric motors.

“It makes a lot of sense to rethink where you put motors when you design a vehicle from scratch,” Mr. Clarke said.

In a typical jet turbine engine, a central core burns fuel and air, providing power to turn a fan. That fan draws in more air that bypasses the core and exits out the back, producing more thrust. Engines have become more efficient in part by incorporating larger fans to move more of this “bypass” air, but there is a limit to how big the fans can get.

A distributed design can simply add more fans, as long as there is enough electricity to run them. “Now you’re not constrained by the size of the engine,” said Panagiotis Laskaridis, who researches distributed propulsion at Cranfield University in Britain.

Distributing the motors around the plane can also bring aerodynamic advantages. With the LeapTech wing, the position of the motors on the leading edge results in accelerated airflow over it, which increases lift at the low speeds of takeoff and landing. As a result, the wing can be made narrower, which improves efficiency at cruising speeds by reducing drag. An eventual airplane design using distributed propulsion may have leading edge motors only for takeoff and landing, and a single motor at each wingtip that would be used for cruising.

LeapTech uses batteries to power its motors, but Dr. Laskaridis and a Cranfield colleague, Devaiah Nalianda, are studying the feasibility of hybrid turbine-electric systems that might use batteries and a single jet engine to generate electricity for the motors.

At Boeing, researchers are looking at several variants of distributed propulsion, said Marty Bradley Sr., an aerospace engineer with the manufacturer. They are also studying other advanced concepts. These include truss-braced wings, which would allow longer and thinner and thus more fuel-efficient wings, and aft-mounted fans, which would speed up the airflow over the fuselage, reducing drag.

“We have a road map for all of these technologies that could benefit future airplanes,” Dr. Bradley said, although whether any of them would be adopted would depend on many factors.

For NASA researchers, the next step is to modify an actual aircraft — a four-seat Italian-made model — to operate on batteries and wing motors.

Given the current limitations of batteries, the modified aircraft will only be able to make short flights. Battery technology may never improve enough to make all-electric planes practical, Mr. Clarke said, but a hybrid turbine-battery design is a realistic possibility.

“I could imagine in 20 years technology like this being integrated into aircraft,” he said.

Dr. Nalianda said that although there was much development work ahead, he had no doubt that the technology would eventually be used, perhaps even for large aircraft. “When the jet engine replaced the piston engine in the 1940s and 1950s, it was very disruptive,” he said. “I believe distributed propulsion is a similar kind of disruptive technology.”

Global air pollution

Pollution is most keenly felt in cities that are positioned where there is little wind, a dense population and many motor vehicles, with dozens of factories on the city outskirts air conditions sometimes forces people to wear breathing masks.

Having taken steps to protect the ozone layer by banning some chemicals that used to be freely used in spray cans and refrigerators we can now see steps that we’re winning this battle with the ozone holes over the poles gradually closing up.

see also our Gobal warming page

The main task now seems to be to reduce the amount of carbon that we discharge into the atmosphere, some of this is absorbed by the forests and other green plants and more disappears into the ocean, but we are a long, long way from achieving a carbon balance.  There is hope as measures intensify to attack the problem on all fronts, that one day, hopefully before it is too late, that we can turn our attention to the next problem.
Fred Pearce is an environmental consultant to New Scientist magazine He reveals that the super-ships that keep the West in everything from Christmas gifts to computers pump out killer chemicals linked to thousands of deaths because of the filthy fuel they use.

As ships get bigger, the situation is getting worse. The most staggering statistic of all is that just 16 of the world’s largest ships can produce as much lung-clogging sulfur in the air as all the world’s cars.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1229857/How-16-ships-create-pollution-cars-world.html#ixzz3PAWfpjEl

And now in 2015 This is what we are doing

Click this link


for more information just google  for pollution from ships

Go to http://www.vesselfinder.com/ to see where they are now

Fortunately with modern communication systems these dangerous situations can be monitored easily and warnings issued by local government, civil defense, police, local radio and television.

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