TOP STORIES

LONDONAir pollution: High levels ‘to spread across England and Wales’ High levels of air pollution have been affecting parts of England are set to get worse and spread. Environment department Defra says “high” or “very high” levels have been recorded in the past 24 hours mainly in the East of England and the Midlands.

beijingAir pollution killed seven million people in 2012: WHO Air pollution by sources ranging from cooking fires to auto fumes contributed to an estimated seven million deaths worldwide in 2012, the UN health agency has said.

tehranChoking to Death in Tehran According to the latest World Health Organization numbers, four of the 10 worst-polluted cities in the world are in Iran. The number one slot was awarded to the small Iranian industrial city of Ahvaz, which has three times the concentration of pollutants as Beijing.

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TODAY’S NEWS: One-third of Beijing pollution comes from outside the city, figures show

Hebei, ChinaAround one-third of the air pollution in China’s smog-hit capital comes from outside the city, official media reported on Wednesday, citing a pollution watchdog.

Chen Tian, chief of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, said that 28-36% of hazardous airborne particles known as PM2.5 came from surrounding provinces like Hebei, home to seven of China’s 10 most polluted cities in 2013, according to official data.

The central government has identified the heavily industrialised Beijing-Hebei-Tianjin region as one of the main fronts in its war against pollution, and it is under pressure to cut coal consumption and industrial capacity.

Decades of unrestrained growth have hit China’s environment hard and Beijing’s often choking air has become a symbol of the pollution crisis.

Public anger over pollution in different places has sparked protests and while the government has announced plans to fight it, authorities often struggle to bring big polluting industries and growth-obsessed local authorities to heel.

Chen said that of the smog generated in Beijing, 31% came from vehicles, 22.4% from coal burning and 18.1% from industry, according to China Environmental News, a publication of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Wang Junling, the vice head of the Beijing Environmental Protection Research Institute, said that while pollution from outside Beijing was a main component of its smog, the rapid growth of the city’s population, energy use and economic output were also to blame for worsening air quality.

He told China Environmental News last month that from 1998 to 2012, Beijing’s economic output rose 6.5 times and the number of vehicles rose 2.8 times. Over the same period, the city’s population soared 66% while energy consumption rose 90%.

The city plans to cut coal consumption by 13 million tonnes by 2017, down from about 23m tonnes in 2013. Hebei province used about 280m tonnes of coal last year and aims to cut the total by 40m tonnes over the same period.

Beijing also plans to limit the number of cars on its roads to 5.6m this year, with the number allowed to rise to 6m by 2017. It is also trying to enforce a ban on old vehicles with lower fuel standards.

The city government said in a report last week it failed to meet national standards in four of the six major controlled pollutants in 2013. It said its PM2.5 concentrations stood at a daily average of 89.5 micrograms per cubic metre, 156% higher than national standards.

In 2013, PM2.5 concentrations in 74 cities monitored by authorities stood at an average of 72 micrograms per cubic metre (cu m), more than twice China’s recommended national standard of 35 mg/cu m.

via One-third of Beijing pollution comes from outside the city, figures show | Environment | theguardian.com.

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Joggers are at higher risk of air pollution than walkers are

joggerJoggers who run near busy roads may be putting themselves at a higher risk of breathing in air pollution compared to if they walked at an average pace, say scientists.

The researchers wanted to know how the risk of inhaling air pollution changes depending on how long a journey takes.

They found that the longer someone is exposed to air pollution is finely balanced with how much an individual inhales in each breath.

‘How much you’re breathing in depends on how long you’re in a heavily polluted environment for,’ says Gemma Davies, a PhD student at Lancaster University and lead researcher on the study. ‘You might think that walking faster from a-to-b will mean less exposure, but that’s only if your breathing rate is constant. In actual fact, as you walk faster your breathing rate increases, so you inhale more.’

Air pollution has been shown to cause headaches, an increase in people diagnosed with asthma, and long-term, it can cause heart disease and even cancer.

A standard walking pace turned out to be best way to reduce exposure, going slower meant more time spent in the environment while going faster meant breathing more air pollution in.

Joggers who run near roads could be inhaling up to a third more air pollution than if they just walked at a normal rate.

‘The health benefits of running probably outweigh the inhaled dose, but on heavily polluted days jogging by busy roads could make a difference,’ says Davies.

Weight, height and gender were all shown to make a difference in how much air pollution people inhaled.

‘We also found that generally exposure increases with age. So if two people – one aged 25 and the other 65 – are walking at the same pace, the 65 year old is more vulnerable and will have a greater inhaled dose,’ says Davies.

‘People who are heavily overweight also inhale more,’ she adds.

To test how much air pollution people breathed in, Davies used the city of Lancaster as a case study. She mapped both the fastest route people might take between their schools or work and home and the route with the least exposure to air pollution. She found that the route with least exposure changed each day depending on a number of factors.

‘Much of the time you can help reduce your exposure by choosing alternative low exposure routes, unless you are talking about extreme conditions such as the recent pollution episode where man-made and natural sources combined to produce an environment in which anyone doing vigorous exercise should probably have had to take care,’ says Davies.

The team also found that a small change in your journey, such as walking on a different side of the road, could make a difference as to how much pollution you inhale.

‘Mostly it’s a question of wind direction. It doesn’t always make a difference, but whether you’re upwind or downwind of pollution source, normally road-based pollution, can change how much pollution you’re breathing in. On a completely still day it will have little impact,’ Davies explains.

via Joggers are at higher risk of air pollution than walkers are.

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Measuring Africa’s Air Pollution

When Jenny Linden, an air quality scientist, tried to measure the pollution in Burkina Faso’s capital city, one of her instruments clogged up. It was designed for road dust in Arizona, but the dust in Ouagadougou far exceeded the machine’s limit, and it had to be sent to the United States for repair.

The instrument “could not take the level of pollutants they had there,” recalled Dr. Linden, who took measurements in Ouagadougou between 2003 and 2007 and is now a research associate in urban climatology at the University of Mainz, in Germany. So intense was the dust, she added, that “you don’t have a cold but you have an irritated nose the whole time.”

Air pollution in Asia and Europe has grabbed headlines. But as Dr. Linden’s experience suggests, the problem is pervasive across Africa as well. Africa is urbanizing quickly, and pollution from sources like vehicle exhaust, wood burning and dusty dirt roads has reached worrisome levels in many cities. Equally or more troubling is air pollution inside homes, caused by cooking with wood or other sooty fuels. But few nations outside South Africa have imposed regulations to address the problem, experts say.

“We do know that in Africa, there’s a very major problem with indoor air pollution,” said Dr. Carlos Dora, an official with the World Health Organization’s Department for Public Health and Environment. Data for outdoor air pollution in cities, he added, is less available and may not capture the scope of the problem.

Dirty air can cause lung damage as well as heart disease, strokes and cancer. Last month the W.H.O. estimated that one in eight deaths worldwide resulted from air pollution. The organization found that air pollution in African homes contributed to nearly 600,000 deaths in 2012. Africa had the third highest level of deaths per capita from indoor air pollution of any region of the world, though it was still well behind areas of the western Pacific region (including China) and Southeast Asia.

The W.H.O. figures for deaths per capita from outdoor air pollution in Africa are well below the world average, but the lack of data is a barrier. Pollution monitoring is minimal on a continent that is mostly focused on other problems. Instruments are expensive, and academics say they often struggle to get grants to study the problem. The W.H.O. assesses outdoor pollution in Africa by drawing from satellite data, inventories of pollution sources, air-current modeling and occasional ground monitors, Dr. Dora said. Continentwide data is stronger than that for individual countries, he added.

In Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, normal levels of fine dust (meaning particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, about 1/30 of the width of a human hair and a significant health threat) are usually five times as high as those in Gothenburg, Sweden, according to Johan Boman, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Gothenburg. The Nairobi pollution doubles near the central business district, he said, reflecting high pollution from vehicle exhaust.

“It’s certainly not as bad as what we see from China,” he said. “On the other hand, in China it’s very much seasonal,” whereas Nairobi, with its relatively stable climate, has less variation.

A survey several years ago by the W.H.O. showed Gaborone, Botswana, as having the eighth-highest level of particulate pollution (particles of up to 10 micrometers in diameter) among a list of world cities. But the W.H.O. stresses that it is an incomplete list, since many cities did not provide data — including some of the most polluted.

The outdoor pollution problem is growing, as more Africans move to cities. Ms. Linden, who did research in Burkina Faso until 2007, said that “the situation is likely worse now” because Ouagadougou’s population has swelled by more than 50 percent since then. Major outdoor sources of pollution include old vehicles; the burning of wood and trash; industrial activities; and even dust from dirt roads, a serious issue in Ouagadougou. In West Africa, a wind called the harmattan adds to the problem in the winter, coating the region in Saharan desert dust.

One recent study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, estimated that Africa could generate 20 percent to 30 percent of the world’s combustion-driven sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by 2030, up from about 5 percent each in 2005. Other pollutants are growing too: Organic carbon from Africa could rise to over 50 percent of the world’s combustion output, from 20 percent, the study said. The authors did their calculations using estimates about fuel consumption, growth and other emissions factors, and warned of “a considerable increase in emissions from Africa” in the absence of regulations.

via Measuring Africa’s Air Pollution – NYTimes.com.

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People of Color Are Disproportionately Hurt by Air Pollution

In America, your race affects everything from your job to your commute to your brush-ups with the police. Why should it be any different with the amount of nasty air pollution you inhale?

Of course it isn’t different, as shown by an eye-opening new study from the University of Minnesota. By overlaying Census data with a recent map of air pollution, the researchers discovered that in most places in the country lower-income non-white people breathe more airborne foulness than higher-income whites. On average, non-white people inhale 38 percent higher levels of air pollution than whites, they say. If non-white people were brought down to the levels of pollution enjoyed by whites, it would prevent 7,000 deaths from heart disease in their communities each year.

Income also plays a role in pollution exposure, but not as much as you might think. “Both race and income matter, but race matters more than income,” says Julian Marshall, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Minnesota. “And that’s a really important point, because when you start talking about differences by race people say, ‘Oh, that’s just income.’”

The discrepancy is so great that even high-earning nonwhites are sucking in relatively larger quantities of pollution. For a clear illustration of that, take a look at this graph showing (at top left) pollution/income differences for large urban areas. Notice how low-income whites are exposed to less pollution than even the highest-income blacks, Asians, and Hispanics:

“Even considering high-income individuals only, the fact that you still see environmental injustice is a little surprising to me,” says Marshall. As to why this is occurring, that’s still a subject for further investigation; Marshall notes that one theory is that more non-whites tend to live in pollution-rich downtown areas and near freeways.

The specific pollutant that the researchers investigated is nitrogen dioxide, whose man-made sources include automobile engines and power plants. People who breathe more NO2 are at greater risk of a horde of ailments, from asthma to heart and lung disease to low birth weights. The researchers got a bead on how much NO2 is floating over America using satellite and land-use data from this study, which also inspired this interactive map of pollution levels. Look at how NO2 hovers over major metropolitan regions:

They also built their own maps of the America’s pollution landscape, such as this one showing the “difference in population-weighted mean NO2 concentrations (ppb) between lower-income nonwhites and higher-income whites for U.S. cities.” By their measurements the urban areas with the greatest gaps in pollution exposure between whites and nonwhites are New York-Newark, Philadelphia, and Bridgeport-Stamford, Connecticut, respectively:

And here’s their list of the spots with the highest pollution disparity between whites and nonwhites (note that “urban areas” relates to a Census definition that can include parts of various neighboring states):

New York–Newark; NY–NJ–CT

Philadelphia; PA–NJ–DE–MD

Bridgeport–Stamford; CT–NY

Boston; MA–NH–RI

Providence; RI–MA

Detroit; MI

Los Angeles–Long Beach–Santa Ana; CA

New Haven; CT

Worcester; MA–CT

Springfield; MA–CT

Rochester; NY

Chicago; IL–IN

Birmingham; AL

Hartford; CT

Milwaukee; WI

via People of Color Are Disproportionately Hurt by Air Pollution – John Metcalfe – The Atlantic Cities.

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Asian air pollution strengthens Pacific storms

chinaAir pollution in China and other Asian countries is having far-reaching impacts on weather patterns across the Northern Hemisphere, a study suggests.

Researchers have found that pollutants are strengthening storms above the Pacific Ocean, which feeds into weather systems in other parts of the world.

The effect was most pronounced during the winter.

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Lead author Yuan Wang, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, said: “The effects are quite dramatic. The pollution results in thicker and taller clouds and heavier precipitation.”

Toxic atmosphere

Parts of Asia have some of the highest levels of air pollution in the world.

In China’s capital, Beijing, pollutants frequently reach hazardous levels, while emissions in the Indian capital, Delhi, also regularly soar above those recommended by the World Health Organization.

This has dire consequences for the health of those living in these regions, but there is growing evidence that there are other impacts further afield.

To analyse this, researchers from the US and China used computer models to look at the effect of Asia’s pollution on weather systems.

The team said that tiny polluting particles were blown towards the north Pacific where they interacted with water droplets in the air.

This, the researchers said, caused clouds to grow denser, resulting in more intense storms above the ocean.

Dr Yuan Wang said: “Since the Pacific storm track is an important component in the global general circulation, the impacts of Asian pollution on the storm track tend to affect the weather patterns of other parts of the world during the wintertime, especially a downstream region [of the track] like North America.”

Commenting on the study, Professor Ellie Highwood, a climate physicist at the University of Reading, said: “We are becoming increasingly aware that pollution in the atmosphere can have an impact both locally – wherever it is sitting over regions – and it can a remote impact in other parts of the world. This is a good example of that.

“There have also been suggestions that aerosols over the North Atlantic effect storms over the North Atlantic, and that aerosols in the monsoon region over South Asia can affect circulation around the whole of the world.”

via BBC News – Asian air pollution strengthens Pacific storms.

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MPs to investigate London’s ‘invisible killer’ – the air we all breathe

LondonMPs are to launch a new inquiry into air quality in London amid warnings that thousands of people are dying prematurely due to “invisible killer” pollution, The Standard reveals today.

Just days after smog and sand whipped up from the Sahara hit the capital, parliamentarians condemned “painfully slow” progress in recent years in tackling pollution black spots.

The Commons Environmental Audit Committee is to probe why City Hall and the Government have not injected more effort into improving air quality since 2010 when the MPs published an earlier report on pollution.

“Thousands of Londoners are having their lives shortened every year by diesel fumes and tiny particles of tyre and soot in the air. Look out across the capital on a sunny day and you can see the smog hazily smothering the city,” said committee chairwoman Joan Walley.

“The Environmental Audit Committee warned four years ago that urgent action was needed to tackle this invisible killer haunting our streets. London was breaching EU safety limits on air pollution back then and it is still breaching them now.

“We want to know why progress on tackling this problem has been so painfully slow.”

Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster, were named last week as having the most man-made polluted air in the UK, according to a report by Public Health England.

It highlighted that London has by far the worst air pollution problem in the country, largely due to traffic levels, with the wider South East also suffering badly.

In London, 3,389 deaths were estimated to be linked to air pollution and 41,404 “life years” lost in 2010, while in the South East, 4,034 people died and 41,728 years were lost, according to the study.

Around one in 12 deaths in Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster, of people aged over 25 were caused in part by long-term exposure to particle air pollution, the research found.

While air quality had improved in recent decades, due significantly to cleaner vehicles and tougher environmental laws, thousands of Londoners are still having their lives shortened by months, if not years, say scientists.

Boris Johnson’s Air Quality Strategy has focused on levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) as these are often linked with negative health impacts.

A spokeswoman for the Mayor of London said: “The Mayor takes London’s air quality extremely seriously and is driving the most ambitious and comprehensive package of pollution tackling measures in the world.

“His policies have halved the number of Londoners living in areas above nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limits, brought NOx emissions down by 20 per cent and PM10 down by 15 per cent.”

She added that in the last four years cleaner buses had been introduced on London’s roads, as well as age limits for taxis, a £20 million fund set up to tackle air pollution hotspots, with nearly £1 billion to improve cycling infrastructure.

“Most significantly, he has announced an Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London from 2020. This will be a world first game changer for London’s air quality – no city in the world is doing more,” she said.

The Environmental Audit Committee called in 2010 for a “significant shift” in transport policy and warned insufficient priority was being given to cutting pollution blamed for exacerbating public health problems including asthma, and other breathing and heart conditions.

At the time, Professor Frank Kelly, an environmental health expert from King’s College, London, estimated that 3,000 to 5,000 people in the capital were dying early each year due to pollution.

In the worst cases, individuals were having their lives cut short by up to ten years, he warned.

Concerns have also been raised about the possible health impacts on hundreds of thousands of pupils at schools in London close to busy roads.

Green campaigners stressed that there are 1,148 schools in London within 150 metres of roads carrying 10,000 or more vehicles per day.

Scientists say living near roads with such traffic levels could significantly increase the risk of children suffering from asthma and of people developing breathing and heart problems later in life.

London is not alone in suffering from smog problems, with Chinese cities such as Beijing worse affected and Paris limiting car use last month with only motorists with odd-numbered number plates allowed to drive one day and even-numbered the following day.

A Government spokeswoman said: “We have committed billions to increase uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles, sustainable travel and green transport initiatives, all of which will help improve air quality.”

via MPs to investigate London’s ‘invisible killer’ – the air we all breathe – London – News – London Evening Standard.

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Shanghai base for delta air pollution alert center

Shanghai residents will soon receive more accurate air quality reports with the launch of a new calculating system.

Air Quality Index (AQI) calculations will be partly based on an hourly figure for PM2.5 — tiny particles especially harmful as they can get deep into the respiratory system — instead of a 24-hour average PM2.5 figure used at present.

Already approved by central government, the new system will be introduced very soon, Zhang Quan, director of Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau, said yesterday.

Currently, the AQI, which is reported hourly, is calculated based on levels of six pollutants: PM2.5, PM10, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide.

While readings for four of these are presently updated hourly, PM2.5 and PM10 figures are an average for the previous 24 hours, in line with national standards.

Zhang also said Shanghai will need approval from central government if it intends to introduce an Air Quality Health Index (AQHI), already in use in Hong Kong.

AQHI provides health advice and alerts for groups particularly sensitive to air pollution — such as the very young, the elderly and those with respiratory problems — depending on levels of pollutants.

“Shanghai’s AQI system gives advice to people to reduce short-term exposure to air pollution through adjusting activities but AQHI is more detailed,” Zhang said.

In another air pollution initiative, a joint air quality alert center covering Shanghai and neighboring provinces Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui is to be located in the city.

Joint alerts are intended to ensure that the Yangtze River Delta can take quick, coordinated action to tackle air pollution.

“The meteorological and environment departments of Shanghai and the three provinces are working together closely on the air pollution joint alert system,” said Zhang.

A coordinated effort to fight pollution across the Yangtze River Delta was launched in January, and also includes a unified standard for energy conservation and emission cuts to be achieved.

“Our main concerns include the use of resources, coal consumption restrictions, straw burning and emissions from vehicles and ships,” said Zhang.

He said in Shanghai 500 to 600 polluting industrial enterprises are made to clean up their act or closed each year, and some neighbors are having to play catch up to achieve uniform standards.

“Jiangsu Province might have to take action on more than 1,000 polluting enterprises every year to catch up with the pace of the joint effort in the Yangtze River Delta region,” said Zhang. “These are historical problems from earlier developments.”

Meanwhile, the city is to continue increasing punishments for polluting air, water and soil through illegal discharges and emissions.

Shanghai has already adjusted its penalty system, levying fines on a daily basis to encourage immediate improvements.

Fines totaling 70 million yuan (US$11.27 million) were collected by the environment bureau in 2013 — up 50 percent on 2012.

Now the bureau is also turning its attention to individuals in companies responsible for pollution.

“In future, punishments will also be handed out to individuals, with them receiving fines and shouldering legal responsibilities,” said Zhang.

He also said more water quality detection stations will be built at the borders of the city to neighboring provinces.

The bureau director added that the city government has approved building another reservoir, similar to the Qingcaosha Reservoir in the mouth of Yangtze River.

Currently, most of Shanghai’s tap water comes from Qingcaosha Reservoir and the Huangpu River. Monitoring water quality is easier in closed reservoirs.

via Shanghai base for delta air pollution alert center – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

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Danger in the air

ParisEarly April’s mixture of air pollution and Saharan dust attracted considerable media attention but air pollution in mid-March was far worse. This prompted emergency measures in Paris and south Belgium including free public transport and car bans. No such actions were taken in the UK despite almost identical pollution concentrations.

Emergency measures were triggered by pollution accumulating in air that was slowly circulating over north-west Europe. Paris had air pollution above EU limits for over a week. Winds nudged the polluted air westwards to include most of England and south Wales around 9/10 March and then again between the 12th and 14th, when air pollution reached the top value of 10 in the UK’s air quality index.

Following the 1952 London smog we used to believe that the public health impacts from air pollution mainly occurred when pollution was very high. Today we know that the long-term exposure to the air pollution that we experience in our daily urban lives has a far greater effect on public health than short episodes. Reducing air pollution every day therefore would have a bigger health impact. For this reason over 40 German cities have abandoned emergency measures in favour of low emissions zones that ban the most polluting vehicles all the time – similar to the scheme introduced in London in 2008. The UK policies have also focused on reducing air pollution every day, but March’s pollution shows that these measures are insufficient to protect against episodes. Even with current policies, long-term air pollution exposure adds the equivalent of 29,000 deaths per year to the UK’s accumulating toll.

via Pollutionwatch: Danger in the air | Environment | The Guardian.

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The World must end ‘dirty’ fuel use – UN

A long-awaited UN report on how to curb climate change says the world must rapidly move away from carbon-intensive fuels.

There must be a “massive shift” to renewable energy, says the study released in Berlin.

It has been finalised after a week of negotiations between scientists and government officials.

Natural gas is seen as a key bridge to move energy production away from oil and coal.

But there have been battles between participants over who will pay for this energy transition.

The report is the work of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was set up to provide a clear scientific view on climate change and its impacts.

The Summary for Policymakers on mitigation paints a picture of a world with carbon emissions rising rapidly.

“The high speed mitigation train needs to leave the station very soon, and all of global society will have to get on board,” the IPCC’s chair Rajendra Pachauri told journalists in Berlin at the launch of the report.

Dr Youba Sokono, a co-chair of the IPCC’s working group 3, which drew up the report, said science has spoken.

He added that policy makers were “the navigators, they have to make decisions, scientists are the map makers”.

The UK’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said global warming needed to be tackled using “all technologies”. He told BBC News: “We can do this, we have to because it’s so challenging and threatening to our economies and societies, our health, our food security. The report today shows we can do it if we have the political will.”

He added that the UK government was a leader on the use of renewable energy sources, saying: “We’ve, for example, doubled the amount of renewable electricity in the last few years. We’re likely to do better than our targets in increasing renewable electricity. But we’ve got to do more.”

 

About half of all the carbon that humans have pumped into the atmosphere since 1750 has been emitted in the last 40 years.

 

Rates have been rising fast since 2000, despite the global economic crash.

 

Analysis

The Energy Secretary Ed Davey reckons the government doesn’t get the credit it deserves for delivering an ambitious green agenda: Investing in renewables, co-operating internationally to cut carbon and building lots of wind farms.

The problem is that there are a few things that a sizeable chunk of Tory backbenchers simply cannot stomach, namely: Subsidies, Europe and – err – building lots of wind farms.

Maybe that’s why the Chancellor has come up with a formula which he hopes will satisfy both sides – that Britain can go green but it has to be done as cheaply as possible.

And what about David Cameron? The PM is famously alleged to have said he wanted to “cut the green crap” but that has always been strenuously denied by Downing Street, and he made a passionate plea to tackle climate change during a session of Prime Minister’s Questions earlier this year.

The report points to an increased use of coal in the decade from the turn of the millennium, “reversing the longstanding trend of decarbonisation of the world’s energy supply”.

Driven by a global increase in population and economic activity, global surface temperature increases will be between 3.7C and 4.8C in 2100 if no new action is taken.

This is way above the 2 degree level, regarded as the point beyond which dangerous impacts of climate change will be felt.

However, the scientists involved in the report say this situation can be turned around.

“It needs a big change in the energy sector, that is undoubtedly true,” said Prof Jim Skea, vice-chair of working group 3.

“One of the biggest areas that’s important is getting the carbon out of electricity, so renewable energy, nuclear, fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage, that’s all part of the menu if we are going to make the transition to stay under the 2 degree target.”

It is not a simple task. To be sure of staying below 2 degrees, the amount of carbon in the air needs to be around 450 parts per million by 2100. To get there, emissions in 2050 need to be 40-70% lower than they were in 2010.

The IPCC says that renewables are a critical part of that pathway.

Since the last report in 2007, the scientists say that renewable energy has come on in leaps and bounds.

In 2012, renewables accounted for just over half of the new electricity generation added around the world.

The scientists stress that renewables are becoming economically competitive with fossil fuels and also offer a range of other benefits, including clean air and energy security.

“It certainly is the end for carbon intensive fuels that’s for sure,” said Jennifer Morgan from the World Resources Institute, who was a review editor on one of the chapters of the IPCC report.

“There needs to be a massive shift away from fossil fuels and investment needs to shift to going 100% clean as fast as possible.”

Prof Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of working group 3, said: “Mitigation does not mean the world has to sacrifice economic growth.”

He explained that the report added “modest hope”, but added: “Climate policy is not a free lunch.”

One of the surprising endorsements in the report is natural gas.

“Emissions from energy supply can be reduced significantly by replacing current world average coal-fired power plants with modern, highly efficient natural gas combined-cycle power plants,” says the summary.

The report describes natural gas as a “bridge” technology with deployment increasing before peaking and falling below current levels by 2050.

However many of the scenarios examined by the panel would still involve an “overshoot” of the target range.

To cope with this the world may need to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Combining carbon capture and storage with bioenergy is seen as one potential solution, but the report is lukewarm on these ideas, saying the “methods are uncertain” and are “associated with risks”.

Timing is everything, say the scientists.

“Delaying mitigation efforts beyond those in place today through 2030 is estimated to substantially increase the difficulty of the transition to low longer-term emissions,” says the summary.

“If we delay we are faced with hard choices,” said Prof Skea.

“Do we give up on the 2 degrees target or do we employ these techniques that suck CO2 out of the atmosphere – if we proceed promptly and we get a deal in Paris next year, then we need to rely less on these ideas.”

The report points out that there needs to be huge shifts in investment if the worst impacts of rising temperatures are to be avoided. Investment in renewables and other low carbon sources needs to at least treble by the middle of the century, while money flowing into fossil fuels has to diminish.

But differences have emerged over who should make the cuts in emissions and who should pay for the switch to low carbon energy sources. Developed and developing countries have clashed here in Berlin, echoing divisions found in the UN negotiations.

“It is true that some of the dynamics that we see in the UNFCCC negotiations were visible here as well,” said Kaisa Kosenen from Greenpeace.

“It is an indication that the key question of equity – who should do what and who should pay for the damages already caused.”

Other participants believed that this new report could actually help push the UN process forward.

“I hope that this information from the IPCC can kind of do a bit of a tectonic shift into a co-operating mode rather than a finger pointing mode between countries,” said Jennifer Morgan.

“There’s too much at stake.”

via BBC News – World must end ‘dirty’ fuel use – UN.

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Air pollution in Scotland ’caused 2,000 deaths’

Air pollution may have been responsible for more than 2,000 deaths in Scotland in a single year, according to health professionals.

Health Protection Scotland (HPS) said the highest number of deaths attributable to pollution in 2010 were in Glasgow (306) and Edinburgh (205).

But there were just six in each of Orkney and Shetland.

The Scottish death rate was lower than in England and Wales, but marginally higher than Northern Ireland.

The HPS briefing paper outlined the estimated number of deaths which could be attributed to long-term exposure to particulate material pollution (PM), and the levels of PM, in each of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas.

Sources of PM in the atmosphere can be either natural, such as sea salt and agricultural dust, or man-made such as motor vehicle and industrial emissions.

Lung conditions

The report said high levels of air pollution can increase the risk to people with respiratory conditions, for example asthma, bronchitis and emphysema, and also contribute to the premature deaths of people suffering from heart and lung conditions, particularly the elderly.

The statistics showed an estimated 2,094 deaths of people over the age of 25 in Scotland could be attributed to PM in 2010. This figure represented 3.9% of the total number of deaths of people over 25.

Pollution was directly attributable to a total of 28,969 deaths – 5.3% of all deaths – across the UK, the report said,

The percentage of deaths caused by pollution in England was 5.6%, with Wales at 4.3% and Northern Ireland 3.8%.

The report also said the mean level of PM was 6.8 in Scotland, 9.9 in England, 7.5 in Wales and 6.6 in Northern Ireland.

PM levels were higher in urban areas, with Edinburgh worst at 8.6, followed by Glasgow at 8.3 and Falkirk and North Lanarkshire a 7.5.

The Western Isles had the lowest PM levels at 4.2, with Highland at 4.3, Moray and Orkney at 4.7 and Shetland at 4.8.

via BBC News – Air pollution in Scotland ’caused 2,000 deaths’.

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