Air is typical defined as dry air at sea level, where the temperature is below 15 °C and the air pressure 101,325 Pa, Its composition vy volume is 78.08 % nitrogen, 20.95 % oxygen, 0.93 % argon, 0.0314 % carbon dioxide, and trace amounts of other gases. It’s a wonder that we refer to it synonymously as ‘oxygen’ when air is composed mainly of nitrogen. These ratios hardly change at all and are only influenced by the content of water whether that be in vapour, droplets or ice crystals.
Air pollution is the emissions in the air that cause acute or chronic human health problems and negatively impact the environment. Pollutants are harmful to health whereas greenhouse gases are not toxic unless they are at extremely high concentrations. It is high concentrations in the atmosphere that result in global warming and climate change.
Air pollutant released in to the atmosphere are caused by humans and can negatively affect the planet like excessive greenhouse gases but are additionally detrimental to human physical health. Generally the major culprit air pollutant is given as carbon dioxide (CO2) which is an inaccurate misnomer from the start, as an air pollutant is defined as something that is unhealthy to humans, such as sulfur dioxide (SO2). Sometimes methane is blamed for the excessive build up greenhouse gases, but just look at the chart below and decide how much influence methane contributes. Also note that CO2 is considered a greenhouse gas but like nitrogen it has been in the atmosphere in similar concentrations since between human history.
If we want to discuss air pollution caused by CO2 then we have to look at it as COS emissions caused by human industries that add to the existing amount of CO2 in the atmosphere which could make that gas detrimental to human survival when a certain concentration is reached. We cannot just assume that because the CO2 concentration has increased ever so slightly since the first industrial revolution that CO2 is an air pollutant. Yet this is exactly how it is being said and because those saying it are so-called scientists, that view is the de facto gospel.
Despite the very worrying modern day circumstances whereby we cannot trust what so-called experts say because the organisations they represent do not hold human existence as a primary ethos, we have to nonetheless accept the evidence around us that would seem to be caused by pollutant particulates in the atmosphere released in the process of turning fossil fuels in to energy and thereby emitting uncontrolled air polluting gases.
These would include the fact that the planet has been warming, albeit only slightly and perhaps quite normally. Also in relation to human health, air pollution is prevalent around heavy industrialised areas containing refineries and other large types of industrial facilities and which have been documented to have higher incidents of acute sickness and chronic illness. The Victorian age really started the human intervention but even urban regions far from heavy industrial regions have seen high levels of photochemical smog and nitrogen oxides since World War II.
In addition, due to the industrial pollution of land and water as well as in the air, it has had the effect of reducing and causing the permanent loos of nature areas and natural species of plants and animals.
Methane (CH4) as we have discussed, is classed as a greenhouse gas. Most greenhouse gases have been produced naturally and have been present in the atmosphere for a long time in similar concentrations. It is only recently that some of them have been classified as doing more harm than good due to the level of their concentration in the atmosphere. Yet again the experts seem to miss the point. Methane, which we are told is now dangerous because of cows flatulence, is also released by the biological degradation of biomass, which is the new fuel pushed by most governments and billed as ‘clean’.
Air pollution is said to be responsible for one out of eight global deaths and is the single most environment and health challenge. It results in cardiac and respiratory diseases and death. This century in China alone, smog pollution is responsible for the deaths of 1.2 million people each year and energy consumption in third world countries is expected to rise by 95%, as well as 24% bu developed countries. That will be an increase of global energy consumption of around 50% from 2010 to 2030 with only more air pollution on the horizon.
Clean air is the most essential requirement for the human body. You can survive without water for 2 days or food for 2 weeks, but not without air for more than a few minutes. On a daily basis the average adult consumes 2 kg of water, 1 kg of food and 20 kg of air. clean air is not just more important than water or food but we need a whole lot more of it by comparison.
Coronavirus update May 2020
For the first time since goodness knows when, the scientific community around the world came together with a shared responsibility to tackle the spreading of coronavirus, named COVID-19 by the World Health Organisation. All excepting China and Russia.
Some basic things are still baffling the scientists, like why some areas have been hit harder than others if the virus is indiscriminate. In this case they’ve come up with a possible answer; pollution. This is all meaningless of course, for those of you that can see above the coronavirus scamdemic.
Environmental researcher Dario Caro from Aarhus University studied the link alongside two health researchers, Professor Bruno Frediani and Dr. Edoardo Conticini, from the University of Siena in Italy. They investigated the high deaths in the north of Italy and the level of pollution in the same area and compared it with data from a NASA satellite, which demonstrated very high levels of air pollution across the region, they also compared findings to the Air Quality Index; a measurement of air quality developed by the European Environment Agency.
The researchers demonstrated that the highest levels of pollution were across the region with the highest mortality rate. The mortality rate between north and south Italy is up to 12% in the north and 4.5% in the south.
Of course it doesn’t mean that pollution is the cause of coronavirus. No more than we can say pollution is the single or main cause for cancers. There are many reasons why these things occur. But It does prove that pollution is at least one of the factors, a contributor. Air pollution probably plays its role by lowering the body’s immune system which consequently increases susceptibility to infection especially by those with already weakened immune systems such as the very young, old and the respiratory impaired.
Air pollution has a longer lasting cumulative affect on the planet’s ecosystem. The ecosystem could also be described with another single word, ‘everything’. It comprises of all non-living things called the biotope and all living things called the biocoenosis. Both parts interact and make up the same environmental fabric. Pollution that affects non-living things also affects living things because the two parts of the ecosystem depend on each other.
But if air pollution is singularly attributable to burning fossil fuels then another question arises as to why after several months of lockdown measures to combat coronavirus, has carbon dioxide in the atmosphere kept rising. In fact CO2 emissions reached an all time high on 3 May 2020 hitting levels that haven’t been seen in more than sixty years.
On 4 May 2020 the UN Climate Change office (UNFCCC) reported the highest ever greenhouse gas concentration that has been observed in history at the Mauna Loa Observatory, a solar observatory located in Hawaii: at 418.12 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere. The first reading by Mauna Loa was taken in 1958 which was 318 parts per million and readings have peaked every year since. If that’s in Hawaii imagine what the reading would be taken from almost every other point on the planet.
The drop by humans in greenhouse gas emissions due to the pandemic hasn’t had any effect, climate-wise. Scientists have been warning for ages that even if we had taken drastic measures to cut down years ago, it would have been to no avail because the planet’s climate direction has already been set in motion. You cannot just reduce emissions slightly for a small time and think that the problem is reversible that way.
And there beckons the next question for scientists; if we are heading towards the next ice age, which is the scenario, then why is the planet heating up as though it were just coming out of one. Timescales between ice ages are in the order of between 250,000 and 400,000 years so it’s not as though we would see any notable difference in the global temperature within our lifetime because temperature change happens ever so slightly across the centuries.
For example since the end of the Industrial Revolution, records from 1900 show that the temperature has increased by 1°C, with another significant rise from the 1970s when coal burning gave way to massive oil and gas pollutants. This is in contrast to the global temperature having risen by 5-7°C over the preceding 5,000 years.
So far 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019 have been the hottest recorded global average temperatures ever recorded. The average global temperature has increased by 1.2°C since records began in 1880. Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15-0.20°C per decade.
As alarming as the the effects of greenhouse gas emissions may be, the reduction due to the pandemic has only been by 8% (according to the International Energy Agency,) which is nowhere near a level that might begin to halt the damage already caused to the ecosystem. The difference that global lockdown will make in slowing global warming is marginal if non-existent – and that is the startling revelation that even after this level of manufacturing has stopped, it is still not enough.
Even if emissions were cut entirely, Scripps Oceanography geochemist Ralph Keeling says: “Humanity’s waste pile is in the atmosphere and that doesn’t go away.” The fact is CO2 is building up in response to what we have been emitting over the past century not just that which we’ve been aware of in our lifetime. A fact ignored in the discourse about global warming is that CO2 can remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years. It’s not as simple as planting more trees.
The measurements at Mauna Loa are known as the Keeling Curve, after Charles Keeling who began taking them. It’s estimated that current global greenhouse gas emissions would have to drop by at least 50% to begin to address the issue of global warming seriously. Another model to be mindful of is that global emissions need to be cut entirely by 2050 according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to avoid worst-case scenarios. Most commentators though, believe we have already crossed the Rubicon and that the planet’s fate and ours is already sealed.
Coronavirus update 3 March 2020
Coronavirus: Space images reveal drastic fall in pollution over China as factories closed
Satellite images show a dramatic drop in pollution over China after the coronavirus outbreak shut down swathes of the country’s industry and travel.
US space agency Nasa said the change was at least partly related to the economic slowdown caused by efforts to contain the virus.
NASA maps show how levels of nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas from vehicles, power plants and factories, plummeted after the mass quarantine, compared with before.
Scientists have previously found the coronavirus wiped out at least a quarter of China’s emissions of damaging greenhouse gases in just two weeks in mid-February.
Closing industrial plants and asking people to stop at home has led to sharp drops in the burning of fossil fuels — a key cause of the climate crisis — in the world’s largest greenhouse gas producer.
China, where the outbreak began, has nearly 80,000 cases of coronavirus, by far the largest number of any country, with nearly 2,900 deaths.
Nasa’s maps compare pollution levels between the first three weeks of the year and 10-25 February.
The space agency’s scientists said the fall in pollution was first apparent near Wuhan, the source of the outbreak, but eventually spread across the country. “This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” said Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre.
She said she had seen a decline in nitrogen dioxide levels during the economic recession of 2008 but said that decrease was more gradual.
“What historians will definitely wonder about in future centuries is how deeply flawed logic, obscured by shrewd and unrelenting propaganda, actually enabled a coalition of powerful special interests to convince nearly everyone in the world that CO2 from human industry was a dangerous, planet-destroying toxin. It will be remembered as the greatest mass delusion in the history of the world – that CO2, the life of plants, was considered for a time to be a deadly poison.“
— Richard Lindzen, American physicist
These days people that deny climate change is happening are viewed in the same way as holocaust deniers which is a bit harsh considering that by now we should know this is the standard way that well funded organisations use to denigrate any opposing views. This of course, protects the air freight industry and global manufacturing. Don’t be taken in, these organisations do not have humankind in mind, but only the safeguarding of profits for industry.
Ask yourself how many people do you know that are members of the WHO? Of course you know of none, people don’t get a say in these matters and it is down to a membership of industries that club together in their common interest to survive modernisation and limit the risk of decreased revenue.. After all, seven million people die globally each year from air pollution, compared to say, people that die globally from disease from food, 420,000. So do we put the deaths from air pollution down to global warming and ignore the fact that the global warming contribution from industry is the cause if any, not the fault of individual people.
It’s like saying the reason for paying such hefty taxes for street cleansing is because people are not considerate and throw their litter down on the streets. Indeed, so many people do that, that it employs enormous resources in every town to keep places cleaned up. Obviously we can blame people for that, because individually and collectively there is a lacking in education. But shouldn’t the real blame fall to the government whose responsibility it is to tackle the problem instead of just dealing with the effects of it. Shouldn’t it start in schools with education about keeping the planet clean. Well, if this were to be done, then how could people be blamed later on, for the problems that industry causes?
So we have to look objectively and realistically at the issue of global warming. On the one hand we see these organisations without faces telling us how bad we are and what wrong we have done to the planet and on the other we are conditioned to oppose the few people that manage to get a platform like Donald Trump who tells us that global warming is a hoax. The point of reading an article such as this is for education, so for that, try to look at both sides and stay focussed on the fundamental questions; 1) Is global warming happening and 2) Is global warming down to humans 3) what are the consequences.
If the consequences of global warming are negligible to the planet and even in extreme cases it is nothing more than a normal cycle in the evolution of the planet, then why are we so worried about it. There is there is plenty of evidence that it’s happening, as well as evidence that we are living in an age when it is supposed to be happening. Meeting the middle line, many experts believe that humans have simply accelerated the process without any damage being caused, kind of like an induced birth but without the possibility of complications and therefore the risk that humans pose to the planet from pollution is zero.
So just because global pollution is the significant factor in climate change and the evidence is there to see and very provable, doesn’t give industry a license to continue to pollute the planet and fund organisations to shove the blame on people to safeguard their profit margins. There is corporate responsibility that could be developed and more strictly regulated to shift blame, not just responsibility, to industry. Let’s all just acknowledge that industry is a vital part of human existence; we cannot have nice cars if they are not made in factories that ultimately pollute in some way. If we can agree on this principle then the mud-slinging can stop and dealing with the real issue of global warming can progress unhindered, unaffected by the results we find. But these things will never be looked at sensibly until people educate themselves and wake up.
In our understanding of planetary history we know that throughout its life the Earth has been driven by cycles of severe temperatures and upheavals. We know that ice ages are a part of it and that the Earth shifting its tilt by even less than half a degree would have catastrophic results.
So it’s true that the planet is due and heading into the next ice age. Much of what we see could be the planet grumbling before it is committed to the big freeze trajectory. Not only this but researchers have learned that these happenings don’t take thousands of years to happen as was once believed to be the case, it doesn’t get progressively colder until ice age temperatures are arrived at. It’s now known that the opposite is the case; it can happen abruptly and within 10 to 50 years. This means within your lifetime the planet could be in the next ice age.
Therefore a lot of the denial is based around the assumption that what we see around us is the natural course of things and there’s pretty nothing at all that can be done about it. Additionally these views come from certain types of person with very narrowed outlooks, people like Donald Trump for instance.
Nothing changes the fact that events are unfolding as they are. We are heading towards an ice age yet the air and seas are warming which would suggest a discrepancy somehow. The term global warming has been used to describe it but global warming is about what’s happening in the air, with the ozone, and the warming planet below is merely a symptom of this.
The fragility of the air is an important concern for most living creatures including ourselves. The planet can survive without the exact conditions that keep us alive. When a meteor hit the Earth 650 million years ago the air was filled with poisons that wiped out the dinosaurs, the Earth simply replenished over time but the dinosaurs have never returned.
So when we talk about catastrophic events happening in the world with more frequency, like floods and ice sheets melting, it’s not just all down to the natural cycle, we have to accept some responsibility that our existence is contributing towards the rate and the severity.
If by altering the fragile mix of air even slightly with human industrial pollution means we could become extinct then it should be a cause for concern. We are not talking about something that may confront humans in 1,000 years but in the lifetime of the next generation.
Air isn’t just one gas as you know but is made from a combination of which the one we breathe, oxygen, is one. As well as gases the air also contains particles known as aerosols. The heavy particles like dust and pollen are moved around by the wind at low level but other lighter aerosols like chimney smoke and vehicle exhaust fumes are carried much higher and this is what we call air pollution.
We can see that carbon dioxide is the most important contributor to human-caused air pollution, which comes from the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and petrochemicals. Additionally every creature exhales carbon dioxide during respiration.
Now consider where the oxygen we need to breathe is located. The mix doesn’t go up to space as anyone that’s climbed a high mountain will attest. There is so much air pressing on the planet (air pressure) that heavier oxygen is at the bottom and therefore thins the higher you climb.
Another type of oxygen is ozone. Oxygen molecules are made up of two oxygen atoms whereas ozone molecules contain three oxygen atoms. The Oxygen symbol is O2 and Ozone is O3. Yet Ozone is lighter and is found much higher in the atmosphere forming a protective ring around the planet that soaks up radiation from the sun’s dangerous rays. However, you cannot breathe ozone like oxygen and it would damage your lungs.
Although ozone is harmful rather than breathable, and exposure to it increases the cancer risk, to demonstrate its oxynogenic life giving property ozone has been used in response to tumour hypoxia, an adverse effect of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Ozone therapy has been used successfully in the treatment of ischemic disorders, i.e. vascular diseases that involve an interruption in the supply of oxygen. Ozone therapy improves oxygenation in the most hypoxic tumours.
By volume air contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases. Air also contains water vapour, around 1% at sea level, and 0.4% over the entire atmosphere.
Breathing pure oxygen is not good and sometimes toxic. When the level is below 19.5% of what we breathe humans are considered oxygen-deficient and it could be a sign of a condition known as hypoxemia where not enough oxygen reaches the cells and tissues. At oxygen concentrations of 4 to 6%, there is loss of consciousness in 40 seconds and death within a few minutes.
The World Health Organisation claims that 4.2 million deaths every year are as a result of exposure to ambient air pollution. With 9 out of 10 people breathing air containing high levels of pollutants.
Air pollution is measured with the Air Quality Index. The lower the AQI the cleaner the air is. An AQI of 100 means you are pretty much breathing the equivalent of car exhaust fumes. Natural sources for such a high AQI number would be from a forest fire and cities with lots of traffic. 91% of people living in cities do not breathe safe air.
In the determining of the level of AQI, a region is measured for the concentration of five pollutants:
- Nitrogen Dioxide
- Sulphur Dioxide
- Particles < 2.5µm (PM2.5)
- Particles < 10µm (PM10)
In an article in The Guardian on 14 December 2019 written by Jamie Doward, he discussed the UK’s failure to meet WHO standards for limiting the amount of ultra-fine particles in the air.
Other studies in 2019 linked the particles to cancers and poor physical development in children. The WHO standard is for 10 micrograms of ultra-fine particles per cubic metre, the EU standard is 12.5 micrograms and the US is 12 micrograms. The UK is currently at 25 micrograms. An article from The Daily Telegraph 8 June 2019 featured a woman that took readings at London schools that were way above all three micrograms standards listed above.
As discussed earlier regarding the major contaminants of air pollution, traffic fumes are the main contributor. The evidence of the negative effects to heart, lungs and brain are overwhelming and abundant and it’s getting worse not improving. Indeed, a study in London showed ultra-fine particles are able to reactivate the herpes virus which lies dormant among carriers. Types of herpes can be the causes of some cancers, such as the Epstein-Barr virus that is the underlying cause for some lymphoma cancers.
Ambient (outside) air pollution now ranks among the top 10 major risk factors for attributable deaths worldwide and leads to an average loss of life expectancy of approximately one year in Europe. A WHO report in 2016 estimated more than half a million deaths from respiratory tract infections in children under five years of age directly attributable to air pollution.
An investigation by The Times newspaper in circa June 2019 revealed that 6,500 schools, educating 2.6 million children have dangerous levels of air pollution. A study from Barcelona showed that children living in areas of high pollution have slower cognitive development.
One study by King’s College London showed that primary school children in East London could develop lungs with 5% less capacity. While another in California showed children growing up in more polluted areas were more likely to have reduced lung size or function.
As always is the case, traffic is the major culprit with petrol engines spewing out tons of nitrogen dioxide and diesel engines five times as much again. In fact every school in London is over the pollution limit for PM2.5 (a measure of fine particulates) according to the WHO and EU scales.
Technology makes every day life efficient. We’re now at a time when the technology itself will make us much smarter, perhaps even, with the advent in AI, technology makes itself smarter to the point that environment decisions will be based on what technology states. Could it be that this would actually be the safe bet and not the Caltech armageddon of the Terminator. Unfortunately artificial intelligence means giving up decision making to robots.
AI is the final piece of the puzzle that integrate humans with technology and electric vehicles are the manifestation of this. People probably are not ready for automatons to run their lives but people being what they are and easily manipulated, it comes in the form of transportation, this is the first area to see in the AI age. Cars that drive themselves without human intervention are a reality already in full operation in some parts. The only reason we don’t see them everywhere is down to a few initial accidents that gave it negative publicity.
But what does this talk about electric transportation have to do with air pollution you ask. Well, it is being given as the main reason for switching to electric vehicles with the reasons being stated as reduced operational costs and pollution. Self driving vehicles really does bring in the fourth industrial revolution and we as humans would do well to better understand what is happening for fear that of a Caltech coming in to existence if we don’t and the warmings given by Elon Musk coming to fruition in our lifetimes.
In the UK, electric vehicles make up around 4 to 5 per cent of new vehicle registrations and is regarded as the leader in Europe because of government incentives for carmakers. The very aggressive move by the UK government has created clean air zones and congestion charges, essentially much more taxing for an already heavily taxed sector. It is not our fault that diesel buses are more polluting than private cars, yet we, the individuals, must pay the price for past progress. Who would have thought back in the day when a bicycle was the primary more of transport that one day we would all have transportation means to get us anywhere fast, but that we would be accussed of suffocating the planet for that progress and made to pay so much that we can no longer afford to use it. Is this really a sign or progress through technology.
According to a former deputy mayor of London Matthew Pencharz, “Air pollution is the greatest health problem after obesity in the UK.” The growth of electric buses in the UK will double by 2050 according to DNV GL’s Energy Transition Outlook. The justification for this massive investment is that tailpipe emissions and carbon emissions kill 40,000 people every year in the UK, 9,000 of which are in London.
DNV GL predicts that by 2027 all new cars sold in Europe will be electric vehicles whic in turn means a massive shift to battery power which will be powering 80% of UK buses by 2030, which already operates the most electric buses in Europe. While the price for electric buses is falling and will soon be cheaper than their diesel equivalent. Rail transportation will follow, at present only 42 per cent of the UK rail network is electrified – where once railways led the transportation age now its buses, Bus transportation combined with further investment in electrifying the railways is estimated will save the UK £8 billion by 2030 as it cuts operational costs by 50%.
The more conspiracy minded interpret the Russian / Ukraine War 2022 as a justification for the full shift to electrification by reduction the reliance on oil and its supply by oil-producing nations. Air pollution remains the major reason for total electrification and promises to reduce congestion and road traffic accidents. Of course in years to come when everything is running on batteries, CO2 will still be rising, congestion will be worse, deaths will have risen, and the cost to get anywhere will be enormous for those people granted the temporary freedom to travel outside of their neighbourhood. People will allow themselves to be taken to take point without questioning anything.
Despite the advances made by the UK they are dwarfed by other nations. The Netherlands have electrified 76 per cent of their railways for example, 71 per cent in Italy and 61 per cent in Spain. Compared to UK buses representing 18 per cent of the European fleet, China operates 98 per cent of the global total paling the European effort by comparison. And yet we are led to believe that China is one of the major polluters and the rest of us are squeeky clean.
How much air pollution is connected to the conspiracy or power grabs by industry to dominate the artificial intelligence frontier is an interesting discussion. We will all get lost in it, as we are supposed to, unless we stick to searching for the answers to the key questions on how much of it is truly down to human existence and are we negatively affecting the planetary geology. In the meantime the air travel industry is still to catch up, with nothing much expected to have changed by 2050 which is surprising, because if there’s one forgotten candidate for electrification it’s an aeroplane.