Monday, July 30, 2012

Becoming the Greenest City in North America- what does it take?

Becoming Greenest - Recommendations for a More Sustainable Washington, D.C. (32 page pdf, American Society of Landscape Architects, 2012)

 Also discussed here: US and Canada Green City Index - Assessing the environmental performance of 27 major US and Canadian cities (71 page pdf, the Economist Intelligence Unit, 2011)

 And here: Sustainable D.C. (American Society of Landscape Architects)

And here: D.C. Offers a Bold Vision for a More Sustainable Future (The Dirt, May 2,2012)

And here: In New Study, San Francisco Tops List of Greenest Cities in the U.S. and Canada (The Dirt, July 1, 2011)

The American Society of Landscape Architects has proposed a 20 year plan for the US capital that could bring that city from the 8th place out of 27 in ranking (by the Economist Intelligence Unit) of greenest cities #1 - the top two in 2011 were San Francisco and Toronto. Many of the goals are both achievable and applicable to many other cities, given the political will, and include such targets as zero waste, all waterways fishable and swimmable and to cut energy use and CO2 emissions by 50%.  

Key Quotes:

“In terms of carbon dioxide, the city wants to cut emissions by 50 percent by 2032”

 “seeks to cut district-wide energy use by 50 percent while increasing renewable energy use to 50 percent.. Given some 75 percent of emissions come from buildings, the District will push for adaptive re-use of old buildings so they can become greener”

 “strengthening D.C.’s already considerable urban forest, which stores much of the city’s carbon, reaching a 40 percent tree canopy by 2032”

 “seeks to make 75 percent of all trips walking, biking, or transit in 20 years.. just 60 percent of D.C. residents own cars and that number is falling”

 “100 percent of District waterways to be fishable and swimmable, and 75 percent of D.C.’s green space to be used as green infrastructure that captures and filters rainwater for reuse”

 “the city is going to reach zero waste in 20 years.. The front end of the reuse chain is local food production…75 percent of all food is to be grown within a quarter-mile of the population eating it”
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Friday, July 27, 2012

Public Health as an Integrated Climate Change Index

A healthy turn in urban climate change policies; European city workshop proposes health indicators as policy integrators(15 page pdf, Hans Keune, David Ludlow, Peter van den Hazel, Scott Randall and Alena Bartonova, Environmental Health, Jun. 28.2012)

 Today we examine the results of a backcasting workshop in Europe that, after establishing targets for cities in 2030, assessed how to get there, based on the growing importance of public health as an integrator of impacts from climate change, urbanization and a graying society. It is noted that some health impacts are not presently associated with climate change in the public mind although there are and this will become more evident as climate change continues and impacts become more severe – an example being the spread of infectious or vector borne diseases such as West Nile Virus.


Key Quotes:

“the health perspective may function as a policy integrator in that it can combine several related policy objectives, such as environmental policies, health policies, urban planning and economic development policies, in one framework for action”

 “About a third or more of people in the United States and Canada saw themselves ..their family.., and people in their community as being vulnerable to at least moderately harm by climate change “Human population health should be the central criterion, and is the best long-term indicator, of how we are managing the natural environment.”

 “Common 2030 targets:
  • Urban planning systems..will have fully incorporated the necessary principles underpinning policy design and implementation to ensure that urban and regional management delivers a form of urbanisation that is fully responsive to the needs of climate change mitigation and adaptation….
  • Public Health Services system in cities is fully prepared to deal with newly emerging infectious diseases and increased numbers of existing diseases caused by climate change..
  • cities will be able to guarantee healthy air quality in cities...
  • cities will be able to guarantee healthy drinking water supply in cities..
  • cities will be able to guarantee public health at a standard independent of climate change related health problems.
  • public health …will be the main indicator for assessing the success or failure of city policies in relation to climate change. By guaranteeing public health not to be victim to climate change, public health will be the main guiding principle for all major policy actions at city level."
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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

OECD, Climate Change and Urban Sustainability

Mobilizing Investments for Urban Sustainability, Job Creation and Resilient Growth (80 page pdf, OECD Roundtable of Mayors and Ministers, Chicago, Ill., Mar. 8, 2012)

The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) met with ministers from 30 countries from the OECD to discuss and make recommendations for future action toward urban sustainability. Many examples were shown on how cities play an essential role in reducing greenhouse gases and in adapting to climate change, and taking other actions in the sectors where cities have the mandate and means to control: water, waste, energy and transportation. Economic instruments play an important role.

Key Quotes:

“The Chicago Proposal for Financing Sustainable Cities: some recommendations:
  • Remove barriers to local government action- start by eliminating current regulations that impair the potential for local governments to act.
  • Road-pricing policies can help reduce traffic and pollution = likely to be most effective at reducing traffic and emissions when differentiated according to the level of congestion, peak hours or both.
  • Fees for water and waste services should be more responsive to actual resource use.
  • Infrastructure needs related to new development should be internalised in the financing of development projects”
“is a network of large and engaged cities from around the world committed to implementing meaningful and sustainable climate-related actions locally that will help address climate change globally."

“the most effective actions were implemented in areas where the cities exercised the broadest powers;
“This is not an accident … that’s where mayors have the authority to go and implement change in transportation, solid waste management and public-private buildings.” (Mayor Bloomberg)

"One-quarter of the changes that are required will come from behaviour changes.” (Sir Richard Leese , Leader of the Council, Manchester, UK)

“Cities account for an estimated 67% of global energy use and 71% of global energy-related CO₂ emissions”

“CO₂ emissions from transport are likely to be greater in less densely populated areas than in more densely populated areas….Sprawling urban form tends to be accompanied by high levels of private vehicle use, and also makes it difficult to build enough demand to efficiently deliver public services."

 “Congestion charges are fees for road use that are applied exclusively or more intensely during peak traffic periods. Congestion charges have reduced CO₂ emissions up to 19.5% in the cities where they have been applied and decreased other air pollutants as well”

“On average, energy used in buildings in OECD cities account for 35-40% of cities’ energy consumption on average …and in C40 cities’ building energy accounts for 45% of carbon emissions”
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Monday, July 23, 2012

Is There a Link between Depression and Air Pollution?

]old age at Rotchild BLVD 
 Air Pollution and Symptoms of Depression in Elderly Adults (6 page pdf, Youn-Hee Lim, Ho Kim, Jin Hee Kim, Sanghyuk Bae, Hye Yin Park, Yun-Chul Hong, Environ Health Perspect, April 18, 2012) 

The causes for depression leading to suicide have been studied for some time. In today’s review article, the focus is on the older population and an investigation of the links with air pollution. Results indicate a significant association for depression with NO2, O3 and PM 10 and highlights what could become a major health issue in the graying society, especially in urban areas where these three pollutants tend to be worse.  

Key Quotes: 

 “Depression is one of the common mental health problems experienced by the elderly and has been found to lead to increased mortality and suicide in this age group” 

“In Canada, researchers reported short-term effects of air pollution on emergency department visits because of depression and suicide attempts”

 “this is the first study to investigate associations between specific depressive symptoms among the elderly and air pollution after controlling for individual and temporal effects” 

“Our study found that increasing concentrations of PM10, NO2, and O3 were significantly associated with depressive symptoms measured repeatedly among an elderly population in Korea”

 “Because airborne particles, nitrogen oxides, and ozone are potent oxidants, air pollution may affect depressive moods by inducing oxidative stress”
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Friday, July 20, 2012

What is London Doing to Reduce Air Pollution for the Olympics?

Quick guide to air pollution (3 page pdf, Clean Air in London, Jun. 22, 2012) 

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 27:  Exterior vi...A press release from London’s clean air advocate organization today contains an assessment of air quality in that city that, while troubling, is admirable in terms of laying out where, how and what impacts air pollution is having in England’s capital on the eve of hosting the 2012 Olympic games. It is notable that previous Games in Athens and Beijing had partial success in using “hard” measures (such as odd-even license plate bans) rather than depending on voluntary cooperation from their driving public.  

Key Quotes: 

“London has the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution of any capital city in Europe” 

 “The Mayor published a study in 2010 estimating 4,267 premature deaths in London in 2008 attributable to long term exposure to polluted air” 

“ Some 1,148 schools in London are within 150 metres of the city’s busiest and most polluted roads (i.e. those that carry over 10,000 vehicles a day). Traffic pollution from such roads may be responsible for 15-30% of all new cases of asthma in children”

 “Legally binding, health based limits for several air pollutants, have been set by the European Union since 1999. London is failing to meet these for PM10 and NO2”

  London needs at least a 30% fall in ‘normal’ traffic during the Olympics in order to accommodate extra Games traffic and the Olympic Route Network and avoid increases in road congestion and pollution”

 “prior to the 2008 Beijing Games, the Chinese authorities spent ¥60 billion (£6 billion) on long term measures to reduce air pollution”
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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Soot’s Impact on Lungs

Experimental determination of deposition of diesel exhaust particles in the human respiratory tract(Abstract, Jenny Rissler, Erik Swietlicki, Agneta Bengtsson, Christoffer Boman, Joakim Pagels, Thomas Sandström, Anders Blomberg, Jakob Löndahl, Journal of Aerosol Science, June 2012)

Also discussed here: Half of Inhaled Soot Particles from Diesel Exhaust, Fires Gets Stuck in the Lungs (ScienceDaily. Jun. 27, 2012)

According to the research reviewed today, soot particles from diesel engines present a greater heath hazard because there more small particles from this source are absorbed into the lungs, compared to emissions from wood stoves and coal-driven power stations. In addition, soot particles impact on climate change and
 reduction must accompany action to reduce greenhouse gases.

Key Quotes:

“Diesel emissions are a major contributor to combustion-generated airborne ambient particles”

 “for the first time, researchers have studied in detail how diesel soot gets stuck in the lungs….more than half of all inhaled soot particles remain in the body” “"only" 20 per cent of another type of particle from wood smoke and other biomass combustion gets stuck in the lungs”

"Findings of this kind can be extremely useful both for researchers to determine what doses of soot we get into our lungs out of the amount we are exposed to, and to enable public authorities to establish well-founded limits for soot particles in outdoor air"

 "Soot particles are black and absorbs light, thus producing a warming effect. So it could be a double advantage to reduce it" “The EU will be tightening rules on emissions for heavy duty diesel vehicles in 2014”
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