Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Elevated Air Pollution Levels and Heart Attack Risk for Older People

English: A schematic of the global air polluti...
English: A schematic of the global air pollution. The map was made by User:KVDP using the GIMP. It was based on the global air pollution map by the ESA (see , ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Air Pollution Increases Heart Attacks(Science Daily, Oct. 7, 2013) 

Also quoted here: Air pollution increases heart attacks (Oct. 7, 2013 European Society of Cardiology) 

Today we review research into the health impacts of higher levels of particulate matter on the acute cardiovascular events. The author concludes that the EU threshold of 50 micrograms/m3 needs to be lower, underlining that there is no absolutely safe level when it comes to fine particulates and the heart. Also those over 65 years old are particularly affected so that with the doubling of older segment of society in many countries, this research becomes more important than ever. 

Key Quotes: 

 "Some studies conducted in Europe and the US have reported an association between air pollution, especially fine and ultrafine particles which are measured as particulate matter (PM) 10, and not only respiratory disease but also acute cardiovascular events and deaths. The European Union has set a PM10 safety threshold of 50 micrograms/m3 but the negative effect of PM10 on the cardiovascular system may occur at levels lower than this cut off." 

Findings: “ a significant association between PM10 levels and admission for acute cardiovascular events such as acute coronary syndromes, heart failure, worsening heart failure, paroxysmal atrial fibrillation and ventricular arrhythmias. The effect was linear, with a 3% increase in admissions for every 10 microgram increase in PM10.” 

“that older people (>65 years) and men were particularly susceptible to having arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation or acute coronary syndromes at increasing levels of air pollution.”

 "This may be related to a higher prevalence of comorbidities and greater fragility of the cardiovascular and circulatory system associated with aging." 

"Previous studies support the hypothesis that air pollution may increase cardiovascular event rates because PM10 can induce processes that are bad for the heart including inflammation and coagulation."

 "The current PM10 threshold of 50 micrograms/m3 is too high because at this level we observed an increase in hospitalisations for heart diseases. The cut off should be reduced to 20 -- 30 micrograms/m3, or even less if possible”
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Monday, October 28, 2013

How Much Traffic Congestion is Caused by Low priced Parking?

Is 30% of traffic actually searching for parking?(Reinventing Parking, Oct. 7, 2013)

Also discussed here: 30% of city traffic is looking for parking? How do you know?(Parking Today, Sep. 17, 2013)

And here: The High Cost of Free Parking(734 pages, Donald C. Shoup, 2005)

 Today we review an analysis of traffic congestion and the portion of that which was found to be cars cruising to find a parking space. Many quote parking guru, Donald Shoup, who said on average that the it was 30% but pointed out that there was a range from 8 to 74% and depended on time of day as well as location and how badly the parking spaces were managed. This leaves little doubt that pricing the parking rate charged dynamically by demand is an effective way to manage a sometimes scarce resource, as demonstrated in San
  Francisco (SF Park).

 parking and congestion  

Key Quotes:

“Sixteen studies conducted between 1927 and 2001 found that, on average, 30 percent of the cars in congested downtown traffic were cruising for parking.”

“The studies are selective because researchers study cruising where they expect to find it - on streets where curb parking is under-priced and overcrowded. “

“there were six measurements of the percentage of traffic that is seeking parking. The results ranged from 8 to 74%, for that average of 30%;
“parking search is potentially an enormous source of congestion and unnecessary traffic in busy business districts when on-street parking is mismanaged so that it is often totally full.”
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Friday, October 25, 2013

Getting to Zero Carbon Emissions – What Can Cities Do?

Rethinking wedges(9 page pdf, Steven J Davis, Long Cao, Ken Caldeira and Martin I Hoffert, Environmental Research Letters, Jan. 9, 2013)

Also discussed here: The link between a global 2 °C warming threshold and emissions in years 2020, 2050 and beyond(9 page pdf, Chris Huntingford, Jason A Lowe, Laila K Gohar,Niel H A Bowerman, Myles R Allen,, Sarah C B Raper and Stephen M Smith, , Environmental Research Letters, Mar. 5, 2012)

Today we review a recent approach to achieving climate equilibrium using advanced global climate models and as many as 31 scenarios of emission reductions, each identified with certain strategies as a “wedge”. The wedge concept was introduced in 2004 and that time only 7 wedges were necessary. With the continued increase in carbon emissions since then, the goal has become more challenging and may (or will) require negative emissions by scavenging CO2 from the atmosphere, in addition to achieving zero emissions into it. As ¾’s of the global emissions come from cities and most of that comes from vehicle emissions and the heating and cooling of buildings, the primacy of the role of Mayors and their citizens is clear, as demonstrated by Mayor Bloomberg in New York City in PlaNYC 2030 and, globally, in leading the C40 initiative over the last 8 years of his administration. One hopes that other Mayors will step up to the plate. wedges zero emissions  

Key Quotes:

“Since 2004, annual emissions have increased and their growth rate has accelerated, so that more than seven wedges would now be necessary to stabilize emissions”

“Phasing out emissions over 50 years could be achieved by deploying on the order of 19 'wedges', each of which ramps up linearly over a period of 50 years ….depends upon coordinated efforts to innovate, plan, and deploy new transportation and energy systems that can provide affordable energy at this scale without emitting CO2 to the atmosphere.”

“holding emissions constant at current levels for the next half-century would cause substantial warming, approaching or surpassing current benchmarks ”

“Most model scenarios that allow CO2 concentrations to stabilize at 450 ppm entail negative carbon emissions, for example by capturing and storing emissions from bioenergy “

Gross world product (GWP) projections embedded in the A2 scenario imply as many as 31 wedges would be required to completely phase-out emissions”

“eliminating emissions over 50 years would require 19 wedges: 9 to stabilize emissions and an additional 10 to completely phase-out emissions. And if historical, background rates of decarbonization falter, 12 'hidden' wedges will also be necessary, bringing the total to a staggering 31 wedges.”

“CCS [carbon capture and storage } has not yet been commercially deployed at any centralized power plant; the existing nuclear industry.. is in a period of retrenchment, not expansion; and existing solar, wind, biomass, and energy storage systems are not yet mature enough to provide affordable baseload power at terawatt scale. Each of these technologies must be further developed if they are to be deployed at scale and at costs competitive with fossil energy.”
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Zero Waste Swedish Style

Sweden Runs Out of Garbage(Eco-waste, Sep. 18, 2013)  

Also discussed here: Towards a greener future with Swedish Waste -to-energy - The world’s best example(28 page pdf, Avfall Sverige, 2013) swdish waste
Today we review a report on the Swedish approach to waste management using modern incineration, an approach that has few rivals world-wide in terms of energy recovery and in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 76% from 1990 to 2020. Only 4% of waste (no organic by law) is sent to landfills. Waste incineration expected to grow world-wide by 4% per year from 200 million tons in 2007.  

Key Quotes:  

Each Swede produces just over 500 kg or half a ton of household waste every year….. just under 50 per cent of household waste is material recycled; a slightly smaller proportion goes to waste to energy. Only four per cent of household waste is sent to landfills.”

 “The waste sector reduced emissions of greenhouse gases by 34 per cent during the years 1990-2006.…. emissions will fall by 76 per cent during the years 1990-2020….the total emissions of dioxins from all of the country’s waste incineration plants have fallen from around 100 g to less than 1 gram during the same period.”

“Waste incineration in Sweden produced as much energy in 2007 as 1.1 million m³ of oil, which reduces CO2 emissions by 2.2 million tons per year, as much as 680,000 petrol-powered cars emit in a year.”

“Waste incineration provides heat corresponding to the needs of 810,000 homes, around 20 per cent of all the district-heating produced. It also provides electricity corresponding to the needs of almost 250,000 homes”

“During waste incineration, residues form as slag, also called bottom ash,…. The average in Swedish is around 15 per cent by weight of slag and just under 5 per cent by weight of flue gas residue…Through screening and storage, a fraction known as slag gravel is recovered…can be used instead of natural gravel for constructing roads and car parks,”

“The Scandinavian nation of more than 9.5 million citizens has run out of garbage… Sweden now has to search for rubbish outside of its borders to generate its waste-to-energy incineration program…Norway pays Sweden to take its excess waste, Sweden burns it for heat and electricity, and the ashes remaining from the incineration process, filled with highly polluting dioxins, are returned back to Norway and land filled.”

“around 50 million tons of waste are processed through incineration every year throughout Europe. This corresponds to the heat requirements for the populations of Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.”

“Forecasts show that waste incineration with energy recovery will increase dramatically throughout the world over the next few years, from 200 million tons per year in 2007 to around 240 million tons in 2012.”
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Monday, October 21, 2013

How Can Cities Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Improved Energy Management?

Building Momentum: Provincial Policies for Municipal Energy and Carbon Reductions(68 page pdf, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Sep. 26, 2013)  

Today we review the annual report by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) on energy conservation. He has recommendations on ways both the province and municipalities can improve improved energy conservation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Cities have a role to play in areas such as: development of municipal energy plans which focus on those activities entirely within their mandate or where a municipal role is well -defined: in zoning district energy systems for more efficient building heating , in using Development Charges to discourage sprawl rather than the opposite, in reporting real-time use of energy for large buildings and in requiring energy audits and to implement more efficient municipal energy retrofits. district energy

 Key Quotes:

 “…formal linkages between Ontario’s energy and GHG policies are weak, and the province lacks a comprehensive multi-fuel plan…most of the energy consumed in Ontario is used for thermal purposes (e.g., for heating homes, institutional and commercial buildings, and in industrial processes) and is provided primarily by natural gas. Similarly, fossil fuels comprise the overwhelming majority of energy sources used for transportation.”

“Municipalities exert either direct control or indirect influence over energy used within their jurisdictional boundaries, for example through municipally owned buildings, fleets, street lighting or through their policy and planning role in such areas as land use, development controls .. Significantly, by 2020, municipalities are forecast to control or influence over one-half of Ontario’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions “

District energy systems provide heating and/or cooling services to multiple buildings connected to a distribution network that transports hot or chilled water through pipes. They can often provide heating and cooling more efficiently than traditional systems in which each building contains its own equipment”

 “Development charges (DCs) are collected from developers to help offset the one-time capital costs associated with the provision of new infrastructure.….in 2011, $1.3 billion was collected by Ontario municipalities through this mechanism.. DCs contribute approximately 15 per cent of the total municipal capital funding;”

“A 2008 survey of electricity consumption showed that Ontario’s more than 400 municipalities ..showed a cumulative total of more than 6.6 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity were used in just one year.This represented 4.3 per cent of total provincial consumption and cost $680 million.”

 “prior to 1990 the Ontario Building Code included no energy efficiency requirements at all.”

“The current low price of natural gas may prove a barrier to deep retrofits, particularly if municipal programs require all retrofit actions to meet a strict definition of cost-effectiveness.”

“When the Green Energy Act, 2009 was introduced, the Ontario government committed to require home energy audits at the time of sale of a property. This commitment has never been fulfilled. Were the government to act on this promise, it would instantly increase homeowner interest in participating in a municipal retrofit program.”
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Friday, October 18, 2013

What Will Happen to the Suburbs as Cities Aim to be Healthy and Sustainable?

The End of Suburbs?(Urban Milwaukee, Sep. 26, 2013)

Also discussed here:Next Generation Suburbs(19 page pdf, David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health, The Chief Planner Roundtable, Toronto, Apr. 2, 2013)

 Today we examine the future and viability of suburban areas that have grown in the last era of cheap oil and uncontrolled sprawl that has afflicted many cities since the end of World War 2. This period now seems to be coming to an end as the boomer generation which fed suburban growth wants to downsize and move to a residence closer to the urban core where a more attractive life style and conveniences awaits them. Property taxes in the suburbs which have been low compared to urban rates now will rise because of costs to renew the infrastructure are passed on to suburban residents. At the same time, the flood of commuters continue to bring traffic congestion and unhealthy air pollution with the vehicles to the urban core. A key aspect is the need to plan for transportation modes that encourage exercise (walking and cycling) to curb the obesity that comes from dependence on driving and the need for more greenspace in the urban cores.

obesity and exercise  

Key Quotes:

“cities growing because older suburbanites are trading in their large suburban homes for smaller city dwellings with less commuter traffic, more restaurants and cultural offerings, and greater ethnic and racial diversity. The luster has come off the suburban lifestyle that developed after World War II…and people are rediscovering their cities.”

“Boomers are downsizing and who is going to buy their McMansions?”

 “property taxes in suburbs are about to skyrocket. Originally suburban taxes were lower because developers put in all the roads, sewer and water lines. But as suburban infrastructure needs replacing, each street may have only a half dozen homeowners to bear the costs. A city block may have two or three times the number of homeowners to spread the costs.”

“A transportation system that prioritizes walking, cycling, affordable public transit and efficient transport of goods and services will promote health and reduce inequities
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