Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Air Pollution – a Leading Risk Factor for Strokes

Global burden of stroke and risk factors in 188 countries, during 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 (Abstract, Valery L Feigin, Gregory A Roth, Mohsen Naghavi, Priya Parmar, Rita Krishnamurthi, Sumeet Chugh,George A Mensah, Bo Norrving, Ivy Shiue, Marie Ng, Kara Estep, Kelly Cercy, Christopher J L Murray, Mohammad H Forouzanfar, The Lancet, Jun. 9, 2016)

Also discussed here: For the first time, air pollution emerges as a leading risk factor for stroke worldwide (Science Daily, Jun. 9, 2016)

Today we review research into 17 risk factors for stroke which affects 15 million people each year though death (6 million) or permanently disability (5 million) or other impacts. The risk of strokes from environmental air pollution (PM2.5) has increased by 33% from 1990 to 2003. The research showed that indoor and outdoor air pollution was responsible for 30% of strokes and made this the largest risk factor. Action by governments to tax high risk factors (such as salt, sugar and tobacco) and for public health to treat high blood pressure are seen as effective ways to reduce strokes.

 strokes and ap  

Key Quotes:

” Every year, approximately 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke -- of these, nearly six million die and five million are left with permanent disability. Disability may include loss of vision and/or speech, paralysis and confusion.”

“We evaluated attributable DALYs [stroke-related disability-adjusted life-years ] for 17 risk factors (air pollution and environmental, dietary, physical activity, tobacco smoke, and physiological) and six clusters of risk factors by use of three inputs: risk factor exposure, relative risks, and the theoretical minimum risk exposure level”

“Globally, 29·2% …of the burden of stroke was attributed to air pollution.”

“In 2013, 16.9% of the global stroke burden was attributed to environmental air pollution (as measured by ambient particle matter [PM] pollution of aerodynamic diameter smaller than 2·5 μm) -- almost as much as that from smoking (20.7%). From 1990 to 2013, stroke burden associated with environmental air pollution (PM25) has increased by over 33%.”

 “Governments have the power and responsibility to influence these risk factors through legislation and taxation of tobacco, alcohol, salt, sugar or saturated fat content, while health service providers have the responsibility to check and treat risk factors such as high blood pressure,"

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Technique that Might Actually Work

Rapid carbon mineralization for permanent disposal of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions (4 page pdf, Juerg M. Matter, Martin Stute, Sandra Ó. Snæbjörnsdottir, Eric H. Oelkers, Sigurdur R. Gislason, Edda S. Aradottir, Bergur Sigfusson, Ingvi Gunnarsson, Holmfridur Sigurdardottir, Einar Gunnlaugsson, Gudni Axelsson, Helgi A. Alfredsson, Domenik Wolff-Boenisch, Kiflom Mesfin, Diana Fernandez de la Reguera Taya, Jennifer Hall, Knud Dideriksen, Wallace S. Broecker, Science, Jun.10, 2016)

Also discussed here: Climate change mitigation: Turning carbon dioxide into rock (Science Daily, Jun. 9, 2016)

Today we review research conducted in Iceland into a technique that converts atmospheric CO2 into a carbonate solid for storage underground rather than the better known CCS approach which attempts to store CO2 underground in its gaseous state, with all of the risks of it leaking back into the atmosphere later. Preliminary testing and drilling near Reykjavik indicate that up to 5,000 tonnes of CO2/year can be stored this way. The feasibility for this to significantly address global emissions will be tested when this technique is scaled up to much larger rates.

 co2 injection site  

Key Quotes:

“The CarbFix pilot project in Iceland was designed to promote and verify in situ CO2 mineralization in basaltic rocks for the permanent disposal of anthropogenic CO2 emissions …. is situated about 25 km east of Reykjavik and is equipped with a 2000-m-deep injection well (HN02) and eight monitoring wells ranging in depth from 150 to 1300 m”

“greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) can be permanently and rapidly locked away from the atmosphere, by injecting it into volcanic bedrock. The CO2 reacts with the surrounding rock, forming environmentally benign minerals….Our results show that between 95 and 98 per cent of the injected CO2 was mineralised over the period of less than two years, which is amazingly fast."

“The CO2 is dissolved in water and carried down the well. On contact with the target storage rocks, at 400-800 metres under the ground, the solution quickly reacts with the surrounding basaltic rock, forming carbonate minerals.”

 "Carbonate minerals do not leak out of the ground, thus our newly developed method results in permanent and environmentally friendly storage of CO2 emissions,"

 "Storing CO2 as carbonate minerals significantly enhances storage security which should improve public acceptance of Carbon Capture and Storage as a climate change mitigation technology,"

“The results of this study demonstrate that nearly complete in situ CO2 mineralization in basaltic rocks can occur in less than 2 years. Once stored within carbonate minerals, the leakage risk is eliminated and any monitoring program of the storage site can be significantly reduced, thus enhancing storage security and potentially public acceptance.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What is the Impact of Air Pollution on the World- Present and Future?

Also discussed here: Air pollution to cause 6-9 million premature deaths and cost 1% GDP by 2060 (OECD Press Release, Jun. 9. 2016) 

Today we review a report from the OECD which estimates the impact of air pollution in terms of economic costs and on health costs and premature lives lost. Global costs are expected to rise from $21B in 2015 to $176B in 2060 (in constant 2010 dollars). The number of lost sick days which affects productivity is expected to rise from 1.2 B to 3.7 B in 2060. The number of premature deaths due to outdoor air pollution is expected to rise from 3 million in 2015 to 6-9 million in 2060. Policies to address this include incentives aimed at technology to reduce vehicle emissions, the implementation of improved air quality standards and introduction of emission/congestion/road pricing. The highest per capita costs are found in China, followed by Korea, Eastern Europe and the Caspian region and this is also where premature deaths per capita are highest

oecd impacts
Key Quote

The most recent Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study estimates that air pollution – indoor and outdoor combined – was the cause of 5.5 million premature deaths globally in 2013

 The number of lives cut short by air pollution is already terrible and the potential rise in the next few decades is terrifying. If this is not motivation enough to act, this report shows there will also be a heavy economic cost to not taking action

The projected increase in concentrations of PM2.5 and ozone will in turn lead to substantial effects on the economy. According to the calculations in this report, global air pollution-related healthcare costs are projected to increase from USD 21 billion (using constant 2010 USD and PPP exchange rates) in 2015 to USD 176 billion 2005 in 2060. By 2060, the annual number of lost working days, which affect labour productivity, are projected to reach 3.7 billion (currently around 1.2 billion) at the global level. 

This report projects an increase in the number of premature deaths due to outdoor air pollution from approximately 3 million people in 2010, in line with the latest Global Burden of Disease estimates, to 6‑9 million annually in 2060

the implementation of policies, such as incentivising the adoption of end-of-pipe technologies, implementing air quality standards and emission pricing, will certainly help avoid the worst impacts of outdoor air pollution

Premature death rates are forecast to be up to three times higher in 2060 than in 2010 in China and up to four times higher in India. Death rates are seen stabilising in the United States and falling in much of Western Europe thanks in part to efforts to move to cleaner energy and transport

 The regions with the highest per capita costs are China, followed by Korea, Eastern Europe and the Caspian region. These are regions in which the number of cases of illness per capita is highest

Thursday, August 18, 2016

How Does the Cost of Urban Sprawl Compare Internationally?

Sprawl Tax: How the US stacks up internationally ( Joe Cortright, City Commentary, Jun.7, 2016)

Also discussed here: Transportation Costs and the Spatial Organization of Economic Activity (Abstract, Stephen J. Redding, Matthew A. Turner, National Bureau of Economic Research, Jun. 2014)

Today we review a comparison of the costs of sprawl in terms of extra transportation costs for commuting and added time in traffic. Results show that the average daily commute time in the US and Canada is well above (50-62 minutes) that of 17 countries in Europe. As a percent of household income transportation costs are highest for the US at 18% (or $1,500/household )followed by Austria, Canada and Portugal at 15-16% and an average of 12.8% overall (where the higher fuel prices in Europe are countered by the longer commute trips in the US and Canada). sprawl tax  

Key Quotes:

“the average American household spent approximately 18 percent of its budget on transportation. Among the other 16 countries, none spent more than 16 percent, and the average spending level was just 12.8 percent. That means a typical US household spent about five percentage points more of its income on transportation than the residents of other developed countries—which translates to about $1,500 every year.”

“The average American worker spent about 51 minutes commuting between home and work and back again—more than all but one other country in the sample. That exception was Canada, where the typical worker spent 63 minutes on their commute—but the rest were lower, all the way down to Portugal, where roundtrip commutes took up just 29 minutes per worker per day. For the other 15 nations examined the average commute time was 39 minutes—about 12 minutes less per day than in the US.”

 “Compared to other high income nations, we spend about $1,500 per household on transportation costs and about $770 per worker more on commute time costs.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ontario's Climate Action Plan from 2016 to 2020

ontario emissions 2013Ontario’s Five Year Climate Change Action Plan 2016-2020 (Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, Jun. 8, 2016)

Also discussed here: Five things you need to know about how Ontario’s climate change action plan will affect your life (Financial Post, Jun. 8, 2016)

And here: Ontario's climate change action plan: what it needs to succeed (Mike Crawley, CBC News, Jun. 8, 2016)

Today we review Ontario’s first climate action plan with targets for the period 2016-2020. The planned GHG reductions fall within a plan to reduce overall emissions by 15% by 2020, 37% by 2030 and 80% by 2050 with most of the reductions coming from three sectors with 85% of current (2013) emissions: transportation (35%), industry (28%) and buildings (19%). Although Ontario is approaching carbon pricing in a different way (Cap and Trade) than British Columbia did 8 years ago using a revenue-neutral carbon tax, a similar approach is to require all municipalities to produce a climate mitigation and adaptation plan. The BC approach is expected to reduce B.C.’s emissions in 2020 by up to three million tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually, roughly the equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions created by 787,000 cars per year. Revenue from carbon tax itself $500M/year, was returned to taxpayers who pay less than any other provincial taxpayers in Canada. In addition, the serious way that Ontario is approaching the need for electric vehicles through incentives for new e-cars and for many new charging stations gives some assurance that both the carbon pollutants and toxic air emissions from today’s cars and trucks will be reduced.
  1. Under Transportation:
  • incentives for e-vehicles ($140-160M)
  • more charging stations ($80M)
  1. Under Buildings
  • Incentives for heat pumps and geothermal ($500-600M)
  • Free energy audits ($200-250M)
  1. Municipal Land Use Planning
  • greenhouse gas pollution reduction challenge fund or program.($250-300M)
  • make climate change mitigation and adaptation mandatory in municipal official plans.”
  1. R&D
  • Create a Global Centre for Low Carbon Mobility ($100-140M)
Other actions are planned for agriculture, industry and in collaboration with the federal government..  

Key Quotes:

“The plan…calls for government spending of $5.9 billion to $8.3 billion on climate change initiatives over the next five years. The money would come from the $1.9 billion the Liberal government expects to raise each year by auctioning off pollution emission credits when Ontario joins a cap-and-trade market with Quebec and California next January.”

 “The plan calls for spending of up to $1.1 billion to help businesses switch to more low-carbon technologies, reducing costs and emissions. Up to $290 million will be used to provide incentives for businesses that want to buy low-carbon commercial vehicles and technologies to reduce emissions, including electric and natural gas-powered trucks, anti-idling devices and electric trailer refrigeration.”
  1. Transportation
“The action plan establishes a province wide electric and hydrogen passenger vehicle sales target of five per cent in 2020. This target will be reviewed and increased appropriately every five years thereafter. For context, about 284,000 passenger vehicles were sold in Ontario in 2015. Five per cent of annual sales on that number represent about 14,000 vehicles.”

Maintain incentives for electric vehicles($140-160M): Ontario intends to extend the rebate program to 2020 for leasing or buying an eligible electric vehicle (up to $14,000 per vehicle), including rebates for purchase and installation of home charging stations (up to $1,000 per station).”

 “More charging stations($80M): The province intends to invest in the rapid deployment of charging in workplaces, multi-unit residential buildings, downtowns and town centres. Ontario will encourage ONroute locations to equip themselves with high-speed chargers. It will further encourage the federal government to invest in high speed, fast-charging infrastructure on inter-provincial highways and highways that connect Ontario to the United States.

 “Electric-vehicle-ready homes: Ontario intends to require all new homes and townhomes with garages to be constructed with a 50-amp, 240-volt receptacle (plug) in the garage for the purpose of charging an electric vehicle.

Electric-vehicle-ready workplaces: Ontario intends to establish a requirement that, as of 2018, all newly built commercial office buildings and appropriate workplaces must provide charging infrastructure.”

Commuter cycling: Ontario will revise provincial road and highway standards to require commuter cycling infrastructure be considered for all road and highway construction projects where it is safe and feasible. Ontario will do the same for major transit corridors.”
  1. Heating Buildings
Boost low-carbon technology in homes($500-600M): Ontario intends to help homeowners purchase and install low-carbon energy technologies such as geothermal heat pumps and air-source heat pumps, solar thermal and solar energy generation systems that reduce reliance on fossil fuels for space and water heating. This will include an increased benefit for low-income households and vulnerable communities.”

Provide free energy audits for pre-sale homes($200-250M) Energy audits would be required before a new or existing single-family home can be listed for sale, and the energy rating will be included in the real estate listing.”
  1. Land Use Planning
Require electric vehicle charging in surface lots: Municipalities would be able to require installation of electric vehicle charging stations in surface parking areas.”

Eliminate minimum parking requirements: Minimum parking requirements would be eliminated over the next five years for municipal zoning bylaws, especially in transit corridors and other high-density, highly walkable communities.” “Establish a Challenge Fund($250-300M): The government will establish a greenhouse gas pollution reduction challenge fund or program.”  

“Put climate change in official plans: The government intends to consult and propose amendments to the Planning Act to make climate change mitigation and adaptation mandatory in municipal official plans.”
  1. R&D
"Create a Global Centre for Low Carbon Mobility($100-140M): Based at a post-secondary institution in Ontario, a Global Centre for Low Carbon Mobility will be set up to advise the government on low-carbon transportation, and to direct funding for research, development and low-carbon manufacturing. The Centre will focus on industry research and development needs and support development of low- and nocarbon transportation technology such as electric automated vehicles.”
  1. Public Service
“Ontario will spend $160 billion over 12 years on public infrastructure, including $31.5 billion through the Moving Ontario Forward plan that invests in, for example, transit projects. Over the next five years, the OPS will lay the foundation to reach its new target of reducing emissions by 50 per cent below 2006 levels by 2030. These reductions will have the added benefit of reducing the cost to Ontarians of government operations.”
  1. Agriculture
“($20-30M) reduce the amount of organic materials going into landfills, which would reduce emissions. Potential targets are 40 per cent of organics diverted by 2025 and 60 per cent by 2035.”

 “Increase tree planting($ 0.5-1.5M): Ontario will continue to support tree-planting programs, including its commitment to plant 50 million trees across the province by 2025.”
  1. Reporting
“establishment of a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Account to track cap and trade proceeds and ensure they are invested in green projects and programs that reduce or support the reduction of greenhouse gas pollution.”

Thursday, August 11, 2016

What Must Farmers do to Meet Emission Targets?

Reducing emissions from agriculture to meet the 2°C target (19 page pdf, E. Wollenberg, M. Richards, P. Smith, P. Havlík, M. Obersteiner, F.N. Tubiello, M. Herold, P. Gerber, S. Carter, A. Reisinger, D. van Vuuren, A. Dickie, H. Neufeldt, B.O. Sander, R. Wassmann, R. Sommer, J.E. Amonette, A. Falcucci, M. Herrero, C. Opio, R. Roman-Cuesta, E. Stehfest, H. Westhoek, I. Ortiz-Monasterio, T. Sapkota, M.C. Rufino, P.K. Thornton, L. Verchot, P.C. West, J.-F. Soussana, T. Baedeker, M. Sadler, S. Vermeulen, B.M. Campbell, Global Change Biology, May 17, 2016)

Also discussed here: New study sets climate target for agriculture (IIASA News, May 17, 2016) 

Today we review an assessment of approaches voluntarily proposed by 119 nations as Nationally Determined Contributions for COP21 in Paris to mitigate non CO2 emissions from the agricultural sector. Currently available approaches would deliver as little as 21% of the mitigation required to meet the 2 Deg C goal by 2030. The authors call for a range of innovative methods including carbon pricing, sequestering soil carbon and shifting dietary patterns and breeding cattle to produce less methane. Although agriculture is rural, some cities such as Ottawa, Canada contain more farmland (40% of rural area or 300,000 acres) and so must face up to the challenges in reducing greenhouse gases in this sector, as well as in transportation and the heating and cooling of buildings- and make this part of urban climate action plans.

 cattle emissions  

Key Quotes:

 “Agriculture (not including land use change) contributes an average of 35% of emissions in developing countries and 12% in developed countries today.”

“the agricultural sector must reduce non-CO2 emissions by 1 billion metric tons per year in 2030, a 17% reduction compared to the reference level projections of about 5.8 GtCO2eq…currently available interventions would only deliver between 21-40% of mitigation required as follows:
“Promising technical innovations on the horizon include recently developed methane inhibitors that reduce dairy cow emissions by 30% without affecting milk yields, breeds of cattle that produce lower methane, and varieties of cereal crops that release less nitrous oxide. ..more ambitious mitigation include introducing more rigorous carbon pricing, taxes and subsidies; … Focusing more attention on sequestering soil carbon, increasing agroforestry, decreasing food loss and waste and shifting dietary patterns “

 “international trade can bring a big potential for mitigation, by helping to encourage more production in the most efficient regions. However, without global targets for emissions reductions, decentralized approaches to climate mitigation could lead to inadequate pressure to decrease emissions from highly inefficient system such as those in Europe or North America

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

How Does Air Pollution Cause Hypertension and Heart Attacks?

English: Main complications of persistent high...
English: Main complications of persistent high blood pressure. Sources are found in main article: Wikipedia:Hypertension#Complications. To discuss image, please see Template_talk:Häggström diagrams. To edit, please use the svg version, convert to png and update both versions online. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Associations of Short-Term and Long-Term Exposure to Ambient Air Pollutants With Hypertension A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (16 page pdf, Yuanyuan Cai, Bo Zhang, Weixia Ke, Baixiang Feng, Hualiang Lin, Jianpeng Xiao, Weilin Zeng, Xing Li, Jun Tao, Zuyao Yang, Wenjun Ma, Tao Liu, Hypertension, Jun. 1, 2016) 

Today we review a meta-analysis of the links between high blood pressure and hypertension which lead to the number one cause of death in the world, cardiovascular disease, with air pollutants for both short and long term exposure. Results indicate short term exposure ot particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and sulphur dioxide (associated with diesel vehicle emissions and coal burning) as well as long term exposure to nitrogen dioxide and PM10 (associated with vehicle emissions) are linked to a higher risk of hypertension. The mechanisms that lead to hypertension include inflammation and oxidative stress from exposure to air pollutants as well as imbalance of the nervous system from particulates.

Key Quotes: 

 “Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the world. It is responsible for ≈30% of all deaths or ≈17.5 million people in 2012” “We observed that short-term exposure to SO2, PM2.5, and PM10 and long-term exposure to NO2 and PM10 were associated with an increase in hypertension risk.”

 “Both short- and long-term exposure to some air pollutants commonly associated with coal burning, vehicle exhaust, airborne dust and dirt are associated with the development of high blood pressure” 

"People should limit their exposure on days with higher air pollution levels, especially for those with high blood pressure, even very short-term exposure can aggravate their conditions."

 “The mechanisms by which air pollution exposure could contribute to the development of hypertension might include systemic inflammation and oxidative stress, which may cause increased sympathetic tone and potentially lead to arterial remodeling.”

 “PM may also elevate blood pressure by inducing autonomic nervous system imbalance and vasoconstriction. In addition, PM exposure can also reduce daytime sodium excretion and blunt the normal nocturnal reduction in blood pressure. If this happens repeatedly, the impaired renal handling of excess sodium may partly contribute to elevated blood pressure

 “Compared with PM10, PM2.5 can remain suspended for a longer time in the air and be inhaled into the respiratory tract and directly into the pulmonary alveoli.”

Thursday, August 4, 2016

How do Special Interests Hold Back Progress on Climate Change?

Dislocated interests and climate change (5 page pdf, Steven J Davis and Noah Diffenbaugh, Environmental Research Letters, May 31, 2016)

Today we review a very pertinent analysis of costs and benefits as applied to climate impacts and national (and corporate) interests and how the concentration of short term, local benefits is separated in time and space with longer term impacts. As a concluding sentence in the article reads: “the most problematic dislocations of interests are where benefits are concentrated in time, space, and parties”. Often too, the profits from fossil fuels accrue to corporations in developed countries while the impacts fall mainly on developing countries and governments. Attempts to recover these costs get bogged down in a lack of international mechanisms to deal with them either through the World Trade Organization, World Bank or the International Framework on Climate Change and climate agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 or the Paris Agreement of 2015 – all of which point to the need for a greater definition and recognition of these special needs in addressing climate change.
special interests and cl ch  

Key Quotes:

“although these regions [in developing regions such as Africa, South America, southeast Asia, and the Middle East] are warming disproportionately, their role in causing climate change - measured by cumulative historical CO2 emissions produced - is small compared to the US and Europe, where the relative change in temperatures has been less…where their economies [are] using mostly fossil energy”

 “the delay between CO2 emissions and resultant climate warming separates past benefits from present impacts, just as current benefits are dislocated from future impacts”

“those receiving benefits from fossil energy or suffering impacts of climate change may be multinational corporations or national governments, whereas the impacts of climate change may fall most heavily on individual persons or local governments.”
  • “Future impacts versus current benefits(Energy consumption)- The countries where future climatic changes are expected to be greatest also tend to be the countries where increases in energy consumption in the present will have the greatest marginal benefit to well-being, and ultimately to resilience to those climate impacts”
  • “Future impacts versus current benefits(fossil fuel extraction): Some of the developing countries where future climatic changes are expected to be greatest have substantial capacity to benefit from additional extraction of fossil fuels today”
  • “Future impacts versus current benefits(ability to pay)…some of the countries where future climatic changes are expected to be greatest also have the least capacity to tolerate the higher energy prices associated with a carbon tax or other climate policies”
  • “Individual impacts versus corporate benefits. In many cases, special interests also benefit from regressive, politically entrenched fossil energy …while litigation against these companies may ultimately succeed in collecting damages and perhaps even hastening the decarbonization of the energy system, the irreversibile, globally-distributed impacts of climate change on natural ecosystems and generations of individuals will never be fully remedied”