Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major contributor to global warming. After the gas is released into the atmosphere, it stays there, making it difficult for heat to escape and heating the planet in the process.
It is mainly released from the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, as well as from the production of cement.
The average monthly concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, as of April 2019, is 413 parts per million (ppm). Before the industrial revolution, the concentration was just 280 ppm.
The CO2 concentration has fluctuated over the past 800,000 years between 180 and 280 ppm, but has been greatly accelerated by man-made pollution.
Gaseous nitrogen dioxide (NO2) comes from the combustion of fossil fuels, from automobile exhaust emissions and from the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers used in agriculture.
Although there is much less NO2 in the atmosphere than CO2, it is between 200 and 300 times more effective at trapping heat.
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) also comes mainly from the burning of fossil fuels, but it can also be released from car exhausts.
SO2 can react with water, oxygen and other chemicals in the atmosphere to cause acid rain.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an indirect greenhouse gas as it reacts with hydroxyl radicals, removing them. Hydroxyl radicals shorten the life of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
What is particulate matter?
Particulate matter refers to tiny parts of solid or liquid materials in the air.
Some are visible, such as dust, while others cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Materials such as metals, microplastics, soil, and chemicals can be particulates.
Particulate matter (or PM) is described in micrometers. The two main ones mentioned in the reports and studies are PM10 (less than 10 micrometers) and PM2.5 (less than 2.5 micrometers).
Air pollution comes from the burning of fossil fuels, cars, cement production and agriculture
Scientists measure the rate of particulate matter in the air per cubic meter.
Particulate matter is sent into the air by a number of processes, including burning fossil fuels, driving cars and making steel.
Why are particulates dangerous?
Particulates are dangerous because those smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter can penetrate deep into the lungs or even pass into the bloodstream. Particulates are found in higher concentrations in urban areas, particularly along main roads.
Impact on health
What kind of health problems can pollution cause?
According to the World Health Organization, one-third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease can be linked to air pollution.
Some of the effects of air pollution on the body have not been understood, but the pollution can increase inflammation that narrows the arteries leading to heart attacks or strokes.
In addition, nearly one in 10 cases of lung cancer in the UK is caused by air pollution.
Particulates make their way into the lungs and settle there, causing inflammation and damage. In addition to this, certain chemicals in the particulate matter that make their way into the body can cause cancer.
Deaths from pollution
Approximately seven million people die prematurely each year from air pollution. Pollution can cause a variety of problems including asthma attacks, strokes, various cancers, and cardiovascular problems.
Air pollution can cause problems for asthma sufferers for a variety of reasons. Pollutants in traffic fumes can irritate the airways, and particles can enter the lungs and throat and inflame these areas.
Problems in pregnancy
Women exposed to air pollution before becoming pregnant are nearly 20 percent more likely to have babies with birth defects, according to research in January 2018.
According to a University of Cincinnati study, living within 5km of a highly polluted area a month before conception makes women more likely to give birth to babies with defects such as cleft palate or labia.
For every 0.01 mg / m3 increase in fine particles in the air, birth defects increase by 19 percent, the research adds.
Previous research suggests that this causes birth defects due to women suffering from inflammation and “internal stress”.
What is being done to combat air pollution?
Paris Agreement on Climate Change
The Paris Agreement, first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change.
Hopes to keep global mean temperature rise below 2 ° C (3.6 ° F) “and to continue efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5 ° C (2.7 ° F) “.
Carbon neutral by 2050
The UK government has announced its intention to make the country carbon neutral by 2050.
They plan to do this by planting more trees and installing “carbon capture” technology at the source of the pollution.
Some critics fear that this first option is being used by the government to export its carbon offset to other countries.
International carbon credits allow nations to continue emitting carbon while paying for trees to plant elsewhere, balancing their emissions.
No new petrol or diesel vehicles by 2040
In 2017, the UK government announced that the sale of new petrol and diesel cars would be banned by 2040.
However, MPs from the Climate Change Commission have urged the government to bring the ban forward until 2030, as they will have an equivalent range and price by then.
The Paris Agreement, first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. In the photo: air pollution over Paris in 2019.
Subsidies for Norway’s electric cars
The rapid electrification of the Norwegian car fleet is mainly attributed to generous state subsidies. Electric cars are almost entirely exempt from the hefty taxes levied on petrol and diesel cars, making them competitively priced.
A VW Golf with a standard combustion engine costs nearly 334,000 crowns (34,500 euros, 38,600 dollars), while the electric cousin e-Golf costs 326,000 crowns thanks to a lower tax rate.
Criticism of action on climate change
The Committee on Climate change (CCC) said there is a “shocking” lack of government preparedness for the risks to the country from climate change.
The committee assessed 33 areas where climate change risks needed to be addressed – from property resilience to flooding to impacts on farmland and supply chains – and found no real progress in any of them.
The UK is not prepared for 2 ° C of warming, the level at which countries have pledged to curb the rise in temperature, let alone a 4 ° C rise, which is possible if greenhouse gases are not reduced globally, the committee said.
He added that cities need more green spaces to stop the urban “heat island” effect and to prevent flooding by absorbing heavy rain.