Monday, February 27, 2012

Air Pollution News & Alerts - February 26th, 2012

News & Information; Every Sunday
(Last on February 12th, 2012)

The Guardian, February 26th, 2012
Climate change will shake the Earth.

The Economist, February 25th, 2012
Asian growth will remain fuelled by coal, which is worrying for the planet.

Science Daily, February 24th, 2012
CFC Substitutes: Good for the Ozone Layer, Bad for Climate?

The Hindu, February 24th, 2012
Vizag set to become cycle-proud.

Financial Express, February 23rd, 2012
Dhaka's air pollution is killing.

China Daily, February 23rd, 2012
Program to champion rights of nonsmokers.

Economic Times, February 23rd, 2012
Only mass rapid transit solutions can provide India's urban commuters with efficient mobility.

International Business Times, February 23rd, 2012
China’s Energy Use Jacks Up in 2011.

The Wall Street Journal, February 23rd, 2012
Hong Kong’s Killer Pollution.

4-Traders, February 23rd, 2012
Clean Fuels Project at Visakh Refinery dedicated to the Nation.

Science Daily, February 22nd, 2012
Oil Sands Pollution Comparable to a Large Power Plant.

The Guardian, February 22nd, 2012
We must capitalise on a low-carbon future.

India Together, February 22nd, 2012
Is Mumbai growing anymore?
Science Daily, February 21st, 2012
Gases Drawn Into Smog Particles Stay There.

China Daily, February 20th, 2012
Despite a slow start, year still holds promise.

China Dialogue, February 20th, 2012
Seeing China’s pollution from space.

The Guardian, February 20th, 2012
Measuring China's pollution from space.

Science Daily, February 19th, 2012
Glaciers: A Window Into Human Impact On the Global Carbon Cycle.
AFP, February 19th, 2012
Wildfires kill 339,000 people per year.

Business Today, February 19th, 2012
Bachat Lamp Yojana: Work on compact fluorescent lamps distribution comes to a standstill.

New York Times, February 18th, 2012
Scientists Find New Dangers in Tiny but Pervasive Particles in Air Pollution.

Science Daily, February 17th, 2012
Linking Human Evolution and Climate Change.

NPR, February 17th, 2012
Air Pollution Ups Risk Of Stroke, Impaired Memory.

BBC, February 17th, 2012
Short-term climate fix risks blanking CO2.

NRDC Switchboard, February 17th, 2012
Air Pollution: An Assault on the Heart, Brain and Lungs.

Wall Street Journal, February 17th, 2012
China, U.S. Start-Up Team in Coal-Conversion Deal.

New York Times, February 17th, 2012
A Second Front in the Climate War.

Daily Sun, February 17th, 2012
The insufferable traffic and air pollution in Dhaka.

The News, February 16th, 2012
Mitigation plan must focus on producing energy efficiently.

The Atlantic, February 16th, 2012
India Is Burning: How Rapid Growth Is Destroying its Environment and Future.

The Bay Citizen, February 16th, 2012
An Upside to China’s Air Pollution: More Snowfall in the Sierras.

US State Department, February 16th, 2012
Briefing on Global Climate Change and Clean Air Initiative.

Climate Progress, February 16th, 2012
New Global Deal on Climate Pollutants Could Help Lower Temperatures, Save Millions of Lives.

TIME, February 16th, 2012
Climate Action: Stopping Global Warming Through the Back Door.

AFP, February 16th, 2012
US launches coalition to fight climate change.

NPR, February 16th, 2012
Methane, Soot Are Targets Of New U.S. Climate Initiative.

Science Daily, February 16th, 2012
Low-Carbon Technologies 'No Quick-Fix': May Not Lessen Global Warming Until Late This Century.

Financial Express, February 16th, 2012
Core committee proposes specific transit charges for road routes.

Indian Express, February 16th, 2012
Use foot-overbridge, win Rs 5,000: Cops to reward pedestrians.

Xinhua Net, February 16th, 2012
Beijing car ownership exceeds 5 mln.

Beijing Review, February 16th, 2012
Breathe Easier.

Scientific American, February 15th, 2012
Hearts and Air Pollution: 5 Deadly Air Pollutants Measured on 5 Continents.

Pakistan Times, February 15th, 2012
Pakistan, India adopt unanimous resolution on challenges to climate change.

Xinhua Net, February 15th, 2012
Urumqi to invest heavily to cut air pollution.
Los Angeles Times, February 15th, 2012
L.A. air pollution may increase risk of stroke.

Red Orbit, February 15th, 2012
China Pollution Costing Economy Billions Of Dollars.

Vietnam Net, February 15th, 2012
Fatal perils from polluted air.

Economic Times, February 14th, 2012
India's air quality the worst; unsafe for humans.
Mongolia News, February 14th, 2012
Newly appointed Minister oversees Mongolia’s first compressed fuel factory.

Chicago Tribune, February 14th, 2012
Chinese Electric Car Pollution More Harmful to Humans Than Gas Cars: In China, an electric car revolution may have actually worsened air quality.

DNA India, February 14th, 2012
Flyovers couldn't resolve congestion across the world.

Science Daily, February 14th, 2012
Short-Term Exposure to Most Major Air Pollutants Associated With Increased Risk of Heart Attack.

UT, Knoxville, February 13th, 2012
China’s Pollution Related to E-Cars May Be More Harmful than Gasoline Cars’.

The Guardian, February 13th, 2012
Is protecting the environment incompatible with social justice?

China Dialogue, February 13th, 2012
Fresh approach to Hong Kong’s air.

China Daily, February 13th, 2012
Beijing parks govt cars to improve air quality.

Mongolia News, February 13th, 2012
50,000 households using low-smoke stoves.

Click Green, February 13th, 2012
Electric cars have greater impact on pollution than petrol motors.

Science Daily, February 13th, 2012
Even Moderate Air Pollution Can Raise Stroke Risks.

China Dialogue, February 13th, 2012
Fresh approach to Hong Kong’s air.

India Together, January 3rd, 2012
Building the Transit Metropolis.

Five Deadly Air Pollutants Measured on Five Continents (Scientific American)

This article was published on February 15th, 2012 in Scientific American

Around the world, breathing a variety of air pollutants – in some cases for a single day – increases the chance that people will suffer heart attacks, according to a new analysis published Tuesday.
For the first time, scientists analyzed previous studies from five continents to verify and quantify the links between air pollution and heart health. They found that short-term exposure – less than seven days – to all major air pollutants except ozone was associated with an increase in heart attacks.

The team reported in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. that the magnitude of the risk “is relatively small” compared to other factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes. But they stressed that so many people worldwide are breathing fine particulates, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and other contaminants that the numbers of people at risk are substantial.

“Thus an improvement in air quality could have a significant effect on public health,” wrote the authors, led by Dr. Hazrije Mustafic of the Paris Cardiovascular Research Center at University Paris Descartes.

Published on Valentine’s Day, the new study shows that the human heart is perhaps the most vulnerable part of the body when it comes to air pollution.

Dr. Jesus Araujo, an assistant professor of medicine and director of environmental cardiology at UCLA, said there is now “more than enough evidence” from human, animal and cellular studies that air pollution kills.

One of the most important findings of the new research is that it confirms that heart attacks increase even when exposures to worsening air quality are short in duration.
“We don’t have to be exposed for weeks or months or years,” Araujo said.

Air in most urban areas is made up of an array of contaminants, some gases, some microscopic particles, all containing a variety of chemical ingredients. In recent years, most of the attention has focused on fine particulates – microscopic pieces of soot from diesel engines and other sources. Studies conducted in numerous cities have shown that whenever fine particles increase, deaths and hospitalizations from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases increase, too.

In the new analysis, the researchers examined more than 100 studies from around the world and included 34 that met certain standards, then combined them to calculate the risk of heart attacks associated with fine particles, coarse particles, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide. Most are pollutants related to the combustion of fossil fuels, emitted by vehicles or industry.

“One strength of our study is the comprehensive nature of our search that spanned multiple databases and was not restricted to particular publication language or a single pollutant,” wrote the authors, who are from several institutions in France as well as the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Araujo said it is “quite significant” that the authors combined the results of several dozen studies and found that heart attacks increased with all of the air pollutants except ozone.

“What this study is showing us is that the gaseous pollutants are important, too. It shows that not only particulate pollution is associated with deaths but also the other major gaseous pollutants,” said Araujo, who did not participate in the new study.

Jean Ospital, health officer of the agency responsible for cleaning up the Los Angeles basin's air, said Tuesday that although the link between air pollution and heart attacks has been documented by individual studies for years, the new analysis is global and gives it “more statistical power and a larger sample size.”

“The studies are overall consistent,” said Ospital, who has been health officer at the South Coast Air Quality Management District since 2000. “There are a number of investigators looking at alternative explanations, but it always seems to come out that air pollutants are associated with premature deaths. And as the testing becomes more sophisticated, we find more effects at lower levels.”

The risk of each pollutant was calculated. For fine particle pollution, heart attacks increased 2.5 percent for every incremental increase of pollution in the air.
That means if fine particles in one city reached a concentration of 10 micrograms per cubic meter while in a nearby city, it reached 20 micrograms, heart attacks in that second city would be 2.5 percent higher.

Such variations in pollution levels are commonplace, even in the same city from day to day. Miraloma, a city in Southern California's Riverside County that has some of the nation's worst particulate pollution, measured at about 55 micrograms per cubic meter on a day in early January 2010, and then dropped three days later to about 7 micrograms, according to data from the California Air Resources Board. That would raise the heart attack risk sharply on that earlier day.

“The good news is that air pollutants have been going down here in Southern California. Particles, for example, are down 20 to 25 percent over the past decade,” said Ospital.

“I think [the new study] tells you that probably the current levels may not be where we want them to be, but we are making progress toward attaining our air quality standards.”

In most U.S. cities, levels of all six of the pollutants studied have declined over the past few decades as cars, trucks, industries and consumer products have been forced to get cleaner. But many cities still have a long way to go. More than 30 metropolitan areas exceed the federal government’s health standard for fine particles. Nine areas violate the sulfur dioxide standard, 43 violate the carbon monoxide standard and 45 exceed the coarse particles standard.

Areas with excessive levels of one or more of the five pollutants include the Los Angeles basin, California's San Joaquin Valley, the Salt Lake City area, Phoenix, New York City and Philadelphia.
The analysis included several studies from each populated continent, except Africa, where pollution is largely unstudied.

Araujo said the risk is not just among people who are sick with pre-existing heart conditions. Some people are more at risk than others, including those who are obese or have hypertension, “but that is not to say that somebody who doesn’t have these conditions is at no risk of having a cardiovascular event” brought on by air pollution, he said.

He suggested that people avoid exercising in highly congested areas near busy roads and freeways, particularly during rush hours.

“A very small percentage of patients are aware of this problem,” he said. “It’s a relatively low increase for heart attacks but the population at stake is larger than it is for the other risk factors.” For example, all 17 million residents of the Los Angeles basin are exposed to air pollution while only a small fraction of them are smokers, obese or have diabetes.

Scientists are uncertain how air pollution triggers heart attacks. One major theory is it causes inflammation. Another is that it disrupts heart rate variability, which is how the heart responds to stress. Still another is that it increases the viscosity of blood, leading to more clots or hardening of the arteries.
The authors do not know why no association was found between heart attacks and ozone, which was somewhat surprising. The main ingredient of smog, it is formed when the sun reacts with hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides from vehicles, industries and consumer products.
One reason may be that heart attacks decline on hot summer days, when ozone is the worst, so it may have been difficult to find a link.

“Either there is no true association or the association is more difficult to reveal,” Araujo said.
Some previous studies have found a link between ozone and heart attacks, while others have not. It is more clear that when ozone levels rise, deaths from asthma and other respiratory problems seem to increase.

For about 50 years, scientists have tried to unravel the human health impacts of air pollution. For most of those years, the focus has been on the lungs.

“We know now that the mortality is mostly from cardiovascular causes,” Araujo said. “That’s something that has become more clear over the last seven years or so.”

Still, there are many more questions to address.

What happens when people are exposed to multiple pollutants at the same time? How do particles and gases interact? What exactly does each pollutant do to the heart? Which sources pose the most risk? Is it mostly size of particles that matters or the ingredients?

And perhaps the most critical question of all: How much cleaner does the air need to be?

“The more scientists look, the more they find effects at lower exposures,” Ospital said. “This is a question that always comes up, how low do we need to go to protect public health? It seems to be a moving target in terms of where the health effects are, where we really need to go to have health protection.”

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Flickering Hopes - Promoting CFLs

In a highly ambitious energy saving effort, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), a statutory body under the Union Power Ministry, launched a project in February 2009 to replace 400 million incandescent lamps (ICLs) - the conventional 'light bulbs' - with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) across the country. It is estimated that, once achieved, this will save the country 6,000 megawatts (MW) of power, or around Rs 25,000 crore. Called the Bachat Lamp Yojana (BLY), the scheme envisages providing two CFLs - of 14 or 16 watts - which cost around Rs 70 each when bought in bulk, to every electrified household, at the highly subsidised price of Rs 15 per lamp, in exchange for two ICLs.

Read More @ Business Today.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

(NRDC Switchboard) Air Pollution - An Assault on the Heart, Brain and Lungs

Posted on February 17th, 2012 on NRDC Swtichboard

A number of studies have come out recently confirming that air pollution at levels that many people commonly experience can have serious impacts to our hearts, brains and lungs.  A major review of 34 separate studies around the world found that short term exposure to a number of different air pollutants – fine particulates, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide - can increase the risk of heart attacks.

How can air pollution cause a heart attack?  The exact mechanism is unknown, but experts believe that air pollution messes with our cardiovascular system by: significantly increasing inflammation, causing irregular heart-beats, increasing the viscosity of our blood (e.g. thickening it so that it may accelerate the build-up of plaque in arteries or “atherosclerosis” and could possibly dislodge existing plaques), and increasing “vascoconstrictors” among other ill effects.

Across the globe, heart attacks account for most of the 1.3 million deaths caused by outdoor air pollution each year, according to the World Health Organization.  According to one estimate,  cardiopulmonary deaths resulting from air pollution may account for five percent of global mortality.  These cardiopulmonary deaths include stroke in addition to heart attacks.  One recent study showed an up to 34 percent increase in risk of stroke from exposure to fine particulate pollution at levels considered generally safe by the US EPA.

Among the many hazards of fine particulate pollution, there is “evidence that they can penetrate the brain through the nasal passages,” according to one researcher, who just published a study of cognitive decline related to particulate pollution.  That study showed a two year accelerated aging effect from long-term exposure to particulate pollution at “levels typically experienced by many individuals in the United States.”

Cardiologists and other medical specialists have begun to be more outspoken about the severe health impacts of air pollution.  One expert from UCLA notes that there is more than enough evidence that air pollution kills.  And the risks are not confined to sick people or those with pre-existing heart conditions; the risk of a “cardiovascular event brought on by air pollution” applies to healthy people as well.

Increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and cognitive impairment are just a few of the many serious health impacts related to air pollution, which also include asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, other respiratory illnesses, adverse birth outcomes,  cancer, and premature death.  An excellent recent special report on the air we breathe in Arizona included interviews with several pulmonologists, noting: “Bad-air days bring in more people [to the hospital].  Studies have shown there is a direct correlation and we see it.”

The Arizona piece goes on to tell a heart breaking story of a twelve year old girl utterly debilitated by air pollution.  She says: “I can’t run that much or my chest hurts.  If there’s pollution, my head hurts.”  Her parents report that her asthma has worsened causing her to miss 40 days of school last year. Similar stories of debilitating asthma and air pollution are all too common across the US.  In addition to the health, social and emotional toll that these illnesses take on families, the economic costs can be steep.  One recent study of the burden of asthma attributable to pollution in Southern California estimates millions of dollars in expense to the City of Long Beach accounting for more than 20 percent of its Health Department budget.

We have long known that when air pollution spikes, so do hospital admissions for asthma and other illnesses, but millions of people live in toxic hotspots near freeways and other major pollution sources where levels of fine particulates and other pollutants reach unhealthy levels every day.  While the highly visible ozone smog remains a problem in many regions, it’s the pollution that we can’t see that is the most dangerous to our health.  But we’re not helpless; there’s much that can be done to cut pollution associated with heart attacks, stroke, asthma and the many other health impacts.  Join us in our fight for clean air.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Science: Want to Fight Global Warming? Don't Just Focus on CO2

From Mr. Lalloobhoy Battliwala

Yesterday's gushing story by NY Times reminded me that this all started a year ago, at the AAAS meeting.

Tami says, ""Previously, the analyses have focused only on one pollutant, or on entire economic sectors, but this is not how policy is done."

Precisely. Sources do processes. And processes do substances. Processes (of which emissions are mere by-products, and KP GHGs are co-emitted with SLGHGs and cooling GHGs) need to be changed to make a change in substances (emissions).

The fanaticism of One-Devil (CO2) One God (renewables for grid feed-in) was bad policy (pushed the nuclear bandwagon, for one, and turned away China and India), and bad politics (Al Gore lost, so did Barack Obama on that issue, and so might Newt Gingrich).

As simple as that. Wrong process, wrong substance (outcome). (Now if only that message gets through to the FCCC, we'll be out of this national accounting of blames and credits.)

Kirk Smith said over ten years ago: "If we are going to put carbon in the atmosphere anyway, CO2 is the least harmful of all from climate point of view". (Or health, which is what matters ultimately.)

The basic issues are (i) incomplete combustion, (ii) co-emissions of cooling GHGs, and (iii) livestock and paddy rice.

And the basic message should be - all emissions, all impacts.


Want to Fight Global Warming? Don't Just Focus on CO2
by Eli Kintisch, Science Magazine, 17 February 2011, 6:25 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C.­Carbon dioxide is the elephant in the room for any discussion of how to stem global warming. But a new report suggests that tackling emissions of two other short-lasting pollutants­methane and the black component of soot­could slow expected warming by a full 0.5¢ªC beyond what targeting CO2 alone could accomplish by 2070.

The report, which will be discussed here Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW), includes a lot of uncertainty. But it fits with what scientists have learned about these pollutants in recent years. Methane is a more potent warming agent than CO2, although its duration in the atmosphere is measured in decades rather than centuries. Methane also contributes to asthma-causing pollution. Black carbon, the product of burning wood or other carbon-based fuels, heats the air directly, accelerates the melting of any snow it lands on, and creates so-called brown clouds that warm the sky. Although harmful to the hundreds of millions who breathe it each day, black carbon settles out of the atmosphere in a few weeks. So reducing emissions of it would have a nearly immediate impact on global temperatures.

In the study, an international team of researchers first examined 2000 different pollution-control measures for the two pollutants and chose 16. The measures include stemming methane leaks from coal mines or landfills and stopping black carbon pollution from primitive stoves and diesel construction equipment. The scientists then ran two separate climate models to learn how the rate of global warming might change if the 16 measures were deployed, with and without carbon dioxide controls.

Under control runs without any pollution controls, the global temperature rose by 2.5oC­plus or minus about 0.7oC­by 2070. Stemming CO2 (to an atmospheric level of 450 ppm) reduced that warming by about 0.5oC. Deploying the 16 controls reduced the warming by an additional 0.5oC, again with big error bars. (Since 1850, scientists estimate Earth's temperatures have risen by 0.7oC.)

"I was surprised when we looked through 2000 control measures and it turned out that doing just 16 of them could make a big dent in climate," said Drew Shindell, a researcher at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City who co-coordinated an international writing team on the report.
"It's the first time a group has picked out actual measures that might improve forcing by short-lived pollutants," says pollution-control expert Tami Bond of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who was not an author on the study. "Previously, the analyses have focused only on one pollutant, or on entire economic sectors, but this is not how policy is done."

David Fahey, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colorado, said that the researchers will need to do additional analyses to reduce the "significant( uncertainties associated with the role of black carbon in the climate." But he said that the promise of reducing emissions and improving human health made the analysis an "important" contribution to the field.

The report did not undergo formal peer review, but Bond and Fahey were among hundreds of outside scientists who submitted comments before the study was released. On Wednesday of next week, environment ministers from around the world meeting at the United Nations will receive the preliminary version of the full report and begin to discuss how to implement some of its findings, said a spokesperson for the United Nations Environment Programme, which sponsored the report along with the World Meteorological Organization.

The "Climate and Clean Air Coalition" Announced

US State Department, February 16th, 2012
Briefing on Global Climate Change and Clean Air Initiative.

Climate Progress, February 16th, 2012
New Global Deal on Climate Pollutants Could Help Lower Temperatures, Save Millions of Lives.

TIME, February 16th, 2012
Climate Action: Stopping Global Warming Through the Back Door.

AFP, February 16th, 2012
US launches coalition to fight climate change.

New York Times, February 15th, 2012
U.S. Pushes to Cut Emissions of Some Pollutants That Hasten Climate Change.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Air Pollution in Rajkot City, Gujarat, India

Rajkot breathes easy compared to Ahmedabad and Surat in Gujarat State
A study finds that PM10 emissions in Rajkot are significantly lower compared to the other two cities in Gujarat - DNA Correspondent.
Published in DNA India, February 16th, 2012

One would think that Rajkot, the hub of small and medium industries (SMEs) in Gujarat, would be highly polluted. Interestingly, the level of PM10 emissions in the city are far lower than in Ahmedabad and Surat.

PM10 emissions refer to pollutants that emit particulate matter of less than 10 micrometers in size (PM10). This surprising trend was revealed after a study titled 'Urban Air Pollution and Co-benefits Analysis in India' published recently for six Indian cities - Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Pune, Indore and Chennai.

Of these cities three are from Gujarat, and of these Rajkot accounts for the least PM10 emissions. The PM10 emission for the year 2010 for Rajkot was 14,000 ton compared to 19,950 ton and 35,100 ton for Surat and Ahmedabad respectively.

The study conducted by UrbanEmissions.Info a Delhi-based research group, also found that the mortality per ton of PM10 was also the least in Rajkot (0.02) across all the six cities. It was 0.06 for Surat and 0.14 for Ahmedabad.

However, Sarath Guttikunda, founder of UrbanEmissions.Info, has a word of caution. "Even though the PM10 emissions in Rajkot are lower compared to other cities, it in no way means that the concentration of pollution is less in the city," said Guttikunda.

On why Rajkot scored better on other counts compared to the rest of the five cities, Guttikunda said it is because it is a small city viz-a-viz Ahmedabad or Surat.

"Surat and Ahmedabad have large industries and the fleet of vehicles is larger. While Rajkot may have a higher concentration of SMEs, vehicles on roads are less compared to other cities," he said.

"Hence when you say the estimated premature death in Rajkot, going by the PM10 level is 300, it is indeed less compared to Ahmedabad (4950) and Surat (1250). But one should also remember that the population for these cities is different and the figures should be seen viz-a-viz the population and not in isolation," said Guttikunda.

He further said that the city may see a rise in PM10 emissions if number of vehicles continues to rise and efforts are not put in to reduce emissions by other means.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Air Pollution News & Alerts - February 12th, 2012

News & Information; Every Sunday
(Last on January 22nd, 2012)

Down To Earth, February, 2012
Pollution glorified.

The Sunday Guardian, February 12th, 2012
You don’t breathe here, you gasp in Delhi.

Economic Times, February 10th, 2012
IIT-Delhi scientists develop autos that run on hydrogen; cause negligible pollution.

The Daily Star, February 10th, 2012
Traffic jam polluting air.

UPI, February 9th, 2012
Beijing tackles air pollution.

Asia Times, February 9th, 2012
India chokes on environmental slight.

The Jerusalem Post, February 8th, 2012
Dust storm from North Africa fogs Israel.

Crienglish, February 8th, 2012
Beijing to Plant More Trees to Combat Pollution.

The World Bank, February 8th, 2012
Cleaner Bricks for Better Air Quality in Dhaka.

Today, February 8th, 2012
Harder to breathe easy in Asia?

Ecologist, February 7th, 2012
Stop the biomass blackout: say no to the UK's destructive bioenergy policies.

Times Live, February 7th, 2012
The real cost of fracking.

Scientific American, February 7th, 2012
Popular Opinion on Climate Change Traced to Political Elites.

Scientific American, February 7th, 2012
Can Cleaner Cooking and Solar Power Help Solve Energy Poverty in Africa?

The Guardian, February 7th, 2012
Why the energy industry is so invested in climate change denial.

Congress for American Progress, February 7th, 2012
Shining a Light on U.S.-China Clean Energy Cooperation.

Hindustan Times, February 5th, 2012
Air in India among the world's most deadly.

Times of India, February 5th, 2012
Air quality monitoring stations set up in 7 cities.

MoNRE, February 4th, 2012
Scientists say air pollution at night increasing in Vietnam.

Times of India, February 3rd, 2012
Building a new urban India.

SEI, February 1st, 2012
Ozone pollution hurts crops across continents.

UB Post, February 1st, 2012
Radiative cooling causes mist in Ulaanbaatar.

Vietnam Net, February 1st, 2012
Hanoi’s air quality declines.

Vietnam News, January 31st, 2012
Plan to perfect air-quality monitoring system underway.

Discover Magazine, January 30th, 2012
20 Things You Didn't Know About... Clouds.

Scientific American, January 29th, 2012
How Much Energy Do You Waste Charging Your Cell Phone?

The Hindu, January 28th, 2012
India has the most toxic air.

The NY Times, January 27th, 2012
Popular Criticism Cracks China’s Wall of Denial About Pollution.

Union of Concerned Scientists, January 27th, 2012
California Adopts Robust Plan for Cleaner Cars.

Mongolia News, January 26th, 2012
Lawyers blame Government for air pollution.

UB Post, January 26th, 2012
The future of renewable energy in Mongolia.

China Dialogue, January 26th, 2012
Chinese waste: the burning issue.

The Pioneer, January 25th, 2012
Choking the life force of our cities.

The Hindu Business Line, January 25th, 2012
Auto industry looks for clarity on diesel pricing.

National Geographic, January 25th, 2012
Scavenging for Charcoal Fuel in the Rubbish of Manila.

The Epoch Times, January 25th, 2012
Clean Air Targets Disappointing in Hong Kong.

Times of India, January 25th, 2012
A tale for many cities in India.

Asia Times, January 25th, 2012
China, India enter heating-up Arctic race.

The Guardian, January 25th, 2012
Does God care about climate change - video.

Science Daily, January 25th, 2012
Injecting Sulfate Particles Into Stratosphere Won't Fully Offset Climate Change.

NPR, January 24th, 2012
Op-Ed: The Verdict Is In On Climate Change.

WWF Mongolia, January 23rd, 2012
A year to fight against air pollution and environmental degradation.

Co-Exist, January 23rd, 2012
A New Sustainable City Rises In Bangladesh.

Asia One, January 23rd, 2012
Balancing economic growth and well-being in Singapore.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Why Energy Efficiency Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be (TIME)

From Mr. Lalloobhoy Battliwala

Because crackpots don't understand what it is - advancing the PPF.

"Saving" energy has no meaning in and of itself. When it reduces total cost (not just energy cost), you have enabled people to use that money for anything else, including using more energy (the so-called rebound effect). Which is good for economic growth and well-being.


Why Energy Efficiency Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be
By Bryan Walsh Tuesday, Feb. 07, 2012

City photos from "The Power of Cities".

When New Yorker writer David Owen moved his family from Manhattan to a small town in northwestern Connecticut in 1985, it seemed like a green decision. Their tree-shaded house had been built in the 1700s and sat across from a nature preserve. Deer, wild turkeys and even bears could be seen in their yard; woods surrounded their neighborhood. It was a bucolic country existence, something out of a nature poem.

Yet for the global environment, the move was a minidisaster. The Owens' electricity consumption went up more than sevenfold, and the lack of both public transportation and dense housing that's typical of Connecticut (and much of the rest of the U.S.) meant the family had to buy several cars. And those cars got driven — a lot. Owen notes that he and his wife now put some 30,000 miles a year on their odometers, burning carbon with every gallon. Access to trees and wildlife and cleaner air in Connecticut was great, but for the climate, it's dense and efficient Manhattan — where cars are optional and living space is much tighter — that does less damage per capita.

To Owen, the move was a lesson: what looks environmentally friendly isn't always the case. That's an idea he explores in his new book The Conundrum, which argues that energy efficiency, scientific innovation and even good green intentions are actually making our climate and environmental problems worse. While we rush to buy a Prius hybrid or fetishize local organic food, we're doing little to actually reduce the carbon emissions that are warming the planet — and we may even be going backward. "We're not actually making the problem better, we're making it worse," says Owen. (See photos of new ways to boost energy efficiency.)

He centers his argument on energy efficiency, which simply means reducing waste and getting more economic output per unit of energy, and is one of the few environmental-policy options that nearly everyone can agree on. Democrat or Republican, climate scientist or climate skeptic, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who'd be against reducing wasted energy. That's why paeans to efficiency find their way into every energy stump speech, including those of President Obama, who noted in the State of the Union speech that "the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy." One of the White House's most heralded green accomplishments this term has been an increase in automobile fuel-efficiency standards, tightening them from 25 m.p.g. now to 54.5 m.p.g. for cars and light trucks by 2025.

But Owen notes improved efficiency doesn't always translate to reduced energy use, thanks to something called the "rebound effect." It's pretty simple: as we become more efficient at using energy, we can save money — which then allows us to use more of that energy than we did before. Picture it this way: you trade in your gas-guzzling SUV for a new efficient hybrid, end up paying less per mile for gasoline, and use some of the savings to drive more than you did with the SUV. The efficiency has rebounded.

It's not clear how big the rebound effect really is. Efficiency advocates say that the effect, when it exists, is limited. Amory Lovins, the head of the Rocky Mountain Institute and an efficiency evangelist, has written that "no matter how efficient your house or washing machine becomes, you won't heat your house to sauna temperatures, or rewash clean clothes." There's a limit to how much more I would drive after buying a hybrid even as my gas bill shrinks. (See why energy-efficient home improvements haven't brought your energy bill down.)

But Owen argues that the rebound effect is much broader than a one-to-one relationship. I might drive a little bit more using the savings from my more efficient car, but I might also take the rest of those savings and spend it on something else — perhaps a vacation flight, or a new television. And nearly everything we buy and consume today requires energy, from appliances to holidays. Perhaps that's the reason American electricity production grew 66% between 1984 and 2005 even as the economy overall became much more efficient. And things are likely to be even worse in a rapidly growing nation like China, where a lot of people are acquiring consumer goods and other luxuries for the first time. "Energy efficiency by itself is not a sufficient green strategy," says Owen.

Hopes that we might simply run out of fossil fuels before we've cooked the sky now seem unfounded, thanks to the discovery of new unconventional supplies like oil sands or shale natural gas. We can decarbonize the energy we use by replacing fossil fuels with solar, nuclear and other alternatives, but that will take decades at best, and we're moving far too slowly.

So if we want to bring down carbon emissions, we have to use less energy — even very efficient energy — and that likely means we'd have to live with less growth. Good luck trying to explain that to voters, though. "There is a fundamental conflict between the idea of propagating growth and the idea of reducing carbon emissions," says Owen. "But if you're in a public-policy position, it's almost impossible to say that." (See "The Worst Kind of Poverty: Energy Poverty.")

That doesn't mean energy efficiency can't be a useful environmental tool — it can, provided it's coupled with policies that effectively increase the cost of energy, so savings from efficiency are conserved rather than being spent on additional consumption. We can also change policy to promote sustainable, dense urban living. (Hong Kongers are well-off, but they use only one-third as much energy as Americans largely because they live in one of the densest cities on the planet.) And we can focus on the environmental policies that really matter. Buying local food is fine, but what matters much more is how far you drove to get to the market — or whether you needed to drive at all. "What we need to do is make more big cities like Manhattan," says Owen. "But that's a tough sell."

Indeed it is. Owen notes that he likes living in small-town Connecticut, even if it isn't great for the planet. And while everything from highway construction to zoning regulations seem designed to induce sprawl, I suspect many Americans simply don't want to live in New York City, just as they don't really care about climate change enough to accept more expensive energy or slower economic growth. "We already know what we need to do and we have for a long time," Owen writes. "We just don't like the answers." That's the conundrum — and the solution won't be easy.

Insights from Past Millennia on the Health Impacts of Climate Change

From Mr. Lalloobhoy Battliwala

Anthony J McMichael PNAS paper "Insights from past millennia into climatic impacts on human health and survival" attached. Abstract below.

Except for the last sentence in the abstract, "Duh!!"

Is this science? It certainly ain't history. Collection of anecdotal tidbits, that's all.

But nor is it a uni-dimensional, deterministic tract the abstract made me afraid. (I have read McMichael's review papers before.)

It's a cautiously written paper, and I am of course unable to judge the validity of historical references. At times, however, I feel like his caution gives it a sophomoric tone - e.g. "Great civilizations decline for complex reasons"; of course, so why make grandiose claims?

As generally with mechanistic Models of Doom (see attached Solow piece from PNAS 1972), scientists ignore the role of prices and political power.

"The greatest recurring health risk has been from impaired food yields, mostly due to drying and drought. The fact that drought has been the dominant historical cause of hunger, starvation, and consequent death (70) casts an ominous shadow over this coming century, for which climate modeling consistently projects an increase in the range, frequency, and intensity of droughts (71)."

Yeah, yeah. But how droughts become famines is the interaction of human ingenuity, control, deviousness.

McMichael quotes Mike Davis' Late Victorian Holocausts (footnote 66) but only to report out-of-context statistics.

Climate scientists like Trenberth assert all other scientists should refrain from challenging their climate dogma and stick to their discipline. Perhaps epidemiologists shouldn't pretend to be historians and philosophers. Or climate scientists, for that matter.

The last sentence in the Abstract is nonsense; it is cheaper to more directly address the climate-related health vulnerability.

Grow more food and distribute it efficiently. Address food insecurity, forget climate change abatement.


Anthony J. McMichael, Feb 6,2012,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Climate change poses threats to human health, safety, and survival via weather extremes and climatic impacts on food yields, fresh water, infectious diseases, confl ict, and displacement. Paradoxically, these risks to health are neither widely nor fully recognized. Historical experiences of diverse societies experiencing climatic changes, spanning multicentury to single-year duration, provide insights into population health vulnerability— even though most climatic changes were considerably less than those anticipated this century and beyond. Historical experience indicates the following. (i ) Long-term climate changes have often destabilized civilizations, typically via food shortages, consequent hunger, disease, and unrest. (ii) Medium-term climatic adversity has frequently caused similar health, social, and sometimes political consequences. (iii) Infectious disease epidemics have often occurred in association with briefer episodes of temperature shifts, food shortages, impoverishment, and social disruption. (iv ) Societies have often learnt to cope (despite hardship for some groups) with recurring shorterterm (decadal to multiyear) regional climatic cycles (e.g., El Niño Southern Oscillation)— except when extreme phases occur. (v ) The drought– famine – starvation nexus has been the main, recurring, serious threat to health. Warming this century is not only likely to greatly exceed the Holocene’ s natural multidecadal temperature fluctuations but to occur faster. Along with greater climatic variability, models project an increased geographic range and severity of droughts. Modern societies, although larger, better resourced, and more interconnected than past societies, are less flexible, more infrastructure-dependent, densely populated, and hence are vulnerable. Adverse historical climate-related health experiences underscore the case for abating human-induced climate change.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Andy Revkin in NY Times DotEarth: Two Nobelists, Two Views (or, the Story of Cooking)

From Mr. Lalloobhoy Battliwala

Some say the earth is cooking. I say look at the debate on cooking.

The two Nobelists are Mario Molina and Burton Richter, mentioned in Andy Revkin's DotEarth entry farther down. The two in turn are responding to a statement by a third Nobelist - Ivar Giaever - mentioned in a WSJ letter by other scientists.

First below, a WSJ letter on 27 Jan, signed by 16 "concerned scientists" and titled "No Need to Panic About Global Warming". The headline is acceptable; the letter asks "what, if anything" needs to be done about global warming, and is an appropriate answer to "do something, anything, no matter the cost and no matter who pays" mindset. It concludes, "Every candidate should support rational measures to protect and improve our environment, but it makes no sense at all to back expensive programs that divert resources from real needs and are based on alarming but untenable claims of "incontrovertible" evidence."

Of course, science is all about 'incontrovertible' evidence that should be challenged and can be overturned. The letter only says, "There's no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to 'decarbonize' the world's economy." Leaving open the question whether there is sufficient evidence ('balance of evidence', not 'guilt beyond a reasonable doubt') for significant but non-drastic (minimally invasive surgery, not replacement of eight joints plus kidney) action to decarbonize some parts of the world economy.

The letter maintains a Giaever, a Physics Nobel Laureate who resigned from the American Physical Society because he couldn't stomach its policy statement, "Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now." As policy statements go - and APS has designated it as such - what is there to disagree with? "If no mitigating actions..", but that is evidently not the case; mitigating actions are being taken, just that some think they are not adequate. The statement says nothing about WHEN "significant disruptions" are "likely to occur", nor whether "we must reduce emissions.. beginning now" at the rate of 10% or 0.1% (besides, world GDP is getting decarbonized anyway, considering all carbon emissions).

Do scientists pause to think how irrelevant their storms in their tea-cups, fist-fights in their sand-boxes are? A few hundred million dollars of research funds may be at stake, but peanuts considering the stake.

But of course there was a fanatic reaction. Because the claim of 'incontrovertible evidence' was challenged. So the WSJ published a letter on 1 February (nice advertising success!) by not just 'concerned scientists' (which also included a former spacenaut, a couple of engineers) but annointed, credentialed "climate scientists". The college of cardinals (with R K Pachauri as the pope) squeaks, "Do you consult your dentist about your heart condition?" Well, who is to tell I have a heart condition and not a tooth condition, and what if cardiologists keep saying I need a quadruple bypass but ignore that I also have a rare blood disorder that would kill me the moment somebody cuts me up for heart surgery?

And, "In science, as in any area, reputations are based on knowledge and expertise in a field and on published, peer-reviewed work." Ah. Of course. Big Deal for those with reputations, and only reputations, to protect.

"Climate experts know that the long-term warming trend has not abated in the past decade." Ahem.

"The world is heating up and humans are primarily responsible. Impacts are already apparent and will increase. Reducing future impacts will require significant reductions in emissions of heat-trapping gases." Nothing new here. Move on, guys. Nor in the pompous claim "The world is heating up and humans are primarily responsible. Impacts are already apparent and will increase. Reducing future impacts will require significant reductions in emissions of heat-trapping gases." Yeah, heard that so often, Rio+20 will sound like Rio, Rio, Rio, twenty times over. A broken record.

"Research shows that more than 97% of scientists actively publishing in the field agree that climate change is real and human caused." Well, 97% of the politicians actively seeking election or re-election, or 97% of the horse-cart drivers, may agree that sky is blue, sometimes, and will remain blue during many days.

What really is their advice? None, except a stupid finding, "there is very clear evidence that investing in the transition to a low-carbon economy will not only allow the world to avoid the worst risks of climate change, but could also drive decades of economic growth. Just what the doctor ordered."

THIS IS UTTER SPECULATION. Even nonsense. There is undeniable evidence that the industrialization of the Third World - based on high-CO2 power and transport - has driven decades of world economic growth. Oh, well; they only say "could" drive; nice hedging there.

Do scientists have no shame, cluttering the intellectual space with specious arguments and infantile squabbling? Or, are they prima donnas who take objection to an innocuous policy statement or another? What do they think they are - as if their policy pronouncements matter more than a couple of hoots, especially when couched in such modest language as to have any meaning at all?

What has all this to do with cooking (i.e., other than the earth)?

There're similar arguments there. The advocates of GACC have been running around like chicken littles, claiming that IAP from home cooking is killing 1.6 million children and women per year; that's 'science', even if folks don't have a clue as to what 'clean cookstoves' are (in the absence of cleaner fuels), or what they would do. Some others come in and talk about losing forests and causing erosion; more 'science'. Then opponents of 'stoves' work squabble with combustion practices, emission rates, exposures, epidemilogy; more 'science' again.

What is lost in all this is that humans have known for centuries that excessive smoke is bad. Even if they don't know that even smaller amounts of smoke can cause short- and long-term damage, they have learnt to live with it until they can escape the fuel poverty - enough money to hire someone else to collect/prepare fuel and/or to cook, and better still, to move to cleaner stove/fuel combinations. The real challenge is in developing cheaper, more reliable alternatives and getting them in the market place where it matters. The 'science' argument is valuable but immaterial.

Same with the so-called climate debate. The 'science' argument over extent and causes of change, and long-term prospects, is immaterial so long as there is a de-carbonization trend.

Repeat after Kirk Smith - "If one is going to put carbon in the atmosphere anyway, CO2 is the least harmful of all." And accept that all emissions and all impacts considered, the decarbonization trend will accelerate somewhat but not at the rate some scientists demand. Tough. Live with the climate, whether or not it changes and whether or not some scientists say this thing or that.

Even Andy Revkin says, "Meanwhile there are many things we can do that have multiple benefits." Keep one cause - human well-being - in mind; the rest will follow.


Links to the articles discussed above

Wall Street Journal, January 27th, 2012
No Need to Panic About Global Warming - There's no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to 'decarbonize' the world's economy.

Wall Street Journal, February 1st, 2012
Check With Climate Scientists for Views on Climate.

NY Times, Dot Earth Blog, February 2nd, 2012
Two Nobelists Offer Views of Human-Driven Global Warming.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Climate Change & Religion - Five Stories from Flushing (Queens, New York City)

Watch more videos on The Guardian.

Task Force to Tame Carbon (CO2 and Black Carbon) from Brick Kilns

From the Telegraph

Patna, Jan. 31: Deepak Kumar Singh, the secretary of the environment and forests department, today called for setting up a task force for cleaner brick production in the state.

While speaking at a workshop at the Beltron Bhavan in the state capital, Singh said: “The role of the task force would be to implement new eco-friendly technology and make them popular among people. The task force would also spread awareness.”

The workshop on “Accelerating low-carbon pathways for climate change mitigation in Bihar — Enabling transformation in the brick sector” was organised by Bihar State Pollution Control Board and Development Alternatives, New Delhi, in association with Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, New Delhi.

Its objective was to map the brick sector in Bihar that has witnessed little change in the past 150 years.

This objective, however, is a Herculean task, claimed Soumen Maity, Development Alternatives programme director (technology). He said: “There are many issues plaguing the brick sector in Bihar. We, who are stakeholders in this, have gathered today to discuss these issues and find solutions for them. We want to give people a basket of choices so that they know how to cut down on carbon emission during brick production.”

Maity added: “This would tackle the problem of climate change.”

Sources said there around 100 brick kilns of different sizes in each district of the state.

Emission from brick kilns was not the only concern of the experts. They were also worried about agricultural land being used as brick kilns.

After inaugurating the workshop, Bihar State Pollution Control Board member secretary Manoj Kumar Singh said: “The brick sector is a priority for the state because of the high consumption of coal. It also plays a major role in climate change.”

He added: “It also has the potential to affect food production. If vast tracts of agricultural land is used as brick kilns, it will have an impact on food production.”

Entrepreneurs who attended the workshop called for modern technology to cut down on carbon emission at brick production sectors.

Sanjay Pratap Singh, an entrepreneur from Ara, who installed an eco-friendly vertical-shaft brick kiln last year, told The Telegraph: “At this workshop, we were provided information about fly ash bricks that are eco-friendly. However, it is difficult for small factories to produce such bricks, as the raw material used for it can be obtained only from National Thermal Power Corporation. Small kilns do not have access to raw material.”

Reduction in Life Expectancy due to Air Pollution

A very good summary of articles on lifetime deaths and life expectancy is posted on Next Big Future. Links to some images below. Please read the article on their blog.

Trends in the mortality rate due to air pollution (studies across the world)

A picture from the London fog in 1952

The air pollution levels and mortality rates during the London Fog in 1952