Saturday, January 26, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

1966 Manhattan Looks Like 2013 Beijing

From Business Insider, January 23rd, 2013

Asian Cities With Air Quality As Bad As Beijing

From CleanBiz.Asia
January 23rd, 2013

When it comes to polluted cities Asia leads the world. While Beijing was hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons as pollution rose to ‘off-the-scale’ levels, and Hong Kong’s government was revealing plans on how it is going to tackle the city’s pollution, there are a number of other cities throughout the region, which are in an even worse state.

While you may think Mongolia is all about un-spoilt wild landscapes and horses with little pollution, the latest data released by the UN Agency World Health Organization points to Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, as the world’s most polluted city.

Air pollution in Asia, which already causes more than 800,000 premature deaths each year, will likely lead to even higher death rates as the region's air quality worsens, according to air quality group Clean Air Asia.

According to WHO levels of PM10 (particles of 10 microns or less per cubic meter) in Ulaanbaatar reaches 279 micrograms per cubic meter of air (ug/m3). This compares to 81ug/m3 recorded in Shanghai or the average of 50 for Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur. Australia’s capital Canberra with a reading of 10 ug/m3 is Asia’s least polluted city.

Pollution in Ulaanbaatar is due to the city’s location at 1,300 meters above sea level. It turns the metropolis into the world’s coldest national capital, with an average annual temperature of -1.3°C. According to WHO, given its almost neverending winters, the coal combustion for cooking and heating is prevalent and a leading cause of air pollution - outdoor and indoor.

But Mongolia is not the only one: the Indian sub-continent is also home to some of the world’s most polluted cities. Ludhiana in India and Quetta in Pakistan fight for the title of Asia’s second most polluted city. If you take a look at the top twelve most polluted cities in the region, India and Pakistan occupy 2nd to 12th place. New Delhi flirts with 200 ug/m2 while the world’s famous tourist city of Agra is also world famous for its pollution index at 165 ug/m2!

Looking north, South Korean cities are also among the most polluted in Northeast Asia with Seoul or Pusan standing at over 60 ug/m3 of PM10, three times as much as Tokyo or Osaka.

While Southeast Asia seems to perform better, some cities continue to show high levels of pollution. Medan’s PM10 concentration of stands at 111 ug/m3, making North Sumatra’s capital the most polluted in Indonesia and in Southeast Asia. It is closely followed by Yangon in Myanmar with a particles’ concentration of 96 ug/m3.

Mandalay in Myanmar, Surabaya in Indonesia, Shah Alam and Johor Bahru in Malaysia as well as Saraburi, Bangkok and Ayutthaya are among the most polluted cities in the region. Surprisingly, even Jakarta and Manila perform better than the Thai capital despite being chocked by heavy car fumes most of the time of the year.

So, where should Asians for a breath of fresh air? The WHO ranks Estonia, Mauritius and Canada as having the world’s best air quality.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Air Pollution News & Alerts - January 22nd, 2013

Hindustan Times, January 22nd, 2013
Now, produce PUC certificates for insurance renewal.

Shanghai Daily, January 22nd, 2013
Beijing unveils new steps to curb air pollution.

The City Fix, January 22nd, 2013
Better Driving, Improved Fuel Efficiency.

Science Daily, January 22nd, 2013
NASA Ozone Study May Benefit Air Standards, Climate.

UB Post, January 21st, 2013
President gives direction to the Government.

The Independent, January 21st, 2013
How Clean is Your Air?

Scientific American, January 21st, 2013
Obama Pledges to Address Climate, Energy.

Yale Environment 360, January 20th, 2013
Map Illustrates Air Pollution Across Asia, Middle East.

New York Times, January 19th, 2013
Mercury-Emissions Treaty Is Adopted After Years of Negotiations.

Down to Earth, January 19th, 2013
Diesel prices: don’t miss the point.

Science Daily, January 18th, 2013
Air Pollution and Unhappiness Correlated.

The City Fix, January 18th, 2013
4 Big Ideas To Revolutionize Transportation.

NRDC Switchboard, January 18th, 2013
The Price of Coal in China.

NPR, January 18th, 2013
Beijing Grapples with Record Air Pollution.

Bangkok Post, January 18th, 2013
Put up with this air pollution? You've got to be choking.

Clean Daily, January 17th, 2013
Billions set aside to clean up air.
 The Guardian, January 17th, 2013
Beijing is not the only Asian city with lethal air pollution.

Yale Environment 360, January 17th, 2013
Black Carbon and Warming - It’s Worse than We Thought.

Huffington Post, January 17th, 2013
Black Carbon More Powerful Contributor to Climate Change Than Previously Thought.

The Atlantic, January 17th, 2013
In China, Can Pollution Spur Media Transparency?

Truth Dive, January 16th, 2013
Air Pollution in India and China.

NRDC Switchboard, January 16th, 2013
China needs a "people's war" to fight pollution.

NRDC Switchboard, January 16th, 2013
Air Pollution in China Should be a Catalyst for Air Pollution Action.

Fruitity, January 16th, 2013
To lower emissions, give US coal to China?

Wall Street Journal, January 16th, 2013
Beijing ‘Airpocalypse’ Reflected in Online Shopping Stats.

The Atlantic, January 16th, 2013
Aghast Over Beijing's Air Pollution? This Was Pittsburgh Not That Long Ago.

The Asian Correspondent, January 16th, 2013
Asia and soot: Black carbon even worse than thought.

China Daily, January 16th, 2013
Quality of air remains a global concern.

Clean Biz Asia, January 16th, 2013
HK leader unveils environmental roadmap but some still wary.

Hindustan Times, January 15th, 2013
Study to find sources of air dust in Delhi.

Inhabitat, January 15th, 2013
California Installed a Whopping 1 GW of Solar Power by the End of 2012.

First Post Business, January 15th, 2013
Sick Delhi: Environmentalists squarely blame diesel cars.

Down To Earth, January 15th, 2013
Wind loses power.

Finance Asia, January 15th, 2013
Pollution: Until it hurts business, it won't clear up.

Times of India, January 15th, 2013
Thought Beijing air was bad? Delhi's no better.

The Atlantic, January 14th, 2013
The Latest Chinese Pollution Crisis.

TIME, January 14th, 2013
Beijing Chokes on Record Pollution, and Even the Government Admits There’s a Problem.

The Guardian, January 14th, 2013
Beijing authorities act to curb emissions as air pollution hits record level - video.

Christian Science Monitor, January 14th, 2013
Air pollution in Beijing: Off the charts and (now) on the agenda.

The Guardian, January 14th, 2013
The heat is on as the New York Times closes its environment desk.

Inhabitat, January 14th, 2013
Beijing Smog 'Beyond Index' as Air Pollution Recorded at Over 30 Times Safe Levels.

Scientific American, January 13th, 2013
Electric Cars Need a New Sound.

Global Times, January 13th, 2013
Green skies ahead.

Economic Observer, January 13th, 2013
Podcast: Is China Really Killing Us?

Bloomberg, January 13th, 2013
Beijingers Told to Stay Indoors as Pollution Hits Record.

China Daily, January 13th, 2013
China remains world's largest energy producer.

International Herald Tribune, January 13th, 2013
Breathing in Beijing: Coping With China’s Smog.

New York Times, January 13th, 2013
On Scale of 0 to 500, Beijing’s Air Quality Tops ‘Crazy Bad’ at 755.

Huffington Post, January 13th, 2013
Beijing, China Air Pollution Hits Hazardous Levels.

Peoples Daily Online, January 13th, 2013
Fog, haze lead to big spike in pollution levels.

CNN, January 13th, 2013
Beijing residents choke in record smog levels.

Wall Street Journal, January 13th, 2013
Beijing Pollution Hits Highs.

Global Post, January 12th, 2013
Beijing's air pollution reaches hazardous levels.

Bangkok Post, January 12th, 2013
Dept says pollution, rubbish woes worsen in Bangkok.

NPR, January 11th, 2013
How E-Waste Is Becoming a Big, Global Problem.

The Conversation, January 10th, 2013
Moylan’s anti-coal message is an international one.

NRDC Switchboard, January 9th, 2013
BLM assesses human health impacts from oil and gas development in Alaska.

Scientific American, January 9th, 2013
Breathe Wheezy: Traffic Pollution Not Only Worsens Asthma, but May Cause It.

NPR, January 9th, 2013
Under Construction: The World's Largest Thermal Solar Plant.

Huffington Post, January 8th, 2013
Tehran Pollution Crisis 2012: Thousands Dead In Iran's Capital As Government Warns To Stay Indoors.

Global Times, January 8th, 2013
Air pollution lingers for 3rd straight day.

NTD Television, January 8th, 2013
Air Pollution in China Causes Thousands of Deaths in Major Cities.

Science Daily, January 7th, 2013
Counting the Cost of Mercury Pollution.

Atlantic Wire, January 6th, 2013
Life in Tehran Becomes Even More Miserable.

New York Times, January 6th, 2013
Annual Buildup of Air Pollution Chokes Tehran.

Xinhua net, Janury 6th, 2013
China to further promote energy-efficient vehicles.

China Dialogue, January 3rd, 2013
Taxi drivers in China have highest PM2.5 air pollutant exposure.

Platts, January 3rd, 2013
China’s oil and natural gas sectors ready to roar in 2013.

Hindustan Times, January 3rd, 2013
Bus-makers’ hopes ride on 12th plan.

Times of India, December 31st, 2012
New machines to monitor Noida's air pollution levels.

International Herald Tribune, December 28th, 2012
The Great Smog of China.

Center for Science and Environment, December 20th, 2012
Round Table conference on Funding Strategies for Bus Transport held on December 18, 2012 in Delhi.

Global Times, December 17th, 2012
New pollution index for Beijing.

Down to Earth, December 15th, 2012
Ponty, buses and PPPs.

China Daily, December 15th, 2012
Plan to take vehicles off roads to cut emissions.

Xinhua Net, December 5th, 2012
China releases air pollution reduction plan, vows PM2.5 cut.

Center for Science and Environment, November 30th, 2012
CSE slams reported efforts by industry to dilute car fuel economy standards.

Down to Earth, November 30th, 2012
Smog has to be cleared in Delhi, India.

Center for Science and Environment, November 26th, 2012
CSE welcomes Supreme Court nod to tax diesel cars.

Down to Earth, November 15th, 2012
Diwali this year caused more air pollution, but made less noise.

EHP, November 1st, 2013
Near-Roadway Pollution and Childhood Asthma: Implications for Developing “Win–Win” Compact Urban Development and Clean Vehicle Strategies.

Down To Earth, September 30th, 2012
High-speed derailment in Delhi Metro.

Down to Earth, September 30th, 2012
Temporary solution, permanent jam in Indian cities.

Down to Earth, August 15th, 2012
Pocket air sensors.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pollution From Coal Burning in China (NRDC)

From NRDC Switchboard, January 18th, 2013
The Price of Coal

Last Saturday an air pollution monitor atop the U.S. Embassy in Beijing rated the pollution index at a shocking 755--on a scale of 0 to 500. (The EPA categorizes pollution levels over 300 as "hazardous.") A Time reporter wrote that the view from her 16th floor Beijing apartment was "akin to a sandstorm in Afghanistan." Even China's official People's Daily ran a front-page story on the appalling haze, calling it a "suffocating siege." My Beijing colleague Jingjing Qian said that mai, or smog, once a rarely-used word in Chinese, has been the talk of the town.

Dozens of cities in eastern China reported record-breaking levels of pollution last week. Children stayed indoors, while others only ventured out in masks. During the smog's peak, hospitals reported an uptick in patients with respiratory and heart complaints. This NASA satellite photo, in which grayish-brown smog completely blots out the cities of Beijing and neighboring Tianjin, was taken after the pollution began to dissipate.

Weather conditions certainly played a role in trapping the smog above Beijing's flat plain, but the source of the pollution itself is entirely human--created, in large part, by the burning of coal. Since my last visit to China, when the never-ending haze left a metallic taste in my mouth, the Chinese government has taken steps to cut power plant pollution, improve environmental monitoring, and strengthen the transparency of environmental information. This newfound transparency has helped fuel the unprecedented, and largely critical, coverage on the smog by the Chinese media.

All this is important progress. But to prevent the occurrence of another "airpocalypse" in China, this transparency needs to spark more aggressive action to curb air pollution from coal, cars, and factories. China needs to continue to strengthen and monitor emissions standards for power plants and industrial facilities, accelerate the shift away from polluting industries, expand public transit and walkability in cities, and take steps to clean up its dirty diesel trucks and buses, which contribute huge quantities of particulate soot to Beijing's air. And possibly the most critical step China can take to clear its air will be to put a cap on the amount of coal it burns.

In 2011, China consumed 3.6 billion tons of coal--half the world's total consumption. And that number continues to rise. Significant progress on energy efficiency (NRDC has been working on this for more than a decade in China) and the expansion of renewable energy could reduce coal's share of total energy consumption by as much as 10 percent by 2020, according to an LBNL study. But total energy use in China is still on the upswing, which means total coal consumption--and emissions--will also rise.

Continuing to burn billions of tons of coal each year, without adequate pollution controls, endangers not only the health of Chinese citizens, but also the health of the planet. Coal is a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions, and scientists warn that without effective, global action to curb this pollution, we are propelling ourselves toward catastrophic climate change. China, by virtue of its size and the rapid increase in its emissions from coal, can play an important global role in reducing the risk of severe climate impacts--and improve its own local air quality-- by moving quickly to reduce its reliance on coal.

China's CO2 emissions rose by about 9 percent in 2011, according to the IEA, largely due to increasing coal consumption. Continued growth at this pace will make it very difficult to keep global warming in check, especially as the world struggles to find ways to keep the warming needle under 2 degrees Celsius, the point beyond which, scientists say, we risk extreme environmental and societal disruption.

That's a fairly dire outcome. But no amount of scientific modeling is as compelling as a thick blanket of brown, soupy air smothering your capital; or the voice of your people who are tired of getting sick from pollution. This could be China's Cuyahoga moment: when an instance of pollution so severe, like the river that caught fire outside Cleveland in 1969, moves the people, and the government, to action. China has set soft targets for coal consumption in the past, but these are routinely, and overwhelmingly, exceeded. By setting a mandatory, enforceable cap on coal, China can make its air and water cleaner and its people healthier. It can also help the world steer clear of climate disaster.


Global Post, January 12th, 2013
Beijing's air pollution reaches hazardous levels.

CNN, January 13th, 2013
Beijing residents choke in record smog levels.

Wall Street Journal, January 13th, 2013
Beijing Pollution Hits Highs.

TIME, January 14th, 2013
Beijing Chokes on Record Pollution, and Even the Government Admits There’s a Problem.

The Guardian, January 14th, 2013
Beijing authorities act to curb emissions as air pollution hits record level - video.

Christian Science Monitor, January 14th, 2013
Air pollution in Beijing: Off the charts and (now) on the agenda.

Finance Asia, January 15th, 2013
Pollution: Until it hurts business, it won't clear up.

Times of India, January 15th, 2013
Thought Beijing air was bad? Delhi's no better.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bounding the Role of Black Carbon in the Climate System: A Scientific Assessment



Soot, known as black carbon to scientists, is the second largest man-made contributor to global warming, and its influence on climate has been greatly underestimated, according to a new international study. The assessment "Bounding the role of black carbon in the climate system: A scientific assessment" was published online today in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Diesel engines, forest fires and many other sources throw heat-trapping specks of soot – black carbon – into the atmosphere. In addition to causing respiratory health problems, black carbon also warms the climate. For decades, its full impact on climate has been the source of much debate.

The study for the first time presents a comprehensive and quantitative analysis of the role of black carbon on the climate system. CSD's David Fahey, Ph.D., is a co-lead author and Joshua Schwarz a contributing author of the study, led by the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry (IGAC) Project. The IGAC Project of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme coordinates and fosters atmospheric chemistry research worldwide.

The research indicates that black carbon ranks second behind carbon dioxide as the major cause of man-made global warming and that its influence on climate has been underestimated, confirming some earlier studies that also showed a significant role for black carbon in climate warming. The study, a four-year, 232-page effort, provides scientific information relevant to research, climate modeling, and policy decisions regarding black carbon.

"This study confirms and goes beyond other research that suggested black carbon has a strong warming effect on climate, just ahead of methane," says Fahey. In fact, the best estimate of direct climate influence by black carbon in this report is about a factor of two higher than most previous work, including the estimates in the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment released in 2007, which were based on the best available evidence and analysis at that time. Scientists have spent the years since the last IPCC assessment improving estimates, but the new IGAC assessment notes that emissions in some regions are probably higher than estimated. This is consistent with other research that also hinted at significant under-estimating for some regions' black carbon emissions.

The results indicate that there may be a greater potential to curb warming by reducing black carbon emissions than previously thought.

The international team urges caution because the role of black carbon in climate change is complex. "Black carbon influences climate in many ways, both directly and indirectly, and all of these effects must be considered jointly," says co-lead author and snow measurement expert Sarah Doherty, Ph.D., of the NOAA Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO) at the University of Washington. The dark particles absorb incoming and scattered heat from the sun); they can promote the formation of clouds that can have either a cooling or warming impact; and black carbon can fall on the surface of snow and ice, promoting warming and increasing melting. In addition, many sources of black carbon also emit other particles, which counteract black carbon providing a cooling effect.

The research team quantified all the complexities of black carbon and the impacts of co-emitted pollutants for different sources, taking into account uncertainties in measurements and calculations. The study suggests mitigation of black carbon emissions for climate benefits must consider all emissions from each source and their complex influences on climate.

In addition, the report finds black carbon is a significant cause of the rapid warming in the Northern Hemisphere at mid to high latitudes, including the northern United States, Canada, northern Europe and northern Asia. Its impacts can also be felt farther south, inducing changes in rainfall patterns from the Asian Monsoon.

Citation: T. C. Bond, S. J. Doherty, D. W. Fahey, P. M. Forster, T. Berntsen, B. J. DeAngelo, M. G. Flanner, S. Ghan, B. Kärcher, D. Koch, S. Kinne, Y. Kondo, P. K. Quinn, M. C. Sarofim, M. G. Schultz, M. Schulz, C. Venkataraman, H. Zhang, S. Zhang, N. Bellouin, S. K. Guttikunda, P. K. Hopke, M. Z. Jacobson, J. W. Kaiser, Z. Klimont, U. Lohmann, J. P. Schwarz, D. Shindell, T. Storelvmo, S. G. Warren, C. S. Zender, Bounding the role of black carbon in the climate system: A scientific assessment J. Geophys. Res., in press, doi:10.1002/jgrd.50171, 2013.


Black carbon aerosol plays a unique and important role in Earth's climate system. Black carbon is a type of carbonaceous material with a unique combination of physical properties. This assessment provides an evaluation of black-carbon climate forcing that is comprehensive in its inclusion of all known and relevant processes and that is quantitative in providing best estimates and uncertainties of the main forcing terms: direct solar absorption, influence on liquid, mixed-phase, and ice clouds, and deposition on snow and ice. These effects are calculated with climate models, but when possible, they are evaluated with both microphysical measurements and field observations. Predominant sources are combustion related; namely, fossil fuels for transportation, solid fuels for industrial and residential uses, and open burning of biomass. Total global emissions of black carbon using bottom-up inventory methods are 7500 Gg yr-1 in the year 2000 with an uncertainty range of 2000 to 29000. However, global atmospheric absorption attributable to black carbon is too low in many models, and should be increased by a factor of almost three. After this scaling, the best estimate for the industrial-era (1750 to 2005) direct radiative forcing of atmospheric black carbon is +0.71 W m-2 with 90% uncertainty bounds of (+0.08, +1.27) W m-2. Total direct forcing by all black carbon sources, without subtracting the pre-industrial background, is estimated as +0.88 (+0.17, +1.48) W m-2. Direct radiative forcing alone does not capture important rapid adjustment mechanisms. A framework is described and used for quantifying climate forcings, including rapid adjustments. The best estimate of industrial-era climate forcing of black carbon through all forcing mechanisms, including clouds and cryosphere forcing, is +1.1 W m-2 with 90% uncertainty bounds of +0.17 to +2.1 W m-2. Thus, there is a very high probability that black carbon emissions, independent of co-emitted species, have a positive forcing and warm the climate. We estimate that black carbon, with a total climate forcing of +1.1 W m-2, is the second most important human emission in terms of its climate-forcing in the present-day atmosphere; only carbon dioxide is estimated to have a greater forcing. Sources that emit black carbon also emit other short-lived species that may either cool or warm climate. Climate forcings from co-emitted species are estimated and used in the framework described herein. When the principal effects of co-emissions, including cooling agents such as sulfur dioxide, are included in net forcing, energy-related sources (fossil-fuel and biofuel) have an industrial-era climate forcing of +0.22 (-0.50 to +1.08) W m-2 during the first year after emission. For a few of these sources, such as diesel engines and possibly residential biofuels, warming is strong enough that eliminating all emissions from these sources would reduce net climate forcing (i.e., produce cooling). When open burning emissions, which emit high levels of organic matter, are included in the total, the best estimate of net industrial-era climate forcing by all black-carbon-rich sources becomes slightly negative (-0.06 W m-2 with 90% uncertainty bounds of -1.45 to +1.29 W m-2). The uncertainties in net climate forcing from black-carbon-rich sources are substantial, largely due to lack of knowledge about cloud interactions with both black carbon and co-emitted organic carbon. In prioritizing potential black-carbon mitigation actions, non-science factors, such as technical feasibility, costs, policy design, and implementation feasibility play important roles. The major sources of black carbon are presently in different stages with regard to the feasibility for near-term mitigation. This assessment, by evaluating the large number and complexity of the associated physical and radiative processes in black-carbon climate forcing, sets a baseline from which to improve future climate forcing estimates.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Outdoor Air Pollution in Delhi Kills 7,000 to 16,000 Annually

From the journal article published in Environment Development (2013)

A multi-sectoral emissions inventory for 2010 was modeled using the ATMoS dispersion model and local meteorology to estimate health impacts in terms of premature mortality and morbidity effects. For the observed PM levels in the city, the health impacts analysis estimates 7,350–16,200 premature deaths and 6.0 million asthma attacks per year.

For six residential and industrial zones, we also modeled the sector contributions to ambient PM2.5 ranging 16–34% for vehicle exhaust, 20–27% for diffused sources, 14–21% for industries, 3–16% diesel generator sets, and 4–17% brick kilns.

Top 100 cities with the worst air quality in the World (WHO, 2011)

Taxi Drivers are Exposed to 3 Times More PM2.5 Pollution Than Average Person in Chinese Cities (Green Peace)

From article in The China Dialogue, January 3rd, 2013

A study conducted by Greenpeace has revealed that taxi drivers suffer the greatest levels of exposure to PM2.5 air pollution: three times that of the average person, and five times the world standard.

The study, carried out by Greenpeace in partnership with the Beijing University School of Public Health, looked at four individuals: a child, an environmentalist, a taxi driver, and an outdoor enthusiast. 

The four individuals’ daily activity over 24 hours was recorded and their exposure to pollution was contrasted with China’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard. It showed that both the taxi driver and the athlete suffered levels of exposure higher than the national standard.  

More worrying still was the comparison with the WHO’s guideline values on particulate matter: the taxi driver’s exposure to the levels of PM2.5 in Beijing’s air was equivalent to five times the standard set for mean exposure over a 24-hour period, with the athlete exposed to six times the standard.

Within the report, Greenpeace indicated that it estimates atmospheric particulates to account for 3% of cardiovascular deaths in young people worldwide, as well as around 5% of deaths due to bronchitis and lung cancer, and around 1% of deaths due to acute respiratory infection.  

Generally, the longer subjects spent outdoors, the greater the threat posed to their health by PM2.5 pollution; though staying indoors did not eliminate the exposure.

For taxi drivers, who come into more contact with car exhaust fumes, this effect is likely to be greater.  As data cited in the Greenpeace report shows, long term exposure to traffic pollution is an independent risk factor in the onset of coronary heart disease.  

The hazards are even greater for those who take exercise in severely polluted air. An individual’s rate of pulmonary ventilation during periods of intense physical activity is ten to 16 times the rate when at rest; the effect of air pollution on those who exercise outdoors is therefore especially high.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Air Pollution Chokes and Kills 4460 in Tehran in 2010

From Atlantic Wire, January 6th, 2013

On Sunday, an advisor to Iran's health minister made a grizzly announcement on state television. In the last year alone, air pollution in Tehran left 4,460 dead, and the problem's getting worse. The news arrived after the entire city had been shut down for five days in an attempt to keep cars off the road and clear the air which residents say stings their eyes and irritates their throats if they don't wear masks or scarves to filter out the pollutants. Like Los Angeles, the Iranian capital is surrounded by mountains that trap in the toxic air, except the pollution in Tehran is four times as bad. In fact, it's one of the most polluted cities in the world, worse than Mexico City, Bangkok and Shanghai. And at this time of year, when winds die down, it makes the city almost unlivable. "My head hurts, and I'm constantly dead tired," a local student told The New York Times this weekend. "I try not to go out, but I can smell the pollution in my room as I am trying to study."

It's not really geography's fault that Tehran's air is so filthy. Thanks to strict sanctions on refined gasoline imposed by the United States in 2010, all of Iran has struggled to come up with enough fuel for its cars, so the people have been improvising and mixing their own -- call it bathtub gas. It's dirty stuff, too. In 2009, the country reported 300 "healthy days" in terms of air quality, but that number had dropped to 150 by 2011. State officials deny any link between the dirty bathtub gas and the pollution problem, while efforts like dumping water on the smog to help dissipate the toxins haven't had much of an effect. They've also enforced strict traffic control measures like only letting cars with even-numbered license plate numbers drive in the city on even-numbered days. That's enough to keep about half of Tehran's cars off the road on any given day, but it's still not enough.

Of course, Tehran's pollution crisis is just a consequence of a much larger political crisis. As the country continues to flirt with war over its nuclear program, sanctions from countries around the world keep getting harsher and harsher. Just a few months ago, the negative impact on the economy got so bad that Iran's currency lost 40 percent of its value in a week's time, leaving many to wonder if the country's entire economy would collapse. Now, quite unfortunately, it's the people collapsing that Iran has to worry about. And the people know it, too. One Tehran woman told The Times, "It feels as if even God has turned against us."

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Pollution in Beijing Today is Like London of 1950's (IHT)

Article in International Herald Tribune, December 28th, 2012

LONDON — My mornings in my home in Beijing always follow the same routine. Wake up. Make coffee. Check Air Quality Index online. Feel faintly depressed.

The AQI is tweeted by the U.S. embassy hourly. The rating ranges from “good” to “hazardous” to off the charts, and it determines my day: whether I bike or take public transport to work, whether I go for a run outside, and in the summer, whether I eat dinner in my balmy courtyard or huddle indoors with the windows shut and the air filter on.

It is a relief, then, to be back in London for the holidays; here, rain, not pollution, dominates small talk. I joke that driving into Beijing on a bad day is like entering the Gates of Mordor. England’s endlessly shifting tableaux of clouds, by contrast, seem sublime.
But that’s only if you forget that London was also once renowned for its “pea soupers” or “killer fog.” For decades during industrialization, Britain’s politicians ignored concerns over pollution in the name of economic progress. Only when a disaster struck and thousands died did the government clean up its act.

For London, the disaster was the Great Smog of 1952, which hit the city just this month 60 years ago. Near-freezing temperatures led to excessive coal burning in homes, which, combined with low winds, produced a thick yellow fog. Visibility was reduced to just a few feet. Public transport, cinemas, theaters and sporting venues closed down. An estimated 4,000 people died, mostly among the young, the elderly and sufferers of respiratory illnesses.

Accounts of that time relaying acrid-tasting air and nostrils lined with black grit sound eerily prescient of the current situation in China. In Beijing, so-called blue-sky days are rare. Mostly, the horizon is hazy. On days termed hazardous, it can be hard to see buildings across the street, and even a short spell outside will make my body feel lethargic, my head pound and my eyes and nose itch.

China is industrializing on a scale never seen before. While it has set targets to increase its consumption of non-fossil fuel energy by 2015, it remains the world’s top producer and consumer of coal — it, alone, accounts for around half of global consumption.

China, as Peter Thorsheim, author of “Inventing Pollution: Coal, Smoke, and Culture in Britain since 1800,” points out, would do well to learn from Britain’s mistakes for both its sake and its neighbors’. The Great Smog was a catastrophe, but it was also a “moment of opportunity amid the tragedy,” Thorsheim told me this week. The British government turned criticism from the opposition and the public into concrete improvements, including the 1956 Clean Air Act.

Has China reached its Great Smog moment? By the 1950s, although war-torn, Britain was already one of the world’s most technologically advanced and wealthiest nations; that surely helped its decision. China, despite its overall economic might, has not yet reached that stage in per capita terms, and development remains the Chinese Communist Party’s primary concern.

But the Chinese government is starting to make concessions, largely to prevent social unrest.

The tens of thousands of people in Beijing who use the U.S. Embassy’s AQI feed were receiving vastly different readings from those released by the Chinese government: In 2010 and 2011, Beijing officials announced good air quality nearly 80 percent of the time, whereas the U.S. Embassy rated over 80 percent of days as unhealthy or worse. Following public pressure, the government has since added a network of monitors around Beijing to measure PM2.5, or fine-particulate air pollution.

Last year, Chinese bloggers became outraged over news that their leaders used sophisticated air filters while the populace was left uninformed about the real risks. Protests over polluting factories have erupted across the country, forcing some local officials to back down on industrial projects. In some instances, even the state-run media have accused the government of hiding the exact scale of the pollution.

Indeed, the extent of the problem, and the toll it takes on China’s inhabitants, isn’t yet fully understood.

One issue is that pollution can seem like a remote threat. Most Londoners who lived through the Great Smog thought it was simply an especially foggy period until the undertakers ran out of coffins and the florists sold out of funeral flowers.

This month, The Lancet released a report stating that in 2010 3.2 million people died prematurely from air pollution, mostly in Asia. Until China gains multiple political parties, freedom of speech and a well-developed civil society, many more are likely to pass away unnoticed.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Air Pollution News & Alerts - January 1st, 2013

Scientific American, January 1st, 2013
We Look Back Earthily at 2012.

The Guardian, January 1st, 2013
Lisa Jackson's legacy at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Guardian, January 1st, 2013,
Three easy environmental resolutions to aim for in 2013.

The New York Times, January 1st, 2013
The Reluctant Composter.

The City Fix, December 31st, 2012
Bike Lanes In Bangalore: Exploring Options for India.

Telegraph, December 30th, 2012
China to release pollution data in 74 cities.

South China Morning Post, December 28th, 2012
Worst air pollution results of year in China barely noticed by public.

NPR, December 27th, 2012
An Abundance Of Extreme Weather Has Many On Edge.

New York Times, December 26th, 2012
‘Untamed Motorization’ Wraps an Indian City in Smog.

China Buzz, December 20th, 2012
China Numbers: Cults, Cars & Air Pollution Deaths.

Science Daily, December 20th, 2012
Clean Air: New Paints Break Down Nitrogen Oxides.

The City Fix, December 20th, 2012
Exhaust Emission of Transit Buses: Q+A with lead author Erin Cooper.

Scientific American, December 20th, 2012
After 40 Years, Has Recycling Lived Up to Its Billing?

China Daily, December 19th, 2012
PM2.5 kills thousands in China, researchers say.

China Daily, December 19th, 2012
Bad air more deadly than traffic accidents in China.

AlterNet, December 19th, 2012
Why Climate Change Legislation May Be in the Works.

Process and Control Today, December 19th, 2012
2013: a ‘perfect storm’ in air quality.

The Guardian, December 18th, 2012
Coal to challenge oil's dominance by 2017, says IEA.

Scientific American, December 17th, 2012
Farmers in Nepal Use Urine to Boost Crop Yields.

Bloomberg News, December 17th, 2012
Hong Kong Will Ban High-Polluting Vehicles to Fight Smog.

The Hindu, December 17th, 2012
Pollution control body for ban on diesel vehicles in Delhi.

The Guardian, December 17th, 2012
Pollution from car emissions killing millions in China and India.

The Economic Times, December 17th, 2012
65% of the air pollution deaths occur in Asia and close to quarter of this in India.

RTCC, December 17th, 2012
EU targets air pollution with tightened shipping rules.

The Nation, December 15th, 2012
First-car policy 'putting people's health at risk'.

7th Space, December 15th, 2012
Health impact assessment of air pollution in megacity of Tehran, Iran.

Times of India, December 15th, 2012
Rise in air pollution goes undetected, government plans to add five more monitors.

Times of India, December 14th, 2012
Chulha smoke choking Indian women, kids.

Live Mint, December 14th, 2012
Air pollution among top 10 health risks: Lancet study.

Center for American Progress, December 13th, 2012
Cleaning up Carbon Pollution 101.

The CityFix, December 11th, 2012
Statistics: Data Maintenance for Efficient Road Safety Assessment.

Science Daily, December 14th, 2012
Variable Congestion Charges May Yield More Stable Air Quality and Improved Health.

The Guardian, December 14th, 2012
The World Bank's climate hypocrisy.

Scientific American, December 14th, 2012
Do You Accept the Science of Climate Change?

The Guardian, December 13th, 2012
Fracking: a flash in the pan?

The Lancet, December 13th, 2012
Global Burden of Disease Study 2010.

Huffington Post, December 12th, 2012
Postcards From the Second Most Air Polluted City in the World.

NPR, December 12th, 2012
Is California Up Next For An Oil And Gas Boom?

World Watch Institute, December 11th, 2012
Rapidly Urbanizing Populations Face Unique Challenges.

The Guardian, December 11th, 2012
Jeremy Irons talks trash for his new environmental documentary.

Scientific American, December 10th, 2012
Should Doctors Warn Pregnant Women about Environmental Risks?

The Guardian, December 10th, 2012
China's economy to outgrow America's by 2030 as world faces 'tectonic shift'.

The Guardian, December 9th, 2012
Should rich countries compensate poorer ones for the damage done by climate change?

The Guardian, December 7th, 2012
Energy Bits – young people doing their bit to improve the environment.

The Guardian, December 7th, 2012
How Many Gigatons of Carbon Dioxide? The Information is Beautiful guide to Doha.

World Watch Institute, December 7th, 2012
High Emissions, Low Ambitions.

Jakarta Globe, December 7th, 2012
Jakarta Opts for Odds-Evens Car Restriction Plan.

NPR, December 7th, 2012
World Bank Issues Alarming Climate Report.

Scientific American, December 6th, 2012
How the IPCC Underestimated Climate Change.

The National, December 6th, 2012
Tiny particles are a big problem in Abu Dhabi.

Nature, December 5th, 2012
Megacities move to track emissions.

EDF, December 5th, 2012
The Costs Of Particulate Matter To American Health.

Science Daily, December 5th, 2012
Mitigating Our Carbon Footprint.

Inquirer News, December 1st, 2012
Gov’t to retrofit Metro jeepneys to lessen carbon emissions.

Hindustan Times, November 30th, 2012
India tops China in air pollution level increase.

Bloomberg, November 28th, 2012
Ford Says China Should Embrace Electric Cars as Traffic Worsens.

Wall Street Journal, November 26th, 2012
Hong Kong's Hazy Outlook.

The Transport Politic, September 18th,2012
Don’t Forget the Zoning.

The Transport Politic, September 11th, 2012
Profitable or Not, China Doubles Down on Investments in New Metro Systems.

VAPIS - Part 1 - Introduction to Vehicular Air Pollution Information System