Posts Tagged ‘air pollution’

A Climate Shakedown Flops

June 30, 2018

A federal judge tosses the left coast’s suit against fossil fuels.

A undated file picture of the Chevron oil refinery in El Segungo, California.
A undated file picture of the Chevron oil refinery in El Segungo, California. PHOTO: ARMANDO ARORIZO/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY



The first wave of lawsuits to make oil companies atone for their alleged climate sins was beaten back this week by federal Judge William Alsup. One hope is that this victory for judicial sanity will stop the tide of litigation from spreading across the country.

The cities of San Francisco and Oakland sued BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell, demanding billions of dollars to remedy future environmental damage caused by fossil fuels. The Supreme Court ruled in AEP v. Connecticut (2011) that regulating emissions is the Environmental Protection Agency’s bailiwick. But the cities tried to circumvent the ruling by arguing that the mere production and sale of oil is a public nuisance.

Judge Alsup, a Bill Clinton appointee, rightly refrained from trying to regulate global carbon emissions from the bench. The problem of climate change “deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case. While it remains true that our federal courts have authority to fashion common law remedies for claims based on global warming, courts must also respect and defer to the other co-equal branches of government,” he wrote.

The judge also ridiculed the notion that fossil fuels are a public nuisance and even suggested that they have been a boon for humanity. “Our industrial revolution and the development of our modern world has literally been fueled by oil and coal. Without those fuels, virtually all of our monumental progress would have been impossible,” he noted. Fetch the smelling salts for Tom Steyer.

Judge Alsup shrewdly saw through the gambit by Democratic politicians and plaintiff attorneys to loot big oil companies to pad their coffers. Six other California cities and counties, Seattle, New York and Massachusetts have filed similar suits. While Judge Alsup’s ruling doesn’t bind other courts, his ruling is a sound legal guide for them to follow.

Appeared in the June 30, 2018, print edition.


Air pollution plays significant role in diabetes

June 30, 2018

Air pollution caused one in seven new cases of diabetes in 2016, according to a US study, which found even low levels raised the chances of developing the chronic disease.

Diabetes has primarily been associated with lifestyle factors like diet and a sedentary lifestyle, but research by the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis said pollution also plays a major role.

The study estimated that pollution contributed to 3.2 million new diabetes cases globally in 2016 — or around 14 percent of all new diabetes cases globally that year.

© AFP/File | Air pollution contributed to 3.2 million new cases of diabetes globally in 2016, the study found

“Our research shows a significant link between air pollution and diabetes globally,” said Ziyad Al-Aly, the study’s senior author.

Pollution is thought to reduce the body’s insulin production, “preventing the body from converting blood glucose into energy that the body needs to maintain health,” according to the research.

Al-Aly said the research, published in the Lancet Planetary Health, found an increased risk even with levels of air pollution currently considered safe by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“This is important because many industry lobbying groups argue that current levels are too stringent and should be relaxed. Evidence shows that current levels are still not sufficiently safe and need to be tightened,” he added.

– ‘A strong link’ –

Researchers working with scientists at the Veterans Affairs’ Clinical Epidemiology Center, examined data from 1.7 million US veterans who did not have histories of diabetes and were followed for a median of 8.5 years.

Patient information from the veterans was compared to air quality information to examine the relationship between pollution and diabetes risk.

The scientists found the risk of developing diabetes “exhibited a strong link to air pollution”.

They then devised a model to gauge diabetes risks over different pollution levels and used data from the annual worldwide Global Burden of Disease study, to estimate the prevalence of diabetes caused by bad air.

Diabetes affects more than 420 million people globally and is one of the world’s fastest growing diseases.


Bad air day: Indian city chokes on world’s worst pollution

June 5, 2018

Soot turned the white handkerchief around Abhash Kumar Sharma’s face to black as the police officer tried to direct gridlocked traffic in the Indian city with the world’s dirtiest air.

It was all he had to ward off the pollution blamed for filling Kanpur’s hospital beds with growing numbers of chronic lung and cancer cases.

© AFP / by Bhuvan BAGGA | A WHO report named Kanpur as the city with the world’s worst air pollution

“It is the same story for everyone who spends such long hours out in this city,” said Sharma, who does not get a mask for his duties.

“The pollution gets into your eyes and it often stings.”

The city of three million people has been smarting since a World Health Organization (WHO) report last month put it at the head of 14 Indian cities in the world’s top 15 with the dirtiest air.

The pain has building up for much longer, but as the world marks Environment Day, the fallout has reached crisis point for many in Kanpur.

Sunil Dahiya, senior campaigner with Greenpeace India, said “the models available to us make it certain that hundreds of thousands of people are dying in India each year because of air pollution”.

A senior doctor at the Murari Lal Chest Hospital, Anand Kumar, said the number of patients has jumped from about 40,000 in 2015 to 64,000 last year.

– ‘Where are the trees?’ –

“More than 50 percent of these patients, maybe more, come with breathing-related issues,” the doctor told AFP.

“Even the severity is worsening. Many who earlier recovered in a day or two now need days and much stronger medication to get better.”

The number of chronic pulmonary disease and lung cancer cases is rising among non-smokers, particularly women, he added. “There is no reason for it (other) than primarily atmospheric pollution.”

Children under five are also suffering more, he added.

In one overcrowded ward, 74-year-old Ram Lakhan, who spends long periods in hospital barely able to breathe, blamed his suffering on cars.

“Where are the trees now? We only have vehicles, pollution and traffic jams.

“With all the greenery gone, we are only breathing what is available — pollution,” he said.

“I’ve never had it this bad before. I only used to feel breathlessness and discomfort in bad winters, when there was smog. But it has been hard even in summers for the last two or three years,” he added.

In the crippling traffic, it took an hour to drive the seven kilometres (four miles) from the hospital to the Uttar Pradesh state pollution control office where chief officer Kuldeep Misra also took aim at the 1.15 million vehicles on city roads.

“This is an industrial city but vehicles here pollute more than industry,” he said.

Misra was sceptical about Kanpur being the world’s dirtiest city as the UN report was based on “old data”.

“The report caused ripples,” he acknowledged. “But we’re not sure about the tag.”

– ‘No magic wand’ –

The WHO report was based on 2016 Indian data on the number of particles under 2.5 micrograms — the smallest and most dangerous.

It said Kanpur had an average PM2.5 concentration of 173 micrograms per cubic metre — about seven times the normal safe level.

Misra believes Kanpur’s water pollution is worse than the air because of its huge leather industry and tanneries.

The tanneries are often blamed for polluting the revered Ganges river, which passes through the city.

Misra said the authorities planned to take action, but it would take time.

“There is no magic wand,” he added.

Time may not be on the side of 50-year-old Shiv Kumari, a patient at the overcrowded chest hospital who wears an oxygen mask to help her breathe.

“Pollution, dust or smoke makes me breathless. I feel that I am choking. I cough and feel as if something sharp is pinching my throat,” she told AFP.

“It has become too difficult to live in this kind of an atmosphere. Look at this machine,” she said, pointing to her automatic breathing aid that cost more than $1,500.

“How can a poor person afford something like this, especially when it’s so important for survival in this pollution?”

“The government should do something to fix this,” she added before readjusting her mask as she started feeling breathless again.

by Bhuvan BAGGA

UK to ban most vehicles relying on “traditional engines” — Even hybrid cars

May 5, 2018

Government to issue clean-air plan prohibiting vehicles relying on traditional engines

No automatic alt text available.

The Prius is the best-selling hybrid car in Britain © Bloomberg

Peter Campbell and Jim Pickard in London 

Hybrid cars that rely on traditional engines, such as the Toyota Prius, would be banned by 2040 under clean-air plans being drawn up by the UK government that would outlaw up to 98 per cent of the vehicles currently on the road.

Vehicles such as the Prius, the best-selling hybrid car in Britain, will no longer be classified as “environmentally friendly” enough to be sold, according to three people briefed on the government’s plans to tackle emissions and air quality.

The exact wording is still a matter of consultation between several parts of the government, with the transport, environment and business departments all feeding into the final document, the people said.

The plans are backed by Michael Gove, environment secretary, and Greg Clark, business secretary. But Chris Grayling, transport secretary, who has Toyota’s UK headquarters in his constituency, is resisting the limits.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “It is categorically untrue that government is planning to ban the sale of hybrid cars in the UK by 2040.”

Unrealistic targets and misleading messaging on bans will only undermine our efforts to realise this future, confusing consumers and wreaking havoc on the new car market and the thousands of jobs it supports

Last July, the government outlined plans to ban the sale of all “conventional” cars from 2040. But the vague wording caused confusion among carmakers because it was unclear whether cars that use both batteries and traditional engines would be permitted.

The new document aims to clarify the government’s position and outline how it intends to increase public demand for electric vehicles in the interceding years.

Three people involved in the decision-making process said the proposed rules would limit new car sales to those that can travel at least 50 miles using only electric power.

The change would outlaw more than 98 per cent of the vehicles currently sold in Britain and require manufacturers to switch to vehicles predominantly driven by batteries — though they might be able to have petrol engines for back-up or support.

Plug-in cars that have both large batteries and a traditional engine will also be permitted, although the exact wording for those vehicles has yet to be clarified, according to four people briefed on the government’s plans.

There are several types of hybrid vehicles, from the Prius, which uses electric power and petrol simultaneously, to plug-in vehicles that can travel for significant distances on battery power alone.

New car sales in Britain have fallen 8.8 per cent so far this year, a decline that has led to hundreds of job cuts at Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan, the UK’s two largest auto manufactures, as well as lost work for hundreds of dealerships.

The industry lays the blame for the decline in part on public confusion over the government’s policy around future vehicle bans.

“We cannot support ambition levels which do not appreciate how industry, the consumer or the market operate and which are based neither on fact nor substance,” said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the industry body SMMT.

“Unrealistic targets and misleading messaging on bans will only undermine our efforts to realise this future, confusing consumers and wreaking havoc on the new car market and the thousands of jobs it supports.”


Ministers consider plan to ban non-electric cars from Britain’s roads

Electric car

There are currently thought to be about 16,000 public charging points in the UK, supporting just over 200,000 electric vehicles CREDIT: RADHARC IMAGES 

Cars unable to travel 50 miles on battery power would be banned from sale from 2040 under plans being considered by the Government to improve Britain’s air quality.

The move is one of the proposals in an internal government review aimed at making transport in the UK more environmentally friendly by driving motorists into electric vehicles.

However, the idea has been met with fury by the car industry, which called it “unrealistic” and based “on neither fact nor substance”.

If enacted, virtually all cars currently on sale would be outlawed – including hybrids such as the bestselling Toyota Prius which has a combined petrol engine and battery drive train.

Even “plug-in” hybrids which have an engine…

Read the rest (Paywall):

Kanpur, India: Worst air quality in a global World Health Organization survey — WHO called on India to copy China’s efforts to clean up its air

May 2, 2018

Residents of Kanpur, India reacted with dismay Wednesday after the Indian city was found to have the worst air quality in a global World Health Organization survey that urged the nation to clean up its act.

Fourteen Indian cities, led by the northern metropolis known for its leather and shoe industries, feature in the 15 cities with the dirtiest air in the WHO’s global list.

The capital New Delhi and Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, also figured among the cities with the worst air in the survey of 4,300 cities in 100 countries.

Image result for Kanpur, india, map


Kanpur woke up to news of its unwanted accolade with pollution levels more than five times the WHO’s recommended safe limit.

“As a resident of the city it makes me sad and appalled but this ranking should at least wake up the government and citizens to take some immediate steps to end the pollution,” 55-year-old Kanpur resident Ramesh Soni told AFP.

© AFP | Indian commuters drive along a dusty road in Kanpur, judged to have the worst air pollution in a WHO global list of cities

The WHO report said more than 90 percent of the world’s people are breathing dangerous levels of pollutants that killed some seven million people in 2016.

It found more than 90 percent of deaths occur in low- or middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa. The WHO called on India to copy China’s efforts to clean up its air, years after Beijing topped the list of the world’s most polluted cities.

Kanpur suffers from high air pollution throughout the year, particularly in winter when bad air spikes to alarming levels.

Sudhir Gupta, a Kanpur leather goods manufacturer, blamed the cars and trucks that clog streets in the city of nearly three million.

“It is not surprising. The number of vehicles on the roads is increasing every day and as compared to that, there is relatively very little green cover left,” Gupta said.

Authorities also blame uncontrolled construction, waste burning and industrial pollution.

Every month nearly 7,000 new vehicles hit the roads in the city.

Thousands of small businesses and manufacturers depend on diesel generators due to lengthy power cuts and there are no curbs on burning of solid waste.

-‘Public heath emergency’-

“The report by WHO is a warning about the serious and runaway pollution and public health emergency that confronts India today,” environmental charity the Centre for Science and Environment said in a statement.

India for years has been struggling to improve the air quality in urban areas, which takes a huge toll on the health of millions of residents.

Each year dozens of its cities figure in the most polluted list but little or no effort is made to improve air quality.

In the latest report Delhi marginally improved its ranking to sixth, up from the most polluted city in 2014.

On Tuesday India’s top court criticised authorities for failing to protect the Taj Mahal’s pristine white marble from turning yellow because of air pollution.

The WHO survey focused on dangerous particulate matter with a diameter of between 2.5 and 10 micrometres (PM10), and particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5).

PM2.5 includes toxins like sulphate and black carbon, which can penetrate deep into the lungs or cardiovascular system.

On Wednesday, Kanpur’s PM 2.5 level was hovering between 120 and 150, compared to the WHO safe limit of 25.

“Now I cannot imagine stepping outside my home without covering my nose and mouth,” Savita Saxena, an elderly woman, told AFP.

Kanpur doctors say the worsening air quality over the past decade has brought a major increase in respiratory and eye illnesses.

“Cases of respiratory diseases and eye discomfort are certainly on the rise. If not addressed in time, the effects of pollution can leave you with irreversible damage,” said city doctor B.N. Khanna.


China fights big smog with big air purifier

April 18, 2018


© AFP | Standing between high-rises, the giant air purifier is capable of cleaning between 5 million and 18 million cubic meters of air each day, depending on the weather, season, and level of pollution, according to a report by a Chinese website

XIAN (CHINA) (AFP) – China has a found a novel way to tackle its massive air pollution problem: Putting up a giant air purifier the size of an industrial smokestack in the middle of a smog-plagued city.Instead of pumping out billows of black smoke like the chimneys rising from factories in the northern province of Shaanxi, the 60-meter (197-foot) tall structure on the outskirts of the regional capital Xian blasts clean air.

Standing between high-rises, the device is capable of cleaning between five million and 18 million cubic meters of air each day, depending on the weather, season, and level of pollution, according to a report by the Chinese website

The tower can reduce the density of PM 2.5 — the tiny airborne particles considered most harmful to health — by between 10 and 19 percent in a 10 square kilometer (3.9 square mile) area, the website said.

PM 2.5 can play a role in heart disease, stroke, and lung ailments such as emphysema and cancer.

For now, the facility — which was built in June 2016 — is just an experiment.

But its designers hope to build similar towers across the city.

Cao Junji, an environmental protection expert at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told reporters that it would take about 100 towers to cover the city of 1,000 square kilometres (385 square miles).

A lot of people have questioned the device’s effectiveness, he said.

“I questioned it myself. But when we finished, the results were quite good. They met our expectations.”

China’s government declared “war” on pollution in 2014.

Pollution is so bad in many regions that people often wear masks on the street and buy expensive air purifiers for their homes.

This past winter, China cut production for many steel smelters, mills and factories.

The environment ministry imposed tough anti-pollution targets on 28 cities around Beijing, with at least three million homes expected to switch from coal to gas or electric heating.

China’s air quality improved in 2017, with the average level of PM 2.5 particles falling by 6.5 percent in 338 cities, according to environmental authorities.

A University of Chicago study found last year that air pollution in northern China had cut life expectancy by three years compared with the south of the country.

But a new study by the university in March found that China had made so much progress against smog that life expectancy could rise by more than two years.

Poland guilty of breaching air quality norms, top EU court finds — financial penalties if Poland does not comply swiftly

February 22, 2018

The European Commission took Poland to court in 2015, saying the country had failed to rein in air pollution. The court also noted that Poland’s plans to meet EU air quality standards were not effective enough.

Warsaw's Mermaid of Warsaw wearing a pollution mask

The European Court of Justice on Thursday found Poland guilty of violating air quality norms and warned of financial penalties if Poland did not comply swiftly.

The case was brought against Poland in December 2015 by the European Commission, which found that the daily limit for harmful air pollutants had been regularly breached in most parts of the country between 2007 and 2015.

The European Commission has also warned of legal action against nine other EU members, including Germany, if they did not come up with concrete plans to rein in air pollution.

Read moreGermany’s air pollution: Clean up or pay up

Under a 2008 EU rule, member states are obliged to limit air pollution to protect human health. More than 400,000 people die prematurely across the bloc every year due to poor air quality, according to recent estimates.

Ineffective plan

The court also found Poland’s plans to curb air pollution ineffective, saying the existing plans would not bring air quality in line with EU standards between 2020 and 2024.

Read moreCan free public transport really reduce pollution?

Poland argues that its economic and financial situation makes an earlier implementation of EU law difficult.

“[Poland’s argument] cannot, in itself, justify such long deadlines for putting an end to those excesses,” the court said.

ap/ng (dpa, AFP)

German court considers banning diesel cars in cities to tackle pollution, protect public health

February 22, 2018


Cars pass by a sign reading ‘environment zone’ and allowing entrance just for cars with low emissions recognizable on a green sticker in Frankfurt, Germany. (dpa via AP)
BERLIN: A German court began considering Thursday whether authorities should ban diesel cars from cities in order to lower air pollution, a move that could have drastic consequences for the country’s powerful auto industry.
The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig is hearing an appeal by two German states against lower court rulings that suggested driving bans for particularly dirty diesel cars would be effective and should be seriously considered as a means of protecting public health.
The court has said a verdict could be issued as early as later Thursday. If judges reject the appeal, dozens of cities would have a few months to enact measures to remove heavily polluting diesel vehicles from the roads — an administrative nightmare for local authorities and a heavy blow to drivers who bought cars they were promised met emissions standards.
Image result for diesel vehicles, photos, showing exhaust
The original court cases were brought by the group Environmental Action Germany, which accuses the government of putting automakers’ interests before people’s health.
“We expect to be protected, that decisions will be taken which bring down emissions to a level that provides a healthy living for us,” said Axel Friedrich, a representative of the group.
German car manufacturer Volkswagen was found three years ago to have used in-car software to cheat on US diesel emissions tests. The discovery resulted in large fines and costly buybacks for VW in the US, but the German government has refrained from punishing VW, a major employer that’s partly owned by the state of Lower Saxony.
Apart from hitting Volkswagen and other German carmakers, officials warn that a ban could paralyze bus companies, garbage collection services and tradespeople who rely heavily on diesel vehicles.
The European Union is also putting pressure on Germany and other countries for failing to rein in air pollution.
In a bid to avoid punitive action by the EU, German officials recently proposed a series of steps to reduce harmful emissions, including making public transport free on days when air pollution is particularly bad, and requiring taxis and car-sharing companies to use electric vehicles.
Image result for diesel vehicles, photos, showing exhaust
Automakers are particularly worried about another government proposal: forcing them to physically upgrade millions of vehicles that don’t conform to emissions limits.
Protesters outside the Leipzig court said a diesel ban would make a positive difference in their lives.
“When I cycle, especially in winter, I have to breathe the emissions,” said Manfred Niess from Stuttgart. “I avoid breathing in deeply so as not to inhale all the poison.”

Thai junta under pressure to tackle pollution ‘crisis’

February 22, 2018


© DAILYNEWS/AFP | Around a dozen activists delivered the large hourglass to a representative of Thai junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha
BANGKOK (AFP) – Environmental activists presented the Thai junta with an hourglass filled with dust on Thursday as part of a plea to tackle the hazardous levels of air pollution that have hung over the capital in recent weeks.Bangkok, one of the world’s top tourist destinations, has been shrouded in smog for nearly a month, with authorities reporting unhealthy concentrations of harmful microscopic particles known as PM2.5.

Around a dozen Greenpeace activists wearing facemasks and carrying placards delivered the large hourglass to a representative of the Thai junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha in Bangkok.

 Image result for Bangkok,, air pollution, photos

The gift “symbolises calls on the government to urgently tackle the air pollution crisis”, Greenpeace said in a statement.

The group’s Thailand director, Tara Buakamsri, called on the junta chief to improve the kingdom’s pollution monitoring and warning systems.

“Bangkok cannot continue choking on hazardous air,” he said.

Image result for Bangkok,, air pollution, photos

“It endangers the lives of people, affects economic productivity and negatively impacts the prestige of one of the most popular cities on earth,” he added.

According to the watchdog, on 42 of the past 50 days Thailand’s PM2.5 concentration has exceeded the safety limits recommended by the World Health Organization.

On Thursday Bangkok’s Air Quality Index (AQI) was measured at 119 by the monitor AQICN, a level described as “unhealthy for sensitive groups”.

Thai officials say they expect rain to help clear the air but have warned the young, sick and elderly to stay indoors.

Troops have also been deployed to spray water into the air and wash down streets to help clear the dust, while Bangkok’s governor said open burning would be restricted.


Greenpeace appeals to Thai PM to tackle air pollution ‘crisis’ — Greenpeace said Bangkok suffered the worst air pollution in its history between Jan. 1 and Feb. 21

February 22, 2018

Image may contain: sky, skyscraper and outdoor

The sun is seen through evening air pollution in Bangkok, Thailand February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

BANGKOK (REUTERS) – Environment group Greenpeace on Thursday called on Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to tackle an air pollution “crisis” in Bangkok, weeks after a pollution agency said the city’s air quality had hit dangerous levels.

Air pollution has been under the spotlight in Bangkok, one of the world’s most popular tourist cities, with many residents complaining about smog.

Greenpeace said Bangkok suffered the worst air pollution in its history between Jan. 1 and Feb. 21.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

The Pollution Control Department warned this month that the level of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometres, or PM2.5 dust, in the city had hit unhealthy levels and asked children to stay indoors.

PM2.5 dust, the most dangerous kind, includes pollutants such as nitrates that can penetrate the cardiovascular system.

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and suit

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha leaves a cardboard cutout of himself to take questions from reporters — he is known for his distain for the men and women of Thailand and has made a close alliance with China

Critics blame Bangkok’s worsening air pollution on lax enforcement of vehicle emission standards, poor urban planning and insufficient green spaces.

Greenpeace activists presented an hourglass filled with dust from Bangkok and other provinces most affected by severe air pollution to a government representative.

“Bangkok cannot continue choking on hazardous air,” said Tara Buakamsri, director of Greenpeace in Thailand.

“It endangers the lives of people, affects economic productivity and negatively impacts the prestige of one of the most popular cities on earth.”

The prime minister, who is also the chairman of the National Environment board, should order an improvement in air quality, he said.

The PM2.5 level in central Bangkok was at 22.5 micrograms per m3 on Thursday, according to the AirVisual smartphone application.

Earlier this month, the pollution department measured PM2.5 dust in Bangkok at 72-95 micrograms per m3.

That compares with a World Health Organization (WHO) guideline of an annual average of no more than 10 micrograms.