Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the biggest contributing factors to global warming. Once the gas is released into the atmosphere, it remains there, making it difficult to dissipate heat – and heat the planet in the process.
It is released primarily from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, as well as from cement production.
The average monthly concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, starting from April 2019, is 413 parts per million (ppm). Before the Industrial Revolution, the concentration was only 280 ppm.
The concentration of CO2 has fluctuated over the last 800,000 years between 180 and 280ppm, but has been greatly accelerated by human-caused pollution.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) comes from burning fossil fuels, exhaust emissions and the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers used in agriculture.
Although there is much less NO2 in the atmosphere than CO2, it is between 200 and 300 times more efficient at capturing heat.
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) also comes mainly from burning fossil fuels, but can also be released from car exhaust.
SO2 can react with water, oxygen and other chemicals in the atmosphere to cause acid rain.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an indirect greenhouse gas because it reacts with hydroxyl radicals, removing them. Hydroxyl radicals reduce the life of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
What is particles?
Particles refer to small parts of solids or liquid materials in the air.
Some are visible, such as dust, while others cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Materials such as metals, microplastics, soil and chemicals can be in the form of particles.
The particles (or PM) are described in micrometers. The two main ones mentioned in reports and studies are PM10 (less than 10 micrometers) and PM2.5 (less than 2.5 micrometers).
Air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels, cars, cement manufacturing and agriculture
Scientists measure the rate of airborne particles per cubic meter.
The particles are sent into the air through a series of processes, including burning fossil fuels, driving cars and making steel.
Why are particles dangerous?
The particles are dangerous because those with a diameter of less than 10 micrometers can penetrate deep into the lungs or even pass into the bloodstream. Particles are found in higher concentrations in urban areas, especially along main roads.
Impact on health
What kind of health problems can pollution cause?
According to the World Health Organization, one-third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease may be related to air pollution.
Some of the effects of air pollution on the body are not understood, but pollution can increase the inflammation that narrows the arteries leading to heart attacks or strokes.
In addition, almost one in 10 cases of lung cancer in the UK are caused by air pollution.
The particles find their way into the lungs and settle there, causing inflammation and damage. In addition, some chemicals in the particles that enter the body can cause cancer.
Deaths due to pollution
About seven million people die prematurely from air pollution each year. Pollution can cause a number of problems, including asthma attacks, strokes, various types of cancer and cardiovascular problems.
Air pollution can cause problems for people with asthma for several reasons. Pollutants from traffic fumes can irritate the airways, and particles can enter the lungs and throat and inflame these areas.
Problems during pregnancy
Women exposed to air pollution before becoming pregnant are almost 20% more likely to have children with birth defects, research suggested in January 2018.
A study by the University of Cincinnati found that living less than 5 miles from a heavily polluted area a month before conception makes women more likely to give birth to defective children, such as splits of the palate or lips. .
For every increase in fine air particles of 0.01 mg / m3, birth defects increase by 19%, the research adds.
Previous research suggests that this causes birth defects due to women suffering from inflammation and “internal stress”.
What is being done to combat air pollution?
Paris Agreement on Climate Change
The Paris Agreement, first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change.
It hopes to keep global average temperature rise below 2 ° C (3.6 ° F) “and to continue efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5 ° C (2.7 ° F)”.
Carbon neutral by 2050
The British government has announced plans to make the country carbon neutral by 2050.
They intend to do this by planting more trees and installing “carbon capture” technology at the source of the pollution.
Some critics are concerned that this first option will be used by the government to export its carbon offset to other countries.
International carbon credits allow nations to emit carbon while paying for the planting of trees elsewhere, balancing their emissions.
No new petrol or diesel vehicles until 2040
In 2017, the British government announced that the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned until 2040.
However, parliamentarians in the climate change committee have called on the government to bring the ban in 2030, as by then they will have an equivalent range and price.
The Paris Agreement, first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. In the picture: air pollution over Paris in 2019.
Norwegian subsidies for electric cars
The rapid electrification of the Norwegian car fleet is mainly attributed to generous state subsidies. Electric cars are almost completely exempt from the heavy taxes imposed on petrol and diesel cars, which makes them competitively priced.
A VW Golf with a standard combustion engine costs almost 334,000 crowns (34,500 euros, 38,600 dollars), while its electric cousin e-Golf costs 326,000 crowns due to a lower tax rate.
Criticisms of inaction on climate change
The Climate Change Committee (JRC) said there was a “shocking” lack of government preparedness for the risks to the country due to climate change.
The committee assessed 33 areas where climate change risks needed to be addressed – from flood resistance to properties to the impact on agricultural land and supply chains – and found no real progress in any of them.
The UK is not prepared for 2 ° C warming, the level at which countries have committed to reducing the rise in temperature, let alone a 4 ° C increase, which is possible if greenhouse gases are not cut globally, said the committee.
He added that cities need more green space to stop the urban “heat island” effect and prevent flooding by absorbing heavy rainfall.