As we, the entitled, sit on our big fat asses in the drive-thru …

As a Canadian, I am absolutely ecstatic when the warm weather FINALLY arrives.  The past month has been beautiful with sun & perfect temperatures of 15-20 degrees Celsius.  It is not totally bizarre that already at least half of the drivers have their windows closed tight with the air conditioning on?  The drive-thru line ups have never been longer.  Even when the weather is so incredibly beautiful – we still somehow cannot get our big, fat, lazy asses out of our vehicles.  As obesity rates skyrocket, as our smog days increase, as more and more of our children develop asthma and as the last of our arctic sea ice disappears … we are our own worst enemy. Idling Canadians spend over 630 million bucks a year going nowhere while belching CO2 and asthma-causing pollutants into the same air we like to breathe. In the grand scheme of things – drive-thrus may be a small contributor to climate change.  But make no mistake – they do contribute & they do contribute to pollution and sickness.  The sad truth is – they are nothing more than a ‘convenience’ to 99% of the population – something we should easily make a choice to give up.  And yet we don’t and we refuse to do so. Because it is ‘our choice’ to pollute others and harm our ecosystem.  Our ‘choice’ has superceded our oldest natural instinct in the world – to protect our children.  How messed up is this?  This is a disturbing and frightening commentary on our society and our values.  A society gone mad.

CO2 hits 800,000-year high at Mauna Loa Observatory

Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii  (USA) Atmospheric CO2 reached 389.47 parts per million (ppm) in the month of April 2009.

Here is another report:

lancet-climate-change

Lancet and University College London Institute for Global Health Commission

Managing the health effects of climate change

Executive summary | Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century

Effects of climate change on health will affect most populations in the next decades and put the lives and wellbeing of billions of people at increased risk. During this century, earth’s average surface temperature rises are likely to exceed the safe threshold of 2°C above preindustrial average temperature. Rises will be greater at higher latitudes, with medium-risk scenarios predicting 2–3°C rises by 2090 and 4–5°C rises in northern Canada, Greenland, and Siberia. In this report, we have outlined the major threats—both direct and indirect—to global health from climate change through changing patterns of disease, water and food insecurity, vulnerable shelter and human settlements, extreme climatic events, and population growth and migration. Although vector-borne diseases will expand their reach and death tolls, especially among elderly people, will increase because of heatwaves, the indirect effects of climate change on water, food security, and extreme climatic events are likely to have the biggest effect on global health.

A new advocacy and public health movement is needed urgently to bring together governments, international agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), com-munities, and academics from all disciplines to adapt to the effects of climate change on health. Any adaptation should sit alongside the need for primary mitigation: reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and the need to increase carbon biosequestration through reforestation and improved agricultural practices. The recognition by governments and electorates that climate change has enormous health implications should assist the advocacy and political change needed to tackle both mitigation and adaptation.

Management of the health effects of climate change will require inputs from all sectors of government and civil society, collaboration between many academic disciplines, and new ways of international cooperation that have hitherto eluded us. Involvement of local communities in monitoring, discussing, advocating, and assisting with the process of adaptation will be crucial. An integrated and multidisciplinary approach to reduce the adverse health effects of climate change requires at least three levels of action. First, policies must be adopted to reduce carbon emissions and to increase carbon biosequestration, and thereby slow down global warming and eventually stabilise temperatures. Second, action should be taken on the events linking climate change to disease. Third, appropriate public health systems should be put into place to deal with adverse outcomes.

While we must resolve the key issue of reliance on fossil fuels, we should acknowledge their contribution to huge improvements in global health and development over the past 100 years. In the industrialised world and richer parts of the developing world, fossil fuel energy has contributed to a doubled longevity, dramatically reduced poverty, and increased education and security for most populations.

Conclusions and recommendations

This report raises many challenging and urgent questions for politicians, civil servants, academics, health professionals, NGOs, pressure groups, and local communities. Climate change is potentially the biggest global health threat in the 21st century. Our response requires a new public health movement that is multidisciplinary and multisectoral, and that leads to coordinated thinking and action across governments, international agencies, NGOs, and academic insti-tutions. Any adaptation interventions must sit alongside the need for primary mitigation: reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, recognition by governments and electorates that climate change has enormous health implications should assist the advocacy and political change to tackle mitigation and adaptation.

Whichever mitigation strategies are chosen by governments or agreed at the Copenhagen conference, the move to a low-carbon economy will have global health benefits and these must also be emphasised. More research is needed on win-win solutions, which are equally important in developed and developing countries.

We have proposed a framework for responding to the health effects through adaptation strategies, which in turn embeds mitigation strategies to improve human health worldwide.

This framework raises several important issues for action:

• Climate change mitigation and adaptation are essential elements to overall development policy. They are not separate issues that can be divided from the agenda for poverty alleviation or for closing the gap on social inequalities and health.

• The most urgent need is to empower poor countries, and local government and local communities everywhere, to understand climate implications and to take action. Health professionals and university academics have an important catalytic role. Multi-disciplinary groups from higher education institutions can have a forceful role in engaging with community leaders, civil society organisations, and students in these debates. There is a need for new financing for global links between developed and developing countries that create a two-way dialogue. Developed countries can help to strengthen capacity for high-quality research and information collection in developing countries, and developing countries can strengthen the ability of developed countries to understand sustainability and low-carbon living. Empowerment is as much about community mobilisation as high-level political action. The empowerment process is likely to be pluralistic and chaotic, but health and academic communities can do much to support and catalyse these processes.

• An agenda for developing countries must be developed through global cooperation. Representation on global task forces to assess the health effect of climate change is heavily skewed in favour of institutions in developed countries. In poor countries, health assessments and high-level climate science and health surveillance research are a priority. New research and advocacy groupings in Africa and south Asia are needed, and the academic community of developed countries must have a role in lobbying for resources and support. Food and water insecurity are early effects of climate change and will be a high priority for poor communities. Distilling academic findings into simple language, policy briefs, and user-friendly media is essential.

• Climate change should be integrated into the entire discourse of our present and should be taken into consideration for all governance actions. An advocacy movement must ensure that the health effects of climate change are placed high on the agenda of every research and development funder, philanthropist, academic journal, scientific conference, professional meeting, and university or school curriculum. Academics should lead advocacy within their own spheres of influence.

• Accountability mechanisms are crucial. We hope that this report will initiate or stimulate new funding and networks to monitor what is happening in government, civil society, academia, local government, and communities, especially in the most vulnerable populations. Accountability indicators should be monitored by the academic community and civil society organisations. It should be possible to agree upon health and climate change goals and targets for the processes of engagement and empowerment. Global and regional conferences and working groups to develop these outputs would be valuable in the same way that previous reports published in The Lancet have stimulated action on child survival, nutrition, and maternal health through the countdown to 2015. A biennial review of progress towards agreed targets would help to accelerate progress through celebration of success and identification of areas where progress is lagging.

• Awareness of health risks can have an important role in strengthening carbon mitigation debates and targets. Joint statements from national institutes of medicine, representative bodies such as royal colleges, journal editors, organisations such as the Climate and Health Council,175 and university leaders worldwide, drawing upon a growing evidence base, can create a solidarity and authority that politicians will find hard to resist. The priority is to send clear messages to the Copenhagen conference in December,

http://www.thelancet.com Vol 373 May 16, 2009 1729 2009, emphasising the health consequences of climate change, even with a 2°C increase in temperatures (which is now broadly accepted as inevitable), with estimates of the severity of health effects at warming up to 4°C. Public and policy maker recognition of the profound meaning of the existence of threats from climate change to nature’s life processes, to the productive and stabilising ecosystems upon which we depend, and hence to human health and survival, will have great effect on the seriousness and urgency with which we approach this unprecedented challenge.

• The frequently observed state of fragmented health systems, with little attention paid to long-term sustainability, must give way to the development of coherent, population-based, and bottom-up health planning. Health systems must not act only as a platform for the delivery of clinical services but also provide the foundation for an effective public health response to the many climate-induced threats to health. This action will require more attention being paid to the organisational and management deficiencies of ministries of health, including subnational health governance and management structures. Long-term strategies and investments will be needed to develop the clinical and management human capacity of health systems. Some countries will also need to address the currently unregulated and disorganised private sector to harness existing resources to better serve the public interest. Many countries currently lack any coherent long-term and sustainable development agenda for their health systems. This needs to change.

• The move to a low-carbon economy will have global health benefits from both a reduction in the health effects of climate change and improvement in human lifestyles, and these must be emphasised. There must be more research on win-win solutions, which are equally important in rich and poor countries. For example building new green cities in the developed world, which minimise the need for cars and maximise exercise, will contribute to the fight against obesity. In poorer countries, developing water and energy systems, which are operated by local renewable sources of power, cuts reliance on imported fossil fuels and empowers local community groups.

• Building low-carbon and climate-resilient cities in emerging economies that adapt to continuing rural–urban migration, driven both by economic development and climate effects, is important. More than a third of the world’s population now live in urban areas in low-income or middle-income nations. Even Africa has 40% of its population in urban areas, a number that is larger than that in North America. Worldwide, the numbers of people injured or killed by storms and floods, and the amount of economic damage caused and insurance claims made, especially in these urban areas, have increased.

• Three priorities for action in urban areas are to improve the capacity and accountability of local and municipal government, to change their relation to informal settlers, and to ensure that government policies encourage rather than hinder the con-tributions to adaptation made by individuals, community organisations, and private enterprise.70 Urban developments could use climate-resilient engineering on sites at low risk of water or food stress, and provide sustainable low-carbon transport and other infrastructure. A new approach to urban planning to ensure healthy food supplies, adequate exercise, clean air, clean water, devolved health service structures, and education might provide a model of what we mean by a climate-adapted public health response.

High-income countries have caused almost all the anthropogenic climate change that has occurred to date, and they must now face extremely challenging political and economic choices if climate change mitigation is to be achieved. The UCL Lancet Commission has recognised Antonio Gramsci’s pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will in tackling this issue. The academic community has a crucial role in facing up to the challenge of climate change, the health consequences we shall bequeath to our children and grandchildren (panel 7), and in helping to inform and support a policy process that will challenge us all.

What is a practical way to take the challenge forward? We call for a collation of global expertise on the health effects of climate change leading up to a major conference within the next 2 years, which will define the priorities for management, implementation, and monitoring. Representation from developing countries should be emphasised. The conference should bring representatives of all interested groups together to share experiences, and to discuss and endorse a set of key indicators and targets (climate and health adaptation goals developed by an international expert working group) for concerted global action. A key element of this action programme should focus on ways in which the poor nations can develop their own capacity to monitor problems, and to improve the evidence base for policy makers and planners. We believe a biennial review of progress towards agreed targets would help to accelerate progress through celebration of success and identification of areas in which progress is lagging.

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Air Pollution Endangers Lives of Six in 10 Americans | Drive-thrus Contribute

Air Pollution Endangers Lives of Six in 10 Americans

WASHINGTON, DC, April 29, 2009 (ENS) – Six out of every 10 Americans – 186.1 million people – live in areas where air pollution endangers lives, according to the 10th annual American Lung Association State of the Air report released today.

Some of the biggest sources of air pollution – dirty power plants, dirty diesel engines and ocean-going vessels – also worsen global warming, the Lung Association says in State of the Air 2009.

As America deals with the linked challenges of air pollution, global warming and energy, the Lung Association urges Congress, the U.S. EPA and individuals to choose solutions that help solve all three challenges together.

Nearly every major American city is still burdened by air pollution, and the air in many cities became dirtier since last year, the report finds, despite “substantial progress” made against air pollution in many areas of the country and more attention paid to the environment by America’s growing green movement.

“This should be a wakeup call. We know that air pollution is a major threat to human health,” said Stephen Nolan, American Lung Association National Board Chair. “When 60 percent of Americans are left breathing air dirty enough to send people to the emergency room, to shape how kids’ lungs develop, and to kill, air pollution remains a serious problem.”

State of the Air 2009 includes a national air quality report card that assigns A-F grades to communities across the country and details trends for 900 counties over the past decade.

The report ranks cities and counties most affected by the three most widespread types of pollution – ozone, or smog; annual particle pollution; and 24-hour particle pollution levels.

The report finds that air pollution hovers at unhealthy levels in almost every major city, threatening people’s ability to breathe and placing lives at risk.

“The more we learn, the more urgent it becomes for us to take decisive action to make our air healthier,” said Nolan.

Many cities, like Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Baltimore have made improvements in their air quality over the past decade.

Only one city, Fargo, North Dakota, ranked among the cleanest in all three air pollution categories.

Seventeen cities appeared on two of the three lists of cleanest cities: Billings, Montana; Bismarck and Sioux Falls, North Dakota; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Colorado Springs, Ft. Collins, and Pueblo, Colorado; Farmington and Santa Fe-Espanola, New Mexico; Honolulu, Hawaii; Lincoln, Nebraska; Midland-Odessa, Texas; Port St. Lucie, Florida; Redding, Salinas, and San Luis Obispo, California; and Tucson, Arizona.

The three cities most polluted by ozone are all in California – the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside metropolitan area; Bakersfield, a center of agriculture, petroleum extraction and refining, and manufacturing in the San Joaquin Valley; and Visalia-Porterville, a San Joaquin Valley agricultural community.

Pittsburgh-New Castle, Pennsylvania tops the list of cities most polluted by 24 hour fine particle pollution, while the three California cities that top the most polluted ozone list are close behind in this category and also for year-round particle pollution.

Ozone

In March 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopted a new, tighter standard for ozone pollution. The new standard showed that unhealthy ozone levels are more widespread and more severe than previously recognized.

Evaluating the most recent data against the new standard, the American Lung Association found that approximately 175.4 million Americans – 58 percent – live in counties where ozone monitors recorded too many days with unhealthy ozone levels, far more than the 92.5 million identified in the State of the Air 2008 report.

Sixteen cities making this year’s 25 most ozone-polluted list experienced worse smog problems than last year.

The Lung Association’s review found consistent improvements in ozone in some cities, such as Los Angeles, with its long-standing ozone problem.

But two cities, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Las Vegas, have higher ozone levels than 10 years ago.

Ozone is the most widespread form of air pollution. When inhaled, ozone irritates the lungs, resulting in something like a bad sunburn. The health effects of breathing ozone pollution can be immediate. Ozone can cause wheezing, coughing and asthma attacks. Breathing ozone pollution can even shorten lives.

“More than 175 million Americans live in areas with unhealthy smog levels — that’s 80 million more than we identified in last year’s report,” said Charles Connor, American Lung Association president and chief executive. “We at the American Lung Association believe that the new ozone standard is not yet strong enough to protect human health — an opinion nearly all scientific experts share.”

In March 2008, the EPA adopted a standard of .075 parts per million, ppm, after legal action by the American Lung Association forced the agency to complete a formal review. This standard is not as strict as the standard of .060 ppm recommended by the Lung Association.

The association, along with states, public health and environmental groups, has taken the EPA back to court in an attempt to force the agency to adopt the .060 ppm standard before its scheduled five-year review in 2013.

Particle Pollution

State of the Air 2009 grades counties for both 24-hour and year-round levels of particle pollution – a toxic mix of microscopic soot, diesel exhaust, chemicals, metals and aerosols.

“It is the most dangerous and deadly of the outdoor air pollutants that are widespread in America,” the Lung Association says in its report, warning that “breathing in particle pollution can increase the risk of early death, heart attacks, strokes and emergency room visits for asthma and cardiovascular disease.”

One in six people in the United States lives in an area with unhealthy year-round levels of fine particle pollution (termed annual average levels).

Nine cities in the list of the 25 most polluted by year-round particle pollution showed measurable improvement, including five cities that reported their best year-round levels since the Lung Association began tracking this pollutant: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Atlanta, York and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The annual average level of particle pollution worsened in a dozen cities, including Bakersfield and Los Angeles, California and Houston, Texas.

Roughly three in 10 Americans live in counties with unhealthful spikes of particle pollution which can last from hours to days (termed 24-hour levels).

Thirteen cities had more days, or more severe days, of spikes than in last year’s report. Eleven cities have improved continually since the 2007 report.

New data show that women in their 50’s may be particularly threatened by air pollution and that diesel truck drivers and dockworkers who are forced to breathe exhaust on the job may face a greater risk of developing lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

California researchers have tripled their estimate of the number of people that particle pollution kills each year in their state.

“The science is rock-solid. We now know that air pollution can impair the lung function of even the healthiest people,” said Norman Edelman, MD, American Lung Association chief medical officer. “Air pollution worsens asthma and is a direct cause of heart attacks, which makes people living with lung and heart disease especially vulnerable.”

Dr. Edelman suggests that people living in areas of high particle pollution “must recognize that this is the fact of their lives, and they must be more careful about other life factors – stop smoking, eat well, exercise.”

In addition, Dr. Edelman suggests, people who live with particle pollution “must take action help us and other organizations to change the EPA regulations. It’s personal, it’s affecting them and their neighbors.” In addition, he said, they can take local political action to change regulations such as engine idling, and clean up diesel-powered school buses.

Low income people and some racial and ethnic groups often face greater risk from pollutants. Pollution sources like factories and power plants may be closer to their homes, the Lung Association points out. Many live near areas with heavy highway traffic or have poor access to health care, which makes them even more vulnerable. Some racial and ethnic groups have a higher prevalence of diseases like asthma or diabetes, which compounds the ill effects of air pollution for these groups.

“We need to renew our commitment to providing healthy air for all our citizens — a commitment the United States made almost 40 years ago when Congress passed the Clean Air Act,” Connor said. “After four decades, we still have much work to do.”

“America needs to cut emissions from big polluters like coal-fired power plants and ocean-going vessels,” Connor said. “We need to fix old dirty diesel engines to make them cleaner and strengthen the ozone standards to better protect our health. We also need to improve the decaying infrastructure of air monitors. America must now enforce the laws that help us improve our nation’s air quality.”

CLEANEST U.S. CITIES

Cleanest U.S. Cities for Ozone Air Pollution *Cities below had equal scores.

  • Billings, Montana
  • Carson City, Nevada
  • Coeur D’Alene, Idaho
  • Fargo-Wahpeton, North Dakota-Minnesota
  • Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Laredo, Texas
  • Lincoln, Nebraska
  • Port St. Lucie-Sebastian-Vero Beach, Florida
  • Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Cleanest U.S. Cities for Short-term Particle Pollution (24 Hour PM2.5) *Cities below had equal scores.

  • Alexandria, Louisiana
  • Amarillo, Texas
  • Austin-Round Rock, Texas
  • Bismarck, North Dakota
  • Brownsville-Harlingen-Raymondville, Texas
  • Cheyenne, Wyoming
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Corpus Christi-Kingsville, Texas
  • Fargo-Wahpeton, North Dakota-Minnesota
  • Farmington, New Mexico
  • Fort Collins-Loveland, Colorado
  • Grand Junction, Colorado
  • Longview-Marshall, Texas
  • Midland-Odessa, Texas
  • Oklahoma City-Shawnee, Oklahoma
  • Portland-Lewiston-South Portland, Maine
  • Pueblo, Colorado
  • Redding, California
  • Salinas, California
  • San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, California
  • Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, California
  • Santa Fe-Espanola, New Mexico
  • Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • Tucson, Arizona

10 Cleanest U.S. Cities for Long-term Particle Pollution (Annual PM2.5)

  • Cheyenne, Wyoming
  • Santa Fe-Espanola, New Mexico
  • Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Great Falls, Montana (tied for 4th)
  • Flagstaff, Arizona (tied for 4th)
  • Farmington, New Mexico (tied for 6th)
  • Anchorage, Alaska (tied for 6th)
  • Tucson, Arizona
  • Bismarck, North Dakota (tied for 9th)
  • Salinas, California (tied for 9th)

MOST POLLUTED U.S. CITIES

10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Ozone

  1. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, California
  2. Bakersfield, California
  3. Visalia-Porterville, California
  4. Fresno-Madera, California
  5. Houston-Baytown-Huntsville, Texas
  6. Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Yuba City, California-Nevada
  7. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
  8. Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury, N.C.-S.C.
  9. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona
  10. El Centro, California

10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Short-term Particle Pollution (24 Hour PM2.5)

  1. Pittsburgh-New Castle, Pennsylvania
  2. Fresno-Madera, California
  3. Bakersfield, California
  4. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, California
  5. Birmingham-Hoover-Cullman, Alabama
  6. Salt Lake City-Ogden-Clearfield, Utah
  7. Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Yuba City, California-Nevada
  8. Logan, Utah
  9. Chicago-Naperville-Michigan City, Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin (tied for 9th)
  10. Detroit-Warren-Flint, Michigan (tied for 9th)

10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution (Annual PM2.5)

  1. Bakersfield, California
  2. Pittsburgh-New Castle, Pennsylvania
  3. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, California
  4. Visalia-Porterville, California
  5. Birmingham-Hoover-Cullman, Alabama
  6. Hanford-Corcoran, California
  7. Fresno-Madera, California
  8. Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilmington, Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana
  9. Detroit-Warren-Flint, Michigan
  10. Cleveland-Akron-Elyria, Ohio

Visit www.lungusa.org to search local air quality grades by zip code.

Canada’s greenhouse emissions soaring: UN report

1) Canada’s Report to the UN attached.  Canada has the worst record of any G-8 country and one of the worst of all countries who signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol.  Spain actually is even worse but it signed through the EU agreement.

greenhouse-gas-emissions-2007

2) Unfortunately the global picture is also very bad.  Global emissions are rising at least as fast as the most pessimistic IPCC scenario of 2000.  Since 2000 the increase is more than twice the 1990s, on a per annual basis.


Canada’s greenhouse emissions soaring: UN report

By Margaret Munro, Canwest News Service

Canada’s greenhouse emissions are back on a ‘significant’ growth trajectory despite bold promises from federal and provincial leaders to get serious about cutting discharges.

Canada’s greenhouse emissions are back on a “significant” growth trajectory despite bold promises from federal and provincial leaders to get serious about cutting discharges.

The latest greenhouse-gas inventory from Environment Canada shows that after a slight dip in 2004-2006, Canada’s total emissions took off again, thanks largely to Alberta’s oilsands, an increase in the number of vehicles on the road, and greater reliance on coal-fired electricity.

“Long-term growth remains significant,” says an Environment Canada summary report, showing the country’s emissions are 33.8 per cent above Canada’s Kyoto commitment.

The figures are based on the 2009 national inventory report that Environment Canada quietly filed last week with the United Nations to meet its international reporting obligations. The full 673-page inventory is available on the UN’s website and shows Canada has the dubious distinction of having its emissions climb more since 1990 than any other G8 nation.

Canada ranks “first among the G8 nations” for increasing emissions, the report notes, even though Canada had committed to cut them. It notes that while Canada’s emissions have soared, Germany chopped its emissions by 18 per cent between 1990 and 2006, and the United Kingdom slashed its by 15 per cent.

“We’re laggards and obstructionists,” said climatologist Andrew Weaver at the University of Victoria who, like many scientists and environmentalists, has been urging the Canadian government to cut emissions for years.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he is committed to fighting climate change, and his government two years ago launched Turning the Corner: An Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gases by 20 per cent by 2020.

Weaver and other critics see little hope of the country living up to the commitment, given the Harper government’s enthusiasm for the oilsands.

“They’re turning the corner all right, but they are turning the wrong way,” said Weaver, pointing to the renewed upward trend in Canada’s emissions.

This 2009 Environment Canada inventory covers 1990 to 2007, the most recent year that details on human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are available.

It says total greenhouse gas emissions in Canada in 2007 were 747 megatonnes, an increase of four per cent from 2006 levels. That means Canada’s emissions in 2007 were about 26 per cent above the 1990 total of 592 megatonnes, and 33.8 per cent above Canada’s Kyoto target, which committed the country to be below 1990 levels by now.

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and are widely believed to help drive climate change. Massive amounts of carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas, is released through the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas.

There was a dip in Canada’s emissions between 2004 and 2006, which Environment Canada says was due primarily to changes in electricity production and petroleum extraction activities. The weather also played a role, with warm winters in 2004 to 2006 curbing Canadians’ need for heating fuels.

But the overall trend is up, Environment Canada notes. “Between 1990 and 2007, large increases in oil and gas production — much of it for export — as well as a large increase in the number of motor vehicles and greater reliance on coal electricity generation, have resulted in a significant rise in emissions.”

Alberta is responsible for the biggest jump in emissions since 1990, but Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Ontario also have seen emissions climb much more than other provinces, the report says.

While the country’s total emissions have soared since 1990, the report notes that Canadian homeowners have been doing their bit to cut emissions. “Residential emissions were essentially the same in 2007 as they were in 1990,” the report says, noting that improved energy standards and higher-efficiency furnaces and appliances have “served to reduce emissions.”

It is transportation and energy production that has driven emissions up, the report concludes. Between 1990 and 2007, emissions from energy industries such as the oilsands and transportation increased by about 143 million tonnes, or most of the overall increase of 155 million tonnes, the report says.

There has been a proliferation of light-duty trucks, the number of which increased 117 per cent since 1990, and a 94 per cent increase in the number of heavy-duty trucks on Canadian roads.

To avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, scientists and policy-makers say global carbon emissions must be slashed between 50 and 80 per cent by 2050. If nothing is done, they say the climate will change and there will be more extreme and unpredictable weather, Arctic ice will continue to melt and global sea levels will rise.

“In Canada, the impact of climate change may be felt in extreme weather events, the reduction of fresh water resources, increased risk and severity of forest fires and pest infestations, a reduction in Arctic ice and an acceleration of glacial melting,” the Environment Canada report says.

http://www.canada.com/Business/Canada+greenhouse+emissions+soaring+report/1516154/story.html

Every breath you take — air quality in Europe


Every breath you take — air quality in Europe
Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)
Originally published Mar. 2009

The characters in this story are fictional. However the data are real. The story is set on 27 July 2008 when an air quality warning was issued in Brussels. Anna is 37 years old and lives in the centre of Brussels. She and her young son Johan are planning a trip outside the busy city. Anna suffers from asthma and her doctor has warned of the dangers of air pollution, especially on hot summer days.

Anna has heard about the London fogs of the 1950s that killed 2 000 people in one week. She has childhood memories of evening news bulletins showing dead fish and dying trees as ‘ acid rain’ first came to popular attention in the 1970s.

Motherhood and a recent asthma attack have quite rightly brought air pollution back to mind. The fact is that emissions of many air pollutants have fallen substantially across Europe since Anna’s childhood. The air she and Johan breathe is much improved compared to the past, and air policy is one of the great success stories of the EU’s environmental efforts. In particular, EU policy has dramatically cut emissions of sulphur, the main component of ‘acid rain’.

In contrast, nitrogen — also a major component of ‘acid rain’ — has not been dealt with to the same extent and so continues to cause major problems. A significant proportion of Europe’s urban population still live in cities where EU air quality limits, protecting human health, are regularly exceeded. Each year, many more people die prematurely from air pollution in Europe than die in traffic accidents.

The European goal of achieving levels of air quality that do not damage people’s health or the environment has still not been reached. EEA analysis suggests that 15 of the 27 EU Member States will miss one or more of their legally binding 2010 targets to reduce harmful air pollutants.

Particulate matter and ozone
Two pollutants, fine particulate matter and ground-level ozone, are now generally recognised as the most significant in terms of health impacts. Long-term and peak exposure can lead to a variety of health effects, ranging from minor irritation of the respiratory system to premature death.

Particulate matter, a term used to describe a variety of tiny particles from sources such as vehicle exhausts and domestic stoves, affect the lungs. Exposure can harm people of all ages, but people with existing heart and respiratory problems are particularly at risk.

According to the latest EEA data, since 1997 up to 50 % of Europe’s urban population may have been exposed to concentrations of particulate matter above the EU limit set to protect human health. As much as 61 % of the urban population may have been exposed to levels of ozone that exceed the EU target. It has been estimated that PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) in air has reduced statistical life expectancy in the EU by more than eight months.

The EEA has noted that while emissions of these two key air pollutants have dropped since 1997, measured concentrations in the air we breathe have remained largely the same. As yet, we don’t know why there has not been a drop in ambient concentrations but it could be a combination of several factors: increased temperatures caused by climate change could be affecting air quality; perhaps we are on the receiving end of pollution from other continents or natural emissions of ozone forming substances released from trees, for example.

A day in the country
Anna is planning a day in the country with Johan. Before leaving her apartment she logs onto IRCEL, a government web service providing a host of regular information on air quality around Belgium. Using maps, Anna can scan readings and forecasts for particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide among many others. The data are relayed to the web from monitoring stations around the country.

Improvements in monitoring and availability of information on air pollution are another of the success stories of recent years. For instance, local data on ozone levels are now passed onto the EEA ‘Ozone web’ (1) service that provides an overview of the situation across Europe.

Anna scrolls across a map of Belgium, zooming in on a monitoring station in the centre of Brussels, less than two kilometres from her home.

The reading, taken minutes earlier, shows high levels of ozone in Brussels. Indeed the website forecasts that levels will exceed EU target values later that day and again the following day ( Figure 1).

Anna leaves her apartment building and makes for the nearest Metro station, a 10 minute walk away. Out on the street, the full impact of the city’s traffic problems are easy to see — and smell.

Exhaust emissions from cars in the centre of Brussels, and all major cities, irritate the respiratory tract and eyes and lungs. Anna and Johan turn into their local train station and head for the countryside.

Soon, Anna and Johan are entering a national park just outside Brussels. A sign tells them that they are visiting a Natura 2000 site — one part of a European-wide ecological network, set up to secure natural habitats and to maintain the range of plant and animal life.

Figure 1: The location and levels of ozone at air quality monitoring stations in Brussels on Sunday 27 July 2008

Nitrogen
But what’s that smell? A tractor is spraying liquid manure onto a field not far away. This is irritating, Anna thinks, but it’s also part of real country life which is shown in a rather more romantic way in Johan’s picture books.

The pungent smell is caused by as many as 40 different chemical substances emitted from the manure. Ammonia (NH3), a volatile nitrogen compound, is one of them. In very high concentrations NH3 is caustic and can damage the respiratory tract. However, the levels here are not dangerous for human health. Anna can breathe a sigh of relief, albeit a stinky one.
Nitrogen is an essential nutrient in nature. Reactive nitrogen forms are actually used by our bodies to produce proteins. However, excess nitrogen can lead to severe environmental and health problems.

‘Acid rain’ forms when high levels of sulphur and nitrogen oxides are present in the air. One of the great success stories of air pollution policy over the last decades has been the massive reduction in emissions of sulphur dioxide. The 32 EEA member countries reduced sulphur emissions by 70 % between 1990 and 2006. Nitrogen, on the other hand, has not been dealt with as successfully.

With sulphur emissions declining, nitrogen is now the principal acidifying component in our air. Agriculture and transport are the main sources of nitrogen pollution. Agriculture is responsible for more than 90 % of ammonia (NH3) emissions alone.

Suddenly Johan, who has been walking unsteadily loses his balance and falls into a clump of stinging nettles. Having picked him up and brushed him off, Anna notices nettles everywhere. She has vivid memories of them as a child in a neighbour’s garden. Then the nettles grew around a compost heap that was also used as a dump for poultry dung. That was no coincidence — the stinging plant is an indicator of high nitrogen concentrations in soils.

‘Eutrophication’ is the most likely cause of this explosion of stinging nettles surrounding Johan. It occurs when too many chemical nutrients (such as N) are available to an ecosystem either on land or in water. In water, excessive plant growth and subsequent decay occur, which in turn leads to further effects including oxygen depletion. Fish and other animals and plants ultimately suffocate as the oxygen supply is used up.

The abundance of the nettles here suggests that despite being a protected habitat, the Natura 2000 site is not immune from airborne nitrogen deposits. The fence protecting the area offers no defence — in fact building a greenhouse around the area would be the only way to protect it totally from airborne substances.

Looking ahead
Because air pollution pays no regard to national boundaries the problem needs to be tackled internationally. The United Nations Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) agreed in 1979, has been signed by 51 countries and forms the basis of the international fight to tackle air pollution.

In parallel, the EU has developed polices limiting the total emissions of each Member State, setting legally binding limits. The ‘ National Emissions Ceiling Directive’ (NECD) is a key EU policy. It sets ‘ceilings’ or limits for four pollutants: sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), and ammonia (NH3). Member States should meet these ceilings by 2010.

The EEA considers that further emission cuts are still needed in order to properly protect environment and health. An EEA analysis of the most recent NECD data (2) indicates that 15 Member States expect to miss at least one of their four ceilings; with 13 anticipating missing ceilings for the 2 nitrogen-containing pollutants NOX and NH3 (3).

In 2009 the European Commission plans to publish a proposal to revise the current NECD, including stricter ceilings for the year 2020. National limits are likely to be proposed for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) for the first time.

The NECD is mirrored by air quality directives setting limit and target values for major air pollutants. A new one called the Cleaner Air For Europe (CAFE) Directive was adopted in April 2008. For the first time it sets legally binding limit values for PM2.5 concentrations (fine particulate matter), to be attained in 2015. The European Commission is also taking countries to task for having missed earlier limits and, where sufficient measures have not been outlined to improve performance, has begun infringement proceedings.

Later that evening Anna, while watching the evening news, sees that an air quality warning has been issued by the government in response to high ozone levels beyond the EU threshold. The warning advises people with breathing problems to take precautions such as avoiding strenuous exercise while the ozone levels remain high.

Climate change mitigation efforts will improve air quality

In January 2008, the European Commission proposed a Climate and Energy package to:

  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 % by 2020;
  • increase the share of renewable energy by 20 % by 2020;
  • improve energy efficiency by 20 % by 2020.

The efforts required to meet these targets will also cut air pollution in Europe. For example, improvements in energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy will both lead to reduced amounts of fossil fuel combustion — a key source of air pollution. These positive side effects are referred to as the ‘co-benefits’ of climate change policy.

It has been estimated that the above package will cut the cost of meeting EU air pollution targets by EUR 8.5 billion per year. The savings to the European health services could be as much as six times that figure.

http://www.environmental-expert.com/resultEachArticle.aspx?cid=8909&codi=47906&loginemail=elle-provocateur@sympatico.ca&logincode=187521

Pollution Link to Asthma in Womb & Affects to Genes | Traffic Pollution Study

Pollution link to asthma in womb

Young girl using asthma inhaler

One in ten children in the UK have asthma

Traffic pollution causes genetic changes in the womb which increase a child’s risk of developing asthma, research suggests.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

A study of umbilical cord blood from 56 children found “reprogramming” of a gene associated with exposure to compounds in traffic fumes.

The gene was associated with asthma symptoms at age five, the researchers reported in the PLoS ONE journal.

It is the first time pollution has been shown to influence genes, experts said.

In the study, researchers looked at a gene called ACSL3, which is expressed in the lung.

We know that children living in polluted areas have a higher incidence of asthma but what we didn’t know was it was affecting a gene

Dr Keith Prowse, British Lung Foundation

They also recorded the mothers’ exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – a by-product of combustion present in high levels in heavy-traffic areas – during their pregnancy with backpack air monitors.

The researchers found a significant association between chemical changes which control activation of the gene and high levels of maternal PAH exposure.

Although the finding needs to be confirmed in larger studies, researchers say changes in the ACSL3 gene may be help early diagnosis of pollution-related asthma.

Environment

It is an example of an epigenetic change – where environmental factors influence the activity of genes but do not cause structural changes or mutations in the genes.

Previous work suggests the ACSL3 gene is involved in the structure of cell membranes.

But more work is needed to unpick the role of the gene in asthma.

Studies have suggested asthma risk is linked to environmental pollution in early life and the incidence of asthma is higher in areas with high traffic density.

“Our data support the concept that environmental exposures can interact with genes during key developmental periods to trigger disease onset later in life, and that tissues are being reprogrammed to become abnormal later,” said Dr Shuk-mei Ho, study leader and director of the Center for Environmental Genetics at the University of Cincinnati.

She said detecting early signs of asthma could help prevent the disease than can affect as many as 25% of children in areas with high levels of traffic pollution.

Dr Keith Prowse, vice-president of the British Lung Foundation, said the study was interesting.

“We know that children living in polluted areas have a higher incidence of asthma but what we didn’t know was it was affecting a gene.”

“If you look at cord blood and you find the gene has been modified you know the child is more likely to get asthma so you can treat them early.”

He added there were probably many factors contributing to the development of asthma so the issue was fairly confused but in 10 years’ time there would be a clearer picture.

Dr Elaine Vickers, research relations manager at Asthma UK, said: ‘We don’t yet know whether air pollution can actually cause asthma and although this study is very interesting, further research is needed before we can say for sure.

“We do know however that pollution triggers symptoms in two thirds of people with asthma, and many say that a reduction in air pollution would make the single biggest difference to their quality of life.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7888735.stm

https://drivethrulies.wordpress.com/

Greenhouse Gas Bulletin

WMO Greenhouse gas bulletin
Courtesy of World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
Originally published Nov. 2008

world-climate-news-2008-june-see-page-9

[Note: On the PDF above – Page 9.  We are actually at 288 PPMV and not 281 as the report states.  This is due to the fact their reference date is 2006 and now we are 2009.  A 7 point increase.]

The latest analysis of data from the WMO-GAW Global Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Network, a comprehensive network of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), shows that the globally averaged mixing ratios of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) have reached new highs in 2007 with CO2 at 383.1 ppm, CH4 at 1789 ppb and N2O at 320.9 ppb. These values are higher than those in pre-industrial times (before 1750) by 37%, 156% and 19%, respectively. Atmospheric growth rates in 2007 of CO2 and N2O are consistent with recent years. The mixing ratio of CH4 shows the largest increase since 1998. The NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI) shows that from 1990 to 2007 the atmospheric radiative forcing by all long-lived greenhouse gases has increased by 24.2%. The combined radiative forcing by the most abundant ozone depleting substances, CFC-11 and CFC-12, exceeds that of N2O. They are decreasing very slowly as a result of emission reductions under the Montreal Protocol on Substances That
Deplete the Ozone Layer.


For Free Access to the full article click here (pdf Format)

http://www.environmental-expert.com/resultEachArticle.aspx?cid=27116&codi=40329&loginemail=elle-provocateur@sympatico.ca&logincode=187521

Tim Hortons Continues to Lead in Denialism & Greenwash Tactics in Canada

Group raises doubts over drive-thru study

December 15, 2008


RECORD STAFF
KITCHENER

Tim Hortons stands by its study of pollution from idling vehicles in drive-thrus, despite a withering critique by the city’s environment committee.

A meeting of the city’s environmental advisory committee on Thursday included a harsh analysis of the company’s study on vehicle emissions at drive-thrus.

“It is not a scientific study, it is a piece of marketing and public relations,” committee member Bob McColl said.

Tim Hortons Inc. retained Guelph-based RWDI to study pollution from vehicles waiting in drive-thru lines.

It concluded the emissions from vehicles waiting in drive-thru lines were less than from cars that had been turned off for a few minutes and then restarted.

But McColl said only five locations out of 3,000 were studied. The study also compared vehicle emissions to “everyday sources” such as a 16-horsepower snowblower and an 11-horsepower chainsaw.

McColl said such engines are rarely used, giving the comparison little relevance.

And a small sample size can have a high margin of error, McColl said.

“These are some of the shortcomings in the report. They are enough to foster skepticism in me,” McColl said.

Tim Hortons Inc. had the study done after learning that Kitchener had joined a growing list of cities that considered tighter restrictions or even outright bans on new drive-thrus.

Nick Javor, senior vice-president of corporate affairs for Tim Hortons Inc., said the RWDI study is absolutely a scientific study.

“The breadth of analysis and range of sensitivities studied deal with any concerns raised about the number of stores in the study. Also, high-volume locations at rush hours were studied,” Javor said in an e-mail.

He defended the comparisons of emissions from chainsaws and snowblowers.

“Readers need to understand the order of magnitude and scale,” Javor said. He noted the study was peer reviewed and is currently under consideration for publication in a scientific journal.

“This all suggests that the study is worthy of broader consideration,” Javor said.

The environment committee voted to pass along the RWDI study to city councillors as information.

The committee also supports changing the way drive-thrus are designed so that people do not have to walk through a line of waiting vehicles.

Tim Hortons and other quick-service restaurants will be encouraged to better promote the option of going inside rather than idling in a drive-thru.

A representative of the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel & Motel Association did not like that idea.

“Our windows at the front are how we draw customers in, so the recommendation is a little confusing,” Michelle Saunders, the association’s manager of government relations, said to the committee.

“I would simply say that drive-thrus are widely supported by the public,” Saunders said.

Alain Pinard, the interim director of planning, listened to the critique of the RWDI study, but noted that city staff do not have the expertise to wade into this field of scientific inquiry. That is best left to peer-reviewed journals, Pinard said.

City staff will watch for reactions after the study is published and exposed to more experts in the field.

Pinard called the RWDI study a good start, but said city staff need more information before public policy decisions are based on it.

“We are not experts,” Pinard said.

Some committee members were openly disappointed, having hoped for a crackdown on drive-thrus and a ban on new ones.

“We know cars pollute,” committee member Nirala Sonder said.

“We asked that there be no new drive-thrus and that has not been addressed,” Sonder said.

http://news.therecord.com/News/Local/article/458994