When Do you Become “Old”

Population ageing: the timebomb that isn’t? (5 page pdf, Jeroen Spijker and John MacInnes, BMJ(British Medical Journal), Nov. 12, 2013)

Today we review a paper about aging and the implications of using a fixed age, such as 65, to indicate when to worry about “old age” diseases, particularly those such as heart and lung diseases that are aggravated by air pollution. The authors contend that the important statistic to use is the years of remaining life expectancy when the average life expectancy in the UK has increased by 34 years, thus moving the yard stick from the pension age of 65 to later. Over time improvements in medical technology and, indirectly in air quality in some places, seniors are living longer which has increased the size of the older generation, while growing obesity has resulted in earlier occurrence of diabetes with negative impacts on life expectancy. It is clear that the dynamics that affect health of the elderly has changed.

old age dependency


Key Quotes:

“For the first time, there are now more people over the age of 65 in the United Kingdom than there are children under 15 years. Over the past century, the proportion of over 65s has grown from about one in 20 to around one in six.”

“the old age dependency ratio. It takes the number of people who have reached the state pension age and divides it by the number of working age (16-64 years) adults in order to estimate the proportion of older people relative to those who pay for them.”

“Since the main factor behind the ageing population is increasing life expectancy, age is a poor measure of its burden…We can best capture this changing importance of age by realising that the age of a population comprises two components: the years lived of its members (their ages) and their years left (remaining life expectancies).”

“In aggregate terms, the population of 2009, despite being much older as measured by years lived, was nevertheless younger than that of 1900 in terms of years left.[39 more years]”

“if we define the dependent older population as people with a remaining life expectancy of ≤15 years, the trend is different…from the late 1970s improvements in old age mortality have reversed the rise in the proportion of the population with low life expectancies.”

“We should not assume that population ageing itself will strain health and social care systems. Demand for services will rise but continue to be driven by other factors, chiefly progress in medical knowledge and technology, but also the increasing complexity of comorbid age related conditions.”

“Ageing related diseases like osteoarthritis are predicted to increase and start at a younger age. This may not only result in an increased risk of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases, it also suggests that the ageing process can speed up as well as slow down, with obvious implications for public health policy.

Reporting Local Industrial Air Pollution in Canada’s Largest City

Tracking and Reducing Chemicals in Toronto: Third Annual ChemTRAC Report (David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health, Toronto Board of Health, Jun. 13, 2014)

Also discussed here : ChemTRAC – Improving Toronto’s Air: 2014 Annual Report (David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health, Toronto Board of Health, Jun. 13, 2014)

And here: Toronto Public Health Reveals Local Air Pollution Sources (Jennifer Kalnins Temple, Envirolaw, Jul. 10, 2014)

Today we review the third annual report from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health on the monitoring of local industrial air pollutants, a program (ChemTRAC) that requires local industries to emissions of 25 specific pollutants- the top three of which are VOCs, NOx and PM2.5. The Health Board estimates that of the 1300 deaths caused by air pollution each year, local industry is responsible for 120, in addition to 200 hospitalizations. This not only underlines the importance of the program but also allows for identification of sources of health risks not previously defined- the mercury releases from incineration of human remains at crematoria for example- and allows companies to take measure to reduce the release of critical pollutants. A large majority (90%) of the reporting companies found the ChemTRAC program helpful and 2/3s found that the program helped them to reduce harmful emissions The only question one might ask- why is this not required in other cities, especially large ones with industrial pollution within their boundaries?

map of toronto air poll sources

Key Quotes :

“ChemTRAC provides more information on releases of highly toxic substances in comparison to existing programs, like NPRI. Last year, ChemTRAC data was accessed almost 10,000 times online, making it one of the top downloaded datasets from Toronto’s Open Data site. This information provides the public with valuable insights on key chemicals in their community and will help Toronto Public Health design better initiatives to improve Toronto’s air.”

“The ChemTRAC program..three key elements:

1) the Environmental Reporting and Disclosure Bylaw …requires businesses to report on their use and release of 25 priority substances ..;

2) a public disclosure system to inform the public about facilities in their neighbourhoods;

and 3) supports for businesses to reduce their use and release of the priority substances. “

“Toronto Public Health estimates that air pollution currently gives rise to 1300 premature deaths and 3550 hospitalizations in our city each year. Of those, pollution from local industries is responsible for about 120 of these deaths and 200 of these hospitalizations.”

“In its 2014 air pollution burden of illness update, ..pollutants emitted within Toronto’s borders contribute to 670 deaths and 1,970 hospitalizations, with local industries contributing about 18 percent of these deaths and 10 percent of these hospitalizations.”

“90 percent of businesses that used ChemTRAC support services found them helpful or very helpful…Sixty-four per cent of businesses surveyed in 2013 indicated that the ChemTRAC program has made them more aware of the measures they can take to reduce the release of use of priority substances. ”

“the 2013 ChemTRAC annual report identified mercury as a substance of high concern and crematoria as a major source of releases to air.”

Recommendations to Counter Climate Change by 2050

Pathways To Deep Decarbonization – interim 2014 report to the Secretary General of the United Nations (288 page pdf, Jeffrey Sachs, Laurence Tubiana, Emmanuel Guerin, Henri Waisman, Carl Mas, Michel Colombier, Guido Schmidt-Traub, Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), Jul. 8, 2014)

Also discussed here: Executive Summary – Pathways To Deep Decarbonization (16 page pdf, Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), Jul.8, 2014)

And here: UN issued with roadmap on how to avoid climate catastrophe – Report is the first of its kind to prescribe concrete actions that the biggest 15 economies must take to keep warming below 2C (Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, Jul. 8, 2014)

And here: Deep Decarbonization Pathways (Sustainable Development Solutions Network)

Today we review an interim report to the UN’s Secretary General that puts to one side the last 20 years of largely failed negotiations focused on legal niceties by 20 conferences, sponsored by the UN Convention on Climate Change, aimed at reducing the impact of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and by making communities more resilient. The report estimates that without significant changes to the way that energy is generated from carbon fuels that the global mean temperature will increase by 4.5 deg C by the end of the century. It recommends three approaches be taken quickly and seriously by all countries,  but especially those among the largest emitters (America, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and South Korea) and these are: Energy efficiency and conservation, Low-carbon electricity and Fuel Switching. A final report is expected within the next year leading up to a crucial climate conference in Paris in 2015.

English: GHG emission per capita in metric ton...

English: GHG emission per capita in metric tons per person for each country in 2005. Data is from the CAIT 8.0 dataset. CO2 equivalent emissions from land use change and emissions of CO2,CH4,N2O,PFC,HFC, and SF6 are included. Bunker fuel (aka ships) is not. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Key Quotes:

“All we have been doing in these negotiations for all these years is talking about things in the abstract. It’s not producing the deep technological changes that can get us to a low-carbon global economy,”

“in the absence of additional commitments to reduce GHG emissions, the world is on a trajectory to an increase in global mean temperature of 3.7°C to 4.8°C compared to pre-industrial levels. When accounting for full climate uncertainty, this range extends from 2.5°C to 7.8°C by the end of the century. “

“the level of cumulative CO2 emissions from land use, fossil fuels, and industry must be in the range of 550-1300 billion tons (Gigatons or Gt) by mid-century. If one excludes a significant contribution from net negative emissions,3 the CO2 budget to 2050 is 825 Gt. Staying within this CO2 budget requires very near-term peaking and a sharp reduction in CO2 emissions thereafter, especially in energy-related CO2 emissions.”

“Assuming a world population of 9.5 billion people by 2050… means that countries would need to converge close to a global average of CO2-energy emissions per capita of 1.6 tons in 2050, which is a sharp decrease compared to today’s global average of 5.2 tons, especially for developed countries with current emissions per capita much higher than today’s global average.”


“The study looks at the world’s 15 biggest economies: America, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and South Korea, which between them account for 70% of global emissions.”

The 15 DDPs…share three common pillars of deep decarbonization of national energy systems:

1) Energy efficiency and conservation: Greatly improved energy efficiency in all energy end-use sectors including passenger and goods transportation, through improved vehicle technologies, smart urban design, and optimized value chains; residential and commercial buildings, through improved end-use equipment, architectural design, building practices, and construction materials; and industry, through improved equipment, production processes, material efficiency, and re-use of waste heat.

2) Low-carbon electricity: Decarbonization of electricity generation through the replacement of existing fossil-fuel-based generation with renewable energy …

3) Fuel Switching: Switching end-use energy supplies from highly carbon-intensive fossil fuels in transportation, buildings, and industry to lower carbon fuels…

“The report envisages that Britain by mid-century would generate about 35% of its electricity from nuclear power plants and 40% from coal using carbon capture technologies… America too will remain heavily invested in coal, and could generate up to 35% of its electricity from coal using carbon capture technologies.South Africa, which is now heavily dependent on coal, could generate 80% of its electricity from solar energy, while countries such as Australia could achieve cuts in their emissions by switching to electric cars and public transport.”

What is the Cost of Accumulated Carbon Emissions and Who Should Pay for Them?

Counting carbon: historic emissions from fossil fuels, long-run measures of sustainable development and carbon debt (25 page pdf, Jan Kunnasa, Eoin McLaughlin, Nick Hanley, David Greasley, Les Oxley and Paul Warde, Scandinavian Economic History Review, May 7, 2014)

Also discussed here: Who is responsible for climate change? (Science Daily, Jul. 4, 2014)

Today we review a very basic look at the cost of the carbon emitting countries not taking action earlier to reduce emissions to keep the accumulated atmospheric CO2 below a “safe” level of 350 ppm. The current level has just exceeded 400 ppm and the objective is to keep it below 450 ppm. The cumulative costs from 1902 to 2007, apportioned by emission source are estimated at over $6 trillion for the US, just over $4 trillion for the EU with China’s share rapidly climbing to just under $4 trillion. The costs in terms of climate impacts are felt by most if not all countries with the cost of refugees forced to emigrate by climate warming for example expected to increase eight fold to 200 million. The authors recommend the setting of a fixed carbon tax of $50/ton to account for this which balances the excess emission on the past when impacts were not as severe with the much greater impacts that result from excessive emissions recently.

acc cost of co2

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click  HERE


What is the Next Biggest Environmental Health Problem After Air Pollution?

Lessening the Severe Health Effects of Traffic Noise in Cities by Emission Reductions (28 page pdf, Tor Kihlman, Wolfgang Kropp, and William Lang, The CAETS Noise Control Technology Committee and the International Institute of Noise Control Engineering, May 2014)

Also discussed here: Traffic noise is dangerous for your health: Solutions exist for dense cities (ScienceDaily, Jul.1, 2014)

Today we review a report that looks at the second biggest environmental cause of health problems after air pollution, noise. As with air pollution, the single biggest source is road traffic from the interaction between tires and pavement or “rolling noise”. Solutions call for “quiet pavements” and improved design of tires although the authors report that present regulations and that most actions by government and industry fall well short of solving the problem. An interesting point was made about safety concerns about electric cars being too quiet to the point that government wants to require noise emitters – a step that is seen as unnecessary and counterproductive. Again, as with air pollution, an effective solution is to reduce roads traffic by promoting quiet forms of transportation, such as walking and cycling. Steps to reduce road noise would also benefit efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and climate change impacts.

noise in cities

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

Has Municipal Waste Peaked?

Peak Waste? The Other Side of the Industrial Cycle (14 page pdf, Ugo Bardi, Virginia Pierini, Alessandro Lavacchi and Christophe Mangeant, Sustainability, Jun. 30, 2014)

Today we turn our attention to one of the key areas of responsibility for municipalities (along with their control of traffic and road construction, water supply and local public health)- the collection of solid waste and storage in “city dumps”. The article under review looks at trends in garbage collection, pointing out that cities typically deal with short lived items such as packaging and perishable goods rather than the types of output of industrial waste which may include nuclear waste with lifetimes lasting hundreds of years.

Reference is made to the early work of the Club of Rome and its 1972 “Limits to Growth” world model, linking the economy to consumption of goods to pollution and waste, warning that, without a change, the global system would decline markedly. New data on waste now indicate that along with a peak in automobile, there now is an observed peak in municipal waste, citing the trends in the world’s leading producers of garbage (and greenhouse gases), China and the USA, a trend observed in other developed countries which is seen to be the result of efforts to reuse products and turn to renewable energy over carbon-based energy sources, as well as to more efficient waste treatment facilities.

MSW china and USA_Page_1MSW china and USA_Page_2

For Key Reports and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

Monitoring Roadside Pollution with Sensors on Bikes

Cyclists will monitor air pollution in Hamilton (CBC News, Mar. 13, 2014)

Also discussed here: Bicycle Air Monitoring Program – Pittsburg (GASP)

Today we review two citizen initiatives in Hamilton and Pittsburg to monitor air pollution levels along roads and bike paths used by cyclists in these cities. The program that began first in Pittsburg with the Group Against Air Pollution and Smog, collects and displays the Particulate Matter on maps of the urban core in real-time. The Bicycling Air Monitoring program in Hamilton just began on June 26 with over 60 cyclists volunteering to use the 20 GPS and air monitors which were funded with only $25 K from contributions from volunteers and a local city Councillor. These data fill gaps in the map of air pollution measured by much more expensive provincial air quality monitors (over $250K each) or by using a specialized mobile van dedicated to roadside monitoring.

pittsburg pollution

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE


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