How Can Green and Cool (light-coloured) Roofs Mitigate Urban Heating?

The effectiveness of cool and green roofs as urban heat island mitigation strategies (17 page pdf, Dan Li, Elie Bou-Zeid and Michael Oppenheimer, Environmental Research Letters, May 2, 2014)

Today we review research on the urban heat island effect and how green roofs and high albedo “cool” roofs may be used to mitigate the amount of heating – which is becoming an even more important aspect, as global climate warming continues to increase the frequency and severity of heat waves in cities with the resultant growing impact on health. Results of the modeling show that over 90% of the roofs have to be green or cool in order to reduce the average air temperature by 0.5 C. Also, the soil moisture is critical for green roofs as dry soil has minimal effect on cooling.

green roofs

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What Should Cities do to Protect Themselves against Climate Impacts?

Learning with practitioners: climate change adaptation priorities in a Canadian community (17 page pdf, Ian M. Picketts & John Curry & Stephen J. Déry & Stewart J. Cohen, Climatic Change, Dec. 14, 2012)
Today we review a study that describes the steps by a small mountain town in northern British Columbia to produce a substantive climate adaptation plan- which is unusual for many Canadian towns and cities (and perhaps in other countries) where climate change is approached only in a conceptual or general way and rarely is the local community engaged in defining the threats and solutions. The authors emphasize the need to first assess past climatic events, then engage the community through better communications and partnerships, shift from general concepts of climate impacts to specific detailed assessments, and then link the solutions to other policies and plans while keeping communities informed throughout. The Prince George example needs to be replicated in other communities with local impacts brought in.

climate adaptation prince george

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How Will Climate Change Affect Storm Rainfall?

Heavier summer downpours with climate change revealed by weather forecast resolution model (Abstract, Elizabeth J. Kendon, Nigel M. Roberts, Hayley J. Fowler, Malcolm J. Roberts, Steven C. Chan & Catherine A. Senior, Nature Climate Change | Letter, Jun. 1. 2014)
Also discussed here: Climate change to boost summer flash floods, says study (Matt McGrath, BBC news, Jun. 1, 2014)
Today we review an article that describes nine months of simulations with the British supercomputer normally used for numerical weather prediction but using a much finer 1.5 km resolution, instead of the normal 12 km grid and using the IPCC scenario for rapid climate warming. The results indicate, not unexpectedly, that the added moisture in warmer air masses during summer would produce more intense rainfall rates than at present and as much as five times more heavy rainfalls – even though the summer total rainfall, as a whole, would likely be drier. The apparently contradictory conclusion reveals what many people who do not look at rainfall statistics might find surprising- that very heavy rainfall (say over 10-20 mm/day) only occurs once or twice a month at places not subject to ocean storms or storms enhanced by mountains (such as Argentina/Colombia for example).

The accumulated monthly total depends not only on the heavy rain days but also on the number of many light rain or drizzle days. In this case, it appears that there might be an increase in the number of heavy rain days and a decrease in the lighter ones – which is the scenario expected when you shift from many overcast “drizzly” days to a few thunderstorm days. This fits well with the scenarios that scientists in Europe, the US and Canada have been predicting in general terms for decades from computerized climate models with coarser resolution– more convective storms because of hotter surface temperatures and heavier amounts because of the added moisture in the air. This computer experiment now confirms these estimates with more precision and suggests that flood authorities in other countries take note, not just those in the UK.

uk floods

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How Can We Find the Most Environmentally Sustainable Place in the World?

Construction of an environmental quality index for public health research (39 page pdf, Lynne C Messer, Jyotsna S Jagai, Kristen M Rappazzo, Danelle T Lobdell, Environmental Health, May 22, 2014)

Today we review research aimed at developing a more accurate index of environmental quality than traditional indices used to select the greenest or healthiest or highest environmental quality of a place in the world. The older indices tend to use spot observations of a single indicator to represent an area or ambient value, and they tend not to consider a combination of several variables to evaluate land, air, water, built environment and socio-demographic conditions. An example of the latter is the difference in crime rates between urban and rural areas where the latter would feel safer and have a higher environmental quality than the former, all other variables constant. On the other hand, some urban areas have a better built environment (more bike and pedestrian paths, etc) than some rural areas where highway deaths are higher.

The proposed Environmental Quality Index (or EQI) uses 22 performance indicators to estimate environmental sustainability for all the counties in the USA. The resulting indices were weighted so that there were an equal number of regions at the low end as well as at the high end of the index scale. As the authors note, the EQI represents only the outdoor environment and indoor conditions may, on occasion, be more important from a health point of view or need to estimated from a different set of variables.

env index

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Warning Label: Driving a Car Could Harm your Health and the Health of the Planet

Climate Change & Air Pollution Warning Labels on Gas Pumps (42 page pdf,Our Horizon, 2013)

Also discussed here: Climate warning labels on gasoline may become a reality (Meredith James, Envirolaw, May 23, 2014)

And here: Can municipalities require climate warning labels on gasoline? (Dianne Saxe, Envirolaw, Sep. 3, 2013)

And here:

(11 min You-Tube, TEDxYouth, Havergal College, Toronto, 2013)

And here: Grade 10 student pitches global warming warning on gas nozzles (2 min video, Global BC News, May 15, 2014)

And here: Environmental group proposes warning labels on gas nozzles (Toronto Star, May 23, 2014)

Today we review a submission to Toronto City Council calling for a bylaw that would require gas stations to apply a climate change warning sign to their pumps. This follows the same rationale and municipal authority used for bylaws that ban idling which also was aimed at reducing needless vehicle emissions, as well as the health justifications used by municipalities for banning smoking inside restaurants and bars and city buildings, as well as near their entrances. Just as the tobacco companies fought smoking bans and health warning signs on cigarette packages, so the oil industry is likely to fight this proposal- with hopefully the same result. A similar bylaw is being proposed in West Vancouver and Hudson. Why not in other cities where vehicle emissions are a major greenhouse gas source and health risk?


cl ch warning signs

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How do Lower Speed Limits Save Lives?

Dangerous by Design 2014 (48 page pdf, Smart Growth America – National Complete Streets Coalition, May 20, 2014)

Also discussed here: Paris to limit speeds to 30 km/hr over entire city (World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities, May 21, 2014)
And here: Oops! What went wrong with “Old Mobility” (World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities, Jun. 6, 2010)
Today we review a report from a non-governmental organization which aims to make streets safer for everyone, but particularly children and seniors. Children cannot see cars coming when travelling at more than 20 mph and, because they are small, drivers cannot see them either, making this segment of our population vulnerable. Seniors and those who have difficulty walking quickly are killed by cars at almost twice the rate as their part of the population (21% vs 12.6 %). Speed kills and many arterial roads encourage speeding – the risk of death of hit by a car moving at more than 50 mph is 75% while that drops to 6% at 20 mph.

Streets can be designed to protect pedestrians- by removing lanes, by giving pedestrians clearly marked areas to cross, by enforcing reduced speed limits. The Mayor of Paris, France proposes to forbid driving above 30 kph (about 20 mph) on all city streets, with a few exceptions, which tells you two things: first, their society is aging faster than in US/Canada and, second, the city fathers (or in this case mother) put a greater priority on pedestrian safety then on motorized mobility (the French call that “the old mobility”).


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Making Streets Complete for More Mobility

Rethinking Streets – An Evidence-Based Guide to 25 Complete Street Transformations(148 page pdf, Marc Schlossberg, John Rowell, Dave Amos, Kelly Sanford, Sustainable Cities Initiative Oregon, 2013)

Today we review a book that examines street design in 25 varied communities across the USA and how these communities have adapted their streets to a more mobile end result. Each has different needs and, as a result, different design but all are focused on making the streets more effective, as well as more enjoyable for driving, walking, transit and cycling.

street xsection

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How Can the UK (and other developed western countries) Reduce GHG Emissions by 80%?

Guidance – 2050 Pathways: Exploring how the UK can meet the 2050 emission reduction target using the web-based 2050 Calculator(Department of Energy & Climate Change , UK)
Also discussed here: The 2050 Pathways Calculator

And here: MY 2050 Simulation(interactive graphic slide show)
And here: 2050 Calculator: one page guides(42 page pdf, David MacKay, Chief Scientific Advisor, DECC)

And here: Win-Win Transportation Emission Reduction Strategies(18 page pdf, Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, May 27, 2012)

Today we review a report from the UK and an energy scenario calculator. The tool, available in Excel spreadsheet format, as well as online, converts assumptions about future energy demand and supply into useful estimates of greenhouse gas emission reductions and graphs of energy demand and supply. The assumption choices are wide: the impact of adopting a small or large increase in wind, tidal or nuclear power generation, the impact of changes in housing heating and cooling, changes in transportation, aviation and shipping, etc. One additional scenario one may have looked for is the impact of pricing demand for energy in transportation such as congestion charges or dynamic pricing of parking rates, as recommend by Todd Litman in his publication noted above.

nuclear scenarios to 2050

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Where is the Most and Least Urban Sprawl in the USA?

Measuring Sprawl 2014(51 page pdf, Smart Growth America, April 2014)

Also discussed here: Updated Urban Sprawl Data for the United States (National Cancer Institute, Geographic Information Systems and Science for cancer prevention and control)

Today we review a report on the extent that sprawl exists and the rate that it is increasing or decreasing in over 200 cities and almost 1000 counties in the USA, using a quantitative sprawl index. Results indicate that the most compact, least sprawled cities are New York City (203) and San Francisco (194). In contrast, the most sprawl is found in Atlanta (41) and Morganton NC (25). Analysis of the social and health impacts of sprawl reveal that a doubling of the index equates to 3 more years of life and an increase of only 10 points is linked to lower housing and transportation costs by 3-4%, improved air quality and 15% less fatal vehicle crashes.

sprawled cities

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What does the Latest IPCC Report Say about Health Impacts from Climate Change?

Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (44 page pdf, IPCC WGII AR5 Summary for Policymakers, Mar. 31, 2014)

Also discussed here: Climate Change: Health Impacts and Opportunities – A Summary and Discussion of the IPCC Working Group 2 Report (19 page pdf, The Global Climate and Health Alliance, Apr. 3, 2014)

And here: Climate change: yes, it’s getting worse fast and it matters (Dianne Saxe, Environmental Law and Litigation, Mar. 31, 2014)

And here: Global warming dials up our risks, UN report says (CBC news, Mar. 31, 2014)

Today we review the recently released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its Working Group that deals with impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. With high confidence, the report notes that climate change for the next few decades will cause existing health impacts to get worse until by the end of the century for some times of the year and some parts of the world “projected to compromise normal human activities, including growing food or working outdoors”. There are similar assessments of the risks facing other sectors of society and in various regions in other ways but clearly the time for action was yesterday.

health cl change and cities

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How Can Satellite Imagery Help Reduce Care Use, Congestion and Emissions?

Landscape Pattern and Car Use: Evidence Linking Household Data with Satellite Imagery (Abstract, Rose Keller, Colin Vance, Journal of Transport Geography, Jan. , 2013)
Also discussed here: Urban planning could change driving behaviour (1 page pdf, Science for Environment Policy, European Commission DG Environment News Alert Service, Mar. 27, 2014)

And here: Factors influencing commute distance: a case study of Toronto’s commuter shed (Abstract, Axisa, Jeffrey J.; Scott, Darren M.; Bruce Newbold, K., , Journal of Transport Geography, Sep. 2012)

Today we review research that used satellite imagery along with geographical information system data (GIS) to find out what are the main pre-determinants for car use. Results indicate that diversity of land uses which includes the mix of open space with built-up space and the mix of regional businesses with residential are most highly linked to less care use, along with two more publicly-accepted notions about higher fuel prices and availability of public transit. This suggests that urbn planners would do well to compare digital maps of land use as part of their efforts to effectively reduce car use, congestion and carbon dioxide emissions (which make up 12% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Europe)

Per capita responsibility for current atmosphe...

Per capita responsibility for current atmospheric CO 2 level, including land-use change (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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What is the Best Way to Reduce Vehicle Emissions?

A methodology to compute emission projections from road transport (EmiTRANS) (Abstract, Julio Lumbrerasa, Rafael Borgea, Alberto Guijarroa, Jose M. Lopezb, M. Encarnacion Rodrígueza, Science Direct, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Jan. 2014)
Also discussed here: Simulations to reduce emissions from road transport (Science Daily, Mar. 24, 2014)
Today we review a paper that describes a greenhouse gas emission simulation model that can evaluate possible options to reduce emissions from land transportation. Results indicate that highway speed and engine type are the most influential factors while advanced emission reduction is most efficient for hazardous air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

A Miles ZX40 Zero-emissions vehicle at CUNY Qu...

A Miles ZX40 Zero-emissions vehicle at CUNY Queens College, New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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2012 Update on Global Impact of Air Pollution

Burden of disease from Household Air Pollution for 2012 (17 page pdf, World Health Organization, Mar. 24, 2014)

Also discussed here: An Integrated Risk Function for Estimating the Global Burden of Disease Attributable to Ambient Fine Particulate Matter Exposure (7 pages, Richard T. Burnett, C. Arden Pope III, Majid Ezzati, Casey Olives, Stephen S. Lim, Sumi Mehta, Hwashin H. Shin, Gitanjali Singh, Bryan Hubbell, Michael Brauer, H. Ross Anderson, Kirk R. Smith, John R. Balmes, Nigel G. Bruce, Haidong Kan, Francine Laden, Annette Prüss-Ustün, Michelle C.Turner, Susan M. Gapstur, W. Ryan Diver, and Aaron Cohen, Environmental Health Perspectives, Feb 7, 2014)

And here: 7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution (Press Release, World Health Organization, Mar. 25, 2014)

And here: Air pollution ‘kills 7 million people a year’ (The Guardian, Mar. 25, 2014)

Today we review the annual report from the World Health Organization on the global impact of indoor and outdoor air pollution which is estimated as 4.3 and 3.7 million deaths, respectively, each year.   While outdoor air pollution has been somewhat more controlled and reduced in recent years, indoor air pollution continues to increase the number of deaths especially among women in developing countries because of their greater exposure to emissions from cooking on wood stoves. More than 60% of deaths from indoor air pollution are attributed to strokes and Ischaemic heart disease with most of the remaining deaths (34%) from COPD and acute lower respiratory disease. The smallest cause (6%), unlike tobacco smoking is lung cancer. By contrast, 80% of deaths from outdoor air pollution were Ischaemic heart disease and from strokes.

Beijing Air Pollution

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Polling the Public about Air Pollution

Air Quality in London Survey(Transport for London, Mar. 2014)

Today we review a dozen questions that the Mayor Johnston has posed to his citizens about the state of air pollution London which recently reached record levels, comparable to those in the capital of China. Action to improve air quality (or other environmental issues such as climate change) from the public purse has to be based on how tax payers perceive the problem and its sources, as well as which options they might accept or hopefully endorse. Londoners are lucky to have Mayors who care enough about the environment to take significant steps to improve it, as we have seen in the implementation of the Low Emissions Zone, using a congestion charging system in the core of London over 10 years ago. What comes next? We’ll see after the poll closes in mid-April.

London AQ Map

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Do Cities Cater to Car Drivers or to Pedestrians? At what cost?

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time [Kindle Edition] (321 pages, Jeff Speck, Nov. 13, 2012)

Also discussed here: The walkable city (17 min. video, TED, Sep 2013)

And here: Canada’s Most Walkable Cities 2010 (WestJet Up magazine, Apr. 9, 2010)

And here: Parking (Paul Fritz, smalltownurbanism, Feb. 28, 2014)

Today we review a book by Jeff Speck called the Walkable City which surveys the design of cities when to comes to walkability and the trend toward driving and away from walking in many cities. He points out that among other things, that large surface areas dedicated to parking spaces and taken away from pedestrian malls and urban parks is a prime obstacle to a city’s walkability. There are reasons why cities such as New York, Boston and Portland in the USA or Vancouver or Victoria in Canada are seen as more pedestrian friendly than Dallas or Winnipeg. The measurable impacts are clear as well: obesity and the risk of diabetes is directly related to lack of walkability; the number of car crash deaths is around 12 deaths per 100,000 in the USA compared to 3 in Japan and in walkable cities such as New York and San Francisco (both of which have made great strides in promoting cycling and car free areas and by pricing parking by demand).


resised_Shopping_in_GastownTourism Vancouver and John Sinal

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Which Organizations Impede Progress on Reducing Climate Change Impacts?

Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations(14 page pdf, Robert J. Brulle, Climatic Change, Dec. 21, 2013)

Also discussed here: New Study Shows ‘Dark Money’ Funds Climate Change Denial(The Harbinger, Feb. 25, 2014)

And here: Funders Behind Climate Change Denial Hide Donations(ENS news, Jan. 2, 2014)

And here: Not Just the Koch Brothers: New Study Reveals Funders Behind the Climate Change Denial Effort(Robert J Brulle, Drexel Now Press Release, Dec. 20, 2013)

Today we review an analysis of the rise of well financed efforts mounted by conservative foundations n the USA to counter efforts to reduce carbon emissions. What I find interesting is that the efforts did not start until after the formation in 1989 of the International Panel on Climate Change within the United Nations framework which has had as a main objective  international agreements and deadlines for greenhouse gas emission reductions world-wide.

Prior to 1989 Canada’s government and parliament had approved that country’s first Climate Change Program which included significant financial resources to acquire the country’s first super computer (a Cray 1) to carry out climate modeling research and the formation of a team of world-class researchers in what was the Canadian Climate Centre. Similar efforts took place in the USA and in Europe culminating in the first ministerial level conference on climate change at the “Changing Atmosphere” conference in Toronto, Canada in 1988 and the 1991 “Earth Conference” in Rio de Janiero which initiated the Conferences of the Parties to steer climate change agreements such as the Kyoto Accord in 1995.

That all of this momentum was turned back by 91 “climate change counter-movement organizations” with incomes of $7 Billion (led by the Koch brothers and Exxon-Mobil) in less than a decade is the focus of the paper which describes how the public was misled and how the system evolved to one where donors are kept hidden from public scrutiny with the “Donors Trust/Capital” foundation.

climate deniers

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Modelling Cities According to Isobenefits

Simulating future societies in Isobenefit Cities: Social isobenefit scenarios(16 page pdf, Luca D’Acci, Futures Journal, Sep. 25, 2013)

Today we review a paper about a model of various urban forms that are evaluated according to the benefits that each confers to its citizens. The forms include a traditional Central Business District form where the population and economy is highest in the centre and radiates outward to a second form where there are several sub centres or sub cities of activity to a third form where there is a ring city surrounding .The isolines of benefits (isobenefits) are based on formulae which estimate such things as benefits to pedestrians and cyclists (pedestrian and bike paths for example) and specific examples from cities around the world are tested. Results indicate the types of cities that could be designed as well as what might be done to existing cities to improve benefits. The optimum one seems to be a multi-centre city.


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How do they Measure Resilience to Climate Change Disasters?

Measuring psychological resilience to disasters: are evidence-based indicators – an achievable goal?  (20 page pdf, Jose Manuel Rodriguez-Llanes, Femke Vos, Debarati Guha-Sapir, Environmental Health , Dec. 20, 2013)

Today we review the ways that resilience can be measured and in particular, psychological resilience, based on a literature review of this factor in various scenarios and disasters. Unlike many climate impact studies this research looks at human behavior and how humans react to events that present challenges. Results indicate not surprisingly that social support increased resilience, in general, while women showed a larger risk of lower psychological resilience following a disaster. These findings would be important in disaster planning especially with the higher risk of larger and larger disasters expected with the greater variability of wind, temperature and precipitation extremes from climate change.

Reduction of flood and associated extreme weat...

Reduction of flood and associated extreme weather costs is the primary benefit of climate change mitigation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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A Plan to Reduce the Impact of Air Pollution by 37% in 15 Years!

English: Constituency for the European Parliam...

English: Constituency for the European Parliament election in 2009 Español: Mapa por el Elecciones al Parlamento Europeo de 2009 Français : Circonscriptions aux élections européennes en 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Clean Air Programme for Europe (11 page pdf, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions , European Commission, Dec. 18, 2013)
Also discussed here: London told to cut air pollution by 2020 – or face fines – European commission tells London and other European cities to dramatically reduce ‘invisible killer’ vehicle emissions (John Vidal, the guardian, Dec. 18, 2013)

Today we review a new package of measures announced by the European Commission which would improve air quality by reducing vehicle emissions such as nitrogen oxide by over 70% and produce economic savings of 40 to 140 billion EU in health benefits alone. The measures include revised short term targets, and stricter emission targets for the six main pollutants and reduced emissions from medium size utilities such as energy plants.

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How to go Carbon Neutral in a Simple Effective way

The Microsoft carbon fee: theory & practice  (40 page pdf, Tamara “TJ” DiCaprio, Microsoft Corporation, Dec. 13 2013)

Also discussed here: A Carbon Fee For Your Business? Microsoft Can Help(Sustainable Business, Dec. 13, 2013)

And here:  The Carbon Neutral Company

Today we review a plan and guide that Microsoft developed to make itself carbon neutral by the use of a carbon free and a  process to make an inventory and monitor carbon use, collect a carbon fee and then invest it in ways that would accelerate the carbon neutral end state.

Although many forward looking companies and a few governments have put carbon pricing into their future plans, Microsoft is the first to actually implement such a plan. While carbon taxes and cap and trade approaches have been tried and generally failed, what makes the Microsoft plan appealing is its simplicity- the fee is flexible based on consumption of carbon use multiplied by a carbon price that is set externally. Another key feature is the use of targets which not only provides managers with a goal for carbon use but also an investment outlook with key revenue targets which can be used to purchase things that would accelerate the whole process. The bottom line is that Microsoft openly declares that they are doing this because it is good for the bottom line, promotes efficiency and transforms the company to a sustainable one – what is holding so many municipal and national governments back from emulating this?

carbon fee

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Who Is Legally Responsible for Climate Change Impacts (and avoiding them)?

International Climate Change Liability: A Myth or a Reality?  (Jennifer Kilinski, 42 page pdf, J. of Transnational Law & Policy, Spring 2009)

Also discussed here: Office of the Auditor General 2012 Annual Report (City of Ottawa, Nov. 28, 2013)

And here: The Alaskan village set to disappear under water in a decade (Stephen Sackur, HardTalk, BBC News Magazine, Jul. 29, 2013)

And here: The Moral and Criminal Case Against Canada’s Climate Negligence (William Rees, Dec. 7, 2013)

Today we review the liability of companies which emit greenhouse gases for losses caused by anthropogenic climate change.  Several suits have been raised in the last 5 years by plaintiffs that have suffered significant impacts against the main emitters of carbon pollution which in the USA is the electrical generation industry which is responsible for 25% of that nation’s emissions.

While these suits concern flooding from sea level rise of Arctic islands, such as Kivalina, Alaska, the Auditor General for the City of Ottawa found that “Lack of a systematic and comprehensive climate change adaptation plan may result in impairment to municipal infrastructure and services due to extreme weather resulting from climate change. This could then result in potential legal action due to sustained property damage”. This liability was linked to the provincial Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act requires an emergency preparedness plan be in place.

Taking this thinking a step further,  most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions originate in cities and one of the principal GHG emitters is the transportation sector and private vehicles n particular which are owned and driven by around 70% of the city’s population. Those most affected by air pollution from these vehicles are too young or too old to drive. Just as the Inuit on a small Alaskan island are among the lowest emitters of GHGs and suffer the most from climate change, the same logic applies to the young and elderly in cities who conceivably could launch a valid class action against those responsible for vehicle emissions for both health impacts, accentuated by climate change, and for damage to property and infrastructure as the Auditor General found. The Court found in the Kivalina case that regulation of greenhouse gases was a political rather than a legal issue and one would look for accountability at that level.

However,  the failure of the City of Ottawa to prepare a plan of action to protect and adapt to climate change appears to provide a potential legal recourse for those suffering losses, whether they be structural or health. In addition, cities have a dominant role and mandate in regulating traffic, congestion and roads, as well as the ability to price use of these, which in turn gives cities the ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and the liability that goes with this responsibility. How long will it take those who are impacted to sue the city and vehicle owners for damages?

English: Aerial view of Kivalina, Alaska, USA....

English: Aerial view of Kivalina, Alaska, USA. View is to the southeast. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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How Does Bad Air Affect the Economy?

Ripple effects of air pollution felt in many sectors (China Daily, Dec. 10, 2013)

Also discussed here: Smog Hits Half Of China, 104 Cities Severely Polluted  (Lu Chen, Epoch Times,  Dec. 8, 2013)

And here: Air pollution kills 21,000 Canadians each year – Transportation-related emissions to blame, say UBC researchers (Pamela Fayerman, Vancouver Sun, Oct. 22, 2013

And here : Commissioner hints at new EU air quality measures (Air Quality news, Dec. 11, 2013)

Today we review a news story which brought up an interesting aspect of heavy air pollution and the reaction by the people it affects – mainly the older and younger generations. In this case, it is an example from large polluted Chinese cities, but the levels observed are not that much different from those observed in the downtowns of many large congested western cities, so the same reaction and impacts can be expected. This includes the travel industry where those with the time and money to travel deliberately – the baby boomers over 65 – chose destinations with cleaner air and avoid those with polluted air. Schools are closed in China for the same reason that those in urban areas of  the USA and Canada which are within 200 m of heavy traffic should be closed.

While the Chinese government seeks to improve its air quality (by 20% in 4 years!), and action is being taken to strengthen EU air quality guidelines, their counterparts in Canada and USA focus only on ambient air standards while roadside air quality becomes worse as cities attract more and more polluting vehicles and traffic congestion. Only one jurisdiction in Canada (Halton Region in southwestern Ontario) has taken steps to monitor roadside emission and keep heavy traffic away from residences because of vehicle pollution and the health threat this represents. Meanwhile, more people die from air pollution than from obesity and traffic accidents combined (at last count, 21,000 premature deaths each year in Canada).

Heavy Smog Hits East China

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What Do Crematoriums Contribute to Urban Air Pollution?

Toxic Emissions from Crematories: A Review(7 page pdf, Montse Mari, José L. Domingo, Environment International, Oct. 12, 2009)

Also discussed here: Incineration – EMEP/EEA Emission Inventory Guidebook(13 page pdf, Marc Deslauriers, David R. Niemi and Mike Woodfield, 2009)

Today we review the literature on emissions from incineration  of human bodies which is the way almost all bodies are disposed of in Japan and China and have increased to around 37% in the USA and Europe today and increasing about 10% per decade. Very few analyses of emissions from crematoriums are available but there are concerns about the amount of mercury from tooth fillings that end up in the air. The paper concludes that unless  mercury emissions from crematories are properly controlled, these facilities -which number over 1,000 in Europe alone – could become an important source of air pollution.


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How Does Population Dynamics Affect the Vulnerability and Resilience of Cities to Climate Change?

The Demography of Adaptation to Climate Change(204 page pdf, Martine, George and Daniel Schensul (eds.), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), IIED and El Colegio de Mexico, Oct. 2013)

Also discussed here:

(1hr 49 min You-Tube, Woodrow Wilson Center, Oct. 2, 2013)

Today we review a comprehensive and up to date book on population trends and dynamics and how they affect the resilience and vulnerability of cities to climate change, the vulnerability of coastal cities to storms, cities in drylands to water shortages and how urbanization and sprawl combine with a lack of mobility to affect the poor, especially during severe climate events which may occur at greater frequencies. Although the focus is on urban areas in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, many of the conclusions or predictions apply equally well to highly developed countries, such as after Hurricane Katrina  where the New Orleans poor could not afford fuel to flee disaster even if they had cars. “Climate change is a spatial phenomenon” but the link with urban population vulnerability is hampered because censuses are based on administrative divisions, not environmental risk which is becoming more definable by the advent of Geographic Information Systems and satellite mapping imagery.

urban pop in africa asia la

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How can Mobile Phones be used to Estimate Air Pollution Exposure?

Mobile phone tracking: in support of modelling traffic-related air pollution contribution to individual exposure and its implications for public health impact assessment(26 page pdf, Hai-Ying Liu , Erik Skjetne, Mike Kobernus, Environmental Health, Nov. 4, 2013)

Today we review a paper that explores an approach that uses personal mobile phones equipped with GPS tracking ability to estimate the exposure of a group of individuals to air pollution and make these estimates available in real-time at low cost. Such a method could be applied in developing countries where expensive monitoring equipment is often unaffordable. The potential of gathering information such as this from a wide segment of society also opens up very large opportunities for progress in public health by collective tracking of large numbers of people.

mobile phone process

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Is There a Need for Standards for Brief Peaks of Air Pollutants?

Peak event analysis: a novel empirical method for the evaluation of elevated particulate events(12 page pdf, Aaron Orkin, Pamela Leece, Thomas Piggott, Paul Burt, Ray Copes, Environmental Health, Nov. 1, 2013)

Today we review research into the occurrence of brief peaks of suspended particles (or dust), how often they occur (in a rural area of southern Ontario) and if the results point to a need for standards for periods of less than an hour- the shortest time period currently used in Canada and many other countries. The resulting analysis showed that peak values of PM10  twenty to one hundred times greater than values averaged over an hour which were within the current standards. Although the aim of the research was to examine single events with high associated levels of pollution, one cannot help but wonder what the health impacts would be for people exposed to repeated doses of high pollution for shorter periods than are covered by existing standards, such as proximity to roadside emissions at rush hour each day. If there is a definable health impact, that would both call for standards for shorter periods- say 10 minutes or one minute- and might explain the degree of mortality associated with traffic (which has been estimated as about 1/3 of all deaths from outdoor air pollution in a study conducted by the City of Toronto Medical Officer of Health).

short period AQ

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What Is the Answer to China’s Continuing Air Pollution Problems?

Clearing the Air in China(Chris P. Nielsen and Mun S. Ho, New York Times, October 25, 2013)

Also discussed here: Clean and Dirty: China’s Energy Binge(New York Times, Oct. 26, 2013)

And here:

(37 sec You-Tube video)

Today we review an OP-ED from the New York Times which assessed China’s progress in the use of renewable energy and on curbing air pollution which, for sulphur dioxide, is “one of the most swiftly effective air pollution policies ever implemented anywhere”. At the same time, however, double digit GNP industrial growth over the last few decades has produced an even greater overall increase in  emissions and a deadly level of pollution in cities located near industrial centres, such as Harbin and Beijing. A modest carbon tax ($10/ton) could prevent close to 90,000 premature deaths each year and bring in much needed revenue to further accelerate the use of non-polluting energy sources.

Electricity from Renewable Sources                        Ann. Growth (%)

(hydro, nuclear, wind, solar)

(Brown-US; Red-USA)


Carbon Fuels Consumed

(coal, oil, nat. gas)

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No Need for Drivers Anymore?

Preparing a Nation for Autonomous Vehicles – Opportunities, Barriers and Policy Recommendations(32 page pdf, Kara M. Kockelman and Daniel J. Fagnant, Eno Center for Transportation, Oct. 22, 2013)

Also discussed here: Self-driving cars could transform driving, produce billions of dollars in benefits(Joan Lowy, Hamilton Spectator, Oct. 22, 2013)

And here: Top 5 Market Trends Driverless Cars Will Rev Up in the Future(Joe Levy,  Wired, Aug.14, 2013)

Today we look at autonomous or driverless cars (AV) which will be legal by 2015 laws recently enacted in California, Nevada and Florida. They could save over 20,000 lives per year lost to the 5.5 M car crashes in the USA due to driver error, in addition to over $447 B in economic savings from the 4.8 B hours of productivity lost due to traffic congestion. Although it may take a decade or more to bring the cost per car of the added technology (currently $100K) down to the point (say $1,500) where these savings can be realized, recognizing that overall ownership and operating costs would be less (i.e. 50% for  insurance and 13% for fuel).  If even a few cars are AVs, the smoother flow of traffic would benefit all the cars on the road. Removing the need for a driver would also bring mobility to those too young to drive, as well as to seniors (40 M over 65 now) who will be doubling in population over the next 20 years and to the disabled. Finally, if a car needs no driver and can be called up when needed, there is less need to own one but rather share it with others – an AV can make 5 times as many trips as a non AV.

driverless cars

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Health Impacts Downwind of the Alberta Oil Sands

Heavy air pollution in Canadian areas with excess cancers(MNT, Oct. 23, 2013)

Also discussed here: Study documents heavy air pollution in Canadian area with cancer spikes(UC Health, Oct. 22, 2013)

And here: Study says pollution, cancer a match near Canada industry(Orange County Register, Oct. 21. 2013)

And here: Oil sands pollution comparable to a large power plant(American Geophysical Union Press Release, Feb. 22, 2012)

And here: Air quality over the Canadian oil sands: A first assessment using satellite observations(Abstract, C. A. McLinden, V. Fioletov, K. F. Boersma, N. Krotkov, C. E. Sioris, J. P. Veefkind, K. Yang, Geophysical Research Letters,  Feb. 2012)

Today we review research based on ground air quality monitors and remote satellite air quality imagery that points to the elevated levels of carcinogenic air pollution, downwind of oil sands processing plants in western Canada. This moves the debate about the Alberta oil sands from one about greenhouse gas emissions and climate change to one about direct health impacts, such as leukemia, for those who live downwind of these utilities.  The findings indicated levels of volatile pollutants such as benzene higher than found in large polluted cities elsewhere in the world. It also underlined the value of taking actual measurements of air quality near industrial plants rather than depending on assumptions from models and stack emissions, as is the case with many urban incinerators, such as the Plasco municipal waste disposal plant near Ottawa.

oil sands aq

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Outdoor Air Pollution Now Classified by the UN as a Human Carcinogen

IARC: Outdoor air pollution a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths(4 page pdf, Press Release #221, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Oct. 17, 2013)

Also quoted here: Outdoor air pollution a leading cause of cancer, say UN health experts(UN News, Oct. 17, 2013)

And here: IARC Scientific Publication No. 161 – Air Pollution and Cancer(245 pages ePUB, Kurt Straif, Aaron Cohen, and Jonathan Samet, International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2013)

And here: Air pollution a leading cause of cancer – U.N. agency(Reuters, Oct. 17, 2013)

Today we review a report from the UN has now classified outdoor air pollution among its highest health threat level (of 4 levels) as a Group 1 human carcinogen, after analyzing pollution data from around the world. This should “send a strong signal to the international community to take action without further delay.”

pollution cancer map

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Are Composts a Public Health Hazard?

Legionella bacteria found in compost products (University of Strathclyde, Oct. 1, 2013)

Also quoted here: Legionella spp. in UK composts – a potential public health issue (Abstract, Sandra L. Currie, Tara K. Beattie, Charles W. Knapp, Diane S. J. Lindsay, Clinical Microbiology and Infection, Sep.3,  2013)
And here : Does compost really pose a threat to our health? (Lucy Siegle, The Observer, Oct.20, 2013)
Many people compost their organic garbage, thinking that this is good for the environment, produces rich soil for home gardens and extends the life of urban land-fills. Today we review a report from the UK which looked at the presence of Legionella in composts both store-bought and home-made. Almost 60% of the composts contained Legionella which can cause human disease. The good news is that  infection from this is rare, especially if proper hygiene is followed – and it is recommended that compost packaging carry public health warnings to this effect.

compost heap

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How Can the Law be used to Curb Traffic on Roads that Cause Congestion and Air Pollution?

Legal warning over pollution impact of roads(Campaign for Better Transport, Oct. 18, 2013)

Also discussed here: Environmental Statement Volume 1 (288 page pdf, A556 Project Team, Highways Agency & Jacobs, Mar. 2013)

And here: A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon Improvement Scheme – consultation response(16 page pdf, Campaign for Better Transport, Oct. 16, 2013)

And here: A14 upgrade ‘may push air pollution past legal limits’(Chris Havergal, Cambridgenews, Oct. 16, 2013)

Today we review efforts by a group in England to convince the highway authority to find other ways to reduce congestion than by widening roads which it claims would only lead to more congestion and health impacts from air pollution- which was confirmed by the Highway Authority in an Environmental Statement. What is interesting about this is the mechanism that allows citizens to raise concerns in a substantive and legal way on a specific project and, surprisingly (to a Canadian in Ottawa with similar concerns about roads and air pollution) get results. Worth noting too is that the UK, as one of a few countries in the world with comprehensive road side monitoring of air pollution in urban areas, provides data that can put a limit on traffic-related air pollution (TRAP). roads and the law

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How Well is Europe Doing in 2013 to Improve Its Air Quality?

Air quality in Europe — 2013 report(112 page pdf, European Environment Agency, Oct. 15, 2013)

Also discussed here: Air pollution still harming health across Europe(European Environment Agency, Oct. 15, 2013)

And here: Air pollution country fact sheets(Fact sheets for 33 EEA member countries, European Environment Agency, Oct. 15, 2013)

And here: Bulgaria’s Air Is Dirtiest in Europe, Study Finds, Followed by Poland(Danny Hakim, New York Times, Oct. 15, 2013)

Today we review a report from the European Union on the progress being made to reduce air pollution in the states that make up the EU over the last decade. Long term health targets were selected to reduce the loss of life expectancy by 47% from exposure to PM and 10% less deaths from exposure to O3. While the levels overall for all pollutants have decreased, they do not yet meet the targets set and in particular over 90% of urban dwellers breath air with PM 2.5 and O3 that exceed guidelines.

eu pop over guidelines

Percentage of the EU urban population exposed to air pollution exceeding EU air quality standards

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Reducing Proximity Errors for Exposure to Traffic –Related Air Pollution

Positional error and time-activity patterns in near-highway proximity studies: an exposure misclassification analysis(28 page pdf, Kevin J Lane, Madeleine Kangsen Scammell, Jonathan I Levy, Christina H Fuller, Ron Parambi, Wig Zamore, Mkaya Mwamburi, Doug Brugge, Environmental Health, Sep. 8, 2013)

Today we review research that examines the potential errors that might be introduced into an epidemiological study of health impacts resulting from exposure to roadside emissions where proximity within 50 m is critical. Results indicate that for pollutants that decay rapidly with distance from roadways, a significant error is possible in stipulating the distance from a residence to a roadway.

proximity errors

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Great Cities and How They Got That Way

How to make a city great(44 page pdf, McKinsey & Company, Sep. 2013)

Also discussed here: How to make a city great (Insights & Publications, McKinsey & Company, Sep. 2013)

And here: Cities bypass slow government to lead the way on climate change (Mike Scott, The Guardian, Sep. 12, 2013)

Today we review a report on how cities can achieve greatness in terms of quality of life and in meeting the climate change challenge by smart growth, by doing more with less and by winning support for change- things that the Mayor of New York City, along other mayors, serves as a model. The key point is that most people in the world live in cities and this is where all but a quarter of the world’s energy and greenhouse gas emissions is generated.
great city poster
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How Much Could Our Health Improve from Reduced Vehicle Emissions?

Respiratory Effects of a Reduction in Outdoor Air Pollution Concentrations (Abstract, Boogaard, Hanna; Fischer, Paul H. Janssen, Nicole A. H.; Kos, Gerard P. A. Weijers, Ernie P. Cassee, Flemming R.; van der Zee, Saskia C.; de Hartog, Jeroen J.; Meliefste, Kees; Wang, Meng Brunekreef, Bert; Hoek, Gerard,Epidemiology, Sep 2013)

Also discussed here: A case for “natural experiments” in urban health (OEH Science, Aug. 25, 2013)

Today we review research that examined the direct cause and effect between reducing traffic emissions on the one hand and improvement in health on the other. Results indicate a small but significant health improvement (up to 6%) from reduced air pollutant concentrations of 10-25%. 

Protesters gathered outside a courthouse to pr...

Protesters gathered outside a courthouse to protest against the arrest of Simon Oosterman (second from left), Auckland’s 13 Feb 2005 WNBR organizer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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What is the Future of Local Air Quality Management in the UK?

Review of Effectiveness of LA AQAP and Future Policy Options for LAQM(64 page pdf, Stephen Moorcroft (AQC) and Chris Dore (Aether), Air Quality Consultants Ltd, June 2013) 

Also discussed here: Review of Local Air Quality Management in England(Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, June 2013)

Today we review a two month consultation process (to end in September 2013)aimed at the future of local air quality management in the 250 cities in the UK which have agreed to Local Air Quality Management(LAQM) agreements since the enabling Act was passed in 1995 in response to concern about health impacts. A review was made of the effectiveness of the present system by interviews with 20 selected municipal authorities. The main outcome of the review was a lack of significant decreases in nitrogen dioxide, the main emission from vehicles, and without this, there is a question – especially from “non technical” people (one thinks of politicians), as opposed to those experienced in transportation – as to the effectiveness of the program to reduce health impacts. The conclusions seem to point to the need for a hybrid reduced emission-driven system that combines local hot spot management with authority-wide regulation and better communication of results to the public.

English: An Air Quality Monitoring Station abo...

English: An Air Quality Monitoring Station above the M42. This Air Quality Monitoring Station is in Shadowbrook Lane, on a bridge above the M42. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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What Improvements Are Needed to Regulate Urban Air Quality?

Air Implementation Pilot – Lessons learnt from the implementation of air quality legislation at urban level(76page pdf, European Environment Agency, Jun. 5, 2013)

Today we review a report from the European Commission on a pilot project carried out in 12 cities to assess and make recommendations on the deficiencies and next steps to address the threats to human health from urban air pollution. Despite (or perhaps because of) the enactment of more restrictive regulations than seen elsewhere in the world, several pollutants remain above thresholds (O3, PM2.5 and NO2 in particular), gaps remain in emission inventories and networks and the principal solution lies in regulating traffic. Recommendations include putting a much greater focus on data, distributing information to the public and carrying out regular health impact assessments.

vienna traffic NO2

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How Does Urban Sprawl Impact the Environment?

The Environmental Impacts of Sprawl: Emergent Themes from the Past Decade of Planning Research(26 page pdf, Bev Wilson and Arnab Chakraborty, Sustainability, Aug. 5, 2013)


Today we review a literature review of articles that examine the meaning of urban sprawl globally, its impacts on air, water, land and energy, how it relates to justice and equity and how different countries either encourage or discourage its growth. The authors point out that, although sprawl has no widely accepted definition, improvement comes when it is viewed within the context of urban sustainability rather than narrowly as a geographic metric.


English: Urban Sprawl in London, Ontario

English: Urban Sprawl in London, Ontario (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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What Are the Links between Premature Deaths, Air Pollution and Climate Change on a Global Scale?

Global premature mortality due to anthropogenic outdoor air pollution and the contribution of past climate change(12 page pdf, Raquel A Silva, J Jason West, Yuqiang Zhang, Susan C Anenberg, Jean-Franc¸ois Lamarque, Drew T Shindell, William J Collins, Stig Dalsoren, Greg Faluvegi, Gerd Folberth, Larry W Horowitz, Tatsuya Nagashima, Vaishali Naik, Steven Rumbold, Ragnhild Skeie, Kengo Sudo, Toshihiko Takemura, Daniel Bergmann, Philip Cameron-Smith, Irene Cionni, Ruth M Doherty, Veronika Eyring16, Beatrice Josse17, I A MacKenzie15, David Plummer, Mattia Righi, David S Stevenson, Sarah Strode, Sophie Szopa and Guang Zeng, Environmental Research Letters, Jul. 11, 2013)

Also quoted here: Researchers estimate over two million deaths annually from air pollution (Institute of Physics (IOP) News, Jul. 12, 2013)

And here: Air Pollution Responsible for More Than 2 Million Deaths Worldwide Each Year, Experts Estimate(Science Daily, Jul. 12, 2013)

Today we review a new estimate of the global burden of premature deaths due to ozone and particulate matter 2.5 which total 2.1 million deaths each year due to PM 2.5 and 470,000 due to ozone. Using a different set of assumptions than used previously, the role of air pollution-related climate change from 1850 to present is seen to be smaller than expected with only 3,700 deaths due to this – not to state that future climate change would be greater.

premature deaths pm

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How Will the EU Improve Air Quality Management at the Local Level?

Air Implementation Pilot – Lessons learnt from the implementation of air quality legislation at urban level(76 page pdf, European Environment Agency, Jun. 5, 2013)

Today we review a report that examined the findings and recommendations of a detailed look at how air quality is managed in 12 European cities, ranging from how data are monitored and put into inventories, to how they are used in models to how information is communicated to the public. Recommendations called for steps to make inventories more compatible, more training in modeling, more stringent siting of monitoring stations often near traffic and greater use of social network media to disseminate warnings and advisories and perhaps, one day, even putting all the air quality directives for Europe in one strategy document.

vienna no2

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Health Risks for Highway Workers

Freeway to the  Lenny Zakim Bridge

Freeway to the Lenny Zakim Bridge (Photo credit: OhDuranDuran)

Exposure of Highway Maintenance Workers to Fine Particulate Matter and Noise ( Abstract, Reto Meier, Wayne E. Cascio, Brigitta Danuser and Michael Riediker, Annals of Occupational Hygiene, Mar. 15, 2013)<

Also discussed here: Strimmers are worse than motorway traffic  (Medical XPress, May 30, 32013)

Today we review an article that looks at the health risks of highway workers exposed to both vehicle emissions from proximity of traffic and the noise and emissions of particles from their equipment- such as from chain saws and jack hammers. Results indicate levels eight times higher than those faced by the average population. More generally, one could suppose that residences close to ongoing highway maintenance in a city environment would also be impacted.

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Ranking Emission Sources Harmful to Health in Europe

Contribution from the ten major emission sectors in Europe and Denmark to the health-cost externalities of air pollution using the EVA model system – an integrated modelling approach(26 age pdf, J. Brandt, J. D. Silver, J. H. Christensen, M. S. Andersen, J. H. Bønløkke, T. Sigsgaard, C. Geels,  A. Gross,  A. B. Hansen, K. M. Hansen, G. B. Hedegaard, E. Kaas, and L. M. Frohn, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, Mar. 6, 2013)

Also discussed here: The cost of air pollution impacts on health  (Science for Environment Policy, May 16, 2013)

Today we review the estimates of the health impacts of ten European emission sources using a model that included nonlinear processes along the source to receptor pathway. Results indicate that the top three were power production, agriculture and road traffic, although this result could be different when applied in a different year (given the influence of meteorology on the result) or a different region of the world – in Scandinavia and Canada for example, most of the power production is carried out using non-polluting renewable energy resources, unlike many EU power sources which depend on coal. The approach deserves wider application because it recognizes the contributions from less obvious or visible emission sources.

modeling health impacts

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What Do You Need to Know to Build a Net-Zero Energy Home?

Strategies to Achieve Net-Zero Energy Homes: A Framework for Future Guidelines Workshop Summary Report(51 page pdf, Nancy A. McNabb, Engineering Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology, April 2013)

Also discussed here: Strategies to Achieve Net-Zero Energy Homes(Science Daily, May 15, 2013)

Today we review a guide to build new homes or restructure old homes to achieve net zero energy which is defined as “buildings that generate as much energy through renewable means as is consumed by the building”.  The guide is broken down to address design technology and equipment as well as the challenge of resistance to change in terms of human behavior. Such adverse side effects of more air tight houses and the impact on indoor air quality are discussed.  The goal of the federal government is to realize 50% of all commercial buildings in the USA to be net zero by 2050.

netzero house

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Is There a Need to Change International Air Pollution Standards?

Review of evidence on health aspects of air pollution (REVIHAAP)(33 page pdf, World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, May 8, 2013)

Today we review an experts’ report that identified 22 key questions that need to be answered with respect to revisions of current World Health Organization and EU standards for the three major air pollutants: PM, O3 and NO2, following a review of new evidence on the impacts of these pollutants on human health. The recommendations point to the need for shorter term limit standards for PM 2.5, evidence of new impacts of O3 on brain development, and the need to look beyond NO2 for roadside emissions.

English: Preindustrial and contemporary PM2.5 ...

English: Preindustrial and contemporary PM2.5 emissions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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How the Six Cities Paper was a Game Changer for Clean Air – a Lesson for Addressing Climate Change?

Prevailing winds – A decades-long fight to bring clean air standards in line with environmental health science offers lessons for today.(Harvard School of Public Health News, Fall 2012)

Also discussed here: An Association between Air Pollution and Mortality in Six U.S. Cities(7 page pdf, Douglas W. Dockery, C. Arden Pope, Xiping Xu, John D. Spengler, James H. Ware, Martha E. Fay, Benjamin G. Ferris, Jr., and Frank E. Speizer, The New England Journal of Medecine, Dec. 9, 1993)

And here: Harvard Six Cities Study Follow Up: Reducing Soot Particles Is Associated with Longer Lives(Harvard School of Public Health Press Release, Mar. 16, 2006)

Today we recall a paper published 20 years ago that caused a major shift in national public policy for regulating cleaner air and lowering emissions of fine particulate matter. Until it was published (in 1993), the link between mortality and air quality had not been established. After it was published, based on the survival rates in six cities over 14-16 years, new PM 2.5 standards were introduced that “would prevent 15,000 premature deaths annually”.

What is particularly interesting and relevant today to the “debate” about climate change is the need to present scientific data in a clear unambiguous manner (as it was in the six cities case) to avoid the delays introduced deniers looking for insignificant errors in raw data (which has been the situation for the last decade with the climate change issue). The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should pay attention!

six cities graph

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Who has the Right to a Healthy Environment and Who Doesn’t?

Right to a healthy environment?(Dianne Saxe, Envirolaw, Apr. 5, 2013)

Also discussed here : The Constitutional Right to a Healthy Environment(David R. Boyd, Environment Science and Policy for Sustainable  Development, Aug. 2012)

The answer to the title of today’s post is in 177countries of the world, but not in United States, Canada, China, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, among 16 “laggards”, according to the report reviewed today. Why not? Those few countries that do not have substantive protection apparently are influenced by a series of concerns including the fear of the court taking precedence over legislators, a fear of a “flood of litigation” or “too vague to be useful”. Makes you wonder, especially if you are a Canadian, especially at a time when full government action is needed (and absent) to take on the challenge of climate change and air pollution.

right to healthy environment

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Is “Clean Coal” an Oxymoron when it comes to Health Impacts from Coal Power Generation?

The Unpaid Health Bill – how coal power plants make us sick(46 page pdf, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL),  March 2013)

Also discussed here: Air pollution: Europe’s avoidable health risk(1 page pdf, Lancet, Mar. 16, 2013)

Today we review a report that calls for an end to coal powered plants in the EU by 2040, although the same reasons for doing so apply elsewhere, particularly in the United States, because of the impact of coal power emissions not only on human health, but also on the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from carbon sources as soon as possible to mitigate climate change. Over 18,000 premature deaths/year in the EU can be linked to coal emissions which make up 20% of the GHG emissions for Europe. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology, touted as the vanguard of “clean coal”, is found to have even more emissions of NO2 with lower SO2.

coal health

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Getting Ready for Climate Change Impacts in the USA

The administrative regions of the United State...

The administrative regions of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Climate Change Adaptation Plan(55 page pdf, Cross-EPA Work Group on Climate Change Adaptation Planning, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Jun. 29, 2012)

Also discussed here: Unable to stop climate change, EPA prepares for it( Philip Bump, Grist, Feb. 8, 2013)

Today we review a draft plan prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency to deal with the known and likely impacts associated with climate change in the USA. The document is comprehensive, touching on such diverse areas as air pollution-health issues, the impact of more extremes of temperature and rainfall on flooding in communities, the impact on waste disposal and the challenges all this means to the regulation and enforcement side of EPA’s mandate. As one commentator opined “Too bad we didn’t do more a few decades ago to keep all of this from happening.”

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How Can Cities Reduce Carbon Emissions from Transportation?

Decarbonizing urban transport in European cities: four cases show possibly high co-benefits(10 page pdf, Felix Creutzig, Rainer Muhlhoff and Julia Romer,Environ. Res. Lett., Dec.19, 2012)

Today we review an analysis of four policy scenarios for four European cities at increasing levels of pressure aimed at reducing carbon emissions from transportation over the next 30 years. The greatest impact comes from a combination of land use policies (such as densification) combined with congestion charges which in one city produced a 40% reduction in GHGs. It is clear as the report summarizes that such strategies need to be tailored to a given city, its population and degree of sprawl.

urban carbon emissions

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