How Do Air Pollution Alerts Affect Public Health Use?

Effects of an air pollution personal alert system on health service usage in a high-risk general population: a quasi-experimental study using linked data (7 page pdf, R A Lyons, S E Rodgers, S Thomas, R Bailey, H Brunt, D Thayer, J Bidmead, B A Evans, P Harold, M Hooper, H Snooks, J Epidemiol Community Health,  May 23, 2016)

Today we review an analysis of the reaction of an “intervention”  group of patients with air pollution- related illnesses (cardio-respiratory and COPD) to alerts produced by the UK’s airAware alert system over a two year period, as measured by visits to hospital emergency departments, compared to a control group which were not similarly afflicted. Results indicate a doubling of emergency admissions and four times the number of respiratory conditions for the intervention group compared to the control group. The authors conclude that some health interventions or alerts beyond a certain distribution level are harmful in terms of health service utilisation.


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How do Special Interests Hold Back Progress on Climate Change?

Dislocated interests and climate change (5 page pdf, Steven J Davis and Noah Diffenbaugh, Environmental Research Letters, May 31, 2016)

Today we review a very pertinent analysis of costs and benefits as applied to climate impacts and national (and corporate) interests and how the concentration of short term, local benefits is separated in time and space with longer term impacts. As a concluding sentence in the article reads: “the most problematic dislocations of interests are where benefits are concentrated in time, space, and parties”. Often too, the profits from fossil fuels accrue to corporations in developed countries while the impacts fall mainly on developing countries and governments. Attempts to recover these costs get bogged down in a lack of international mechanisms to deal with them either through the World Trade Organization, World Bank or the International Framework on Climate Change and climate agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 or the Paris Agreement of 2015 – all of which point to the need for a greater definition and recognition of these special needs in addressing climate change.

special interests and cl ch

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2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

How Does the Wording of a Poll Affect Response to Risks from Climate Change?

The impacts of political cues and practical information on climate change decisions  (11 page pdf, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi and Baruch Fischhoff, Environmental Research Letters, Feb. 26, 2015)

Also discussed here: ‘Global Warming’’ or ‘‘Climate Change’’? Whether The Planet Is Warming Depends on Question Wording (10 Page pdf, Jonathon P. Schuldt, Sara H. Konrath & Norbert Schwarz, Public Opinion Quarterly, Feb. 21, 2011)

And here: Surging Seas Risk Finder (Sea level rise analysis, Climate Central)

Today we review research into the effectiveness of calls to the public for action on climate change and how this is influenced by how the threat is labeled: climate change or global warming. Participants were given a situation where they were to buy a house on a coastal city in southeaster USA, Savanna, which is vulnerable to flooding. They were asked to consider the elevation of the site as well as a second independent factor, climate change and given a Risk Finder tool to quantify the risk from flooding. Earlier polls concluded that 7% more people believe in “climate change” than “global warming”, probably because the latter is more easily refuted using local cold spells. More Democrats than Republicans are believers in the sense that they saw a greater risk from climate impacts. Posing a prior question as to their climate belief tended to neutralize the response compared with not posing it beforehand, suggesting that the flooding issue could be addressed on factual grounds without involving political motivation. The authors conclude by suggesting that polls “focus on facts that people need, while avoiding terms that divide them”.

savanna flood zone

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What does the Pope have to Say about Climate Change?

Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ Of The Holy Father Francis On Care For Our Common Home (184 page pdf, Vatican, Jun. 18, 2015)

Also discussed here: Eight things we learned from the Pope’s climate change encyclical (The Guardian, Jun. 18, 2015)

And here: Civil Society Reactions: Papal Encyclical for Climate Action (Climate Action Network, Jun. 18, 2015)

And here: The Pope’s Memo on Climate Change Is a Mind-Blower (Wired, Jun. 18, 2015)

And here: What Does the Pope’s Climate Encyclical Mean? (Aaron Huertas, Union of Concerned Scientists, Jun. 18, 2015)

And here: Can Pope Francis’s ‘street cred’ shift the climate change debate? (Erin Obourn, CBC, Jun. 20, 2015)


Today we review the “Encyclical Letter” which sets the stage for nations to gather at Paris in December 2015 to meet the challenges of climate change and prescribe global solutions that reduce impacts. The Pope’s comprehensive and (surprisingly) well informed statement recognizes that oil and gas consumption by technology is the main cause of anthropogenic climate change and that impacts unfairly hit the developing world which has had little if no role in causing them but now have difficulty in dealing with them. The need to go beyond technological solutions is underlined as well as the need to communicate both social and environmental concerns in addition to economic challenges which many see as the main or only worry.


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Why (most) Politicians Do Not Act on Climate Change?

How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate [Kindle Edition] (120 pages, Andrew Hoffman, Mar. 11, 2015)

Also discussed here: Social sciences are best hope for ending debates over climate change (Andy Hoffman, The Conversation, Apr. 2, 2015)

Today we review an enlightened book by Professor Andy Hoffman which looks beyond the scientific evidence for climate change as a basis for policy to the socio-economic and cultural interests that must be satisfied before substantive action meet with public approval – even though, parenthetically, it appears that the public is far ahead of their political masters on the solutions which mainly revolve around a form of carbon tax (or carbon “dividend” as the new terminology dubs it). Hoffman contrasts the way scientists think and propose solutions to the way that social scientists deal with similar challenges. He also recognizes debates where extremes are debated that affect a few instead of main issues affecting the majority with exaggerated positions taken to defend each side- which is true not only of the climate debate (top – down imposed tax vs. freedom from government control) but also the abortion debate (life vs. choice), neither of which involve the factual or scientific sides of the arguments. Addressing climate change requires significant change to the physical infrastructure and institutions and lifestyles that support carbon fuels. Unless these interests are addressed, little progress on policy is possible.

Mean surface temperature change for 1999–2008 ...

Mean surface temperature change for 1999–2008 relative to the average temperatures from 1940 to 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Can Climate Clubs and Community-Based Initiatives overcome International Free-Riding to Reduce Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

How Idealism, Expressed in Concrete Steps, Can Fight Climate Change (Robert J. Shiller, New York Times, Mar. 29, 2015)

Also discussed here: A Polycentric Approach for Coping with Climate Change (56 page pdf, Elinor Ostrom, Policy Research Working Paper 5095, Background Paper to the 2010 World Development Report, The World Bank, Oct. 2009)

And here: Climate Clubs: Designing a Mechanism to Overcome Free-Riding in International Climate Policy (51 min webcast video, American Economic Association Presidential Address, William Nordhaus, Jan. 4, 2015)

Today we review two ideas that will overcome the last of four key aspects of climate change: climate science (mature and known), costs to reduce emissions (known), economic instruments to implement policy (carbon tax, cap and trade, known), system to prevent international free-riding (zero progress). Free-riding avoids the costs of implementing change while benefiting international from the actions of the few nations who do take action at cost to themselves. Little global leadership is seen in the failed attempts to reduce global GHG emissions and even when countries pledge to reduce emissions, dropping out of that pledge brought no penalties or sanctions to the partner that exits- as seen by the decision of the Canadian government to drop out of its Kyoto Protocol commitment in 2011.

Two proposals are now on the table and involve starting at the community level or small group of participating countries and then expanding these as progress is made. Climate Clubs is a top-down treaty with penalties for non-participants (such as tariffs for imports into climate club regions) which can lead to high participation with high abatement The Community approach, introduced at the 2009 UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen (notably the world’s first carbon neutral capital), is based on action at the individual or community level where benefits can be more clearly seen and costs are less than through changes at the national or international level. Both avoid the problem of free-riding. cycling for cl ch To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

A Plan to Reduce CO2 Emissions from USA by 40% by 2035

Green Growth – A U.S. Program for Controlling Climate Change and Expanding Job Opportunities (417 page pdf, Robert Pollin, Heidi Garrett-Peltier, James Heintz, and Bracken Hendricks, Center for American Progress, Sep. 2014)

Also discussed here: The Need for Jobs, and the Ecological Limits to Growth (Jeffrey M Doyle, Oct. 17, 2014)

Today we review a realistic short term plan for the USA that would comply with the IFCC objective to reduce world-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 2005 levels before 2035. It is based on making reductions in consumption of coal, oil, natural gas by 30-60% while assuming that the cost of renewable energy (hydro, wind, geothermal) will continue to decrease to the same levels as for carbon fuels by 2017. A carbon tax that would discourage carbon fuel use can produce public revenues of $ 200 B/year while avoiding economic impacts of $150 B/year if a 3 degree increase in earth temperature cannot be averted.

English: Worldwide Renewable energy, existing ...

English: Worldwide Renewable energy, existing capacities, at end of 2008, from REN21. Total energy is from BP Statistical Review. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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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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Marketing the Environment

Amanda Little

Amanda Little (Photo credit: ChimpLearnGood)

Want everyone else to buy into environmentalism? Never say “Earth”(Heather Smith, Grist, Mar. 12, 2014)

Also discussed here: No, we’re not “environmentalists.” It’s more complicated than that (Samantha Larson, Grist, Mar. 7, 2014)

Today we review a report from a source we rarely do- an environmental activist organization, Grist. The article looks at the question of why the public at large is so slow to accept and act on the alarm bells that are rung so loudly by the activists.

The answer seems to lie in several things:

  • failure to budget enough for communications (as opposed to fund raising and membership drives)
  •  failure to relate the environmental issue to people’s lives
  • failure to explain and keep the description of the issue simple
  • failure to repeat the message line enough until it reaches the public
  • *failure to adjust to the common sense outlook of millennials

Bottom line is to stop using the terms, such as “the environment” and “sustainable development”, and to start appealing to what makes sense to the man or woman on the street. Stop talking about “air quality” and start talking about how commuting to work by car harms the health of everyone enroute- and by how much.

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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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Is Denying Climate Change Like Suppressing Health Risks?

Is Learning about Climate Change like Having a Colonoscopy? (5 page pdf, Richard C. J. Somerville, Earth’s Future, Dec. 16, 2013)

Readers of this blog know that it focuses on the links between urban pollution and health. Today we review a short article that addresses the challenge of communicating the facts of climate change and why so many people seem to want to avoid knowing that or even deny that it exists.  The article observed that the same reaction is found when some people are faced with the hard realities of medical disease, especially ones that end in death such as heart attacks and cancer. Further, a poll revealed that over half (55%) of those responding did not want to know about their risk to disease because of their fear of knowing the answer, a phenomenon called “health information avoidance”. But most of those who did want to know the risks (82%) also wanted to know the options available to deal with the disease. Turning to communicating climate change, the author reasoned that a little priming of the pump by providing more about policy options could produce more understanding and support for those policies and less climate change information avoidance and denial. Let’s hope.

States that have declared GHG mitigation strat...

States that have declared GHG mitigation strategies or hold action plans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Where Does China’s Air Pollution Come From?

Source Forensics of Black Carbon Aerosols from China(Abstract, Bing Chen, August Andersson , Meehye Lee, Elena N. Kirillova , Qianfen Xiao , Martin Kruså, Meinan Shi , Ke Hu , Zifeng Lu , David G. Streets , Ke Du, and Örjan Gustafsson, Environmental Science and Technology, Jul. 11, 2013)

Also discussed here: Researchers Constrain the Sources of Climate and Health-Afflicting Air Pollution from China(Science Daily, Aug. 8, 2013)

Today we review research on the top sources of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the country considered by many to be the most polluted in the world.  Results indicate that this is not emissions of Black Carbon from cooking food in homes and restaurants- so-called biomass sources-  but from the burning of coal in cities and from vehicle emissions in traffic. This will allow authorities to plan for efficient mitigation of climate change because Black Carbon has a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere (days, weeks) than other greenhouse gases, such as CO2 (decades, centuries).

china soot

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The Significant Role of Public Participation in Urban Sustainability Issues

Who Governs in Cities: Business Interests or Public Advocacy for Sustainability?(21 page pdf, Jeffrey M. Berry and Kent E. Portney, Sustainability, May7, 2013)

Today we review an analysis of the way that 50 cities in the USA performs in terms of economic growth and sustainability and the role of public advocacy and business groups in their governance. It concludes that economic growth is a necessary condition to allow for the inclusion of the public input in developing sustainable urban policies in cities such as Portland or Seattle. As a side note, the article points out the striking difference in the roles of public and business advocacy at the national vs the local level- and the difference this makes in how cities are governed.

sustainability curve

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How Did Climate Skeptics and U.S. Politics Block Action on Climate Change?

Naming the Problem – What It Will Take to Counter Extremism and Engage Americans in the Fight against Global Warming(145 Page pdf, Theda Skocpol, Symposium on the Politics of America’s Fight Against Global Warming, Harvard University, Feb. 2013)

Also discussed here: Study: It’s not Obama’s Fault that Enviro Groups Botched the Climate Fight -A Harvard study blames the political blindness of environmental groups for failure to pass climate legislation.(Suzanne Goldenberg, Mother Jones, Jan. 15, 2013)

And here: Beyond baby steps: Analyzing the cap-and-trade flop(Bill McKibben, Grist, Jan. 14, 2013)

Today we review a paper prepared by a Harvard political scientist that analyses the trends of recent American politics which led to the successful blocking of policy and actions to mitigate climate change which had impacts far beyond North America in international conferences and protocols, despite the election of a President who ran on a platform (in 2008, not 2012) to address climate change. In looking at factors that contributed, she noted how the acid rain treaty and legislation in the late 80s (and the Montreal Ozone Protocol in 1987- the first time that an international treaty was achieved using scientific modelling) led environmental leaders to use these successes to emphasize narrow modeling and scientific solutions to address climate change. Unfortunately as it turned out, they neglected or underestimated the need to counter the growing right wing opposition which relied almost exclusively on using the media to undermine the scientific bases and broaden its public appeal. She gives some hope for progressive climate legislation after 2016, provided broad public support is cultivated. As a side note, the same shift occurred to the north of the U.S.  in Canada, hastened by the election of a government more influenced by the oil industry than its predecessor.

climate skeptics

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How Can Northern Cities Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Change?

Cities of the Future(Minister of the Environment and International Development, Government of Norway)

Also discussed here: Cities of the Future: From Norway with love(World Streets, Dec. 6. 2012)

And here:

Cities of the Future 2008–2014 – Agreement between the state, KS and the municipalities(3 page pdf, Government of Norway)

Today we look at the cities of the future in northern Scandinavia where 13 of Norway’s largest cities have become engaged with their national government in a 6 year program, ending in 2014 “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make the cities better places to live”. The initiatives are broken down into four distinct categories (Land Use and Transport, Consumption and Waste, Energy and Buildings, and Climate Adaptation) and each of these has several sub components with specific examples of progress being made. This would be of special interest to other northern countries, such as Canada and Russia, where carbon fuels needed in winter for heating buildings and for transportation and where introducing new energy sources and infrastructure to reduce emissions are big challenges.  Some, if not all, of the ideas may be borrowed and used elsewhere in the wake of the recent 2012 Conference of the Parties (COP) 18 at Doha, Qatar where the world and the world’s cities in particular look ahead to post-Kyoto years as to how to reduce global emissions by the 90% required in the short time available.

norway citiescities-of-the-future-2

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What is Important for Getting People out of their Cars?

USEmobility Survey of Users who have changed their Mobility-Mix (12 page pdf, USEmobility, Nov. 6, 2012)

Also discussed here: Half of travellers are willing to change(Allianz pro Schiene Nov. 6, 2012)

And here:

(4.5 min video, USEmobility, Jan. 2, 2012)

And here: When it comes to choosing their means of transport . . .(World Streets, Nov. 13, 2012)

Today we review a report that surveyed 5 European countries to find out who makes the switch from one mode of travel to another. Surprisingly, the home of European car manufacturers and fast roads, Germany, was at the top in terms of people who have recently changed their choices or are willing to.  This was not driven by such factors as travel comfort, cleanliness and, most of all, reliability or punctuality (not that these are unimportant) but rather by such things as reachability of bus stops, costs and how long a journey takes. Also that sector of the population that is growing fastest in Europe as well as in North America, our seniors, show more flexibility in choosing between their car or public transit to make trips.

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What is Paris Teaching the World about Sustainable Transportation?

“What are the top 3 things Paris has done in the last 10 years to deliver a genuinely sustainable transport system?”(World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities, Nov. 2, 2012)

What makes Paris so great when it comes to the way they deal with cars and traffic? Today we review a post on a leading sustainable transportation blog, World Streets, that asks and answers the question. It seems to be a matter of consistency and perseverance that not only works in Paris but throughout many other cities in France. Only 17% of Parisians choose their car to commute compared to over 60% and 46% to walk in car-addicted Torino (and to cities in the USA and Canada).

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Teaching Children about Air Pollution

Wings and Thingamajigs E- Book(21 page pdf, Halton Region, September, 2012)

Also discussed here: Wings and Thingamajigs – Children’s Picture Book(Halton Region)

Today we review a rare and exceptionally well-illustrated picture book, aimed at teaching children from 4 to 8 years old about air quality and climate change. It comes from Public Health in Halton Region, one of the more advanced  in the province of Ontario, when it comes to improving air quality and its impacts on human health– one of the first in Canada to use roadside air quality monitors, for example.The e-book is available free in a number of languages including French, Spanish, Cantonese, Polish and Punjabi, to meet the needs of the diverse multicultural community in southwestern Ontario (and for some in the rest of the world). Highly recommended!

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Does Pollution Affect How People View the Environment?

Before the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955, ...

Before the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955, air pollution was not considered a national environmental problem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How Perceived Exposure to Environmental Harm Influences Environmental Behavior in Urban China  (Abstract, Xiaodong Chen, M. Nils Peterson, Vanessa Hull, Chuntian Lu, Dayong Hong and Jianguo Liu, AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, Jul. 23, 2012)

Also discussed here: Pollution Can Make Citizens, Both Rich and Poor, Go Green (ScienceDaily, Jul. 30, 2012)

From China comes a revealing article that explores how people react to pollution and environmental degradation around them and in particular what action they take. The research indicates that people are more apt to act in a way that directly controls or affects the pollution and this includes taking legal action. The unfortunate link between economic development and harm to the environment also suggests that continued economic growth in China will inspire more and more public reaction. The question we are left with is how closely does the action of people in other countries follow those in China. If it does, from a public policy standpoint in times of environmental crises, cities in other countries need to have ready plans to make major advances on environmental protection and improvement.

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The 10 Most Polluted (and Cleanest) American Cities in 2012

State of the Air 2012 (179 page pdf, American Lung Association, May 2012)

Today we review the 2012 report from the American Lung Association which showed that many if not most cities are making progress in cleaning up their urban air quality, notably New York and Detroit which the list of most polluted cities. Looking at the cities with the highest levels of short term particulate pollution, it is striking how many are in California with 6 out of the ten worse in that state. The cleanest cities are less clustered  in one state but many are on or near the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastlines. That said, over 40% of Americans live in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone or particulate pollution and 30-45% live close (300-500m) to busy roads.

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A Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gases for Canada’s Capital

An Energy & Emissions Plan for Canada’s Capital Region (78 page pdf, City of Ottawa, City of Gatineau, National Capital Commission, Lead Consultant, HB Lanarc Consultants Ltd., Feb. 2012)

Also discussed here:Talking Points for Presentation to Environment Committee on Choosing Our Future(2 page pdf, Bill Pugsley, Feb. 21, 2012)

Today, we review the plans for mitigating Climate Change over the next 40 years, developed by the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau that make up the National Capital Region of Canada. While the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is from heating and cooling and energy for buildings, the  largest emission increases come from transportation and commuting by private vehicles in this urban area, one of the country’s cities at over 2,700 km2 (for Ottawa). Using best practices, emissions could be reduced by 27% from transportation, 95% from electricity and 100% from waste to meet the long term goal of 80% reductions by 2060. A number of potential targets for transportation, buildings, energy and waste are included. We look forward to a year by year funded action plan by each of the three jurisdictions (two cities, two provincial governments, and the federal government) to reach these targets.

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GEO Medicine and Lifetime Exposure to Poor Air Quality

Bill Davenhall: Your health depends on where you live (9 min video, TED, Oct. 2009)

Also shown here: Bill Davenhall: Your health depends on where you live (9 min You-Tube)

And discussed here: Heart Attack Rates (Acute Myocardial Infarction per 100,000 Medicare Enrollees) (ERSI, 2005)

The focus today is on a new branch of environmental health called GEO Medicine that looks at geography applied to environmental health and epidemiology, using various new tools including Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and tracking tools such as those found on smart phones.  The speaker points out that while lifestyle and genetics are often included on one’s medical history file, rarely is there a record of where one lived and what was the environment . By extension to his own  “place history”, he shows how this can help to identify in advance what diseases to expect in old age.

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Cities of World Ranked by Exposure to Particulates

Database: outdoor air pollution in cities (World Health Organization – Public Health and Environment)

The focus today is on a list of cities in the world with the most and least pollution. Not surprisingly, those with the least pollution are small cities located some distance from industry in western Canada and USA and in southeast Australia, while the most polluted are in developing industrialized countries in Asia and Central America. The measure used for this comparison is particulate matter which comes from a number of sources in industry and from (diesel) vehicle emissions. IMHO, a better measure in cities afflicted with traffic air pollution might be nitrogen and carbon oxides (NO2 and CO2).

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Is Urban Intensification the Best Way to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Dense downtown living more carbon intense due to higher consumption: a case study of Helsinki (10 page pdf, Jukka Heinonen, Riikka Kyr¨o and Seppo Junnila, Environ. Res. Lett., Sep. 26, 2011)

Today’s review article (partly) turns on its head the assumption by urban planners that intensification of the urban population is a worthy objective from an environmental and infrastructure point of view. This is based on a comprehensive cradle to grave assessment of CO2 emissions. Results indicate that a densely populated population core emits more than their suburban cousins for all categories of emissions except ground transportation because of the higher consumption of goods and services there. This conclusion may not be true of cities where the high consumer population lives in the suburbs but is a clear signal for planners to make their assessments on more than a transportation basis. Density may be a preferred option for other reasons but not necessarily for climate mitigation.

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Optimizing Utilization of Municipal Waste

Design of an Optimal Waste Utilization System: A Case Study in St. Petersburg, Russia (24 page pdf, Mikhail Rodionov and Toshihiko Nakata, Sustainability, Sep. 8, 2011)

A pollution-free city is one where the air and water are clean and solid pollution is eliminated. Today’s review article looks at a system in St Petersburg, Russia where waste production was outstripping landfill capacity and where a system is proposed to both reduce the waste volume and convert the emitted methane gas to energy.

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The Greenest American Cities

Top 10 Cities for Green Living (Scientific American, Aug. 16, 2011)

A rating of US cities by how well they perform when it comes to living green is the focus of today’s review. The two top cities under each category are shown below. Overall, New York City scored highest, winning the top spot in 3 of 5 categories: thinking, transportation and walkable.

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Car Dependency and Exclusion from Social Mobility

Social exclusion, Discrimination

Image via Wikipedia

Transport & Social Exclusion – A survey of the Group of Seven nations (44 page pdf, Summary Report, Editor: Dr Karen Lucas, Transport Studies Group, University of Westminster, the FIA Foundation, Feb. 2004)

Today’s focus is on the many ways that the mobility needs of the poor and disadvantaged are met (or not) in G7 nations. The review article compares the extent of car dependency and the extent to which national transportation policies affect this mobility with large differences between North America on the one hand and Europe on the other. One factor is the degree of sprawl and large distances in Canada and the USA, as well as the greater access to alternative modes such as public transit in Europe and Japan. Value pricing (and congestion charging and road pricing)  is being explored in the US (less so in Canada) to partly overcome this.

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How Does Green Messaging in Transportation Affect Behaviour?

Ecopass traffic sign delimiting restricted are...

Image via Wikipedia

The power and value of green in promoting sustainable transport behavior (11 page pdf, David Gaker, David Vautin, Akshay Vij and Joan L Walker, Environmental Research Letters Volume 6 Number 3, Jul. 26, 2011)

The question addressed by the review article today is how much does a “green” choice influence behavior when applied to transportation choices. The evidence presented indicates how much extra consumers are willing to pay per pound of emissions reduced (15 cents) and how this compares to how much time is saved, another strong motivator.

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Urban Traffic and Social Space

The psychology of urban mobility (Carlos Felipe Pardo, Cities for Mobility World Congress, Stuttgart, Jul. 3-5,2011)

The highly graphical presentation by Carlos Pardo on social space and urban mobility is the focus of today’s review. It highlights some of the most important aspects of how traffic impacts communities. Examples shown below are the increased risk of death as speed limits increase from 20 kph (under 10%) to 60 kph (almost 100%), Appleyard’s graphic showing how interpersonal socializing along streets  declines rapidly as the flow and speed of traffic increases and the range of travel modes (walking, cycling, transit and private car).

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Greenest Cities in the U.S. and Canada

US and Canada Green City Index – Assessing the environmental performance of 27 major US and Canadian cities (71 page pdf, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Siemens, July 2011)

Today’s review article comes from the Economist which assessed over two dozen cities in the US and Canada in terms of performance under 9 factors which are seen in the graphics below for two of the Canadian cities, Calgary and Ottawa which both ranked in the middle of the pack (both cities scored high in water use efficiency and lower in air quality, particularly in CO2 emissions). San Francisco, New York City and Vancouver were leaders in the group.

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

Mapping Environmental Security

2010 Environmental Performance Index (Environmental Performance Index, Yale University)

Today’s focus is on a global mapping project begun at Yale 5 years ago to display 25 indicators of health and the environment for all the reporting countries of the world- the map below shows the relative CO2 emissions. Maps such as these can be very useful when developing national and international agreements and policies concerning future emissions or to achieve specific quality of life goals.

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

Zero Energy Houses and The Cube Project

The Cube Project


The focus of today’s review is a Zero Energy House conceived in the UK, suitable for one person (but can be scaled up for larger homes or buildings). In addition to generating zero waste and energy self-sufficient, it can produce  £1000 per year by feeding unused electricity from solar panels back into the grid.

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

Highest Ranked Cities in USA for Air Quality

Air Quality (SustainLane, 2008 Rankings)


This annual ranking of the most sustainable cities in the USA points to cities in the Northwest at the top across all categories (Portland was #1 overall) and to the Pacific coast for both the best  and worst for air quality. Some lessons learned from looking at cities which moved up and down are of general significance- such as New Orleans, which  after the flooding in 2005, replaced dirty old fleet vehicles with cleaner new ones.

To see Key Reports and Links about this post, visit the new internet platform for Pollution Free Cities by clicking HERE

Urban Vulnerability to Climate Change

Cover page cuverture Turning the Tide On Clima...

Image via Wikipedia

Conceptualizing urban vulnerability to global climate and environmental change (Abstract, Patricia Romero Lankaoa, and Hua Qina, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, Feb. 10, 2011)


The focus of the review article today is on the lack of action by many large cities world-wide. The author suggests that a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of urban vulnerability is needed where critical thresholds and indirect impacts are defined and made part of urban action plans, as well as more progress in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions as reducing energy demand, as seen in congestion pricing.

To see Key Quotes and Links to relevant reports, visit the new internet platform for Pollution Free Cities by clicking HERE

An Urban Air Pollution Simulator

Smog City

Today’s review is about a computer simulator from California showing ozone levels over a day as a function of population, temperature, amount of cars and trucks, industry etc.

To see Key Quotes and Links about this post, go to the new internet platform for Pollution Free Cities by clicking HERE

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Global City Indicators

The Current Status of City Indicators – Discussion Paper (72 page pdf, World Bank, Dec. 8, 2006)



The World Bank discussion paper reviewed today describes the development of an indicator data base in 2008 for cities of the world which can be used to monitor progress on such as the Millennium Goals. The data base behind this program is contained at the Global City Indicators Program at the University of Toronto in Canada. The need for this is underscored by the lessons learned along the way- that “Cities are interested in learning from other cities”, “Ranking systems provide only limited and short-term value” and “A global program with standard indicators could help take the politics out of indicator selection”.

To read more of this post on Pollution Free Cities’ new internet platform, click  HERE

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Also discussed here: TRANSPHORM: Transport related Air Pollution and Health impacts: Integrated Methodologies for Assessing Particulate Matter (UrbanEmissions, Nov. 26, 2010)

Today’s post highlights a new four year project developed by 14 European countries to “improve the knowledge of transport related airborne particulate matter (PM) and its impact on human health and to develop and implement assessment tools for scales ranging from city to Europe”. Each of the 6 sub-projects drill down into specific specialized topics of the traffic-pollution-health theme with reports expected in 2011.

Key Quotes:

“organized into five scientific and technological subprojects (SP) along with SP6 on Project Management and Dissemination:

  • SP1: Transport and emission sources
  • SP2: Air quality and exposure
  • SP3: Relationships between transport related PM and Health
  • SP4: Integrated assessment methodology and tool
  • SP5: Mitigation and adaptation strategies and measures
  • SP6: Management and dissemination of project outcomes”

“key objectives:

  • (i) To improve our understanding of transport sources of size-resolved and speciated (primary and secondary) particulate matter air pollution including non-exhaust, shipping and aviation;
  • (ii) To determine improved emission factors of ultrafine particle number (PN0.1) and mass fractions of PM1, PM2.5 and PM10 through new and existing data for key transport sources;
  • (iii) To conduct targeted measurement campaigns in Rotterdam, Helsinki and Thessaloniki for source apportionment, exposure assessment and model evaluation;
  • (iv) To quantify pollutant-specific human exposure to airborne particulate matter in urban environments resulting from road, shipping, rail and aviation; (v) To develop, improve and integrate air quality dispersion and exposure modelsfor urban and regional scales including long-range transport;
  • (vi) To develop new concentration-response (CRF) or exposure response functions (ERF) linking long and short-term ambient residential exposure to sizeresolved and speciated PM with key health endpoints;
  • (vii) To develop and implement an integrated assessment tool to investigate and analyse the whole chain of processes for selected cities and Europe;
  • (viii) To incorporate micro-environmental concentrations, time-activity patterns, and estimates of internal dose into the health impact assessment (HIA);
  • (ix) To conduct integrated health assessment of a number of selected European cities;
  • (x) To design and implement mitigation and adaptation strategies for European and international policy refinement and development;
  • (xi) To exploit the results of TRANSPHORM through global dissemination and interactions with European and international stakeholders.”
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The Top Sustainable Canadian Cities


The 2011 Most Sustainable Cities in Canada (Corporate Knights, Feb. 9, 2011)

Also discussed here: The Metabolic Metropolis (editorial) (Corporate Knights, Feb. 8, 2011)

And here: Expanded Results (1 page pdf, Corporate Knights, Feb. 8, 2011)

Today’s review article is important because of the characteristics and programs that the top ranking cities use to achieve sustainability as well as to reduce harmful pollution to a minimum. It also allows for a comparison of cities making allowance for size and population, so that smaller cities such as Victoria or Mississauga score higher overall than Ottawa, Calgary or Montreal. The importance of governance and empowerment (established emission targets, education, voter turnout, etc) helped to keep Toronto and Vancouver among the top cities, while Saskatoon enjoyed the cleanest air quality (in terms of particulate matter) and Montreal and Edmonton got top marks for biodiversity.

Key Quotes:

“because of their urban “metabolism,” cities require only 85 per cent of the resources necessary to double in size, and they’re more energy efficient than rural communities”

“increased worldwide migration to cities is helping curb population growth because there is no need for large families for labour”

“When villagers migrate to the city, their family size drops, on average, by at least one child per family, often below the steady population rate of 2.1 children.. Without massive rural-to-urban migration, the world’s population would be growing at a far faster pace”

“We studied 28 indicators of sustainability in five categories—ecological integrity, economic security, infrastructure and built environment, governance and empowerment, and social well-being.. Toronto, Vancouver, and Victoria won top honours in our Big, Medium, and Small city categories respectively”

“Many of the strategies for reducing environmental pollution or reducing greenhouse gas emissions more broadly come down to actions that have to be taken at some city scale, whether that’s at the metropolitan, municipal, or corporate level.”

“Edmonton stands out in the biodiversity field. They joined the international Cities Biodiversity Index in 2010 and city staff is proactively monitoring hazard trees and invasive species”

“Saint John deserves applause for its Green Thermal Utility plan, a multi-building project that would make use of renewable energy sources, such as waste energy from Irving Pulp and Paper

“Vancouver stands out for its competitive commitment to sustainability, with its Greenest City Action Team initiative aiming to transform the city into the world’s greenest city by 2020”

“Victoria topped the Small City category, and matched Vancouver for highest numbers by developing its Victoria Sustainability Framework, making sustainability a guiding principle of all city business”

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How Science is (and was) Communicated

The line between science and journalism is getting blurry….again (Scientific American blog, Dec. 20, 2010)

Today’s article under review gives us new insights into how (badly?)science is communicated today (and was yesterday) with an analysis or comparison between science journalists and science bloggers- and the need all along for knowledge filters to separate nonsense from fact. As a personal aside (not mentioned in the article), nowhere is this more evident than in the “debate” about climate change and, to a lesser extent, on the poor air quality in many cities- the focus of this blog.

Key Quotes:

“Journalism is communication of ‘what’s new’”

“science is the process of discovery of facts about the way the world works, but the communication of that discovery is the essential last step of the scientific process, and the discoverer is likely to be the person who understands the discovery the best and is thus likely to be the person with the greatest expertise and authority (and hopefully ability) to do the explaining”

“For the longest time, information was exchanged [orally] between people who knew each other to some degree..communication could be done by anyone…. communication in print was limited to those who were literate and who could afford to have a book printed”

“at the close of the 20th century. journalism and science..completely separated from each other. Journalism covered what’s new without providing the explanation and context for new readers just joining the topic. Science covered only explanation and only to one’s peers.. unfortunately operating under the rules of journalism and not science, messing up the popular trust in both”

“reasons science bloggers are more trusted than journalists covering science:

  • they have the scientific expertise that journalists lack – they really know what they are talking about on the topic of their expertise and the audience understands this.
  • they link out to more, more diverse and more reliable sources.
  • being digital natives, they are not familiar with the concept of word-limits…Whatever length it takes to give the subject what it’s due.
  • not being trained by j-schools, they never learned not to let their personality shine through their writing. So they gain trust by connecting to their readers – the phatic component of communication.

“Good science journalists are rare”

“Data journalism..what a number of forward-thinking journalists and media organizations are starting to do”

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Making Sense of Urban Complaints from 311 Calls

What a Hundred Million Calls to 311 Reveal About New York (Wired, Nov.1, 2010)

Also discussed here: The Future of Sustainable Urban Mobility: Switch to IT Networks (The City Fix, Dec. 9, 2010)

New York City, like many other large cities, has a special number (311) for its citizens to register complaints – at a rate of 50,000 a day and 100 million in 7 years. Today‘s review article looks at the nature of these complaints over 7 years by time of day and type. What is striking is the relatively large proportion of complaints about noise and streetlights with the former peaking not surprisingly in late evening and early morning and the latter (perhaps surprisingly) in late morning. Would be interesting to see how complaints work in other cities- if any of those who read this blog know of other analyses, please do let us know. The other striking aspect to this article is the way that complaints are followed up and linked- whether this be the smell of maple syrup and national security or something else.

Key Quotes:

“The first reports triggered a new protocol that routed all complaints to the Office of Emergency Management and Department of Environmental Protection, which took precise location data from each syrup smeller. Within hours, inspectors were taking air quality samples in the affected regions. The reports were tagged by location and mapped against previous complaints. A working group gathered atmospheric data from past syrup events: temperature, humidity, wind direction, velocity.. the data formed a giant arrow aiming at a group of industrial plants in northeastern New Jersey

“After the first survey of 311 complaints ranked excessive noise as the number one source of irritation among residents, the Bloomberg administration instituted a series of noise-abatement programs, going after the offenders whom callers complained about most often”

“There are 13,000 cabs pinging back data on location, travel speeds, whether they have customers,”

“By making all complaints and queries public, these services let ordinary people detect emergent patterns as readily as civil servants can”

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2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 4 fully loaded ships.


In 2010, there were 269 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 446 posts. There were 232 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 21mb. That’s about 4 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was December 20th with 144 views. The most popular post that day was Greening Cities with Immigrants.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Greening Cities with Immigrants November 2010


Masdar City – zero carbon, zero waste December 2009


Plasma arc waste disposal December 2009


Oil, an exhibition by Edward Burtynsky October 2009


Intelligent Traffic Lights and Idling January 2010

Why You Should Never Google “Climate Change”

The Psychology of Climate Change (Sustainability Forum, Sep.30, 2010)

The article under review today caught my eye with its use of a modified Venn diagram (note the red ball’s stability on and the curved line). These diagrams seem to allow for a better understanding of an issue than the simpler and more usual pros and cons approach. The article looks at the stereotypical individuals that make up each of the four quadrants of the diagram, depending on how much they value is put on individual freedom vs. conforming to society’s needs and the equality factor when it comes to climate change. The same analysis could be applied to urban pollution and its remedies.

Key Quotes:

“I have a golden rule: never, ever google ‘climate change’…you enter a weird parallel universe of paranoia, anger and derision aimed at much of the rest of the world.”

“the fatalist, we can ignore because they don’t care about the environmental debate, or indeed about the fact we ignore them. Life goes on is their attitude and it is very hard to get them excited about anything that doesn’t affect them directly”

“the egalitarian, is the viewpoint of the hardcore environmentalist. The environment is fragile and must be protected. ..Technofixes will not deliver what we need.. their attacks on solutions like biofuels, feed-in tariffs and carbon capture and storage are just as withering as those on Big Oil

“the individualist believes that the environment is robust and can always absorb the burdens placed on it by man –..Individualists are optimists – they have an abundance mentality and are often very successful in business as a result. Any attempt to put limits on their ‘freedom’ is highly suspect”

“the hierarchist…the environment is robust between limits, but exceed those limits and then collapse happens.. The fundamental belief is that everything can be measured, quantified and managed. This is the typical attitude of Government employees, climate scientists”

“individualists and egalitarians despise each other and both suspect that hierarchists favour their enemy”

“But in all these battles, the individualists eventually lost. This is for a very simple reason – they’re up against the laws of physics, and in a battle between ideology and the laws of physics, the laws of physics will always win.”

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What Drives Pubic Reaction to Climate Change?

Global annual fossil fuel carbon dioxide emiss...
Image via Wikipedia

The Perception Factor: Climate Change Gets Personal (6 page pdf, Environ Health Perspect 118:a484-a489, Nov.1, 2010)

Despite the fact that “up to 98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing agree with the tenets of anthropogenic climate change outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” , the countries most responsible for the emission of greenhouse gases are having great difficulty in getting legislation passed that would lower their emissions soon enough to stabilize the atmospheric warming.

This need had been foreseen for more than three decades, going back to the first international meetings at the ministerial level: the World Climate Conference in Geneva in 1979 and the Conference on the Changing Atmosphere in Toronto, leading up to the Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro which paved the way for the Kyoto Protocol in 1996). The article reviewed today looks at the reasons behind the lack of action – the battle of perceptions in the media. One conclusion is that the public needs to hear much more about the impacts of climate change on human health from recognized health authorities – an aspect that is very much behind the thinking that went into this blog.

Key Quotes:

“Climate change is occur­ring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for—and in many cases is already affecting—a broad range of human and natural systems.”1

“Americans often are very selective about which sources of information they trust; they have incomplete, often oversimplified information; they don’t believe individual actions will make a difference; and/or they believe climate change won’t ever affect them or the people they know”

“cities in regions that are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change but that emit the least greenhouse gases.. are most likely to act to reduce their carbon emissions. On the other hand, cities in less vulnerable areas with sources that emit high levels of greenhouse gases .. are significantly less likely to agree to take mitigation action”

“This has been exceedingly well established in data that political ideology and some deeply held worldviews related to political identity are cur­rently the biggest factors that determine a person’s view of climate change”

“Perhaps surprisingly, individual homes represent a huge and still largely untapped source of U.S. emissions reductions.. contribute roughly a one-third share of total U.S. carbon emissions, accounting for approximately 8% of the world’s total and equaling more than the total emissions of any other country except China”

“One way to encourage Americans to adopt a more serious outlook toward climate change is by having medical profession­als link health issues and climate change impacts.. 60% of local public health directors asked said they are seeing health effects related to global warming, and more than 70% said they thought they would see more in the next decade”

“Public health officials have a really important opportunity to explain to people in their jurisdiction . . . that climate change is not just a problem in the future. It is a current problem that will become more pronounced, and our health will suffer,”

“We need to look at household emissions and treat them with the same amount of attention and policy resources as any other emitter source.”

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Future Urban Energy Use – One Scenario for the USA

A Sustainable Energy Scenario for the United States: Year 2050 (31 page pdf, Sustainability 2010, 2(12), 3650-3680, Nov. 26, 2010)

Today’s review article looks at what scenario might emerge over the next 40 years as a result of action taken to make the US sustainable from an energy and climate change perspective  and what this implies for the size and shape of today’s cities. Underpinning the feasibility of such a scenario is the issue of the issue of financing. A carbon tax is assumed to be the most likely mechanism.

Key Quotes:

“suburbs are no more. They have been absorbed into mega-cities or have been transformed into highly self-sufficient eco-communities. About half of the population lives in each type of settlement..Neatly arranged throughout the mega-cities are very high density cores..Neighborhoods of attractive multi-family residences and well integrated commercial, educational and other buildings fill out the rest of the urban landscape.. Each community has its collection of vertical farms, which are multi-story structures designed specifically to grow vegetables, fruits, fish, and poultry “

“The buildings are heated by electricity, solar thermal heating systems, district steam systems, and boilers burning bio-fuels. Appliances in homes are all electric and about 25% more energy efficient than their ancestors from several decades ago”

“The transportation systems in the mega-cities are completely electrified and highly intelligent…electric taxis and buses smoothly traverse the traffic calmed streets.. most residents travel around the city via on-demand public transit

“fossil fuels are also no longer used to produce electricity. In their place is an amalgam of nuclear, concentrated solar, geothermal, wind, and unconventional hydro plants. Therefore, emissions of nitric oxides, sulfur dioxides, mercury, carbon monoxide, and particulates from vehicles and power plants have been eliminated. Tropospheric ozone is also no longer a public and ecological health concern”

“Treeless expanses of manicured turf have been replaced by oases of indigenous flower beds, garden plots, trees, and water gardens. Residents now farm these resources themselves or allow others to grow and harvest the resources for a fee..Increased use of pervious surfaces in the low density settlements will reduce urban run-off. Decreased dependence on corn ethanol and the use of lawns could reduce agricultural and urban run-off of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides”

“By the year 2050.. sprawl will have disappeared. Populations will reside in dense urban settlements or spread out over the landscape in sustainable and maximally environmentally friendly eco-communities”

“ a carbon tax that escalates over a period of time. Revenues from the tax would used to remake the built environment and the energy system.. also allow the government to directly acquire fossil fuel resources and buy-out leases to such resources now owned and held by the private sector”

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The Changing Meaning of Sustainability

Definitions of sustainability often refer to t...
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What is Sustainability? (13 page pdf, Sustainability 2010, 2(11), 3436-3448, Nov.1, 2010)

The authors of the article under review today tackled a large challenge in examining what “sustainable development” meant when introduced in 1987 by the Brundtland Commission and what it has become in being applied with such concepts as Triple Bottom Line. Indeed, “Sustainable Cities” was considered for the title of this blog but discarded in preference to a clearer “Pollution Free Cities” where the link to sustainability is expected from striving for a city without pollution- a term which, unlike sustainability, is measurable. The other main point made in the article is the lack of priority given to the environment compared to socio-economic trends which also tend to be viewed short term “happiness” as opposed to the long term well being implied in maintaining a high quality environment.

Key Quotes:

“The concept of sustainability was originally coined in forestry, where it means never harvesting more than what the forest yields in new growth.. is a natural topic of study for economists: after all, the scarcity of resources is of central concern to the dismal science”

“two major developments in the concept of sustainability:

  • its interpretation in terms of three dimensions, which must be in harmony: social, economic and environmental.
  • the distinction between ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ sustainability”

“Sustainability ..was concerned with the tension between the aspirations of mankind towards a better life on the one hand and the limitations imposed by nature on the other hand.. re-interpreted as encompassing three dimensions, namely social, economic and environmental.. obscures the real contradiction which exists between long-term sustainability and short-term welfare.”

“return to the original meaning, where sustainability is concerned with the well-being of future generations and in particular with irreplaceable natural resources—as opposed to the gratification of present needs which we call well-being”

“If ‘sustainability’ is anything more than a slogan or expression of emotion, it must amount to an injunction to preserve productive capacity for the indefinite future”

“Happiness, Well-being and Welfare.. may be used to express a primary goal of government policy: to improve people’s lives”

“view happiness as a basic goal of human behaviour but not of policy.. well-being refers to the objective conditions that help to make people happy..equivalent to ‘livability of the environment’.. Welfare is then a more limited concept denoting prosperity in terms of material needs such as food, water, health, and shelter.

“Sustainability may then be defined as maintaining well-being over a long, perhaps even an indefinite period. This covers largely the environmental dimension of the triple bottom line, but environment and sustainability are not synonymous”

“should pose two questions: what resources should we preserve at all cost, and to what degree?.. Sustainability, then, is a matter of what resources—natural resources, quality of the environment, and capital—we bequeath to coming generations”

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Bright Green Cities

“We don’t know yet how to build a society which is environmentally sustainable, which is shareable with everybody on the planet, which promotes stability and democracy and human rights, and which is achievable in a time frame necessary to make it through the challenges we face. We don’t know how to do this yet [but Worldchanging] is a news service for the unimaginable future. What we’re out there doing is looking for examples of tools, models and ideas, that if widely adopted would change the game…”

Alex Steffen, the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worldchanging

Building a Bright Green Future that Works (17 min TED video)

Living Planet City

Living Planet City

How Green Energy can work for your City

– from World Wildlife Federation

How Urbanization, Growth and Aging Affect Climate Change

Global demographic trends and future carbon emissions (6 page pdf, Proceedings National Academy of Sciences, Oct. 11, 2010)

Also discussed here: Population Bomb: new study discusses population impacts upon global warming emissions (Watts Up With That?, Oct. 12, 2010)

The article reviewed today looks at the net impact on greenhouse gases and climate change between the additional emissions resulting from the flow of people from rural to urban areas (and population and economic  growth in general) with the reduced emissions that result from lower population growth in an aging society.  This analysis is both useful and timely coming at a time when global population growth seems to have stabilized or even begun to reverse, along with a trend toward continued economic growth, urbanization and aging.  Such secondary factors as household size (which would be smaller as population contracts) and delaying retirement by a few years are seen as important influences on the rate of greenhouse gas emissions.

Key Quotes:

“slowing population growth could provide 16–29% of the emissions reductions suggested to be necessary by 2050 to avoid dangerous climate change”

“We also find that aging and urbanization can substantially influence emissions in particular world regions.”

“the appropriateness of policies that encourage even lower fertility in countries where it is already low is debatable and would require consideration of the trade offs associated with increased aging, in other regions”

Aging reduces emissions as elderly people contribute less to economic growth. Urbanization has the opposite effect: The migration of people from the countryside to large cities boosts the supply of labour and so fuels economic growth and the demand for energy, the study finds”

“greater attention should be given in emissions scenarios to the implications of urbanization and aging, particularly in key regions of the world, including China, India, the United States, and the EU”

“if retirement is postponed, labor supply at older ages will increase, and the emissions-reducing effect of aging that we find here will be lessened”

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Masdar City Update

Arabian Desert by NASA World Wind
Image via Wikipedia

In Arabian Desert, a Sustainable City Rises (New York Times, Sept. 25, 2010)

The most read post on this blog has been Masdar City – zero carbon, zero waste which described the Masdar City concept.

Today’s review article reports on progress made since then with new approaches to the design of buildings, rasied to to take advanatage of cooling desert winds and a replace pollution emitting vehicles with a fleet of small electric ones underground.

Key Quotes:

“Masdar, would be a perfect square, nearly a mile on each side, raised on a 23-foot-high base to capture desert breezes. Beneath its labyrinth of pedestrian streets, a fleet of driverless electric cars would navigate silently through dimly lit tunnels”

“Not only did he close Masdar entirely to combustion-engine vehicles, he buried their replacement — his network of electric cars — underneath the city.”

“he located almost all of the heavy-duty service functions — a 54-acre photovoltaic field and incineration and water treatment plants — outside the city.”

“To conform to Middle Eastern standards of privacy, Mr. Foster came up with an undulating facade of concrete latticework based on the mashrabiya screens common in the region. The latticework blocks direct sunlight and screens interiors from view, while the curves make for angled views to the outside, so that apartment dwellers never look directly into the windows of facing buildings.”

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