What are Countries Doing to Protect Human Health and Ecosystems?

Global Metrics for the Environment, 2016 REPORT, Environmental Performance Index (12 page pdf,  Yale University, Jan. 24, 2016)

Also discussed here: U.S. Could Do Much More To Protect The Environment, Report Finds (Huffington Post, Jan. 27, 2016)

And here:Environmental Performance Index- Air Quality (Yale University, Jan. 24, 2016)

Today we review the 2016 Environmental Performance Index, prepared by Yale University which ranks the performance of countries in two areas: protection of human health and protection of Ecosystems. While improvements were seen in most categories, air quality is becoming worse mainly as a result of increased concentrations of fine particulate matter, especially in urban areas. While only 2% of global deaths (1.24 million) are caused by unsafe drinking water (and that is due to 80% of waste water not being treated), poor air quality caused 10% of global deaths (5.52 deaths). Overall, Finland tops the list in all categories with policy commitments made to achieve carbon neutral status by 2050. Other Scandinavian countries are near the top while North American countries such as Canada (ranked overall at #16) or the USA (ranked 26) are not achieving as much. This also applies to air quality where Canada at #26 and USA at #36.

env perf index 2016

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What has Europe Done to Reduce Air Pollution and Related Premature Deaths?

The impact of European legislative and technology measures to reduce air pollutants on air quality, human health and climate (11 page pdf, S T Turnock, E W Butt, T B Richardson, G W Mann, C L Reddington1, P M Forster, J Haywood, M Crippa, G Janssens-Maenhout, C E Johnson, Environ. Res. Lett., Feb 12, 2016)

Today we review a paper that estimates, using two simulation models,  how many premature deaths were prevented with and without the technology and regulatory changes over the period from 1970 to 2010. Results indicate that the adoption of  the PM2.5 concentration to 15 μgm−3 prevented 80,000 deaths and economic benefits of $232 each year. Mitigation measures reduced the premature deaths by 3 to 4 premature deaths annually per 10 000 people in central and eastern Europe ..and 5 to 6 premature deaths annually per 10 000 people in south eastern Europe (Romania and Bulgaria).

premature deaths in EU

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How do Carbon Emissions from Electric Vehicles Compare to Conventional Ones on a Life Cycle Basis?

Consequential life cycle air emissions externalities for plug-in electric vehicles in the PJM interconnection (13 page pdf, Allison Weis, Paulina Jaramillo and Jeremy Michalek, Environ. Res. Lett., Feb 9, 2016)

Today we review an assessment of the life cycle emissions their costs from hybrid, plug-in hybrid vehicles compared to conventional ones, driven in states where the majority of the electric power generated is from coal or natural gas. Not surprisingly, the conclusion is that plug-in hybrid emissions are more damaging than hybrid and conventional vehicles under current conditions. The same analysis was done in a future power regulated scenario where renewable energy sources partly replace the carbon burning sources (e.g. 3 to 20% more wind power). Here, the hybrid and plug-in vehicles have higher SO2 and other pollutant emissions and lower PM 2.5 emissions while NO2 and greenhouse gas emissions can be higher or lower than conventional, depending on the individual case. In summary, as applied to Canada, it appears that electric cars make sense in regions where the power sources are largely renewable (e.g. Ontario, Quebec and BC where almost all electric power is nuclear or hydro) but do make sense in regions were power is generated from carbon fuels (such as Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Maritimes).

e car emissions

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What is the Social Cost of Carbon Pollution?

How do we define climate pollution’s cost to society? (Elizabeth Shogren, DC Dispatch Jan. 27, 2016)

Also discussed here: Evidence on the Impact of Sustained Exposure to Air Pollution on Life Expectancy from China’s Huai River Policy (53 page pdg, , Yuyu Chen, Avraham Ebenstein, Michael Greenstone and Hongbin Li, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Economics, Working Paper Series, Jun.20, 2013)

And here: Americans Are Living Longer, Thanks to the Clean Air Act (Melissa C. Lott, Scientific American, Jan. 31, 2016
Today we review a paper by an Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon (United States Government) which estimated the economic benefit of carbon pollution reductions, taking into account future discount rates and, using a model, the atmospheric impact of a metric ton of carbon, and how it affects earth temperatures in terms of a range of impacts such stresses to agriculture and increased need for air conditioning etc. Estimated costs to 2050 range from $11 (at a predicted 5% average rate) to $221(at 3% rate) per metric ton of CO2. The opposite side of this issue is the cost of imposing a government policy which results in damages to the public.

 

One example of air pollution policy yielding benefits is the Clean Air Act in the USA which has produced 336 million life-years since 1970. Another example from Northern China (with a 500M population, greater than the entire USA) where an earlier policy (which was reversed in 2007) to burn coal to support industry resulted in health impacts and a loss of 2.5 million life years of life expectancy for the region- or 5.5 years per person. The need to consider this direct cost and benefit, as well as the incentive value of carbon pricing to encourage renewable energy use, is obvious.

social cost poll

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How Much Coal, Gas and Coal Must be Kept Unused to limit Global Warming to 2 deg C?

The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2 °C (Abstract, Christophe McGlade & Paul Ekins, Nature. Jan.8, 2016)

Also discussed here: Keep It in the Ground (36 page pdf, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, 350.org, Jan. 2016)

And here: Meeting two degree climate target means 80 per cent of world’s coal is “unburnable”, study says (Carbon Brief, Jan. 7, 2015)

Today we review a report commissioned by several environmental activist groups that examines the extent to which the remaining coal, gas and oil reserves would threaten the UN’s target to keep warming from greenhouse gases to below 2 deg C. The major threats come from the USA from fracking and oil, Australia from coal and from Canada with tar sands as well as from Russia, the Mid-East and China. Globally 1/3 of the oil reserves, ½ of the gas reserves and 80% of the coal reserves must remain unused between now and 2050 in order to reach the goal.

keep in the gorund

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What are the Public Health Considerations when Mitigating Climate Change in Cities?

Building-related health impacts in European and Chinese cities: a scalable assessment method (13 page pdf, Jouni T. Tuomisto, Marjo Niittynen, Erkki Pärjälä, Arja Asikainen, Laura Perez, Stephan Trüeb, Matti Jantunen, Nino Künzli and Clive E. Sabel , Environmental Health, Dec. 14, 2015)
Today we review an assessment of the impact of various climate mitigation changes on health, an aspect not often considered in trying to achieve the main objective of reduced carbon emissions by reducing energy requirements for buildings for example.. In the European cities examined the health benefits were minimal (but positive) largely because the existing power sources were already clean. Care needs to be taken when reducing heating needs by adding insulation which may cause a worsening of indoor air quality. The advantages of having such a model are clear as more cities undertake mitigation by redesigning buildings.

building and health

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How Does Urbanization Affect Urban Air Quality in China?

Estimating the Impact of Urbanization on Air Quality in China Using Spatial Regression Models (23 page pdf, Chuanglin Fang, Haimeng Liu, Guangdong Li , Dongqi Sun and Zhuang Miao, Sustainability, Nov. 20, 2015)
Today we review research into the main characteristics of close to 300 Chinese cities that affect the degree of urban air pollution. Results indicate a close relationship between population density and private cars per unit of developed urban land and that this and the proportion of secondary industry has the greatest effect on the pollution of most cities, especially in the North (in Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Henan, and Shandong). The authors recommend that China strictly control the scale of their mega cities and actively develop small and medium sized cities to offset these trends.

English: Population density in the People's Re...

English: Population density in the People’s Republic of China (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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