Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the biggest causes of global warming. After the gas is released into the atmosphere, it stays there, making it difficult for heat to escape — all the while warming the planet.
It is mainly released during the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, and during the production of cement.
The average monthly concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, as of April 2019, is 413 parts per million (ppm). Before the industrial revolution, the concentration was only 280 ppm.
The CO2 concentration has fluctuated between 180 and 280 ppm over the past 800,000 years, but has been accelerated enormously by pollution caused by humans.
The gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2) comes from the combustion of fossil fuels, car exhaust emissions and the use of nitrogen fertilizers used in agriculture.
Although there is much less NO2 in the atmosphere than CO2, it is between 200 and 300 times more effective at retaining heat.
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) also mainly comes from the combustion of fossil fuels, but can also be released from the exhaust of cars.
SO2 can react with water, oxygen and other chemicals in the atmosphere to cause acid rain.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an indirect greenhouse gas because it reacts with and removes hydroxyl radicals. Hydroxyl radicals shorten the life of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
What is particulate matter?
Particulate matter refers to small particles of solids or liquids in the air.
Some are visible, like dust, while others cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Materials such as metals, microplastics, soil and chemicals can be contained in particulate matter.
Particulate matter (or PM) is described in micrometers. The two most important mentioned in reports and studies are PM10 (less than 10 micrometers) and PM2.5 (less than 2.5 micrometers).
Air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels, cars, cement production and agriculture
Scientists measure the speed of particulate matter in the air per cubic meter.
Particulate matter is sent into the air through a number of processes, including burning fossil fuels, driving cars and making steel.
Why are particulate matter dangerous?
Particulate matter is dangerous because particles with a diameter of less than 10 micrometers can penetrate deep into your lungs or even enter your bloodstream. Particulate matter is found in higher concentrations in urban areas, especially along main roads.
What kind of health problems can pollution cause?
According to the World Health Organization, a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease can be linked to air pollution.
Some of the effects of air pollution on the body are unknown, but pollution can cause inflammation that narrows blood vessels, leading to heart attacks or strokes.
In addition, nearly one in ten cases of lung cancer in the UK are caused by air pollution.
Particles make their way to the lungs and get trapped there, leading to inflammation and damage. In addition, some chemicals in particles that enter the body can cause cancer.
Deaths from pollution
Every year, about seven million people die prematurely from air pollution. Pollution can cause a number of problems, including asthma attacks, strokes, various cancers and cardiovascular problems.
Air pollution can cause problems for asthmatics for a variety of reasons. Pollutants in traffic fumes can irritate the airways, and particles can get into your lungs and throat and inflame these areas.
Problems during pregnancy
Women exposed to air pollution before becoming pregnant are nearly 20 percent more likely to have babies with birth defects, research suggested in January 2018.
By living within 3 miles of a highly polluted area for a month before conception, women are more likely to have babies with abnormalities such as cleft palate or lips, according to a study from the University of Cincinnati.
For every 0.01 mg/m3 increase in fine air particles, birth defects rise by 19 percent, the study adds.
Previous research suggests that this causes birth defects as a result of women suffering from inflammation and “internal stress.”
What is being done to tackle air pollution?
Paris Agreement on Climate Change
The Paris Agreement, first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and mitigate climate change.
It hopes to keep the rise in global average temperature below 2°C (3.6ºF) “and make efforts to limit the rise in temperature to 1.5°C (2.7°F)”.
CO2 neutral in 2050
The UK government has announced plans to make the country carbon neutral by 2050.
They want to do this by planting more trees and installing carbon capture technology at the source of the pollution.
Some critics fear this first option will be used by the government to export its carbon offsets to other countries.
International carbon credits allow countries to continue emitting carbon while paying for trees planted elsewhere, offsetting their emissions.
No new petrol or diesel vehicles in 2040
In 2017, the UK government announced that the sale of new petrol and diesel cars would be banned by 2040.
However, MPs from the Climate Change Committee have urged the government to bring the ban forward to 2030, because then they will have an equivalent range and price.
The Paris Agreement, first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and mitigate climate change. Pictured: Air pollution over Paris in 2019.
Norwegian subsidies for electric cars
The rapid electrification of the Norwegian car fleet is mainly attributed to generous government subsidies. Electric cars are almost entirely exempt from the heavy taxes on petrol and diesel cars, making them competitively priced.
A VW Golf with a standard combustion engine costs almost 334,000 crowns (34,500 euros, $38,600), while its electric cousin the e-Golf costs 326,000 crowns thanks to a lower tax quotient.
Criticism of inaction on climate change
The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has said there is a ‘shocking’ lack of government preparedness for the risks posed by climate change to the country.
The committee reviewed 33 areas where climate change risks needed to be addressed — from flood-proofing properties to impacts on farmland and supply chains — and found no real progress in any of them.
The UK is not prepared for a 2°C warming, the level to which countries have pledged to curb temperature increases, let alone a 4°C increase, which is possible if global greenhouse gases are not reduced, the committee said.
It added that cities need more greenery to stop the urban ‘heat island’ effect and prevent flooding by absorbing heavy rainfall.