Friday, April 29, 2011

The Impact of China's Vehicle Emissions on Regional Air Quality in 2000 and 2020: A Scenario Analysis

From the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussion Series - Saikawa et al., 2011


The number of vehicles in China has been increasing rapidly. We evaluate the impact of current and possible future vehicle emissions from China on Asian air quality. We modify the Regional Emission Inventory in Asia (REAS) for China's road transport sector in 2000 using updated Chinese data for vehicle numbers, annual mileage and emission factors. We develop two scenarios for 2020: a scenario where emission factors remain the same as they were before any regulation was implemented (business-as-usual, BAU), and a scenario where Euro 3 vehicle emission standards are applied to all vehicles (except motorcycles and rural vehicles). The Euro 3 scenario is an approximation of what may be the case in 2020 as, starting in 2008, all new gasoline and diesel vehicles in China (except motorcycles) were required to meet the Euro 3 emission standards. Using the Weather Research and Forecasting model coupled with Chemistry (WRF/Chem), we examine the regional air quality response to China's vehicle emissions in 2000 and in 2020 for the BAU and Euro 3 scenarios. We evaluate the 2000 model results with observations in Japan, China, Korea, and Russia. Under BAU in 2020, emissions of carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), black carbon (BC) and organic carbon (OC) from China's vehicles more than double compared to the 2000 baseline. If all vehicles meet the Euro 3 regulations in 2020, however, these emissions are reduced by more than 50% relative to BAU. The implementation of stringent vehicle emission standards leads to a large, simultaneous reduction of the surface ozone (O3) mixing ratios and particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations. In the Euro 3 scenario, surface O3 is reduced by more than 10 ppbv and surface PM2.5 is reduced by more than 10 μg m−3 relative to BAU in Northeast China in all seasons. In spring, surface O3 mixing ratios and PM2.5 concentrations in neighboring countries are also reduced by more than 3 ppbv and 1 μg m−3, respectively. We find that effective regulation of China's road transport sector will be of significant benefit for air quality both within China and across East Asia as well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Action Plan to Clean Air in Beijing - Get Rid of the Gross Polluters

From China Daily, April 19th, 2011

A new action plan released by the city of Beijing may soon make traditional coal stoves in hutongs, lanes lined with traditional courtyard houses, and fume-releasing vehicles things of the past. The Beijing Municipal Clean Air Action Plan (2011-2015), released on Tuesday by the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau (BMEPB), said the city aims to raise the proportion of annual days with "Excellent" and "Good" air conditions to 80 percent.

To this end, Beijing's six urban districts will update their remaining coal-fired boilers and stoves, refurbishing them with equipment that uses clean energy, said Zhuang Zhidong, deputy head of BMEPB.

"Urban districts will bid farewell to coal burning," said Zhuang, adding that three of the four thermal power plants in the city will also undergo clean energy renovations.

Furthermore, Beijing will implement stricter standards for vehicle exhausts, and the city plans to render obsolete 400,000 vehicles that will fail to meet the new emissions cap, said Zhuang.

Beijing, the host city of the 2008 Olympic Games, has made continuous efforts to alleviate its air pollution problems. Its sulfur dioxide concentration, an important air quality index, was down 36 percent in 2010 from 2005, according to a BMEPB document. Still, air quality in Beijing "lags behind many local and foreign cities," due to its huge number of vehicles and growing energy consumption by a bulging population and bustling construction projects, it said.

Curb old vehicles - China Daily, April 20th, 2011

More than 400,000 high-polluting cars will be removed from Beijing's roads within the next five years, environmental authorities pledged on Tuesday.

As part of ambitious plans to boost the number of "blue-sky days", officials are targeting old clunkers that spew thick fumes into the capital's atmosphere. The project will be carried out step by step, with 50,000 dirty vehicles set to disappear by the end of this year, said Zang Yuanwei, deputy director of the environmental protection bureau's vehicle emissions management division, during a press conference to introduce the new Beijing Clean Air Plan. "Yellow label" cars - those that do not meet the Euro I engine standard - are already banned inside the Sixth Ring Road, but will be further restricted.

However, it remains unclear how the government will meet its 2015 target, with Zang refusing to answer questions from reporters on whether subsidies will be used to encourage owners to give up their cars.

In 2009, authorities successfully removed 106,000 high-polluting vehicles by offering cash incentives. Roughly 500 million yuan was invested over two years. "The measures to limit new cars and optimize the car population are feasible to controlling pollutants," said Zang, who added that long-term regulations will be released in the coming months to ensure stricter monitoring and supervision, such as increasing the required frequency for car safety checks.

Beijing has almost 5 million cars on its roads, according to figures for last December, and to ease congestion authorities have imposed several policies, including a license plate system introduced in April 2009 that bans cars for one day a week.

Between 1999 and 2008, the capital also upgraded its emissions regulations from Euro I to Euro IV. The environmental protection bureau is working on upgrading the standard to Euro V by the end of 2012. "The emissions from just one heavily polluting car roughly equates to 20 conventional cars," said He Kebin, a professor of environmental science and engineering at Tsinghua University.

The clear air plan, which is aimed at boosting the overall environmental quality, sets a target of 292 "blue-sky days" by 2015, up from 286 days last year.

Other projects include the construction of four electric heating plants to replace the current coal-burning facilities and the shutting down or relocation of heavy-polluting enterprises. Dongcheng and Xicheng districts will also be made dust pollution sample zones, while Beijing will work with neighbors Tianjin municipality and Hebei province to establish an air pollution prevention system.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Air Pollution Alerts - April 24th, 2011

News & Information; Every Sunday
(Last on April 17th, 2011)

University of Iowa, April 22nd, 2011
UI Researchers Develop System to Predict Air Pollution Events for Santiago, Chile.

Science Daily, April 22nd, 2011
Choosing the Right Electric Vehicles Batteries for the Future.

Science Daily, April 21st, 2011
Ozone Hole Linked to Climate Change All the Way to the Equator.

Portland Press Herald, April 21st, 2011
Soot may be a link to Arctic warming.

The Guardian, April 21st, 2011
Arguments for constrained capitalism in Asia.

The Financial Express, April 21st, 2011
Budget and the environment.

The Hindu, April 21st, 2011
Pollution monitoring infrastructure inadequate.

The CityFix, April 21st, 2011
China’s Rapid Motorization Calls for Efficient Public Transit.

Green Answers, April 21st, 2011
Clouds of Black Carbon Accelerating the Rate of Climate Change in the Arctic.

Daily News in Kandy, April 20th, 2011
Preserving the Gem which is Kandy.

Xinhua Net, April 20th, 2011
Chinese experts call for attention to "city illnesses".

Post Opinions, April 20th, 2011
Hold the accolades on China’s ‘green leap forward’.

CT Post, April 20th, 2011
Heating oil phase-out part of NYC clean-air plan.

Science Daily, April 19th, 2011
Researcher Use Trees to Detect Contaminants and Health Threats.

Science Daily, April 19th, 2011
Green Environments Essential for Human Health.

Science Daily, April 18th, 2011
Climate Change Psychology: Coping and Creating Solutions.

Science Daily, April 18th, 2011
Sugarcane Cools Climate.

Asia One, April 20th, 2011
400,000 cars to be removed from Beijing roads.

NY Times, April 20th, 2011
Study Emphasizes Importance of China’s Transition to Electric Cars.

The World Bank, April 20th, 2011
China to benefit from emerging Global Electric Vehicle demand, though challenges remain.

TIME, April 20th, 2011
How China Can Take the Wheel on Electric Cars.

Reuters, April 19th, 2011
Top Ten Electric Car Initiatives Globally.

Smart Planet, April 19th, 2011
Emerging auto markets will overwhelm green gains by U.S., Europe, Japan.

China Daily, April 19th, 2011
Parking fees must be flexible.

Express India, April 19th, 2011
MMRDA to install noise barriers outside IIT.

The Jakarta Post, April 19th, 2011
Hong Kong expert to speak on air quality management.

People's Daily, April 19th, 2011
Beijing to launch clean air action plan.

Pune Mirror, April 19th, 2011
Hate the Pune city? Here’s one reason to love it.

Carnegie Endowment, April 18th, 2011
Transportation Trifecta: Cars, Climate Change, and Oil Security.

Reuters, April 18th, 2011
GM eyes doubling of China sales by 2015.

Xinhua Net, April 15th, 2011
China's power consumption up 13.4% in March.

China Daily, April 14th, 2011
Efforts afoot to prevent pollution from sandstorms.

Xinhua Net, April 12th, 2011
China should strive to make new-energy cars appealing to the public.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Transition to Electric Cars in China (NY Times)

From NY Times, April 20th, 2011

A STUDY prepared for the World Bank Transport Office in Beijing released today makes clear the urgency of China’s transition to electric cars. According to “The China New Vehicles Program: Challenges and Opportunities,” prepared by PRTM, a management consulting firm, China’s soaring consumption of imported oil could stifle the country’s economy, while emissions from petroleum-powered vehicles could choke its cities with air pollution.

Seventy percent of Beijing’s carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions come from transportation sources. China’s oil consumption is expected to rise to 11.6 million barrels per day by 2020, from 7.6 million in 2007. Half its oil currently is imported.

“This was recognizance,” said Shomik Mehndiratta, lead transport specialist at the World Bank. “Usually, we focus our urban transport work on walking, cycling, public transportation and land development to minimize auto travel, and we leave technology completely out of it. But all the analysis suggests that 50 percent of global carbon reductions in transportation will come from technology.”

Any financial support from the World Bank would be dwarfed by the Chinese government’s commitment to spend $15 billion on building and selling electric cars in the next five years.

“The money is not the key here,” said Oliver Hazimeh, head of the global e-mobility practice and a partner at PRTM. “The bigger notion of this report is helping China figuring out what else needs to be addressed in the overall ecosystem to make E.V.’s work. It is a technical, business-modeling, policy-setting support role more than a financial one.”

As dire as the need to go electric is for China, the challenges in making the transition to electric vehicles are even more monumental, according to the PRTM study, and similar to the situation in the United States. The first several hundred plug-in cars started rolling on to American roadways earlier this year, but availability of vehicles is just the beginning.

The long list of challenges in China (and the United States) includes uncertainty about how much car charging infrastructure is needed; lack of standards for how and where vehicles will be charged; and the need for industries that have traditionally not worked together — utilities and auto companies, for example — to forge partnerships.

Then there’s the elephant in the room: how to gain consumer acceptance for battery-powered cars when their driving range is shorter than gas or diesel vehicles but their costs are significantly higher. Helping China to reach massive scale of electric car production is expected to bring down those costs in the next five to 10 years.

According to Mr. Hazimeh, in both China and the United States different regions and constituents are each developing their own standards for vehicle and battery production, charging infrastructure and related business models.

“In China, you can’t just go in as we do in the U.S., and say here’s the money for parts solutions without looking at connecting the elements,” he said.

The study recommends roughly $50 million in loans for pilot projects, from building charging infrastructure and related information networks to evaluating the commercial feasibility of re-using E.V. batteries in secondary markets.

The consequences extend beyond national borders, as China is now the world’s largest auto market and is expected to become the world’s largest producer of electric car batteries and drive systems. The Chinese automotive market is expected to grow to 30 million vehicles per year by 2030, from 12.9 million vehicles in 2009.

“The next stage is to take the lessons learned, and put it into a more coordinated aligned roadmap,” Mr. Hazimeh said. “Otherwise, you face a fragmentation of solutions.”

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

From Gridlock to Brain Damage (A Study from Lagos, Nigeria)

From 234Next, April 17th, 2011

Ifeanyi Okosi closed his eyes, reclined on the head rest, and waited for a flicker of movement from the vehicle in front.

It would take another two hours to wriggle out of the barely 200 metres distance between Eric Moore and Orile bus stop.

For years, the snail motion traffic at that part of the Badagry expressway had become part of his daily experience on the way home from work.

"Some days, it takes up to three or four hours to drive out of that traffic," said Mr. Okosi, who runs an import agency in Lagos Island.

Such traffic escapades spread across the metropolis have been revealed to have detrimental effects on the brain.

A new study in the journal ‘Environmental Health Perspectives' by researchers at the University of Southern California has shown that the kind of pollution motorists are exposed to when they sit in gridlocks could impact on the brain.

This study adds to the list of previous studies that had linked pollution to other harmful effects on the body, including damaging the pulmonary system, causing cardiovascular problems, and even heart attacks.

The US researchers, led by Caleb Finch, a neurobiologist, exposed both live mice brain cells in vitro to the kind of air one might breathe in a gridlock - a mixture of particles from burning fossil fuels, bits of car parts, and weathered pavements.

Pollution and the brain

According to the research which was published by the US based Time magazine, both the in vitro brain cells and the neurons in the live mice showed the same problems - signs of inflammation associated with Alzheimer's disease (a disease which affects the functioning of the brain) and damage to cells associated with learning and memory.

The particulates used for the study are too tiny to be trapped by car filtration systems, about one-thousandth the width of a human hair, and the mice were exposed for 150 hours over ten weeks.

Mr. Finch hinted that frequent commuters, who might be exposed to the bad highway air over an even longer period than the mice were in the study, could be at risk.

According to the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, the current vehicular density in Lagos is about 224 vehicles per kilometre. This is 15 times the national average.

"The reality about this study is that we don't have such study in Nigeria presently or probably, even the whole of Africa, but it could be explained based on the fact that in a congested area you are bound to have a lot of pollution and the brain is very sensitive to the amount of oxygen available to it," said Saliu Oseni, a surgeon at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital.

"Besides if you deprive the brain of oxygen for five minutes, you can end up with a brain damage. So if the percentage of the oxygen in the available air is reduced, it can give what is called a sub-clinical injury to the brain - a case where you may not really have a clinical presentation on the patient having a brain damage but it may accumulate over time and eventually present clinically as a pathologic problem; one that you can see," Dr. Oseni added.

Shedding more light on the impact of pollution on the brain, the surgeon said gaseous emissions can compete for space with the oxygen present in the body.

"Like when they are available in the lungs, they will reduce the amount of oxygen that is available to the body and the body will see it as what we call ipoxia - reduced oxygen.

"And if the available oxygen in the body is not enough, part of the body that is affected the most is the brain. Some other parts of the body can be affected too, even the heart, but primarily the brain cells are more sensitive to things like this," said Dr. Oseni.

"However, the body system has a way of preventing immediate injury to the brain because they make available everything to the brain until they are, probably, not available again in the body, in terms of oxygen, food, and nutrients," he added.

The study also suggested that the highway pollution can have a profound effect on the development of neurons and brain health in children, particularly those who attend schools built close to highways.

"When you talk about pollution, it goes beyond gas or not feeling well. Noise is also pollution. If you have a child that lives or in a school close to the highway, either honking of cars, every time you have a lot of noise, it affects the hearing. And part of the brain takes care of hearing," said Dr. Oseni.

"If the school is sighted close to the highway, you have more of smoke from the exhaust of the vehicles available to the children to inhale. They have a growing brain which needs a lot of oxygen, so they can easily be affected," he added.

The medical doctor, however, noted that studies are yet to be carried out to determine the extent at which children are affected.

Dearth of specialists

During a conference to mark this year's brain awareness week in Abuja, Biodun Ogungbo, one of the participants, stated that there are 25 brain specialists available for 140 million Nigerians.

"There are only 25 neurosurgeons for 140 million Nigerians and most of them are found only in city centres, and only the universities of Lagos, Ibadan and Sokoto are authorized to train doctors in the area of neurosurgeon," said Dr. Ogungbo, a consultant neurosurgeon.

With a country ratio of one doctor to 4, 000 patients, according to NMA statistics, analysts say brain injuries are best prevented than allowed to occur.

"We have a significant number of neurologists, but where you need a neurosurgeon's attention, the number of neurosurgeons is very limited. In the whole of Lagos we have two here and two at LUTH (Lagos University Teaching Hospital), that means we have four to serve the whole of Lagos State," said Dr. Oseni.

"Generally, it (shortage of specialists) is something that translates all over. Because the truth of the matter is that we still don't have enough number of doctors available. In LASUTH here, we have about one-quarter or less the number of doctors that is needed to run LASUTH at the level that it is now," he said.

Not really important

Opinions of commuters on the study were divided. While some called it an "alarmist" theory of western scientists, others said they were not surprised.

"I think people should channel their energies on important things like how to reduce the sufferings of the masses, instead of coming up with these alarmist theories," said Tunde Aro, a member of the National Union of Road Transport Workers at Mile 2.

"We are exposed to dangers every time we leave our houses, so this one should not be a new thing," he added.

But Rawlings Ebele, a banker, said that he was not surprised at the findings of the study.

"Really, this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone," said Mr. Ebele.

"If you take into consideration the amount of smoke discharged by all the substandard vehicles in this city and the large volume of people and vehicles; then one shouldn't be surprised," he said.

Finding solutions

Dr. Oseni called for a strict enforcement of traffic rules as a way to mitigate the effects of air pollution on residents.

"There are laws in place but, unfortunately, in Nigeria we have a situation whereby laws are just there; there is no implementation. For example, vehicles that are smoking excessively are supposed to be off the road," said Dr. Oseni.

"Part of the luck we have is that we have a very wide sea around us here in Lagos. Gas tends to move from where they are more to where they are less, so we have a sort of escape route into the Atlantic," he added.

James Hansen: A $100 m Measurement Needed

From Mr. Lalloobhoy Battliwala

A nice draft from Hansen (also available on his website). I understand in small parts, which is dangerous. Some excerpt and highlight below.
"It is remarkable and untenable that the second largest forcing that drives global climate change remains unmeasured."
One thing I don't understand is the role of ozone - and thereby methane. My understanding is that methane's short-term impact is via ozone. I wonder if the near-term warming of ozone and BC is roughly matched by the cooling of the (cooling) aerosols.
I also don't understand why he mentions "without the requirement for undue government review panels".
The GHG forcing is about +3 W/m2. 2. But the large uncertainty in the aerosol forcing implies that the net forcing is very uncertain, so uncertain that either value suggested by Hansen's grandchildren for the net forcing (Sophie's +2 W/m2 or Connor's +1 W/m2) could be correct.
The correct answer defines the terms of humanity's 'Faustian aerosol bargain' (Hansen and Lacis, 1990). Global warming has been limited, as aerosol cooling partially offsets GHG warming. But aerosols remain airborne only several days, so they must be pumped into the air faster and faster to keep pace with increasing long-lived GHGs.
Unfortunately, Hansen et al. (1984) chose to estimate climate sensitivity from paleoclimate data by treating the aerosol change between glacial and interglacial conditions as a forcing. There is nothing inherently wrong with asking the question: what is the sensitivity of the remaining processes in the system if we consider ice sheets, GHGs, and aerosols to be specified forcings, even though the ice sheets and GHGs are slow feedbacks and aerosol changes are a fast feedback. The problem is that it is impossible to get an accurate answer to that question. The aerosol forcing depends sensitively on how much the aerosols absorb (the aerosol single scatter albedo) and on the altitude distribution of the aerosols, but, worse, it depends on how the aerosols modify cloud properties. The large uncertainty in the value of the aerosol forcing causes the resulting empirical climate sensitivity to have a large error bar.
Earth's energy imbalance and its changes will determine the future of Earth's climate. It is thus imperative to measure Earth's energy imbalance and the factors that are changing it.
We also must quantify the causes of changes of Earth's energy imbalance. The two dominant causes are changes of greenhouse gases, which are measured very precisely, and changes of atmospheric aerosols. It is remarkable and untenable that the second largest forcing that drives global climate change remains unmeasured. We refer to the direct and indirect effects of human-made aerosols.
We have inferred indirectly, from the planet's energy imbalance and global temperature change, that aerosols are probably causing a forcing of about ‒1.6 W/m2 in 2010. Our estimated uncertainty, necessarily partly subjective, is ± 0.3 W/m2, thus a range of aerosol forcing from ‒1.3 to ‒1.9 W/m2.
These analyses tend to confirm that aerosol forcing is large and negative, but cannot tell us what aerosols are causing the forcing, how much of the forcing is due to indirect effects on clouds, and how the aerosol forcing is changing. Aerosol climate forcing is complex (Ramanathan et al., 2001; Ramaswamy et al., 2001), in part because there are many different aerosol compositions distributed inhomogeneously around the planet. Different compositions have different effects on solar radiation, and, via their effects on clouds, they have different effects on terrestrial thermal radiation.
The total aerosol climate forcing that we have inferred implies that the aerosol indirect climate forcing exceeds the direct aerosol forcing, possibly by a large amount. There is no simple relationship between the direct and indirect forcings, which each are likely to be strongly dependent on aerosol composition.
No practical way to determine the aerosol direct and indirect climate forcings has been proposed other than simultaneous measurement of the reflected solar and emitted thermal radiation fields as described above. The two instruments must be looking at the same area at essentially the same time. Such a mission concept has been well-defined (Hansen et al., 1992) and if carried out by the private sector without a requirement for undue government review panels it could be achieved within a cost of about $100M.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Air Pollution Alerts - April 17th, 2011

News & Information; Every Sunday
(Last on April 10th, 2011)

234Next, April 17th, 2011
From gridlock to brain damage.

Health News Digest, April 15th, 2011
U.S. Air Quality On The Mend?

BBC, April 15th, 2011
Air pollution 'damaging Europe's wildlife havens'.

Red Orbit, April 14th, 2011
Climate Change From Black Carbon Depends On Altitude.

The National, April 14th, 2011
Criticism flares up over gas waste in Middle East.

China.Org, April 14th, 2011
Efforts afoot to prevent pollution from sandstorms.

ABS News, April 13th, 2011
Metro Manila air quality has improved.

Science Daily, April 12th, 2011
Delhi Air Quality Regulations Improve Respiratory Health.

Norwegian Embassy, April 12th, 2011
Dhaka: The Dusty City.

Climate Strategies Watch, April 12th, 2011
Smart Solutions to Climate Change: Comparing Costs and Benefits.

Global Times, April 12th, 2011
Rethink needed if electric cars are to gain acceptance.

China Daily, April 12th, 2011
Number of official cars a mystery.

China Daily, April 11th, 2011
China car sales up 6.5% in March.

Scientific American, April 11th, 2011
Munching Microbe Rules Methane Production.

NY Times, April 11th, 2011
Studies Say Natural Gas Has Its Own Environmental Problems.

The East African, April 11th, 2011
Switch to cleaner fuel key for better urban human, environmental health.

Xinhua Net, April 9th, 2011
New energy industries to fuel China's green growth.

People's Daily, April 9th, 2011
Wuhan to fully implement smoking ban at indoor public places.

China Daily, April 2nd, 2011
Beijing raises parking fee to reduce traffic.

Reuters, April 1st, 2011
China urges coal firms to control prices.

China Daily, March 30th, 2011
China's top wind power region to have 13 gW capacity.

IRIN, January 20th, 2011
SOMALIA: Charcoal trade booming despite ban.

Air pollution 'damaging Europe's wildlife havens' (BBC)

On BBC, April 15th, 2011

Air pollution is damaging 60% of Europe's prime wildlife sites in meadows, forests and heaths, according to a new report.

A team of EU scientists said nitrogen emissions from cars, factories and farming was threatening biodiversity.

It's the second report this week warning of the on-going risks and threats linked to nitrogen pollution.

The Nitrogen Deposition and Natura 2000 report was published at a key scientific conference in Edinburgh.

Earlier this week, the European Nitrogen Assessment - the first of its kind - estimated nitrogen damage to health and the environment at between £55bn and £280bn a year in Europe, even though nitrogen pollution from vehicles and industry had dropped 30% over recent decades.

Nitrogen in the atmosphere is harmless in its inert state, but the report says reactive forms of nitrogen, largely produced by human activity, can be a menace to the natural world.

Emissions mostly come from vehicle exhausts, factories, artificial fertilisers and manure from intensive farming.

The reactive nitrogen they emit to the air disrupts the environment in two ways:

It can make acidic soils too acidic to support their previous mix of species.

But primarily, because nitrogen is a fertiliser, it favours wild plants that can maximise the use of nitrogen to help them grow.

In effect, some of the nitrogen spread to fertilise crops is carried in the atmosphere to fertilise weeds, possibly a great distance from where the chemicals were first applied.

The effects of fertilisation and acidification favour common aggressive species like grasses, brambles and nettles.

They harm more delicate species like lichens, mosses, harebells and insect-eating sundew plants.

'Ignored problem'

The report said 60% of wildlife sites were now receiving a critical load of reactive nitrogen.

The report's lead author, Dr Kevin Hicks from the University of York's Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), told BBC News that England's Peak District had a demonstrably low range of species as a result of the reactive nitrogen that fell on the area.

"Nitrogen creates a rather big problem that seems to me to have been given too little attention," he said.

"Governments are obliged by the EU Habitats Directive to protect areas like this, but they are clearly failing."

He said more research was needed to understand the knock-on effects for creatures from the changes in vegetation inadvertently caused by emissions from cars, industry and farms.

At the conference, the delegates agreed "The Edinburgh Declaration on Reactive Nitrogen".

The document highlights the importance of reducing reactive nitrogen emissions to the environment, adding that the benefits of reducing nitrogen outweigh the costs of taking action.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Black Carbon on Tibetean Plateau and Himalayas (ACP)

A recent article posted on Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Origin and radiative forcing of black carbon transported to the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau


The remote and high elevation regions of central Asia are influenced by black carbon (BC) emissions from a variety of locations. BC deposition contributes to melting of glaciers and questions exist, of both scientific and policy interest, as to the origin of the BC reaching the glaciers. We use the adjoint of the GEOS-Chem model to identify the location from which BC arriving at a variety of locations in the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau originates. We then calculate its direct and snow-albedo radiative forcing. We analyze the seasonal variation in the origin of BC using an adjoint sensitivity analysis, which provides a detailed map of the location of emissions that directly contribute to black carbon concentrations at receptor locations. We find that emissions from northern India and central China contribute the majority of BC to the Himalayas, although the precise location varies with season. The Tibetan Plateau receives most BC from western and central China, as well as from India, Nepal, the Middle East, Pakistan and other countries. The magnitude of contribution from each region varies with season and receptor location. We find that sources as varied as African biomass burning and Middle Eastern fossil fuel combustion can significantly contribute to the BC reaching the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau. We compute radiative forcing in the snow-covered regions and find the forcing due to the BC induced snow-albedo effect to vary from 5­15 W/mˆ2 within the region, an order of magnitude larger than radiative forcing due to the direct effect, and with significant seasonal variation in the northern Tibetan Plateau. Radiative forcing from reduced snow albedo likely accelerates glacier melting. Our analysis may help inform mitigation efforts to slow the rate of glacial melt by identifying regions that make the largest contributions to BC deposition in the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau.

Also see other posts on Black Carbon

Read a report from PNNL, April 2011
A Sooty Tale - Black carbon from combustion processes accelerates climate change effects.

SOMALIA: Charcoal Trade Booming Despite Ban

From Mr. Lalloobhoy Battliwala

Breast-beating and whining about CO2 and deforestation should be banned, but there's money in it, so it will continue, like charcoal trade.

In some report on Somali pirates, I read that they are protecting dhows that now pick up from the coasts of Tanzania and down south in Mozambique.

And there are people who think charcoal is not a solution. It manifestly IS the fuel of choice of millions of urban dwellers and commercial/industrial customers, more so in view of the gas/lpg price increases.

Greens have to choose between coal and nuclear now; enough dreaming about 200% growth in renewables every year for ten years.

They also have to choose between charcoal and gas now; enough dreaming about saving wood. (All the wood saved by improved woodstoves will go into charcoal, I bet.)


NAIROBI, 20 January 2011 (IRIN) - Although the export of charcoal has been banned by Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), the trade is booming in areas controlled by Islamist opposition groups, with locals saying volumes have risen sharply in past months.

"The trade in charcoal in [the port city of] Kismayo seems to be picking up every day, with the current level and intensity being the highest ever," a civil society source, who requested anonymity, told IRIN on 19 January. Previously cutting trees and burning charcoal was a low-key, low-technology affair, but "now they are using very sophisticated saws and equipment".

A Somali member of parliament, Ibrahim Habeb, appealed to Somalis "to think of the future and the best interests of the people". Decimation of trees, he added, was one of the causes of recurring droughts.

Trees and forests, according to the World Agroforestry Centre, play a vital role in regulating the climate since they absorb carbon dioxide – containing an estimated 50 percent more carbon than the atmosphere. Deforestation, in turn, accounts for more than 20 percent of the carbon dioxide humans generate, rivalling the emissions from other sources.

Trees are also crucial in providing a range of products and services to rural and urban populations, including food, timber, fibre, medicines and energy, as well as soil fertility, water and biodiversity conservation.

“More dangerous than piracy”

A civil society source, who requested anonymity, said the charcoal traders were decimating the last remaining forested area in Somalia and, in the process, "destroying our future and the future of our children."

He added: "They must be stopped. This is more dangerous than the piracy problem."

Almost 80-90 percent of exported charcoal passed through Kismayo, 500km south of the capital, Mogadishu, the source added. In the past, ports in Mogadishu and Merka in the south were also used, but local authorities in other parts of the country had banned the trade.

Al-Shabab Islamist insurgents control Kismayo and much of the south of Somalia and have fought the TFG for the past three years. Charcoal export, the source said, was their biggest source of income.

Most of the charcoal is transported to the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, where a bag fetches about US$15. Traders paid about $5 to cut and burn the charcoal. A Kismayo resident, who declined to be named, said three to four vessels loaded with charcoal left the port every week.

Stopping the export of charcoal is a challenge, however, requiring the cooperation of the Gulf countries as well as the Somali business community, said the civil society source.

Somalia is one of 13 African countries that will face water scarcity by 2025, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa, partly because of human activities such as deforestation for charcoal production, overgrazing or crowding around watering points and other inappropriate land use measures.

According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, overgrazing and uncontrolled harvesting of trees to make charcoal in parts of the north-west and the Kismayo area have led to environmental degradation in Somalia that may be difficult to reverse.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Poorly Installed AC Units Cost New York City $180 Million

When you install your air conditioner this summer, you better do it right — both for your sake and the city’s. According to a new report by the Urban Green Council, titled “There are Holes in Our City’s Walls,” poorly fitted air conditioning units cost the city $130 million to $180 million in fuel consumption, which in turn, produces an extra 375,000 to 525,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. In other words, improperly installed ACs account for 1 percent of citywide greenhouse gas emissions. It may seem like a small percentage, but it’s a pretty big environmental impact just so we can cool our apartments.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Now a Solar Lamp Scam?

From Mr. Lalloobhoy Battliwala

A few stories on Bihar from last month - fake panels/batteries, $880 PV systems becoming part of dowries, and Teri/Uninor (a newbie telecom company that may be struggling to reach some targets).

The scandal if not a scam is, why is the government giving monopoly to Tata BP Solar and Exide and putting the police and the courts in service of the monopoly?

Or, why are folks wasting (or forcing a bride's parents to cough up) money on "solar systems" for lighting and battery-charging? There's a marketing failure or the established solar industry is vested in the status quo.

Oh, well. I am waiting for the day when a girl's parents would say, "Ok, we'll give her solar lights and a battery TV IF you don't make her cook and she gets to watch TV BUT otherwise, here is a modern woodstove that cooks like gas. We want that for our daughter, and wouldn't you want that for your grandchildren as well?" (Heck, subsidize a few selected brands 50% with one-year specs at a time and for a fourth of the price of the silly "solar system", the new wife can proudly walk in with a gas-like stove, three lights with and without phone-chargers, a battery TV/radio, and a solar charger.)

If nuclear made people dumb, the sun has blinded them. What would it take to get away from "solar" and focus on smart batteries and lighting?


Read More @ Over 200 outgoing village body heads, or ‘mukhiyas’, are in deep trouble in Bihar in connection with a scam in the purchase of solar lamps at a time when elections for 2.62 lakh panchayat posts are approaching.

The chief judicial magistrate’s (CJM) court issued arrest warrants against 227 mukhiyas in Sitamarhi district this week for purchasing solar lamps from unauthorised shops. Now police have been directed to arrest them. All such mukhiyas are absconding to evade arrest before filing nomination papers to contest in the panchayat polls, police officials in Sitamarhi said.

Besides mukhiyas, more than 200 government officials, including block development officers (BDOs), are also under the scanner in the solar lamps scam said to be worth Rs 40 crores.

Sitamarhi Superintendent of Police Rakesh Kumar Rathi said an FIR (first information report) was lodged against 233 mukhiyas in connection with this last year, of whom six died in the last few months.

‘The mukhiyas purchased solar lamps violating government policy. They purchased locally made solar plates and batteries instead of the government approved TATA BP solar plates and Exide batteries,’ Rathi said.

This was not all; the bills for the purchase of 7,000 solar lamp sets were also found to be fake. Ironically, 90 percent of the solar panels stopped working soon after being fitted in villages.

The mukhiyas are alleged to have purchased solar lamps from unauthorised shops and dealers in a hurry, ignoring all the other approved government schemes.

Police found during their probe that the solar panels and batteries had TATA BP and Exide logos but everything was locally assembled inside.

Rathi said police would arrest all the accused mukhiyas and would soon begin to attach their property if they were found absconding.

A senior official in the rural development department in Patna said a similar solar lamps purchase scam may be going on in other districts. ‘In the coming days, the scam will come into the picture from other districts as top officials have been looking into it,’ Rathi told IANS.

Most rural areas in power-starved Bihar reel in the dark and the government’s decision to provide light to villages through solar lamps was seen as positive step. But the scam is a setback, people say.

According to the state election commission, the first phase of the panchayat poll would be held April 20 and the 10th phase would be held May 28.

Also see
@ Hindustan Times, "Solar power, an agent of change"
@ Business Wire India, "Collective Community Building by TERI and Unicor"

Flaring Gas Results in Waste of Resources, Air Pollution, and CO2 Emissions in Middle East

Fuel subsidies, international sanctions and fractious politics are among the reasons the Middle East continues to flare more gas than any other region except Russia. From the National, April 14th, 2011

The practice wastes resources and contributes to air pollution and global warming. A study by General Electric (GE) shows Middle East oil and gas producers pumped 87 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2008 by burning 34.6 billion cubic metres of gas. Most of that was a by-product of crude production from the region's oilfields. "Flaring levels in the Middle East region remain relatively high," the report said. "The largest volumes of gas flaring occur in Iran and Iraq. However, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and other parts of the region have flaring issues."

Of the world's top nine gas-flaring nations, five are from the Middle East and North Africa region. Iran is in third place and Iraq fourth, behind Russia and Nigeria. Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the sixth, eighth and ninth worst offenders, respectively. "Gas flaring is one of the most challenging energy and environmental problems facing the world today," said GE. The amount burnt is equal to 5 per cent of global natural gas production, or 2.4 million barrels a day of oil.

The 400 million tonnes a year of carbon emissions that result equal the amount of carbon dioxide from the exhausts of 77 million petrol-fuelled cars or 125 medium-sized coal plants. Gas flaring is not a difficult problem to tackle. "The technology to address the problem exists today and the policy reforms required are largely understood," GE said. "Many constructive efforts to reduce flaring are under way, yet on the current path, it will likely take a decade or more to minimise this wasteful practice. "Governments with non-transparent policies and weak environmental regulations are particularly likely to flare large amounts of gas. The problem is exacerbated through policy distortions related to subsidised hydrocarbon and electricity pricing."

Subsidies contribute heavily to flaring in Gulf oil states, which are mostly not short of oil and gas expertise or infrastructure for processing and transporting gas produced from their oilfields.
But very low domestic gas prices, often below US$1 per million British thermal units, mean at smaller or isolated fields where gathering and processing costs are higher than average it is often more economical to flare gas.

In Iran, the problems caused by mandated low gas prices are compounded by international sanctions on the country over its nuclear programme. Both contribute to huge underinvestment in gas infrastructure. "The country is in the process of expanding pipeline infrastructure to better connect isolated locations," GE reported. "However, until the issues around Iran's nuclear programme are resolved, access to advanced gas technology will likely be limited."

Iraq has a similar pricing issue compounded by a wartime legacy of ruined infrastructure.
"After the [two Gulf Wars], damage to gas-processing sites in the south was extensive and remains unaddressed," GE said. "Gas-processing capacity is limited at key sites where oil production exists and is expected to grow rapidly." It estimated that by 2015, Iraq could flare 20 billion cu metres of gas a year. In 2008, Shell proposed a $4bn (Dh14.69bn) project to process and market gas from Iraq's big southern oilfields. But the deal was opposed by politicians who complained it lacked transparency and objected to plans to export some of the gas. A contract for the much-delayed project has still not been signed. Yet GE says such a deal is essential: "If Iraq fails to synchronise oil and gasfield development with viable options for associated gas, the flaring problem … can be expected to expand significantly. "The result will be enormous direct costs in terms of wasted resources and corresponding social and environmental costs."

Some other countries in the region have taken concrete steps to tackle gas flaring. In the UAE, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, the nation's biggest oil and gas producer, aims for zero flaring except in emergencies. In Saudi Arabia, the kingdom's master gas system project, which started operating in 1982, gathers almost 100 billion cubic metres of gas a year, of which about half would otherwise be flared. "The success achieved by Saudi Arabia is one example in the long journey for the Middle East region towards managing gas flaring more effectively," said Joe Anis, the president and chief executive of GE's Middle East energy unit. "Eliminating wasteful gas flaring has the potential to be the next big energy and environmental success story, and through better management the region can benefit not only from direct cost in terms of resource use but also in social and environmental costs."
The Middle East's total annual carbon emissions from flaring fell 11 per cent to 87 million tonnes in 2008 from 98 million tonnes four years earlier, even as oil and gas production increased. The GE study recommended strengthening international commitments to eradicate flaring, involving local communities in anti-flaring projects and enhancing access to financing for gas pipeline, processing and storage projects.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dhaka, the Dusty City (Norwegian Embassy)

This fall, a three-year institutional collaboration was established between Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) and the Department of Environment in Bangladesh. With support from Norway, the goal is to improve local expertise in air quality monitoring and planning in one of the world's most densely populated cities. To determine where to place the permanent monitoring system, and to get an idea of the current air quality, a delegation from NILU recently traveled to Bangladesh to conduct an initial screening study in Dhaka.

During the winter season, Dhaka is probably the most polluted city in the world, says NILU scientist Scott Randall following his visit.

Like an Industrial Site

Together with local researchers, he measured the concentration of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, as well as small and large dust particles in the air. The high concentration of dust particles surprised the researchers.

Also see impact of brick kiln emissions on Dhaka's air quality.

At this time of year, we had anticipated that the dust levels would be high, but it was higher than we expected. To be in a city - these are some of the highest values we have seen, says Scott Randall.

On the balcony of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Dhaka, the researchers were able to measure dust concentrations over a period of 24 hours. The results showed values that exceeded three times the legal limit for air pollution in the United States and Bangladesh, and nearly five times the limit in the EU and Norway.

We may have seen these kinds of results before - for example on a industrial site or near a desert where the wind blows the sand around - but not in a city with people, says Randall, who is quick to point out that the results are based on individual measurements, and that there is a need for continuous air monitoring to get more accurate results.

The day we measured could potentially have been the worst day in the worst part of the year, he explains.
From Petrol to CNG
Lack of rain in the winter season, open air burning of waste, regional weather conditions, and discharges from the 1,100 brick kins that surround the city are the main sources of pollution in Dhaka, according to Randall. Due to the Bangladeshi Government’s efforts to promote compressed natural gas (CNG), traffic is merely a secondary source for pollution in Dhaka today.

It's impressive to see the number of cars that run on CNG, and how a country is able to mobilize in this way within a short decade, says Randall.

Pollution: A Public Health Issue
Air pollution costs Bangladesh dearly, both in dollars and lives. At the turn of the century the World Bank estimated that the costs associated with pollution in Dhaka is approximately 800 million USD every year and 15,000 human lives. The pollution is especially harmfull for children, the elderly and people with asthma. With the project in Bangladesh, NILU aims to strengthen the local expertise on health problems related to air pollution.

Can Electric Cars Gain Acceptance in China?

From Global Times, China.

It's been over 10 months since the central government began offering subsidies to automakers in five cities, including Shanghai, in a bid to lower the retail price of electric cars.

However, Shanghai only recently saw the first electric car purchases since the subsidies came into effect – and these purchases were by eight car manufacturer employees who knew each other.

See the video below on a bold plan to mass produce electric vehicles

So why has takeup been so low, particularly as pressure from soaring diesel and gasoline prices mean car owners are now spending an average 370 yuan ($56.60) for every 200 kilometers they drive?

In comparison, an electric car can run nearly 200 kilometers on just one charge, which only costs around 10 yuan ($1.53). Factor in the effect of subsidies, which can make the retail cost of electric cars competitive, and you'd be forgiven for expecting drivers to be flocking to electric.

However, the potential savings are not enough to allay consumer fears, most of which are related to the lack of infrastructure and support for electric vehicles and the current limitations of electric car technology.

The maximum range of electric cars is around 200 kilometers before they need recharging. But recharge points are scarce, making electric cars only suitable for traveling short distances in areas that have access to recharge points, and impractical for longer journeys between cities.

Even in Shanghai, the home of Shanghai International Automobile City – a comprehensive auto production base in the city's Jiading district – provision of battery recharging services is not well developed. There are plans for Jiading district to have 130 by the end of this year, while there are no recharge points anywhere else in Shanghai.

What's more, batteries have a lifespan of less than 100,000 kilometers, meaning electric car owners face the additional cost of frequently swapping batteries – around 30,000 yuan ($4,587) each.

A related issue is after-sales service. With electric cars a rarity, the cost of parts is high. Knowledge among mechanics about how to carry out repairs is nowhere near as widespread as for conventional cars. With after-sales services still a source of difficulty in the conventional car market in China, no wonder consumers are wary about the situation with regards to electric cars.

Taking a wider view, while electric cars themselves do not emit pollutants, the methods used to generate the electricity to recharge their batteries do. China's electricity generation is primarily through coal-powered plants, which account for over 70 percent of overall output. If electric cars were to become more popular, this would further drive up demand for electricity, and emissions of pollutants such as carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide. Air quality in major cities may well be improved, but only at the expense of coal-producing and electricity-generating areas.

So now is too early to be focusing on the production or sale of electric cars. Instead, we should first lay down sound supporting infrastructure and policies, and solve the problems and limitations inherent in the technology, such as electricity generation and battery recharging.

Health Effects of Urban Living

From the Nursing School Blog..

More than any other time in human history, people today typically live in major urban centers rather than their suburban or rural counterparts. While many praise city life for its comparatively more vibrant nightlife, museums and art, food and music scenes, there inevitably exists some rather terrible downsides. Crime and violence usually spring to mind first, but more than a few serious public health issues may prove just as culpable (if not more so) in causing injury, illness and death. Though not meant to deter anyone hoping to call a sprawling metropolis home, it does pay to know the potential problems that might walk hand-in-hand with urban living. Please keep in mind that none of the following statements are meant to take the place of expert medical advice.
  1. Increased risk of outbreak: Infectious diseases such as cholera, yellow fever, the plague and myriad others spread much faster in urban environments. Unsurprisingly, this has pretty much everything to do with a condensed population living in close proximity. Europe's devastating outbreak of bubonic plague in the 14th Century, killing off 30% to 60% of the continent's population, is probably the most infamous example of this phenomenon. In more contemporary times, the World Health Organization notes the swelling risk of yellow fever in West Africa's fast-growing urban centers. Considering they increase in population at a rate of around 4% a year — the highest in the world and double than the international average — this stands as a particularly disconcerting scenario.
  2. Stunted mental functions: Urban living comes packaged with a melange of physical, mental and emotional stimuli, and on particularly active days can get more than a smidge overwhelming. Spending enough time in such environments may result in poor impulse control, reduced memory and complete exhaustion — among other lovely things. Scientists attribute this degradation to a distinct lack of nature, as exposure to greenery and other organics holds considerable sway over mental, physical and emotional well-being. Considering more people live in cities than rural areas, such a lack of exposure to the natural world spells out some disconcerting things about humanity's future. Some metropolitan areas now employ developers and scientists with the hopes of redesigning to allow for much healthier spaces.
  3. The "double burden" of diseases: City dwellers suffer from a heightened risk of both infectious and noninfectious chronic diseases, oftentimes referred to as the "double burden." This especially holds true in impoverished, squalid neighborhoods whose inhabitants lack adequate health care access as well as regions experiencing exceptionally quick urbanization. Asthma, for example, runs far more rampant in such areas, as many individuals and families end up forced to live in moldy housing. Even beyond diseases, deaths and injuries as a result of work or violence also increase when living in major metropolises. These frequently kill or debilitate victims long before chronic infections or conditions have a chance to take hold.
  4. Increased risk of depression: In addition to blunted mental functions, urbanites may also suffer from depression at a much higher rate. Poverty could especially stoke the metaphorical fires, as do poor working conditions — both of which sadly stand as major facets of city life. Many individuals with no prior history of depressive disorders develop them after further immersion low-income housing and careers. Research on the subject oftentimes turns up mixed results, of course, though few would be surprised if a definitive correlation finally emerges.
  5. Obstructive lung disease ravages the homeless: Air pollution unsurprisingly negatively affects the respiratory systems of pretty much everyone calling an urban area home. Anyone living in or near heavily industrialized regions face a far higher risk of coming down with chronic lung and/or pulmonary issues. Car exhaust, too, isn't the greatest thing to inhale on a daily basis. But one of the world's most marginalized demographics especially suffers from the damages of respiratory ailments the most. Obstructive lung disease occurs at a 15% rate in the homeless — double the average in the United States. Bronchitis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are also far more common in this population as well. Cigarette smoking, inadequate nutrition options and exposure to the elements only worsens their health.
  6. Poor water means poor health: No matter the socioeconomic bracket, exposure to a compromised public water supply leads to a health crisis of urban proportions. Of course, poorer areas unable to afford the sanitation technology necessary to lessen the chances of serious or fatal outbreaks suffer the highest risk of a public health nightmare. Whether by natural or man-made means, any sort of contamination to a city's water supply could spell doom for a much broader population segment than the ones found in rural regions. There's a reason why officials (or, at least, the few genuinely concerned about humanity) wring their hands over the possibility of bioterrorists directly infiltrating public wells, reservoirs and other major drinking water sources. Beyond that, callous corporations treating lakes and ponds as personal dumping grounds for pollutants and waste infamously make life that much unhealthier for the populace.
  7. Lessened risk of death or injury in a car accident: This probably sounds incredibly bizarre, but city slickers are actually far less likely to die or sustain a serious injury in a car accident than their rural counterparts. In some of the most egregious cases, particularly Wyoming, Montana and Mississippi, the rural death rate sits at double that found in urban areas. While the findings understandably pique their fair share of controversy, this phenomenon is attributed to the generally poorer condition of roads. Passing laws to help prevent such things almost always come packaged with a plethora of public outcry, making it exceptionally difficult to lower the risk across the board.
  8. Improper design of multifamily housing is a cause for great concern: Beyond the comparatively rapid spread of communicable diseases, multifamily housing units also cause serious problems for those concerned about respiratory and pulmonary conditions both temporary and chronic. Depending on its design, some homes may actually trap outdoor air pollutants indoors, making life dangerous and miserable no matter where inhabitants roam. Formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, radon, benzene, nitrogen dioxide and more can all creep inside – assuming they don't come from within the home itself! Asbestos, lead paint and mold, while not exclusive to urban areas, also pose massive health threats. Once again, poverty-stricken neighborhoods fall victim to squalid, unhealthily-designed housing options far more than those with the money to renovate and restore.
  9. Physical inactivity: Not all instances of obesity or being overweight are caused by physical inactivity — genetics, health and medical issues and diet can play a part in it as well. One cannot assume that all fitting the criteria necessarily incorporate little exercise or proper nutrition into their lifestyles, though sadly such stereotypes unfairly persist. However, in spite of this, the physical inactivity that stems from taking public transportation can (though not always) contribute to weight issues. As one can probably imagine, such health risks arise in developed nations far more often, as those in poorer ones must rely on biking or walking. Individuals concerned with the problems associated with an inactive lifestyle should consider supplementing it by exercising regularly or considering healthier options when going to or from work.
  10. It may be easier to correctly diagnose elderly women in urban areas: Please keep in mind such a statement only comes from one study conducted by the University of Alberta and Simon Fraser University, so take such statements as nothing yet definitive. Elderly women on the fringes of urban society typically self-analyze as living with fair to poor health, though in rural areas they're more likely to suffer from heart disease — at least in Canada. By contrast, the social determinants used when making diagnoses on elderly women in urban zones are far more accurate.

Cook your Batteries for Lights, Phones (and the Stove)

From Mr. Lalloobhoy Battliwala

A thermo-acoustic generator, prototype in PennState lab. A blog intro below. After Lighting Africa, forget Lighting Asia. Let there be a Heat, Light, and Sound initiative (there will be speeches and music, meals free, darkness by choice).


A device rigged with a loudspeaker and other cheap components can clean up a dirty, woodburning cookstove and convert it into a power generator. It's a small thermoacoustic generator that attaches to the stove to convert heat into sound waves and then into electricity. The concept is rooted in NASA space probe propulsion technology, but it is affordable enough for use in developing regions.

Paul Montgomery, a recent mechanical engineering graduate of Pennsylvania State University, developed a working prototype of the device last year. As he explains, it uses the stove's leftover heat to produce a high-amplitude sound wave within a resonator. It then channels the wave through a loudspeaker operating in reverse to generate electricity. The advantages are its low cost—projected at about $25, it has no moving parts other than the loudspeaker, and it could be more efficient than a thermoelectric generator.

Taking a look inside, the device is made of a ceramic “stack” that's heated at one end and cooled at the other. The stack is inside a resonator with a loudspeaker at one end. This is how it works.

This Celcor ceramic "stack" is inside the resonator. The stack's matrix of cells runs length-wise down the resonator and allows the air to flow back and forth. Photo courtesy of Paul Montgomery

From heat to sound
Montgomery kept the materials costs down and built a resonator, an elongated chamber, from folded sheet metal. Inside is the ceramic stack, which is a matrix of hollow rectangular passages that run the length of the resonator. As the stove burns biomass, it heats up one side of the stack. The air inside the stack's passages heats up and expands over to the other side. There, the air contracts as it dissipates its heat into an off-the-shelf heat sink, a flat piece of metal that bleeds the heat off into the atmosphere, like those found in laptops.

When the air cools, it contracts. That oscillating expansion and contraction within the resonator is, by definition, a soundwave. The greater the temperature gradient—the difference between the hot and cold ends—the more the air expands and contracts. That action boosts the wave's amplitude, making it louder and more powerful. That also explains some of its efficiency. While a thermoelectric generator can take advantage of a temperature gradient of about 200 degrees C, this kind of generator could handle three or four times that, Montgomery says.

From sound to electricity
Normally, a speaker converts electricity into mechanical energy that vibrates the cone to produce soundwaves. An electromagnet inside the speaker, called the voice coil, is surrounded by a permanent magnet and moves back and forth within that magnetic field. The current flowing into the electromagnet switches directions rapidly, changing the electromagnet's polarity back and forth. That switching polarity creates an identity crisis that alternately attracts the electromagnet to—and repels it from—either end of the permanent magnet. Its back-and-forth motion vibrates the cone. How Stuff Works has a more in-depth explanation of what goes on inside a speaker.

In Montgomery's device, the oscillating air hits a loudspeaker beyond the cool end of the stack. Working in reverse, the sound waves vibrate the cone back and forth. The cone pushes and pulls the electromagnet within the magnetic field, generating electricity. Montgomery explains the design in detail in this paper published online by the Acoustical Society of America.

Clean stoves save lives

Once the device performs its acoustical magic, it charges a battery with the converted heat of the stove in use. The battery can light up LEDs, charge phones or power other small devices. But—and here's the “clean” part—first, it powers a small fan.

We have reported on another fan-powering cookstove and the concept here is the same. The fan blows the sooty smoke back over the burning biomass so it can incinerate nearly all of the material. Black carbon and other greenhouse gases and carcinogens are destroyed without entering the kitchen, the cook's lungs, or the atmosphere. The fan also improves the stove's efficiency, so it requires less fuel and cooks faster.

Why a clean cookstove? Montgomery drew inspiration for his project from a speech that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave last year at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. She announced the launch of a new alliance of governments and private businesses that will push for cleaner cookstoves. Today, nearly half of all households worldwide still cook with dirty, smoke-spewing stoves and open fires. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves aims to replace 100 million dirty stoves and open fire pits by 2020, which would be a good start towards solving this problem.

What's next
Montgomery graduated last year and left the stove prototype to an upcoming class. The prototype proved the technology, but the new class will have to increase the amount of electricity it d produces. “Future models will use a moving-magnet transducer instead of the speaker,” Montgomery says.

The new class may take up the project again in the fall. Steven Garrett, professor in the graduate department of acoustics, said they will welcome collaboration with experts in the field.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Air Pollution Alerts - April 10th, 2011

News & Information; Every Sunday
(Last on April 3rd, 2011)

AME Info, April 10th, 2011
Siemens to present mass transit systems in Dubai.

Mass Live, April 10th, 2011
EPA proposes new regulations on emissions from coal-burning power plants.

Eurek Alert, April 10th, 2011
Delhi air quality regulations improve respiratory health.

The World Bank, April 10th, 2011
China: Renewable Energy Development Project.

Frontline, April 9th, 2011
In the past decade, nitrogen management has increasingly attracted the attention of agricultural and climate scientists.

Pune Mirror, April 9th, 2011
IITM’s clean act for CWG earns UN pat.

WTAM, April 9th, 2011
Power plant smog - Study claims Ohio utilities are major polluters.

AlterNet, April 7th, 2011
Climate change targets developing world's cities.

UB Reporter, April 7th, 2011
Study to look at air pollution data from Beijing Olympics.

The Guardian, April 7th, 2011
What's your global health message?

CO2 Science, April 6th, 2011
Black Carbon at the Top of the World.

Times of India, April 5th, 2011
Ambient air quality came down during Holi in Pune.

UB Post, April 5th, 2011
The President sets up a committee to fight pollution.

Wall Street Journal, April 4th, 2011
The Picture of Pollution in Hong Kong.

NASA, April 1st, 2011
Cleaner Vehicle Standards Good for Health, Agriculture, Climate.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Ozone Photochemistry and LED Lights?

From Mr. Lalloobhoy Battliwala

An Economist article from the year-end edition below.

I remember a picture from LA some time back - some street lights substituted by LED lighting which doesn't 'spread' as much.

Would a switch to LEDs give more lighting for the purpose intended and increase the destruction of ozone formed in the daytime?


The Economist, December 21st, 2010

THE term “light pollution” is not, it seems, a metaphor. The light that emanates from cities all over the world not only deprives their citizens of the pleasure of seeing the Milky Way on a moonless night, it also diminishes the freshness of the air they breathe at dawn. It interferes, says Harald Stark of American’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with the chemicals that mop up nasty molecules that are the raw materials of smog.

At the Autumn Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, in San Francisco, Dr Stark presented his conclusions from detailed measurements of the composition of the air over Los Angeles and its surroundings. On four days and nights a NOAA plane crisscrossed the metropolis. During the nights, not only were the concentrations of ozone, nitrogen oxides and other gases measured by this plane, but also, almost as an afterthought, the intensity of the light from below.

That there is too much of this is well known to astronomers—it is reflected back down from dust in the atmosphere and, as a result, many stars are drowned in the glow. It also makes for spectacular photographs of the Earth at night, showing clearly where people prefer to live. But even the brightest city in America, Las Vegas, emits only about a ten-thousandth as much light as the sun shines upon the same area. Inconsequential, surely, as far as the goings-on in the atmosphere are concerned?

Not at all, says Dr Stark. To provide another perspective, Los Angeles seen from above is 25 times brighter than the full moon. And the city's lights come on at a time that the atmosphere could very well do without them: when it is cleansing itself of the pollution of the day.

At night ozone, a molecule composed of three oxygen atoms, reacts with oxides of nitrogen. An especially happy outcome is when a molecule of nitrogen dioxide (one nitrogen and two oxygens) and one of ozone—both constituents of daytime smog—turn into molecule of regular oxygen (the sort that has two atoms per molecule) and nitrogen trioxide. The oxygen will bother no one, and the nitrogen trioxide soon meets its end destroying one of a range of volatile organic compounds that are another constituent of daytime smog.

The size and electrical properties of nitrogen trioxide, though, are such that it is easily broken up by light into nitrogen and ozone. That is why, by day, ozone is hard to get rid of. By night, however, there should be no stopping nitrogen trioxide. The chemical processes in which it is involved should work without hindrance, and ozone levels will drop.

That is why shining a light into the night sky is not such a good idea. In the case of Los Angeles Dr Stark estimates that, by dawn, the amount of pollutants left over to make smog is about 5% higher than it otherwise would have been. Not huge, but still significant. Yet another reason, then, to switch that light off.

Black Carbon at the Top of the World (CO2 Science)

Kaspari, S.D., Schwikowski, M., Gysel, M., Flanner, M.G., Kang, S., Hou, S. and Mayewski, P.A. 2011. Recent increase in black carbon concentrations from a Mt. Everest ice core spanning 1860-2000 AD. Geophysical Research Letters 38: 10.1029/2010GL046096.

The authors write that "black carbon (BC, the absorbing component of soot) produced by the incomplete combustion of biomass, coal and diesel fuels can significantly contribute to climate change by altering the earth's radiative balance," noting that "BC is estimated to have 55% of the radiative forcing effect of CO2 (Ramanathan and Carmichael, 2008)," but that in spite of these facts, BC still remains "one of the largest sources of uncertainty in analyses of climate change."

What was done
In an effort to reduce some of this uncertainty, Kaspari et al. developed a high-resolution BC record spanning the period AD 1860-2000 from a Mt. Everest ice core extracted from the East Rongbuk glacier located on the mountain's northeast ridge on the north slope of the Himalaya, which record, in their words, "provides the first pre-industrial to present record of BC concentrations from the Himalayas."

What was learned
The seven scientists determined that "BC concentrations from 1975-2000 relative to 1860-1975 have increased approximately threefold, indicating that BC from anthropogenic sources is being transported to high elevation regions of the Himalaya." In addition, they report that "the increase in Everest BC during the 1970s is simultaneous with a rise in BC emissions as estimated from historical records of energy-related combustion in South Asia and the Middle East (Bond et al., 2007)."

What it means
Kaspari et al. say their findings suggest that "a reduction in BC emissions may be an effective means to reduce the effect of absorbing impurities on snow albedo and melt, which affects Himalayan glaciers and the availability of water resources in major Asian rivers." And since (1) Ramanathan and Carmichael (2008) note that the majority of BC emissions (60%) arise from "cooking with biofuels such as wood, dung and crop residue" and from "open biomass burning (associated with deforestation and crop residue burning)," and since (2) Venkataraman et al. (2005) note that control of BC emissions through cleaner cooking technologies alone could help in "reducing health risks to several hundred million users," it would seem more than obvious that reducing biofuel sources of BC emissions would be an extremely worthy goal.

Bond, T., Bhardwaj, E., Dong, R., Jogani, S., Jung, C., Roden, D., Streets, G. and Trautmann, N. 2007. Historical emissions of black and organic carbon aerosol from energy-related combustion, 1850-2000. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 21: 10.1029/2006GB002840.

Ramanathan, V. and Carmichael, G. 2008. Global and regional climate changes due to black carbon. Nature Geoscience 1: 221-227.

Venkataraman, C., Habib, G., Eiguren-Fernandez, A., Miguel, A.H. and Friedlander, S.K. 2005. Residential biofuels in South Asia: Carbonaceous aerosol emissions and climate impacts. Science 307: 1454-1456.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Cleaner Vehicle Standards Good for Health, Agriculture, Climate (NASA)

A new analysis, published this week and conducted by a team of scientists led by Drew Shindell of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City, shows stricter vehicle emission standards would yield major health, agricultural, and climate benefits.

Shindell and colleagues used a comprehensive computer model and climate simulator — one of the first capable of accounting for the role of short-lived particles expelled in vehicle fumes called aerosols — that shows vehicle fumes exact an enormous toll in all countries and especially in the developing world.

The scientists used modeling techniques developed at GISS to compare a baseline scenario that assumes existing emission standards remain unchanged in coming decades with a second scenario that has most countries adopting stringent standards similar to those in place in Europe and North America. Vehicles in those two regions produce less particulate matter and less polluting gases, such as nitrous oxides and carbon monoxide, due to the use of particle filters and cleaner-burning fuels.

The aggressive scenario assumes, for example, that China, India, and Brazil adopt "Euro 6" standards by 2015, a regime that would reduce emissions of particulate matter by about 85 percent, nitrogen oxides by about 65 percent, and carbon monoxide by about 70 percent for passenger vehicles. The aggressive scenario assumes major emissions reductions in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East, the regions with the laxest emissions standards. Emissions rules in North America are slightly more stringent than European standards already, so in North America the baseline and aggressive scenarios were identical.

The team's findings were published this week in the inaugural edition of Nature Climate Change.