Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Plastic Waste to Oil (Video)

Plastic trash is also polluting our oceans and washing up on beaches around the world. Tons of plastic from the US and Japan are floating in the Pacific Ocean, killing mammals and birds. Perhaps this tragedy is best captured in the TED presentation by Capt. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.

Here is a video from One World 2.0 Program at the United Nations University on conversion of plastic to oil. Link to the article.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

NASA Links Urban Population to Urban Air Pollution

News report From Science Daily, August 19th, 2013

Link to the journal article in Environmental Science and Technology

Live in a large city like New York, London, Beijing or Mumbai, and you are likely exposed to more air pollution than people in smaller cities in surrounding areas. But exactly how a city's pollution relates to the size of its population has never been measured, until now.

Using satellite observations, NASA scientists directly measured air pollution's dependence on population in four of the planet's major air pollution regions: the United States, Europe, China and India.

The study shows that the pollution-population relationship varies by region. For example, a city of 1 million people in Europe experiences six times higher nitrogen dioxide pollution than an equally populated city of 1 million people in India, according to the research led by Lok Lamsal, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The variation is a reflection of regional differences such as industrial development, per capita emissions and geography. The study was published June 13 in Environmental Science & Technology.

Previously, researchers have measured the relationship between population and several urban characteristics, such as infrastructure, employment and innovation. "We show that the relationship is also applicable to pollution," Lamsal said. "Measurement of that relationship is potentially useful for developing future inventories and formulating air pollution control policies."

The researchers focused on nitrogen dioxide, or NO2, a common pollutant from the burning of fossil fuels. The gas is a precursor to the formation of near-ground ozone, which can cause respiratory problems and is a problem in many major metropolitan areas. NO2 is also unhealthy to breathe in high concentrations. One feature of the gas, however, is that it's a good proxy for urban air quality.

Lok and colleagues studied data collected by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument on NASA's Aura satellite, which measures NO2 throughout the atmosphere in the afternoon around the world. Next they used an air quality computer model to derive from the satellite data the annual mean concentration of the gas near the ground in some of the Northern Hemisphere's major polluting regions, excluding hotspots such as power plants that could skew the urban relationship. By overlaying pollution concentration with population density data, the researchers could examine the relationship.

Results across the different regions showed divergent NO2 surface concentrations in urban areas of 1 million people: 0.98 parts per billion (U.S.), 1.33 ppb (Europe), 0.68 ppb (China) and 0.23 ppb (India). The same regions saw various degrees of pollution increases in cities with population of 10 million people: 2.55 ppb (U.S.), 3.86 ppb (Europe), 3.13 ppb (China) and 0.53 ppb (India).

The contribution to air pollution from surface-level NO2 in each region more than doubled when cities increased in population from 1 million to 10 million people, although in China the increase was much larger, by about a factor of five.

Even though larger cities are typically more energy efficient with lower per-capita emissions, more people still translates to more pollution. But the study reveals some noteworthy regional differences.
"Energy usage patterns and per capita emissions differ greatly between India and Europe," Lamsal said. "Despite large populations, Indian cities seem cleaner in terms of NO2 pollution than the study's other regions."

The researchers say that further investigation is needed in order to clarify the causes behind the regional differences.

SIM-air Model for Air Pollution Analysis in Three More Cities in India

From the UNEP-LCMP program news letter - August, 2013

In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO), presented air quality data for particulate pollution in 1100 cities, and listed 27 cities from India as amongst the top 100 cities with the worst air quality. For most cities in India (and in Asia), the transport sector is identified as one of the leading causes of premature mortality and increasing number of morbidity cases.

Among the transport indicators evaluated for the development of Low-carbon Comprehensive Mobility Plans (LCMPs), and following a stakeholder consultation process, it was determined that urban air quality should be included as one of the in the project. These indicators will be studied within the current year, based on the data collected from the surveys, and also used to account for future business as usual projections and low carbon scenarios (with projections up to 2050).

Passenger travel patterns; city infrastructure; and transport planning models were all important aspects of producing geo-referenced information on travel demand across the city. This is a rich information dataset, which can be very useful as input for transport emissions modeling and urban air quality analysis. The urban transport information database also included results and information on technology transitions related to vehicle efficiencies and the carbon intensity of electricity, adapted from scenario studies conducted at the national level.
The SIM-air family of tools was utilised within the project, resulting in estimates of key parameters, such as total emissions (other than the road transport emissions calculated under the LCMP project), and consequently allow for the simulation of the interactions between emissions, pollution dispersion, impacts, and management options in an environmental and economic context.

Participants from LCMP SIM-air tools training
The SIM-air family of tools are integrated, free, plug & play in nature; they also benefit from being modular, where the user can breakdown the tools to individual components (by sectors) to evaluate the emissions and the pollution control interventions.

These tools were previously applied for studying air quality management in various cities in Asia. Within the scope of the project, the SIM-air model will be used in three cities – Rajkot (State: Gujarat), Vishakhapatnam (State: Andhra Pradesh) and Udaipur (State: Rajasthan); and on its use was also provided to consultants from the three cities in March 2013, in New Delhi, India.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Urban Emissions Mentioned in Rajya Sabha - Health Hazards from Emission in Coal-Fired Power Plants

Link to the article at the Press Information Bureau of India

Government is aware of the report titled “ Coal kills- An assessment of death and disease caused by India’s dirtiest energy source” which was jointly published by Conservation Action Trust (a non-profit organization), Urban emission (air pollution research firm) and Greenpeace India in Dec 2012. The report shows that in 2011-2012, emission from Indian coal plants resulted in 80,000 to 1,15,000 premature deaths and more than 20 million asthma cases from exposure to air pollution. The study quantified additional health impacts such as large number of cases of heart attacks, emergency room visits, hospital admission and lost workdays caused by coal based emissions. The study estimates that monetary cost associated with these health impacts exceeds Rs. 16,000 to 23,000 crores per year.

Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has informed that Ministry of Power has constituted a Standing Committee on occupational health and safety of workers of thermal power plants. The committee has members from various stake holders. On the recommendations of the standing committee a task force was constituted which has submitted its report on 06/08/2013

Considering the impact of the emissions on the environment including human health, the central Pollution Control Board under Ministry of Environment and Forest has informed that following steps have been taken to prevent/minimize emissions from thermal power plants:

1. Developed emission and effluent standards for control of air & water pollution

2. To minimize dust generation, power plant has been directed to use beneficiated coal not having ash content more than 34% (low ash coal).

3. In order to mitigate problems related to flyash disposal such as land degradation, fugitive dust emission from ash ponds, flyash utilization has been made mandatory since September 14, 1999.

4. Emphasis is giving to cleaner coal technology (like supercritical, Circulating fluidized Bed Combustion) while granting environmental clearance to new coal based thermal power plants.

5. Asking thermal power plants to install pollution control systems for control of SO2 emission on case to case basis wherever need is felt based on ambient air quality and sensitivity of area.

6. National Ambient Air Quality standards have been notified which are to be met by applying suitable control measures by the all air polluting industries including thermal power plants.

This information was given by Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad, in written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha today


More on the study  @

Friday, August 16, 2013

Debunking India's Transport Diesel Consumption Mystery

India’s love for diesel in the transport sector is over! 
At least, this is what Indian government data on diesel consumption would suggest. Official statistics report low consumption and stagnating growth of diesel fuel in transport. However, this data contrasts starkly with experts’ findings that both diesel consumption and CO2 emissions from transport are on the rise. The reality is that the Indian transport sector’s thirst for diesel is actually increasing at an alarming pace.  
Official Statistics from Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas
India's transport sector is powered by diesel and it accounts for 60-70% of transport fuel consumption. The 2011 Energy statistics from Indian government reported transport sector diesel consumption around 33 million tons.  The main point of interest is  year 1995-1996 where we see a drop of 28%. It took nearly 13 years to recover this drop as the diesel consumption growth increased marginally. The IEA in its 2004 energy outlook projections reflected this impact and scaled down the earlier projections of oil consumption (WEO 2000) i.e. 2020 projections were reduced by half. The impact of this is also reflected in India's national communication estimates. The most recent official estimate of transport CO2 emissions is the 2007 greenhouse gas inventory. It has been estimated that the road transport sector emitted, 121.21 million tons of CO2 in 2007. The same central agency in 2000 had quantified CO2 emissions from road transport sector is 105 million tons with 48 million vehicles . 

Researchers who have analyzed this drop have come to varied conclusions. Timilsina reported that the change in diesel consumption maybe a statistical adjustment in the reporting of diesel consumption and further suggests that  "It is thus likely that both CO2  emission growth and transportation energy intensity for India ought to be revised downwards from 1980 to 1995 to reflect this adjustment". While, Zhou et al. built several scenarios to discover the drop in emission growth. Among the scenarios, more interesting were possible 18% increase in fuel consumption due to fuel adulteration and backcalculation of truck activity to reflect such drop in consumption i.e. annual truck activity of 12000 to 36000km/year. The main conclusion was that such drop is unrealistic
The cause for worry is further intensified with the release of latest statistics from energy agencies. Recent statistic reports (statistics - 2012 and 2013 ) has completely revised the diesel consumption values and suggested a major reallocation of transport diesel consumption values to more mysterious "miscellaneous services". The drop is 5 to 6 times. The 2011 diesel consumption value has been readjusted around 5 million tons from earlier 33 million tons. The miscellaneous category shows an increase of 10 times but no definition exists on what actually this means. To draw parallel, in terms of CO2 emissions from diesel consumption,  it is a drop from around 100 million tons to around 15 million tons. Since, Indian transport industry is mainly powered by diesel, this would mean drastic reduction in India's transport carbon emissions (around 85 million tons). This decrease is equivalent to annual transport carbon emission of Indonesia which has a vehicle fleet of more than 50 million vehicles. This proves that numbers shown by the government does not tell the whole story. This so-called reduction is not a cause for cheer but for worry.
Rapid dieselization of fleet
Bottom up data reveal a completely different story. Over the same period, number of diesel vehicles increased two to three fold in terms of vehicle registrations. Analysis of data from Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers  reveal an annual growth of 14% in sales of trucks and buses from 1990 to 2011. 
The freight activity (tonkm) increased by more than 2 times. This means that growing numbers of trucks are traversing length and breadth of the country transporting goods. Over the same time period, economy data reveals growing income and no sustained impact of recession. GDP per Capita increased by more than 5% annually.  
Big gap in gasoline and diesel prices ( diesel per liter costs 20 rupees less) have made use of diesel in passenger car segment attractive. CSE suggests that In 2011-12, diesel cars accounted for over 40 per cent of the total car sales in the country. Industry experts believe that by 2015, diesel cars sales would be around 43%.
Crunching Numbers
Analysis of this transport growth by Lee Schipper's  ASIF framework by different researchers and institutions show enormous discrepancy in government statistics. While researchers do not agree with each other on what exactly is the actual diesel consumption value, what is significant to note (figure) is that even under the worst possible  scenario, India transport sector's thirst for diesel is not slowing down but increasing at a very rapid pace. There is a significant gap in-between what government statistics suggest and what researchers and experts predict.  The difference can be as high as five to eight times the official reported values.

Not knowing the magnitude of actual consumption or wrongly assuming low consumption would make it much more difficult for policy makers to find solutions to decrease dependency on fossil fuel. There is a significant gap in-between what government statistics suggest and what researchers and experts predict.  Not knowing the magnitude of actual consumption would make it much more difficult for policy makers to find solutions to decrease dependency on fossil fuel. 
A shorter form of this blogpost is published originally  in (

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

More than 80,000 Premature Deaths a Year - by Air Pollution from the Coal-fired Thermal Power Plants in India

The emissions from the coal fired power plants in India were analyzed using the CAMx dispersion model over the Sub-continent to estimate the health impacts of the particulate pollution. We estimate up to up to 80,000 premature deaths attributable to these emissions in 2010 and more in the coming years if the regulations are not tightened. More on the Study

An summary article in the NY Times.

A discussion on the study results in the Rajya Sabha (Indian Parliament).

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Bees are Disappearing at an Alarming Rate (Phd Comics - Video)

From Phd Comics. Honey Bee Colonies in the U.S. are disappearing at an alarming rate. 1/3 of the food you eat benefits from bee pollination. What if they go extinct?? Alex and Crystal get a close-up lesson in bee-keeping from Dwight Wells.


Sunday, August 04, 2013

China's Hazardous, Record-High Air Pollution Levels (The Daily Show)

From January, 2013
Things May Be Bad, But at Least We Can't Chew Our Air

Ozone Hole and Montreal Protocol (Fox News)

Real Time Air Quality and Air Quality Index for Delhi, India

posted by for the six stations operated by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee. There are more stations in Delhi, which are operated by the Central Pollution Control Board and Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, but access to the data is limited. You can access the DPCC station data @

Click on the Delhi map to read the current level of pollution and calculated health index. The health index is calculated by staff @ and not an official release of authorities responsible for monitoring in Delhi.

Click on the stations below for direct links

Previous Post - 17/August/2010

Based on the examples across the globe, a new methodology is developed to estimate the air quality index for Delhi, India. New paper in the SIM-series, No.35 - "Air Quality Index for Delhi, India: Trend Analysis & Implications for 2010 Commonwealth Games" presents the methodology adjusted to reflect the new ambient air quality standards issued in November, 2009 by the Central Pollution Control Board of India.

Data from two monitoring stations is analyzed in this paper - (1) a traffic junction @ ITO and (2) Delhi College of Engineering. At the monitoring sites, AQI is often more than the healthy levels of 150 (on a scale of 0 to 500). The ITO is a traffic junction and accounted for only 19% of the days less then 100 AQI and 33% of the days less than 150. The DCE in the north and tends to measure lower than the city averages and yet struggled to stay in the green with only 24% of the days less than 150 AQI.

In Figures below, the winter months are highlighted with a blue box for each year. The winter months experience the worst pollution in each year starting in October and leading up to the February, the following year. For more details, download the full report.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Air Pollution News & Alerts - August 2nd, 2013

Wall Street Journal, August 2nd, 2013
Hong Kong Taxis Drive Air Pollution.

Wall Street Journal, August 2nd, 2013
China Pollution Report.

Science Daily, August 2nd, 2013
Pollutants from Incense Smoke Cause Human Lung-Cell Inflammation.

Science Daily, August 2nd, 2013
Kick-Starting Europe's Electric Vehicle Industry.

The Guardian, August 2nd, 2013
This gamble on carbon and the climate could trigger a new financial crisis.

The Guardian, August 2nd, 2013
How climate change can make us hot under the collar.

The Guardian, August 2nd, 2013
US companies don't want to talk about preventing climate change disasters.

Phys.Org, August 2nd, 2013
Pollution blamed for drop in Beijing tourism.

The Guardian, August 2nd, 2013
Climate change linked to violent behaviour.

The Guardian, August 2nd, 2013
End this love for dirty fuels.

The Guardian, August 1st, 2013
Third way: 'partnership scientists' can tackle environmental challenges.

Science Daily, August 1st, 2013
Climate Change Occurring Ten Times Faster Than at Any Time in Past 65 Million Years.

Science Daily, August 1st, 2013
Extreme Wildfires in Western U.S. Likely Fueled by Climate Change.

World Bank, July, 2013
Indonesia - Toward universal access to clean cooking.

Scientific American, July 31st, 2013
Funding Curbs Won't Slow Coal Comeback.

Science Daily, July 31st, 2013
Citizen Scientists Rival Experts in Analyzing Land-Cover Data.

Science Daily, July 31st, 2013
Airborne Campaign Preparing to Probe Pollution-Climate Link.

Science Daily, July 31st, 2013
Catching Aerosols in a CATS Eye.

The Guardian, July 31st, 2013
Climate scientists must not advocate particular policies.

Scientific American, July 31st, 2013
Fact or Fiction?: We Can Push the Planet into a Runaway Greenhouse Apocalypse.

Xinhua Net, July 31st, 2013
Smoggy Beijing to lay more greenways.

China Daily, July 31st, 2013
Green project to help reduce Beijing pollution.

Economic Times, July 31st, 2013
Air pollution in major Chinese cities worsening.

Canada Free Press, July 31st, 2013
World Bank Encourages Energy Poverty in the Name of Sustainability.

Nature World News, July 31st, 2013
China Air Pollution About Three Times Higher than Safe Particulate Level.

The City Fix, July 31st, 2013
Environmentally friendly traffic jams?

Science Daily, July 30th, 2013
North Pole Not Flooded -- But Lots of Melting in the Arctic.

The City Fix, July 30th, 2013
China Transportation Briefing: The boom and ban of taxi apps.

The Guardian, July 30th, 2013
EPA chief: preventing climate change the opportunity of a lifetime.

Huffington Post, July 29th, 2013
Our Shared Stake in Clean Air, Livable Climate.

Forbes, July 29th, 2013
China: Getting Serious About Air Pollution?

Asian Scientist, July 29th, 2013
U.S. Doctors Fight Air Pollution In Mongolia’s Capital.

Scientific American, July 29th, 2013
Fracking Could Help Geothermal Become a Power Player.

Hindustan Times, July 27th, 2013
Emissions improve, but air can still kill.

Dhaka Tribune, July 27th, 2013
Traffic fumes and air pollution double the risk of autism.

Daily Star, July 26th, 2013
New project to track air pollution nationwide in Bangladesh.

China Daily, July 25th, 2013
Tougher plan to reduce air pollution.

Responding to Climate Change, July 25th, 2013
China to invest $277 billion to curb air pollution.

The City Fix, July 25th, 2013
China’s Urban Billion: Why does it matter?

Reuters, July 24th, 2013
China to invest $277 billion to curb air pollution.

Live Mint, July 24th, 2013
India’s mega cities need creative destruction.

This is Bristol, July 24th, 2013
People must get out of their cars.

Huffinton Post, July 24th, 2013
China Air Pollution: Government Announces Plan To Combat Smog And Haze.

Green Car, July 24th, 2013
Ford becomes first carmaker to report on emissions in India.

IOL News, July 24th, 2013
Kuala Lumpur chokes on polluted air.

Vietnam News, June 23rd, 2013
Brick kilns continue to pollute Ha Noi.

Shanghai Daily, July 23rd, 2013
Tough air pollution controls by end of July.

Huffington Post, July 22nd, 2013
Is China's Pollution Testing the People's Patience?

One India, June 20th, 2013
Climate change to severely impact India: World Bank.

GIZ Sustainable Transport, July 20th, 2013
Data Availability for Measuring and Reporting Transport related Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Chinese Cities., July 20th, 2013
Beijing to double bicycles for rent.

The Telegraph, July 19th, 2013
Why is killer diesel still poisoning our air?
 Down To Earth, July 19th, 2013
Health cost of air pollution in India assessed at 3 per cent of its GDP.

The Hindu, July 18th, 2013
Turning garbage into gas.

Bloomberg, July 18th, 2013
Beijing Tells Residents to Reduce Time Outdoors on Air Pollution.

Boston.Com, July 18th, 2013
EU official: China can curb pollution, still grow.

Huffington Post, July 18th, 2013
President Obama's Climate Action Plan and Domestic Coal.

The Hindu, July 18th, 2013
Shale gas policy -- a game changer or spoiler?

RTCC, July 17th, 2013
London facing ‘one of worst smogs’ in recent memory.

Wall Street Journal, July 17th, 2013
Experts (Mostly) Back New Study on China’s Killer Coal.

World Bank, July 17th, 2013
India: Green Growth - overcoming India's environment challenges to promote development.

Live Mint, July 17th, 2013
Price tag of Rs 3.75 trillion on India’s environmental damage.

Bangkok Post, July 17th, 2013
Expect city smog to worsen in Bangkok.

Peoples Daily Online, July 16th, 2013
Lifestyle changes may hike child asthma cases.

CNN, July 16th, 2013
Air pollution killing over two million annually.

Gulf Today, July 15th, 2013
Breathing danger.

The Transport Politic, July 15th, 2013
Defining Clear Standards for Transit-Oriented Development.

South China Morning Post, July 14th, 2013
Expat does healthy trade in face masks in Beijing.

Deccan Herald, July 14th, 2013
Power sector's crucial role in climate change.

Mail Online India, July 13th, 2013
Pollution in Delhi is at its most lethal level ever as study points to alarming levels of aerosol and metals in the air.

Times of India, July 12th, 2013
National Green Tribunal orders phasing out old generators.

Washington Post, July 12th, 2013
More Chinese cities may limit private auto purchases to fight air pollution, road congestion.

Montana Public Radio, July 12th, 2013
Climate and Carbon.

EurActiv, July 11th, 2013
IEA: Transport efficiency gains could save $70 trillion by 2050.

NRDC Switchboard, July 11th, 2013
Just Announced: U.S. Department of State Selects NRDC and Beijing as 2013 EcoPartnership Winners.

Renewable Energy World, July 10th, 2013
Are Beer and Cigarettes the New Bioenergy?

Bloomberg, July 10th, 2013
China Seen Widening Car-Purchase Limits to Fight Pollution.

The Guardian, July 10th, 2013
Air pollution linked to higher risk of lung cancer and heart failure.

Business Green, July 10th, 2013
IEA: Green light needed for urban transport overhaul.

Reuters, July 9th, 2013
Air pollution set to influence Asian monsoon.

Global Post, July 9th, 2013
Air pollution linked to both lung cancer and heart failure.

Daily Bhaskar, June 9th, 2013
Be ready to pay more for parking your vehicle; govt mulling hike in charges to control pollution.

CNN Money, June 9th, 2013
Air pollution cuts life expectancy by 5.5 years in China.

USA Today, June 9th, 2013
In China, air pollution report brings despair, humor.

Wall Street Journal, July 9th, 2013
Air Pollution From Coal Use Cuts Lifespans in China.

New York Times, July 9th, 2013
Pollution Leads to Drop in Life Span in Northern China, Research Finds.

Washington Post, Junly 8th, 2013
Coal pollution in China is cutting life expectancy by 5.5 years.

Financial Times, July 8th, 2013
China smog cuts 5.5 years from average life expectancy.

Huffington Post, July 7th, 2013
Power Plants Kill Fish! OK, What Can We Do?

Digital Journal, July 5th, 2013
Chile: Severe air pollution affecting seven major cities.

Air Quality News, July 5th, 2013
Europe should review air pollution laws.

Los Angeles Times, July 1st, 2013
Obama must walk a climate tightrope.

The Economist, March 30th, 2013
Climate Science.

National Geography, July 8th, 2013
Coal-Burning Shortens Lives in China.