Category Archives: Environment

September 2019, largest Climate Strike in history

Millennials Global Climate Strikes
Global Climate Strikes, Photograph: Satyabrata Tripathy/ Getty Images

Young activists are calling for north-south solidarity and a global climate strike to help tackle climate emergency that will exacerbate inequality and conflict.

The September 2019 climate strikes are a series of international protests to demand climate action prior to UN Climate Action Summit. The “Global Climate Strikes” inspired by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, was likely the largest one in history, where organizers reported over 4 million protesters, taking place across 4500 locations in over 150 countries.

These series of protest are inspiring. They are the clear premises of a consciousness change, led by millennials, which will drive our decarbonization for generations to come.

Climate Change is a ‘Medical Emergency’ experts warn

NASA, NOAA Analyses Reveal Record-Shattering Global Warm Temperatures in 2015

NASA, NOAA Analyses Reveal Record-Shattering Global Warm Temperatures in 2015. 2015 was the warmest year since modern record-keeping began in 1880, according to a new analysis by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The record-breaking year continues a long-term warming trend — 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have now occurred since 2001

According to the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, the threat to human health from climate change is so great that it could undermine the last 50 years of gains in development and global health.

Extreme weather events such as floods and heat waves bring rising risks of infectious diseases, poor nutrition and stress, the specialists said, while polluted cities where people work long hours and have no time or space to walk, cycle or relax are bad for the heart as well as respiratory and mental health.

Almost 200 countries have set a 2 degrees C global average temperature rise above pre-industrial times as a ceiling to limit climate change, but scientists say the current trajectory could lead to around a 4 degrees C rise in average temperatures, risking droughts, floods, storms and rising sea levels.

“That has very serious and potentially catastrophic effects for human health and human survival,” said Anthony Costello, director of University College London’s (UCL) Institute for Global Health, who co-led the report. “We see climate change as a major health issue, and that’s often neglected in policy debates,” he told reporters at a briefing in London. The report, commissioned and published by The Lancet medical journal, was compiled by a panel of specialists including European and Chinese climate scientists and geographers, social, environmental and energy scientists, biodiversity experts and health professionals.

It said that because responses to mitigate climate change have direct and indirect health benefits – from reducing air pollution to improving diet – a concerted effort would also provide a great opportunity to improve global health.

The report said direct health impacts of climate change come from more frequent and intense extreme weather events, while indirect impacts come from changes in infectious disease patterns, air pollution, food insecurity and malnutrition, displacement and conflicts.

“Climate Change is a medical emergency,” said Hugh Montgomery, director of UCL’s institute for human health and performance and a co-author on the report. “It demands an emergency response using technologies available right now.”

The panel said there were already numerous ways to bring about immediate health gains with action on climate change.

Burning fewer fossil fuels reduces respiratory diseases, for example, and getting people walking and cycling more cuts pollution, road accidents and rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. 

Cardiovascular disease is the world’s number one killer, leading to some 17 million deaths a year, according to World Health Organization data.

“There’s a big (energy) saving in people using calories to get around, and there are some immediate gains from more active lifestyles,” Montgomery said.

The commission also recommended the creation of a new global independent body with the task of monitoring climate change and global health. This coalition would report every two years on the health effects of climate change, track the progress of policies designed to mitigate climate change and make new suggestions on how to further adapt to climate change and implement low-carbon, sustainable health systems.

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, June 22, 2015

WHO Shock figures to reveal deadly toll of global air pollution

smog central london

Smog in central London in 2011. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

The World Health Organisation has issued a stark new warning about deadly levels of pollution in many of the world’s biggest cities, claiming poor air quality is killing millions and threatening to overwhelm health services across the globe.

Before the release next month of figures that will show air pollution has worsened since 2014 in hundreds of already blighted urban areas, the WHO says there is now a global “public health emergency” that will have untold financial implications for governments.

The latest data, taken from 2,000 cities, will show further deterioration in many places as populations have grown, leaving large areas under clouds of smog created by a mix of transport fumes, construction dust, toxic gases from power generation and wood burning in homes.

“We have a public health emergency in many countries from pollution. It’s dramatic, one of the biggest problems we are facing globally, with horrible future costs to society,” said Maria Neira, head of public health at the WHO, which is a specialist agency of the United Nations. “Air pollution leads to chronic diseases which require hospital space. Before, we knew that pollution was responsible for diseases like pneumonia and asthma. Now we know that it leads to bloodstream, heart and cardiovascular diseases, too – even dementia. We are storing up problems. These are chronic diseases that require hospital beds. The cost will be enormous,” said Neira.

The latest scientific research, published in the journal Nature, suggests that air pollution now kills more people a year than malaria and HIV combined, and in many countries accounts for roughly 10 times more deaths than road accidents.

According to the WHO, air quality is deteriorating around the world to the point where only one in eight people live in cities that meet recommended air pollution levels.

Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd

Half of Americans live with unhealthy air

147.6 million Americans (47%) live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution, according to an American Lung Association (ALA) report released in April 2014.

The two air pollutants cited in the report were ozone and particle pollution. Particle pollution is believed to be more harmful than ozone because its microscopic particles can pass through the body’s defense systems, and even get into the bloodstream, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The report found the impact of climate change is threatening to undo advances in cutting down harmful emissions. The report warns that much needs to be done to improve air quality.  Most scientists agree that a 2-degree Celsius global temperature rise above preindustrial temperatures would be safe for humanity. A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said keeping the temperature rise to 2 degrees would require lowering greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 70 percent compared with 2010 numbers by midcentury. At current emissions levels, the world will be almost 5 degrees hotter by the end of the century

“We are happy to report continued reduction of year-round particle pollution across the nation, thanks to cleaner diesel fleets and cleaner power plants,” said Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association.  “However, this improvement represents only a partial victory. We know that warmer temperatures increase risk for ozone pollution, so climate change sets the stage for tougher challenges to protect human health. We must meet these challenges head on to protect the health of millions of Americans living with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. All of us –everyone in every family—have the right to healthy air.”

Nelson Mandela legacy to the Environment

Nelson Mandela

‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’
Nelson Mandela

The South African Visionary Leader and Nobel Prize winner, left with a life fulfilled with outstanding contributions to humanity and inspirations for the environment.

Mandela brought the spirit of Ubuntu to every corner of the world. This profound African principle states that “we are human only through the humanity of other human beings”, emphasizing the interdependence of all human-kind.

Environment degradation and Climate Change are clear illustrations of it, which will benefit from his work. Mandela’s brought together in that philosophy a group of renowned statesmen, human rights advocates and others to form an organization known as “The Elders”, which are today actively working on tackling global crisis such as environmental degradation and Climate Justice.

By leading by example and with such achievements, Nelson Mandela will inspire generations to come to follow his path and build a better future.

Is Sandy related to Climate Change ?


Credits: Hurricane Sandy tracking courtesy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and NOAA.

Munich Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurance firms, recently issued the 2012 Severe Weather in North America study aimed at insurance companies.

According to Munich Re, nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America. For the period concerned – 1980 to 2011 – the overall loss burden from weather catastrophes was US$ 1,060bn (in 2011 values).

While several factors contributed to the trend, the report claims “Climate change particularly affects formation of heat-waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity.”

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been warning of an increase in heat waves, torrential rains and floods. In most cases, it has not been proven that climate change has made the weather more extreme.  As with any particular “weather-related loss event,” it’s difficult to associate Sandy to Climate Change. However, the storm may fit the general extreme weather pattern in North America and around the world, which is increasingly perceived as associated with Climate Change.

NASA scientists from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies also recently published a study (Perception of climate change, 2012) on the apparent increase in extreme heat waves. Extreme summertime heat, which a few decades ago affected below 1% of the earth’s surface, now typically covers about 10% of the land area. Scientists state, with a high degree of confidence, that extreme anomalies such as heat waves were a consequence of global warming since their likelihood in the absence of global warming was exceedingly small.

Credits: Pollution over Beijing image courtesy the NASA MODIS Rapid Response Team.

Particle pollution or particulate matter (PM) are mixtures of solid particles or liquid droplets in the air. Some, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. These tiny particles come in many sizes and shapes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals. In general, they consist of a mixture of larger materials, “coarse particles”, with diameters between 2.5μm and 40 μm and smaller particles, “fine particles.” with diameters below 2.5 μm.

They come from natural sources e.g. dust or sea salt from wind erosion or wave breaking, human-made processes mainly in urban or industrial areas (agriculture, construction, industrial and energy processes, motor vehicles) and chemical reactions in the atmosphere. Particle pollution and their chemical composition vary by time of year, location and are affected by the weather (temperature, humidity, and wind).

They are an environmental concern as they lower visibility, contribute to acid rain, and adversely affect human health. Largest particles do not get very far into the lungs and tend to cause fewer harmful effects. Coarse and fine particles however pose the greatest problems by getting deep into the lungs, and some may even get into the bloodstream. Long-term exposures of people living for many years in areas with high PM levels are associated with decreased lung function, chronic bronchitis development and premature death. Short-term exposures of hours or days are associated with decreased lung function, increased respiratory symptoms, cardiac arrhythmias, heart attacks, hospital admissions, emergency room visits and premature death. Sensitive groups at greatest risk include people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children.

Fortunately, many countries have instituted control programs to reduce particulate levels and strategies in place to combat smog, acidic deposition, and smoke releases are also effective in reducing particle levels and thus the risks of health effects.

Tanguy Griffon

Antioxidants may reduce harm from air pollution

Orange vitamin CA study of adults with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) found that individuals with lower levels of some antioxidants in their blood were more vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution.  Particulate matter (PM) – the main pollutant measured in this study – is produced by traffic and combustion of fossil fuels. PM less than 10 micrometers in diameter, or PM10, is known to exacerbate respiratory illness and increase the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular disease. One way air pollutants can harm health is through oxidative stress. Harmful oxidant molecules can form when air pollutants are absorbed through the lungs. These oxidants also called free radicals damage cells. The body constantly tries to counteract oxidant molecules with protective ones (antioxidant). If not enough anti-oxidant molecules are available to cancel them out, oxidative stress  may occur.

In this study, researchers wanted to see if individual levels of antioxidants and related genetic markers would protect against harm from oxidative stress imposed by particulate air pollution. Results showed participants with low levels of vitamin C in their blood were more vulnerable to PM10. The study is important as it indicates that a healthy diet including fruits and vegetables may protect against the common health threat of air pollution.

Canova C et al. 2012. PM10-induced hospital admissions for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: The modifying effect of individual characteristics.

Health and economic benefits of green urbanism


Credits: California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco

A Natural England study on green urbanism found that people with good access to green spaces such as parks, gardens and trees at the heart of neighborhoods are 24% more likely to be physically active and hence, healthier, both physically and mentally, even after accounting for the tendency of wealthier people to live in more attractive areas. A swedish study suggests that use of green space reduced self-reported stress in the long term.

Another health benefit of green urbanism is the key improvement in air quality. It is estimated that poor air quality leads to an average life expectancy reduction of 7 – 8 months in the UK. Urban trees and green space help to absorb some of the air pollution particles.  Cities can also use green infrastructure to prepare for the challenge of climate change.  Concrete and other hard surfaces retain heat much more than trees, plants and grass, which substantially increases heat-wave health risks for urban populations. The biosphere also plays a positive role in the absorption of greenhouse gases.

Green infrastructure has also proved attractive to city planners by helping to save money at a city scale. In New York money was invested in protecting the main water catchment area instead of building a traditional filtration plant.  Although this cost the city $1.5 billion over ten years, it avoided capital costs of $6 billion for a new filtration plant and annual running costs of $300 million. Evidence contained in the studies suggests that a range of economic benefits can be gained by planning for the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and wildlife in our urban communities.

Art sculpture and nature’s fragility

Climate Change ice sculpture

Credits: Nicole Dextras

Environmental artist Nicole Dextras builds giant words made of ice in vulnerable and cold landscapes. She constructs wooden letter frames that she fills with water and leaves outside to freeze. Eventually they melt – which she says “subverts the power of the English language and commercial signage by depicting how vulnerable they are”.