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How Westminster Politicians Could Help the UK Environment, post-Brexit

by John Brian Shannon

Bet You Didn’t Know that Half the World’s Oxygen is Produced by Microscopic Phytoplankton that Live in the Top 6-feet of the World’s Oceans…

It’s true. A simple Google search provides hundreds of reputable sources to prove that assertion.

Anyway, the phytoplankton eat tonnes of CO2 every day and release tonnes of oxygen into the atmosphere 24/7/365. More oxygen is produced during warm and sunny days when the plankton can better utilize the heat and light from the Sun to turn CO2 into life-giving oxygen.

But what’s that got to do with the UK environment you ask?

Not much really — other than half of the oxygen in the air you breathe is produced by trillions of tiny organisms living in the sea, and without them, life as we know it on planet Earth couldn’t exist.

We need oxygen; The plankton need CO2. See how it’s all woven together?

And somehow, even with humans definitely NOT HELPING the phytoplankton and the zooplankton by dumping billions of tonnes of liquid and solid pollution into the seas in recent decades, an almost perfect balance has continued on the planet for billions of years — although the total number of square miles of plankton in the world’s oceans has decreased correspondingly over the past century.

So, we might not be able to do much about the number of microscopic organisms in the world’s oceans that eat CO2 and thereby produce 50% of the world’s oxygen, but we can do something about the non-plankton oxygen producers (trees and grasses) in the UK.


Where Does the Other Half of the World’s Oxygen Come From?

The other half of the Earth’s oxygen is produced by trees and grasses, along with relatively small amounts of oxygen released during volcanic eruptions.

Think about it. If all the plankton in the world’s oceans were to suddenly die from excessive pollution — all the land-based oxygen producing plant life in the world plus all oxygen releasing volcanoes in the world — wouldn’t be enough to sustain life on Earth for very long.

A sobering thought.

However, that shouldn’t stop UK politicians from creating the necessary legislation to require planting 100-million trees per year in the UK to help cleanse CO2 from the air, nor should it stop them from creating legislation that requires ships heavier than 20-tonnes to run on battery or hydrogen power whenever they’re operating within the UK’s 12-mile maritime zone.

Indeed, some jurisdictions already have such legislation, while some require ships to shut off their engines and hook-up to (much cleaner) shore power while tied-up at dock.

It’s not that hard to write and pass sensible environmental legislation, and the proof is that some jurisdictions already have such legislation.


Planting 1-Billion Trees over 10-Years & Legislating Clean Propulsion Use Within UK Maritime Areas & Mandatory ‘Shore Power’ for Ships in Port is the Morally Right Thing to Do

Yes, it sounds a bit hard. But if the UK doesn’t do it, human health and the environment will suffer as compared to not doing those things.

Would it solve 100% of the UK’s air quality problems? Not even close.

But it would make a measurable difference in UK air quality and work to lower the personal cost of respiratory illness, reduce the cost of lost productivity to businesses due to employee respiratory illness, and allow lower NHS respiratory illness spending — especially in regions near the country’s ports. If done aggressively, it could even help the economy.

And even if, in the worst-case scenario, that 10-years-on under such a clean air act — that UK air quality improved by (only) 30% and respiratory-illness-related productivity losses fell by (only) 30% and NHS respiratory healthcare budgets fell by (only) 30%, we’re still talking major savings and a success story that any government would be pleased to brag about in future elections and at each significant milestone along the way.

Creating the necessary legislation to plant 1-billion trees over 10-years, to require all ships to use a method of clean propulsion while in UK waters, and to require ships to plug-in to (cleaner) shore power while in port, are the low-hanging fruit on the way to meeting the UK’s clean air targets, to helping citizens live healthier lives, and to lower NHS spending on respiratory illness.

It’s a complete no-brainer that UK politicians should pass such legislation in early 2020.


Related Articles:

  • UK needs to plant 1.5 billion trees to tackle climate change (The Independent)
  • Tree-planting in England falls 71% short of government target (The Guardian)
  • General election 2019: How many trees can you plant? (BBC)
  • UK Tree planting: Your questions answered (BBC)
  • Shore Power a Modest Step Toward Cleaner Air (BCSEA)
  • Shore power lacks global investment, tax exemptions (JOC)
  • Air pollution ‘kills 40,000 a year’ in the UK, says report (NHS)
  • NHS announces air pollution ’emergency’ as study shows our dirty air is killing us (The Telegraph)