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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)

Day 1030 of Theresa May’s premiership: No Brexit. But UK Air Quality Improves

by John Brian Shannon

Welcome to Day 1030 of Theresa May’s premiership, and still no Brexit in sight. Zzzzz…

There’s no Brexit news to report, but as this is a blog about Brexit I’m compelled to write something, anything, about Brexit.

So, here’s your weekly Brexit mashup:

“Prime Minister Theresa May could set a date for her resignation in the coming days, the chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee has said.

The PM said she will step down when her Brexit deal is ratified by Parliament — but some MPs want a fixed date.

Sir Graham Brady said he expects a “clear understanding” of that timetable once she has met the committee, which she will do on Wednesday.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster, he said the 1922 Committee had asked her to give “clarity” about her plans for the future, and she had “offered to come and meet with the executive”.

He continued: “It would be strange for that not to result in a clear understanding [of when she will leave] at the end of the meeting.”

The 1922 Committee is an elected body of Tory MPs that represents backbenchers and oversees the party’s leadership contests.”

Excerpted from: Theresa May could set exit date this week – Sir Graham Brady (BBC)


‘If you judge a fish by how well it can climb a tree…’

It seems that Theresa May has done a great job of being the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom but has been a disaster when it came to Brexit. Such a conundrum!

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” — Albert Einstein

The UK economy (in contrast to ‘Project Fear’ projections) is rocketing along. Government debt is falling and deficits are getting smaller, and relations with America went from “back of the line” to “let’s do a trade deal soon as you get Brexit sorted”.

Even relations with the EU seem to have broadened-out a bit as each side reflects on what they mean to each other and how they can keep what ‘works’ in the relationship while discarding what ‘doesn’t work’ for both sides in the post-Brexit era.


And there’s good news on the environmental front. Last week, the UK didn’t burn any coal

That’s right! The country that started the Industrial Revolution around the year 1760 burning millions of tons of coal in industrial-sized burners to produce electricity and heat to fuel a socio-economic miracle, burned none last week.

It looks like more such weeks will be reported in the coming months as the UK completes its phaseout of industrial scale coal-fired electricity generation by 2025. (Although many rural homes in the UK still burn relatively tiny amounts of coal, or wood, or a mixture of coal and wood)

Natural Gas has replaced coal in the UK, and that’s a good thing because the gas burns up to 1,000,000 times cleaner than brown coal (lignite) and up to 10,000 times cleaner than the cleanest grade of black coal (anthracite) and Natural Gas is about 1000 times cleaner than burning home-heating fuel (kerosene).

“Each stage in the life cycle of coal—extraction, transport, processing, and combustion—generates a waste stream and carries multiple hazards for health and the environment. These costs are external to the coal industry and are thus often considered “externalities.” We estimate that the life cycle effects of coal and the waste stream generated are costing the U.S. public a third to over one‐half of a trillion dollars annually. Many of these so‐called externalities are, moreover, cumulative. Accounting for the damages conservatively doubles to triples the price of electricity from coal per kWh generated, making wind, solar, and other forms of nonfossil fuel power generation, along with investments in efficiency and electricity conservation methods, economically competitive.” — Full Cost Accounting for the Lifecycle of Coal — Harvard Medicine (Report available for download at The New York Academy of Sciences)

So while burning Natural Gas produces plenty of CO2, it produces slightly less than half the CO2 that burning coal produces. And there’s no airborne heavy metals, no soot, no sulphur dioxide to breathe that’s so powerful it can destroy automotive paint finishes, no toxic fly ash long-term storage problem, no damage to aquatic life from water runoff near the massive coal piles. Nitrogen Oxide and other airborne oxides aren’t a factor with Natural Gas either.

If you’re a Briton pat yourself on the back, because the UK is a world leader in the switch to converting from coal to cleaner fuels, and additionally, adding wind and solar capacity to the grid!


Theresa May, Brexit, environment

Image courtesy of BBC


Growing the Economy, While Lowering Emissions!

“A new Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit report confirms that Britain has been the most successful G7 nation over the last 25 years on the combined metric of growing its economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In the 25-years since 1992 when clean air and the corresponding lowering of healthcare spending became an important policy for the United Kingdom, the country grew its per capita GDP by 130% while lowering GHG emissions 33% — proving that a country can simultaneously grow their economy AND lower greenhouse gas emissions.”UK Leads G7 in the Combined Metric of Economic Growth + Carbon Cuts (LetterToBritain.com)


Each type of power plant has vastly different water demands

UK, Brexit, Theresa May, environment, clean air, water usage by power plant type

Water usage by power plant type — per megawatt / per hour.

It’s too bad Theresa May didn’t wait until later in the game to become Prime Minister (allowing Brexit to be completed by others) because they would’ve delivered a worthy Brexit within months of the June 23, 2016 referendum, and then Theresa May could’ve ushered-in an era of economic growth + lower emissions and clean air and water in God’s Own Country.

READ: Theresa May’s Environment Speech, January 2018