Morally and legally, the UK government has failed us on air pollution

No less than 17 years have passed since new rules were approved in the UK to save thousands of lives by limiting deadly air pollution in our towns and cities.

Pollution is the “invisible killer” because, for the most part, it goes unseen. Its impact on human health and the planet is why those laws were necessary. Yet disgracefully – and illegally – we are still subjected to excruciatingly dirty air. Conditions are sometimes so poor that you notice it in your nostrils or lungs. Those days, when the air feels thick with fumes, you may be under the impression that it’s just one vehicle with a bad exhaust in front of you which is to blame. It’s generally not.

Pollution is right there with you when you’re puffing as you cycle through the park on a summer’s day, or when you’re chatting with friends on a visit to the shops on a Saturday morning, or when you’re taking your child to school.

Why are you and I are still inhaling unlawful levels of nitrogen dioxide nearly 20 years after it should have been cleaned up?

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Air pollution “causes 467,000 premature deaths a year in Europe”

Air pollution is causing around 467,000 premature deaths in Europe every year, the European Environment Agency (EEA) has warned.

People in urban areas are especially at risk, with around 85% exposed to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) at levels deemed harmful by the World Health Organization (WHO). These particles are too small to see or smell, but have a devastating impact.

According to the EEA’s Air quality in Europe – 2016 report, the toxic gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – released by vehicles and central heating boilers – has an impact equivalent to 71,000 premature deaths a year.

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Hydro power projects in Himalayan region face flood risk

Potential hydro power projects in the Himalayan region would need to factor in chances of increased floods from the formation of new lakes and the expansion of existing ones due to melting glaciers, says an analysis of Himalayan glaciers and their possible future impact on livelihoods in States adjoining the region. The results are part of a modelling study by Swiss researchers on the impact of climate change in the Himalayas.

According to the study, 441 hydro power projects spanning India, Nepal, Pakistan and China, that is, 66 per cent of the constructed and the potential projects, are on possible Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) tracks. This means they could be gorged with extra water from melting glaciers. Almost a third of these projects could experience GLOF discharges well above what these dams account for, says a study.

“If hydro power projects were to be situated close to these glaciers, they would have to account for higher water flows,” said Dr. Markus Stoffel from the University of Geneva, lead scientist with the study. “But that does not mean they cannot be built. It might need extra design or safety features.”

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Growth of city trees can cut air pollution, says report

Planting trees is a cost-effective way to tackle urban air pollution, which is a growing problem for many cities.

A study by US-based The Nature Conservancy (TNC) reported than the average reduction of particulate matter near a tree was between 7% and 24%. Particulate matter (PM) is microscopic particles that become trapped in the lungs of people breathing polluted air.

PM pollution could claim an estimated 6.2 million lives each year by 2050, the study suggests. Lead author Rob McDonald said that city trees were already providing a lot of benefits to people living in urban areas.

“The average reduction of particulate matter near a tree is between 7-24%, while the cooling effect is up to 2C (3.6F). There are already tens of millions of people getting those kinds of benefits,” he said.

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UK Research about Environment : Tree planting ‘can reduce flooding’

Planting trees around rivers could reduce the height of flooding in towns by up to 20%, new research suggests.

A study for the Environment Agency concludes that trees round a feeder stream can slow the rush of rainwater and save properties from flooding. But it warns that natural flood prevention methods do not always work. And it urges a strategic approach because foresting a whole catchment would be counter-productive.

The report – from the universities of Birmingham and Southampton – says that with increased building on flood plains and climate change increasing the risk of heavy rain, many places can’t be completely protected by walls of concrete.

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Five Things You Can Change To Help The Environment

Climate change and anthropological pressure on the environment is a global issue, one so large that an individual may question what their eco-friendly efforts are actually achieving. Recent political developments have exacerbated this air of futility as we find ourselves at a tipping point in regards to the environment and climate action. However these set-backs mean that unity is more important than ever, and doing our individual part to contribute to the whole is vital.

Here, the five things you can change to help the environment:

  1. Eat less meat
  2. Sustainably sourced food
  3. Be plastic aware
  4. Reuse & upcycle as much as possible
  5. Advocate environmental awareness

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UK has second-highest number of deaths from NO2 pollution in Europe

The UK is second highest in Europe for deaths from NO2 air pollution.

The European Environment Agency said the UK had 11,940 premature deaths in 2013 from nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a toxic gas mostly caused by diesel vehicles and linked to lung problems. The number is down from 14,100 in 2012, but still the second worst in Europe.

The agency also revealed that the UK is home to the worst NO2 hotspot in Europe. Marylebone Road in London recorded the highest annual mean levels of the pollutant, more than double than double the legal EU limit.

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An astounding 102 million trees are now dead in California

Forest managers have never seen anything like it. Across California, an astounding 102 million trees have died over the past six years from drought and disease — including 62 million trees in 2016 alone, the US Forest Service estimates. Once-mighty oaks and pines have faded into ghastly hues of brown and gray.

The biggest worry is that these dead, dry forests will become highly combustible when California’s annual fire season rolls around next summer. The south and central Sierra Nevada regions, where most of the dead trees are located, are at particular risk of severe wildfires.

So how did we get to this point? And what can be done? “When you’re talking about tree mortality, it’s a whole bunch of things linked together,” says David Rizzo, chair of the plant pathology department at the University of California Davis.

“The current drought is important, but you also have to look at land-use and management decisions that go back a long time.”

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Protected forests in Europe felled to meet EU renewable targets

Protected forests are being indiscriminately felled across Europe to meet the EU’s renewable energy targets, according to an investigation by the conservation group Birdlife. Up to 65% of Europe’s renewable output currently comes from bioenergy, involving fuels such as wood pellets and chips, rather than wind and solar power.

Bioenergy fuel is supposed to be harvested from residue such as forest waste but, under current legislation, European bioenergy plants do not have to produce evidence that their wood products have been sustainably sourced.

Birdlife found logging taking place in conservation zones such as Poloniny national park in eastern Slovakia and in Italian riverside forests around Emilia-Romagna, where it said it had been falsely presented as flood-risk mitigation.

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30 of the most beautiful places in the world

Across the roughly 60 million square miles of land covering this breathtaking planet, there are a lot of exceedingly beautiful places. From serene and stirring to surreal and sublime, trying to list them all would be an impossible task; and of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to give a shout-out to some of the places that showcase the amazing accomplishments that Mother Nature — sometimes with an assist from her inhabitants — has achieved.

Here are 30 of our favorites to get the conversation started.

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