Carbon dioxide

Global warming is a major contributor to carbon dioxide (CO2). Once the gas has been released, it remains there for a while making it harder to heat escape. It also warms up the planet. 

Primarily, it is released by burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas as well as from cement production. 

At 413 parts in million, the Earth’s average CO2 monthly concentration was as of April 2019. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, it was only 281 ppm. 

Over the past 800,000 years, CO2 concentrations have fluctuated from 180 to 280ppm. However, this has been dramatically accelerated due to pollution by humans. 

Nitrogen dioxide 

You can get nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from fossil fuels burning, exhaust emissions of cars and fertilizers containing nitrogen that are used for agriculture.

Although NO2 is much less in the atmosphere then CO2, it traps heat 200 to 300 times better than CO2.

Sulfur dioxide 

While sulfur dioxide (SO2) is also mostly produced from fossil fuels, it can also be released through car exhausts.

To produce acid rain, SO2 may react with water, oxygen or other chemicals in the air. 

Carbon monoxide 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an indirect greenhouse gas as it reacts with hydroxyl radicals, removing them. The lifetime of carbon dioxide, as well as other greenhouse gases, is reduced by hydroxyl radicals. 


What does particulate matter mean?

Particulate matter is a small amount of liquid or solid materials suspended in the atmosphere. 

Some can be easily seen, like dust, while others are invisible. 

Particulate matter can contain materials such as soil, metals and microplastics.

The measurement of particulate matter or PM is in micrometers. PM10, which is less than 10 micrometres in diameter, and PM2.5 that are less than 2.5 micrometers each are the main types mentioned in studies and reports.

Air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels, cars, cement making and agriculture

The burning of fossil fuels, agriculture, cement manufacturing, and other activities can cause air pollution. 

Researchers measure particulate levels in the air using cubic metres.

There are many ways that particulate matter can be released into the air, such as burning fossil fuels and driving cars.

How dangerous are particulates?

Particulates can be dangerous as particles smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter could get deep into the lungs and even into your bloodstream. Concentrations of particulates in cities are higher, especially along major roads. 

Impact on health

How can pollution create health problems?

Air pollution is linked to a third (according to the World Health Organization) of stroke, lung cancer, and heart diseases. 

Although some of the health effects of pollution are still unknown, it is possible that pollution can increase inflammation and narrow the blood vessels leading to strokes or heart attacks. 

Air pollution is responsible for almost 10 percent of lung cancers in the UK. 

Particulates can get into the lungs, lodge there and cause inflammation. Some chemicals found in particulates can also cause cancer. 

Toxins and pollution cause death 

Air pollution is responsible for approximately seven million premature deaths each year. Many issues can result from pollution including asthma attacks, strokes and other cancers. 


Asthma triggers

For a variety of reasons, asthma sufferers can be affected by air pollution. Traffic fumes and pollutants can cause irritation to the airways. Particulates in your lungs can also get in your throat, causing inflammation. 

Pregnancy problems 

Research in January 2018 suggested that women who are exposed to pollution during pregnancy are almost 20 percent more likely to give birth to babies with defects.

Living within 3.1 miles (5km) of a highly-polluted area one month before conceiving makes women more likely to give birth to babies with defects such as cleft palates or lips, a study by University of Cincinnati found.

The research shows that for every 0.01mg/m3 increment in fine air particles birth defects are increased by 19 percent. 

Research has shown that this can lead to birth defects in women who are suffering from inflammation or ‘internal stresses’. 

How can we tackle the problem of air pollution? 

Paris climate agreement

Paris Agreement was signed for the first time in 2015. It is an international agreement that aims to limit and control climate change. 

It hopes to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C (3.6ºF) ‘and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F)’.

The 2050s will be carbon-neutral 

The UK Government has declared plans to become carbon neutral by 2050. 

This will be done by planting more trees as well as installing “carbon capture” technology to remove the polluting substances.

Critics are concerned that the first option could be used to export carbon offset to other countries.

International carbon credits let nations continue emitting carbon while paying for trees to be planted elsewhere, balancing out their emissions.

There will be no new diesel or petrol vehicles before 2040

The UK government had announced in 2017 that all new petrol- and diesel vehicles would be outlawed by 2040.  

However,  MPs on the climate change committee have urged the government to bring the ban forward to 2030, as by then they will have an equivalent range and price.

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. Pictured: air pollution over Paris in 2019.

Paris Agreement is an international climate agreement that was first signed back in 2015. Photo: Air pollution in Paris, 2019.

Norway offers subsidies for electric cars

State subsidies are a major factor in the rapid electrification process of Norway’s automobile fleet. The heavy taxes that are imposed on diesel and petrol cars almost completely exempt electric cars from, making them more competitively priced.

Due to a lower tax quotient, a VW Golf equipped with a standard-combustion engine will cost you nearly 334,000 Kroner (34,500 euros, $38,600). The e-Golf is 326,000 Kroner. 

Critiques of climate change inaction

Committee on Climate Change (CCC), has stated that there is an’shockingly’ low level of government preparation for the potential risks posed by climate change. 

The committee assessed 33 areas where the risks of climate change had to be addressed – from flood resilience of properties to impacts on farmland and supply chains – and found no real progress in any of them.

The UK is not prepared for 2°C of warming, the level at which countries have pledged to curb temperature rises, let alone a 4°C rise, which is possible if greenhouse gases are not cut globally, the committee said.

Additionally, it stated that urban areas need to have more green spaces in order to reduce the urban heat island effect and avoid flooding by taking up excessive rainfall.