Carbon dioxide

One of the main contributors to global warming is carbon dioxide (CO2). After the gas is released into atmosphere, it remains there making it difficult to heat escape and warming the planet. 

It is mostly released by burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas, and cement production. 

As of April 2019, the average monthly concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere is 413 parts per thousand (ppm). Before the Industrial Revolution, it was only 280ppm. 

Over the last 800,000.00 years, CO2 concentrations have fluctuated between 180 to 220ppm. However, this has been greatly accelerated due to pollution from humans. 

Nitrogen dioxide 

The sources of the gas nitrogen dioxide are fossil fuel combustion, car exhaust emissions, and fertilizer use in agriculture.

Although there is less NO2 than CO2, it is 200-300 times more effective at trapping heat.

Sulfur dioxide 

Sulfur dioxide, also known as SO2, is also a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion. However, it can also come from car exhausts.

SO2 can react with water and oxygen to produce acid rain. 

Carbon monoxide 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an indirect greenhouse gas as it reacts with hydroxyl radicals, removing them. Hydroxyl radicals can reduce the lifespan of carbon dioxide, as well as other greenhouse gases. 


What is particulate matter?

Particulate matter is a small amount of solids or liquids in the air. 

Some are visible, like dust, while others cannot be seen with the naked eye. 

Particulate matter can contain metals, microplastics and soil as well as chemicals.

Micrometres is the unit of measurement for particulate matter (or pm). In reports and studies, the two main ones are PM10 (less that 10 micrometres) or PM2.5 (less then 2.5 micrometres).

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

Air pollution can be caused by the burning of fossil fuels, cement manufacturing, and agriculture 

Scientists measure the amount of particulates in the atmosphere by measuring cubic metres.

A variety of processes can release particulate matter into the atmosphere, including driving cars, burning fossil fuels and steelmaking.

Why are particulates so dangerous?

Particulates can be dangerous because particles less than 10 micrometres wide can get into your lungs or into your bloodstream. Particulates are more common in urban areas, especially near main roads. 

Health impact

What health problems can pollution cause to your health?

According to the World Health Organization, air pollution can be a factor in a third (or more) of all deaths due to stroke, lung cancer, heart disease, and heart attack. 

Although some of the effects of pollution on the body are still unknown, pollution may cause inflammation to increase which can narrow the arteries and lead to strokes or heart attacks. 

This is not all. Nearly 10 percent of lung cancer cases are due to air pollution in the UK. 

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

Pollution causes death 

Every year, around seven million people are killed by air pollution. A variety of problems can be caused by pollution, including asthma attacks, strokes and various cancers. 


Asthma triggers

For a variety of reasons, asthma sufferers can be affected by air pollution. Air pollution can cause asthma by irritating the airways. Particulates in traffic fumes and pollutants can get into your lungs, causing inflammation. 

Problems during pregnancy 

Research in January 2018 suggested that women who are exposed to air pollution before becoming pregnant are almost 20 percent more likely to have children with birth 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.

Research shows that birth defects increase by 19% for every 0.01mg/m3 rise in fine air particles 

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

What are the current measures taken to combat air pollution? 

Paris Agreement on Climate Change

The Paris Agreement, first signed in 2015 by the international community, is an international agreement that aims to limit and stop 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)’.

Carbon neutral by 2050 

The UK government announced plans to make the country carbon-neutral by 2050. 

They plan to do so by planting more trees and installing ‘carbon trap’ technology at the source.

Some critics worry that the government will use this option to export its 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.

No new petrol or Diesel vehicles by 2040

The UK government announced that new petrol- and diesel cars 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.

The Paris Agreement was signed for the first time in 2015. It is an international agreement that aims to limit and control climate change. Pictured: Air pollution over Paris in 2019.

Norway’s electric vehicle subsidies

State subsidies are a major factor in the rapid electrification of Norway’s automobile fleet. Electric cars are almost completely exempted from the heavy taxes imposed upon petrol and diesel cars. This makes them more competitively priced.

A VW Golf equipped with a standard combustion engine will cost you nearly 334,000 Kroner (34.500 euros, $38,600), whereas its electric counterpart, the e-Golf will cost you 326,000 Kroner because it has a lower tax quotient. 

Criticisms of inaction about climate change

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), has stated that there is a shocking lack of preparation by the government 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.

It stated that cities require more green spaces to counter the urban heat island effect and prevent floods from heavy rainfall.