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. 

The CO2 concentration fluctuated between 180 and 280ppm over the past 800,000. However, it has been greatly accelerated by human-caused pollution. 

Nitrogen dioxide 

It is produced by burning fossil fuels and car exhaust, as well as the use of nitrogen fertilisers in agriculture.

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

Sulfur dioxide 

Although sulfur dioxide (SO2) is primarily produced by fossil fuel combustion, it can also come from vehicle 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 exactly is particulate matter?

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

While some are visible (e.g. dust), others can’t be seen with the naked eye. 

Particulate matter is a form of material such as soil, soil, and metals.

Micrometres are used to describe particulate matter, or PM. In reports and studies, the two most important ones are PM10 (less that 10 micrometres), and PM2.5 (less then 2.5 micrometres).

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 atmosphere. These include driving, burning fossil fuels and making steel.

How dangerous are particulates?

Because they have a diameter of less than 10 millimetres, particles can enter your lungs and even your bloodstream. Concentrations of particulates in cities are higher, especially along major roads. 

Impact on health

How can pollution create health problems?

The World Health Organization states that air pollution can cause a third of all deaths due to strokes, heart disease, and lung cancer. 

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. 

This is not all. Nearly 10 cases of lung cancer in the UK can be attributed to air pollution. 

Particulates get trapped in the lungs. This causes inflammation and damages. Particulates may also contain chemicals that can lead to 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

There are many reasons why asthma sufferers may have problems with air pollution. Air pollution can cause asthma by irritating the airways. Particulates and traffic fumes may also cause inflammation in the lungs. 

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 0.01 mg/m3 increase of fine air particles, birth defects go up by 19%. 

According to research, this could be due to women experiencing inflammation and “internal stress”. 

How can we tackle the problem of air pollution? 

Paris climate agreement

Paris Agreement is an international climate agreement. It was originally signed in 2015. 

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)’.

By 2050, carbon neutral 

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

The plan is to plant more trees, and install ‘carbon capture technology’ at the source.

Some are afraid that the government will use this option to sell its carbon offsets to other countries.

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

By 2040, there will not be any new petrol and diesel cars

The UK government declared in 2017 that new diesel and petrol cars would not be sold by 2030.  

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

It is due to state subsidy that Norway has been able to electrify its cars quickly. Electric cars can be almost exclusively exempted from heavy taxes on petrol or diesel vehicles, making them very competitively priced.

A VW Golf standard-combustion engine can cost nearly 334,000 Kroner (34,500 Euros, $38,600), while an electric version, the e-Golf, costs 326,000 Kroner due to a lower rate of tax. 

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.