Carbon dioxide

One of the main contributors to global warming is carbon dioxide (CO2). The gas remains in the atmosphere after it is released. This makes it difficult for heat to escape and causes global warming. 

It is primarily produced by the combustion of fossil fuels, such as oil and gas, coal, and cement. 

As of April 2019, the average monthly CO2 concentration in the Earth’s atmosphere was 413 parts per Million (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 NO2 is much less in the atmosphere than CO2, it traps heat 200 to 300 times better.

Sulfur dioxide 

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is also primarily produced by fossil fuel burning but can also be released through car exhausts.

Acid rain can be caused by SO2 reacting with water, oxygen, and other chemicals in our atmosphere. 

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 material?

Particulate Matter refers to small amounts of solids and liquid materials 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.

Particulate matter (or pm) is measured in micrometres. 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 is caused by burning fossil fuels, cement making, and agriculture 

Scientists measure the particulate rate in the air using cubic meters.

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. Concentrations of particulates are higher in urban areas, especially along main roads. 

Health impact

What kind of health problems can pollution lead to?

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

While some effects of air pollution are not fully understood, it may increase inflammation that narrows the arteries, leading to strokes and 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. Particulates can also cause cancer by contaminating the body with chemicals. 

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

There are many reasons why asthma sufferers may have problems with air pollution. Traffic fumes and pollutants can cause irritation to the airways. Particulates can also get into your lungs and trigger inflammation. 

Problems during pregnancy 

Research from January 2018 suggests that women who have been exposed to air pollutants before they become pregnant are almost 20% more likely to have babies 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.

The research shows that for every 0.01mg/m3 increase of fine air particles, birth defects rise 19%. 

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 was signed for the first time in 2015. It is an international agreement 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)’.

Carbon neutral by 2050 

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

They intend to do this by planting more trees, and installing ‘carbon capture 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, first signed in 2015 by international leaders, is an international agreement to limit and stop climate change. Pictured: Paris air pollution 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 regarding climate change

The Committee on Climate Change has stated that there is an’shockingly’ low level of preparation by the Government for the climate change risks facing the country. 

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.