/ Defra warning over high pollution levels
"Government health warnings have been issued amid warnings pollution spreading across England will again hit high levels later.
Defra issued the warnings after high pollution levels were recorded Tuesday.
The pollution - a mix of local and European emissions and dust from the Sahara - is forecast in parts of south England, the Midlands and East Anglia.
The elderly and those with lung or heart disease are urged to avoid strenuous exercise outside."
More at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26844425
Similar warnings here in Paris so I guess its quite widespread
You could see it on the car the other day, like brick dust. It was caked in it.
We've had a few light rains of dust recently which apparently happens occasionally. Nothing to worry about unless you have sensitive lungs (asthma or COPD) or have just washed your car or hung out the laundry :-)
The sahara dust is a bit of a red herring. The main problem is the weather isn't allowing our domestic pollution from diesel engines and similar to blow away. It's squatting over Europe and not clearing away. Met office says it shouod improve by w/end when the wind moves round
Keep up at the back.
Forget climate change, global warming, ozone layer etc, the new kid on the block is air quality.
Seriously though, the 'Data air quality index' has been in beta for sometime now on the met office and BBC weather sites. It appears to have recently gone live, although I have seen no announcement as such.
I have no idea if this is just a coincidence.
Nothing new about it - read the link I posted at 10:32.
London is terrible right now. Roll on London marathon.
I always find it odd when I hear that said.
Surely the problem is the fact that we are producing so much domestic pollution in the first place? Blaming the weather for not blowing it away towards Europe strikes me as a little short-sighted.
oh absolutely. The root cause of air pollution is, well, air pollution. but it's currently a particular problem (sorry) because of the prevailing met. conditions. We could de-rail off onto the proposed m1 speed restrictions or asthma related hospital admissions if you like
I was actually hoping we would blame those North Africans.
It's been around for a few days and will be gone by the weekend.
It was ultra hazy on Kinder at the weekend, despite a very strong breeze.
I agree, reporting pollution in the news is not new, but that misses the point I was making.
What is new is the rather dramatic graphics on the weather forecast and the presentation of the air quality index on the BBC weather site.
The newspaper report is dramatic in it's own way and implies little is being done. I would guess that making the problem more visible to the public is part of a response to the issue.
Looking at what happend in some other countries when pollution levels hit 'high' levels, how do you think the good British public would react to similar measures, e.g. only been able to drive cars with even numbered plates on some days and odd numbered plates others?
Buy two cars?
The French (Parisians) tend to for this very reason.
The London congestion charge has been accepted now - although it seems that the buses and black cabs are not helping!
Really ? I've lived here for >10 years & have never heard of anyone doing this (although I know a few couples in the suburbs who have 2 cars as they travel in opposite directions for work & suburb-suburb public transport is often poor)
Maybe it's the best thing that's happened ecologically for a long time. Scientists, politicians and other experts talking about climate change and potential catastrophe but it's all quite abstract and wooly - it means very little to most people.
When the atmosphere we see and breathe literally affects our lives though, everyone takes notice and demand political action. It took the 'pea-soupers' of early twentieth century to finally convince politicians to change the laws banning coal/wood burning in built up areas - without legislative enforcement, industrialists had little incentive.
Yes, I was having this very discussion with French colleagues at work earlier week and it's rife in our company (I work for a very large company with a HO in Paris).
Guess they must be much better paid than the folk I work & socialise with, I think for most it would be impossible even if they wanted to.
Really? Wow well I guess that is one way around it!
We don't have parking facilities at the office where I work so I guess that makes it a lot more expensive for people to drive in as they have to use paid for parking.
Most people either bus it or cycle. But I know not everyone has that choice.
Go to almost any arterial road near a town or city in the UK between 7.00 a.m. and 8.30 a.m. and watch the endless snakes of sometimes moving, sometimes not moving combustion engines all spewing out exhaust fumes. Repeat from 4.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. Everyday.
Some sort of radical solution is needed surely or can someone tell me this is sustainable?
Sure I know that pollution is bigger than the traffic but for me the traffic is indicative of how big a problem we have and of how skillfully we can pretend it does not exist when it is right in front of all of our faces, annexing the places we exist in for some insatiable god of traffic management.
So for starters - you must be able to reach your place of employment/education either by public transport or on foot/by bicycle. Exceptions apply to those who need a vehicle for work. Would this be workable/enforceable or is the game too far gone?
Sorry bit of a rant here but walking past lines of stationary traffic day after day grips my sh*t.
Something is happening - albeit slowly - with the combustion engine being stopped on stationary cars either by rapid stop/start systems or hybrid electric.
I'd like to see cars that continue running when stationary taxed out of existence - perhaps if your car doesn't have a not moving == not polluting system then you have to pay a whacking great congestion charge in any area/time with stationary traffic.
The air in our village - on a main commuter route - really, really sucks at rush hour in inversion layer weather.
Good job we never had any of this sort of polution when I was a kid growing up in an industrialised Birmingham in the 70's.
What probably saved my life was the non-existance of Health & Safety officers.
On the other hand, what about the million or so premature deaths annually in China alone that are probably attributable to air pollution? I think it's naive, given the fact that there is so much research evidence supporting adverse health effects, to suggest that it isn't to be take seriously.
To give this some perspective, the AQI (air quality index) figures for the worst affected areas in Britain over the last few days, have been around 100-130. That would be considered a good, clear day where we are in China - where AQI figures regularly top 400 or even 500.
Having said that it's good that the UK is taking action and issuing warnings at this stage, as opposed to certain other countries who pretended it wasn't a problem for way too long.
For the first time in my life here in China, I have sometimes had to worry about whether it is safe to go outside with our baby daughter, or to go for a run. Just a half hour walk can leave me coughing badly and wiping the dust from the corners of my eyes. It's been an eye opener (so to speak) seeing how bad air pollution can get when left unchecked.
It's a nice idea, but you'd tax the young and the poor out of car ownership. I do agree with scrapping the VED and hiking the duty on fuel though.
By all means encourage alternatives, but I think we have to accept that outside of London, the vast majority of UK commuters will continue to travel by car, come what may. Applying the stick in the form of VED/Fuel duty on larger vehicles is useful, but it won't win people's hearts, which is essential in the long run. I believe we are better off incentivising people to switch to more efficient cars (small electrical & hybrids) and gradually nudging opinion so that society views speeding as an anti-social choice on par with drink-driving. It's radical, but I think car users should be encouraged to swap any car over 10 years old to swap it for a brand new version of one of these smaller vehicles, with the government bank-rolling the process on the assumption that the long-term gain would stack in the country's favour.
Agree that the young and poor would be taxed out of car ownership, but could stop/start technology potentially be retrofitted to older cars?
They'll be very rare in 10 years' time. Cars get replaced pretty quickly. And don't forget the pollution inherent in building and scrapping a car.
"gradually nudging opinion so that society views speeding as an anti-social choice on par with drink-driving"
I'm with that *provided* we stop setting speed limits for political ends and set them only for genuine safety reasons.
I would, for instance, like to see the 80mph speed limit proposed for motorways accepted, but with SPECS cameras throughout the network to enforce it strictly, as to me 100+ is way too fast and it's that that needs to be stopped.
I'd like to see planning measures to encourage cycling, for instance a minimum shower facility provision and a requirement for secure indoor cycle parking to be provided at all new office developments.
"When the atmosphere we see and breathe literally affects our lives though, everyone takes notice and demand political action. It took the 'pea-soupers' of early twentieth century to finally convince politicians to change the laws banning coal/wood burning in built up areas - without legislative enforcement, industrialists had little incentive."
True, but houses would have moved to gas and electric central heating anyway it's just more convenient. It was a useful interim measure that now is of little use, and indeed tends not to be applied to newer developments as these houses don't have fireplaces anyway! For instance, it applies to my house in a 1970s estate by way of a deed of covenant, but not to the adjacent 1980s and 1990s developments.
In the same way, cars are getting more efficient because there is pressure to keep running costs down, so people are updating their cars for economic reasons quite apart from pollution.
I honestly don't know how the figures stack up, but it's clear that unless we literally 'change the shape' of motoring very quickly, we will just perpetuate the demand for over-sized vehicles that are reliant on old technologies. Small, fuel-efficient cars need to be the norm, replacing the millions of mid-sized Fords, Vauxhalls and Japanese cars.
Personally, I work three miles from work, I don't like busses so I either cycle or drive (probably about 50/50) depending on my work day requirements. For 90% of the journeys I make, my car (a 10 year old Diesel Honda Civic) is bigger than I need. I'd imagine this is the case for the majority of British commuters.
Is it *actually* viable to have people owning two cars - a Smart for their commute alone, and a family estate for the holiday?
I have a very big car (Vectra estate) because (a) I am quite big and (b) I often need to shift a lot of stuff. But when feasible (i.e. not shifting a lot of stuff) I cycle or go by train.
I suppose car clubs would help, but providing the number of cars required for the commute is about as non-viable as if everyone stopped using the Tube and used Boris bikes. Much as I love a Bozza bike ride, the docking stations are *deliberately* away from stations to reduce the demand from that type of user a bit. I'd only use one for leisure use if there was a "van club" because I'd just end up spending a fortune on interior damage charges.
If I recall correctly, the average car will take about 3000 miles for the energy cost of driving to equal the energy cost of manufacture. I don't know how that converts to pollution or CO2, but the energy costs of manufacturing vehicles are massively overestimated by most people.
Does that energy cost include extraction of raw materials?
The real problem with air pollution is that most of the health affects are long term, and that you do not feel the effects at the time and you cannot easily see or feel it. Instead it knocks an average of 6 months off your life in the UK, and when people get ill and die they do not realize the effect air pollution has had on them throughout their lives. When this effect is totaled across the population it is on a par with problems like obesity as a health risk. To some people 6 months is a price worth paying, but personally I would quite like an extra 6 months ...
Your memory might be faulty http://www.theguardian.com/environment/green-living-blog/2010/sep/23/carbon-footprint-new-car
Yes, it is total energy cost.
That article simply asserts that manufacture = emissions; it doesn't show any working. They may be right, but there's no way of knowing. There is a very rigorous analysis from the Argonne National Laboratory that suggests that you could cover manufacturing energy costs in a little over a year switching from a fairly bad older car to a very efficient modern one.
To be perfectly honest it is so driver and vehicle dependent that it is almost pointless to try and make general rules about the merits of scrapping early.
From that report:
"the contribution of the VMA stage burdens of Evm and Cvm have been found to be relatively small. In fact, the USAMP study (1999) reported it to be around 4% for both total LCE and life cycle CO2 emissions. Our results support this conclusion."
VMA is complete production i.e. extraction, processing and manufacture.
Evm and Cvm are the energy and carbon costs of this stage, and LCE is lifetime energy use.
Here's another thing we could do - separate bicycles from pedestrians and automotive traffic and provide a good network of cycle paths, then surely commuting by bicycle would be a realistic option for many more workers and school kids.
You can buy Mike's book, there are some sums in it. You haven't shown any workings either, or given a link. And even if we take 3000 miles, that's more than 4 years on mileage of 675.
675 was commuting miles, not annual miles. In any case 700 miles per year is very unusual for a UK car.
Yes, but those are the figures he gave. Hence my suggestion it wasn't worth replacing the car on environmental grounds.
You don't have enough information to say. It depends on how long he will be running the replacement for compared to the annual energy costs of the current car.
The only point I was making is that manufacturing energy is far less important than fuel consumption for an average car with average milage. The academic literature supports this. Mike Berners-Lee apparently doesn't, but this seems to put him at odds with the experts.
There is a complex twist on this - the rate of improvements in the economy and pollution of fossil fuel vehicles is decreasing. So if I replace my 5 year old car with a new one, there is a small improvement. However, in releasing my 5 year old car onto the second hand market, someone else replaces their 10 year old car with my 5 year old car - and that probably has bigger environmental savings than my enabling purchase.
I suspect the net environmental effect of me replacing a 5 year old car that does zero miles per year could still be positive - it might release say a 70mpg Focus TCDi onto the market which could replace a 35mpg car thats doing 30,000 miles/year.
I suspect these things can only be modelled by considering the ensemble UK fleet and the "first in first out" nature of the used car market.
The young and the poor are already effectively excluded from car ownership by insurance, operating costs.
Yes, you could retrofit stop-start tech to older cars but it would either not work seamlessly (would require some additional driver skill/alertness) or would be horribly expensive (integrating automatic clutch/throttle control). It's not practical and probably wouldn't be worthwhile.
Despite being someone who isn't especially well off and is car dependent for getting to work and the crags I'm disappointed to see fuel prices holding at their present level for the last couple of years and the fuel tax escalator effectively abandoned. Public transport is never going to be an option for my commute but I still have cleaner options that are not at present cost effective, we all need a nudge.
I thought the measures in Paris were extraordinary (hence making international news) and not something commonplace enough to warrant buying a second car. Certainly nobody in my Paris office does this (and most of them drive as its situated just near the peripherique)
What is more common around my way (Grenoble) is variable speed limits in response to pollution levels - 70kph around the city ringroad and 90/110kph on motorways.
Even down here in the southern Alps everything has been coated with a layer of dust overnight - cars, windows and mailbox all completely filthy.
Its a bit of a shame but I think we are moving into the territory of drastically reducing the number of cars on the road rather than improving mpg. Better mpg will often mean more miles driven in any event. It is interesting observing just how difficult it is for us to imagine ditching the car even though we know what is going on.
As you say, restring cars to even/odd number plates is out of the ordinary so news, I can't remember when it last happened but from memory, its happened a handful of times, each of only a few days, over the >10 years I've lived in/near Paris.
I suspect it would be much cheaper to travel by taxi on the occasional day your car is banned than to buy a second car 'just in case'
Mexico city has it and some other South American cities. In those cities where it is a constant factor it may have actually resulted in more pollution since people do go the two car route but since they cant afford two good cars end up with some old bangers which are more polluting.
I'd rather see a world where we eliminate much of the environmental cost of our journeys than one where we eliminate our journeys. What is necessary? Going to a workplace? Going to a crag? Going to a shop?
In the mean time, regarding necessity "working at home" doesn't really seem to be exploding into the nation's habits despite advances in IT and networking. Perhaps because people really do work better when they're in one place, and because home life is to important to merge into your office.
I suspect it will be far easier to improve the technology than to alter people's habits. There was a time before the motor car when everyone walked to work. Mainly this involved many people living in inner city urban slums.
Things are changing - we're on the cusp of the electric car revolution, and that's going to bring a lot more changes than just the pollution. Then we've got self driving cars coming which will be a big boon to shared ownership/pool schemes etc.
I suspect the commuting is going to be reduced more by a reduction in employment in the future, than by changing peoples working methods.
I suspect the commuting is going to be reduced more by a reduction in employment in the future, than by changing peoples working methods.
Surely that can't happen, it would mean starvation for millions?
What's wrong with trying to do both? Eliminating journeys is obviously a very good way of reducing environmental impacts, and if there are good ways of doing that, shouldn't they be pursued? Having we got past the rather stupid either/or arguments?
Electric cars only benefit the environment if they use low-carbon electricity. If they carry on using high-carbon electricity, the pollution just gets shifted elsewhere.
>> I suspect the commuting is going to be reduced more by a reduction in employment in the future, than by changing peoples working methods.
I see a future dominated by increased automation - fewer people in work, but with more productivity per person.
That's a continuation of a long running trend, but in the past only very repetitive tasks like assembly line work could be automated, but that is changing now. It's a good reasons to build a strong welfare state with support of those paying for it, because it's going to be needed ever more in such a future.
Treat the symptoms or treat the disease. The disease is the fuel source, not the wish of people to be able to travel.
In the absence of a better approach, yes. But if we can dramatically reduce the cost of our travel - which is within our technological grasp - should we do so, or should we try and push society back to pre-industrial behaviour? Which is more likely to succeed?
> If they carry on using high-carbon electricity, the pollution just gets shifted elsewhere.
Wrong. Burning natural gas in a combined thermal gas plant to fuel electric cars is more both more efficient and cleaner than an internal combustion engine. (external vs internal combustion, increased temperatures and pressures in bigger plant) If we embraced district heating systems with our power plants it would be yet more efficient still. Further, the efficiency of electric cars surpasses that of combustion engine cars in many ways, not least when stationary in traffic.
Well nobody prevents myself or my colleagues from working at home due to trust issues. So whatever you suspect does not apply here. It turns out separating my home and work life makes a big difference to my productivity at work and my enjoyment of home, and being able to talk to my colleagues in person is a boon. I try and Skype rather than travel but that only goes so far. A minority of colleagues work from home 1 day a week. Perhaps if someone bought me a nice big house with a home study.... It can only be worse in a business that requires a physical presence, which a surprisingly large fraction do. As I am aware every morning as several hundred cars pass my house on the way to the factories and warehouses in my village.
I disagree. Take away the travel and the issue of the fuel source is irrelevant.
The efficiency of electric cars better than that of ic cars, but even with the higher efficiencies of good CCGT generation, there's still a lot of wasted energy. I'm a big advocate of CHP, but it still doesn't get over the issue that travel still contributes significantly to pollution.
Take away the central heating and the issue of the fuel source is irrelevant.
Take away jet travel and the issue of the fuel source is irrelevant.
Take away the internet and the issue of the fuel source is irrelevant.
You see where this is going?
The ability to travel county scale distances at will is one of the key advances that reshaped our society.
On the flip side, the average household wastes enough energy through poor insulation, old boilers, inefficient old white goods and the like to supply all the energy they would need to do their travel by electric car.
So if you fix wastage in households we can eliminate the pollution associated with our travel patterns, without eliminating the travel.
Only a fraction of businesses can be moved out from central employment locations to peoples houses - consider manufacturing, health care, construction etc, and of those only a fraction of the staff can really work productively in isolation, and of those only a fraction can afford a house with the space to set aside etc. If you can only change a smallish fraction of travel patterns, it's only going to make a small difference, and it's generally recognised that every little really does not help.
Build a couple of PWRs and we can decarbonise all car and motorbike transport. Every BIG helps.
So you're arguing that we should eliminate journeys but that you need to go for 300 miles on a weekend....
No. We waste huge amounts of energy, all over the place. Reduce the waste and reduce the pollution.
Or alternatively, sort all those issues and and inefficient and unnecessary travel. Where's the downside?
I'd be interested to know how many nuclear power stations really would be needed to decarbonise all our transport. I remember going to a seminar about the use of hydrogen fuel cells, using nuclear power stations as the power source for the hydrogen. It came out at some huge number.
So you're arguing we can drive as much as we like but can't recommend a car?
More than I thought.
In reply to tony:
Total UK Miles driven per year 2010 - 308,100,000,000 Miles per year 
Divide by 365.25 * 24 * 60 * 60 (seconds in a year)
=> 9763 miles / second
Energy usage of a Tesla Model-S
85 kWh per 300 miles = 306 MJ / 300 miles = 1.02MJ / mile 
So lets consider UK mileage with Tesla efficiency
9763 miles / second * 1.02MJ / mile = 9.95 GW
Now there are big savings over a Tesla Model-S as most people don't need a 7 seater car most of the time. On the other hand you're probably talking about 50% losses from the cables running out of Sizewell to the battery pack. Lets say those balance out.
Then you need 3 Hinkley Cs for example . Total capital cost 3x£16Bn or £1400 per registered car in the UK . Thatís not very significant compared to the total cost of each of those cars, and it can likely be amortised over 30 years worth of cars. Not that wild a plan.
No. I am saying that I think it will be easier to reducing the net pollution of the UK car fleet by an quantity through gradually moving to better technology, than it will be by reducing miles driven.
The Tesla S will do your 300 miles - just. If you can plug it in at the relatives for a few hours you have a good safety margin. The infrastructure is coming to the UK to allow you to charge it in 24 minutes, or have a robot swap the battery pack giving you a full recharge, in 90 seconds. Cheaper models are coming and other manufacturers are catching up on the range issue.
I actually think one of the biggest gains is going to be prying people away from commuting by themselves in a 5-7 seater car on a regular basis. Small, affordable single seat commuter vehicles - you win on economy, you win on parking, you win on lower purchase price. Make them cheap enough and people can have one of those and a long distance car if they need both regularly.
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