World's Biggest NO2 Emissions Hotspots Revealed
Greenpeace has revealed the world's largest nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution hotspots across six continents, and identified Mpumalanga, South Africa as the biggest NO2 hotspot, even outranking areas in China, India and the U.S.
The lush, green province is home to the southern half of Kruger National Park and the iconic Blyde River Canyon. At the same time, it's home to a dozen coal fired power plants owned and operated by the power utility Eskom.
NO2 is a dangerous pollutant that's emitted when fossil fuels such as coal, oil, gas or diesel are burned at high temperatures, and also comes from transportation, forest fires and crop burning. The gas can react to create smog, acid rain and is central to the formation of fine particles and ground ozone, which are both linked to adverse health effects.
"The health toll from these emissions shows the need for an energy revolution that eliminates our reliance on fossil fuels: renewable power generation, energy efficiency, transport and mobility systems that rely less on private cars, as well as electric vehicles," Greenpeace explained in a report.
Burning coal releases NO2 into the air. NO2 is a dangerous air pollutant that causes asthma and lung cancer. Reside… https://t.co/GKdmnGtfBc— Greenpeace Africa (@Greenpeace Africa)1540817959.0
Greenpeace's new analysis is based on data produced by the European Space Agency's Sentinel 5P satellite, which measures air pollution in the atmosphere, between June to August 2018.
Besides Mpumalanga being the biggest NO2 hotspot, the findings show that China has the world's highest number of individual hotspots, followed by the Middle East, the European Union, India, the U.S. and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Quartz Africa noted from the study.
NO2 pollution in the United States. The colored dots represent a power plant. The colored clouds show the level of NO2 in the area. The darker—or pinker–the cloud, the higher the concentration. Greenpeace
An interactive mapping of global NO2 pollution can be seen here.
"The map also points to the impact of emissions regulations in some places. While there are plenty of coal plants in the U.S., NO2 concentrations near plants in India, South Africa, Australia and Indonesia stand out much more. In these countries, there has been a failure to enforce meaningful pollution standards, or to implement them," Greenpeace's journalism unit, Unearthed, pointed out.
5 Ways Trump Is 'Gaslighting' Us on U.S. Air Pollution Levels #TrumpWatch #TrumpTweets #CleanAir #TuesdayThoughts… https://t.co/a8VIl09yBE— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1540335612.0
Greenpeace researchers noted that the extreme NO2 pollution levels emanating from Mpumalanga blow into the nearby cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
"Because South Africa's coal-belts are hidden from view for the majority of South Africans, it can be easy to pretend that they don't actually exist. The reality is that coal extraction and burning has devastating impacts on the people living in the area," Melita Steele, the senior climate and energy campaign manager of Greenpeace Africa, said in a press release. "This satellite data now confirms that there is nowhere to hide: Eskom's coal addiction in Mpumalanga means that millions of people living in Johannesburg and Pretoria are also impacted by the pollution from coal."
THREAD: @KhuluPhasiwe your tweets seem to be in response to news that Mpumalanga has the world's dirtiest air:… https://t.co/WgBZRJlNqB— Melita Steele (@Melita Steele)1540823503.0
Cities such as Santiago de Chile, London, Paris, Dubai and Tehran were also singled out by the analysis due to transport-related emissions.
"Air pollution is a global health crisis, with up to 95 percent of the world's population breathing unsafe air," Steele continued in the press release. "South Africa is a significant global hotspot with its high concentration of coal power stations and its weak air pollution standards. Our Government urgently needs to come up with an action plan that protects millions of people, instead of dirty coal power stations."
Steele explained the new findings in the video:
Mpumalanga is the world's biggest air pollution hotspot www.youtube.com
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By Michel Penke
Environmental Damage: 'Nature Has Been Overexploited'
"They are no longer viable for agricultural use," Hilpert said. "Nature has been overexploited."
But it is not only nature that suffers from the extraction of high-demand critical raw materials.
Dirty, Toxic, Radioactive: Working in the Mining Sector
South Africa has also been held up for turning a blind eye to the health impacts of mining.
Mining in Brazil: Replacing Nature, People, Land Rights
Reposted with permission from DW.
Researchers at UC-Riverside are investigating how barley, a key ingredient in beer, survives in such a wide variety of climates with hopes of learning what exactly makes it so resilient across climates.
Barley was first grown domestically in Southwest Asia about 10,000 year ago and is grown around the world, from Egypt to Minnesota.
Barley's prime growing regions have shifted northward in recent decades as global temperatures have risen due to climate change caused by human extraction and combustion of fossil fuels.
Chuck Skypeck, technical brewing projects manager for the Brewers Association located in Boulder, Colorado, told E&E climate change's effects are impacting the brewing industry.
"Certainly dynamic growing conditions, water scarcity, extreme weather events, growers' planting decisions can all affect both pricing and availability of brewers' supply of malted barley," he told E&E News.
For a deeper dive:
France moved one step closer this weekend to banning short-haul flights in an attempt to fight the climate crisis.
A bill prohibiting regional flights that could be replaced with an existing train journey of less than two and a half hours passed the country's National Assembly late on Saturday, as Reuters reported.
"We know that aviation is a contributor of carbon dioxide and that because of climate change we must reduce emissions," Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told Europe 1 radio, according to Reuters.
The measure now has to pass the French Senate, then return to the lower house for a final vote. It would end regional flights between Paris's Orly airport and cities like Nantes and Bordeaux, The Guardian explained. It would not, however, impact connecting flights through Paris's Charles de Gaulle/Roissy airport.
The bill is part of a legislative package which aims to reduce France's emissions by 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2030, Reuters reported. It is a watered-down version of a proposal suggested by France's Citizens' Convention on Climate, BBC News explained. This group, which was formed by President Emmanuel Macron in 2019 and included 150 ordinary citizens, had put forward a ban on flights that could be replaced with an existing train journey of under four hours.
However, the journey length was lowered after protests from KLM-Air France, which had suffered heavy losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, and regions who were concerned about being left out of national transit networks, as The Guardian explained.
"We have chosen two and a half hours because four hours risks isolating landlocked territories including the greater Massif Central, which would be iniquitous," transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said, as The Guardian reported.
However, some environmental and consumer groups objected to the changes. The organization UFC-Que Choisir compared plane routes with equivalent train journeys of under four hours and found that the plane trips emitted an average of 77 times more carbon dioxide per passenger than the train journeys. At the same time, the train alternatives were cheaper and only as much as 40 minutes longer.
"[T]he government's choice actually aims to empty the measure of its substance," the group said, according to The Guardian.
The new measure also opens the French government to charges of hypocrisy. It bailed out Air France-KLM to the tune of a seven-billion euro loan last year, though it did require the airline to drop some domestic routes as a condition. Then, days before the measure passed, it more than doubled its stake in the airline, BBC News reported. However, Pannier-Runacher insisted to Europe 1 radio that it was possible to balance fighting climate change and supporting struggling businesses.
"Equally, we must support our companies and not let them fall by the wayside," she said, as Reuters reported.
This is not the first time that climate measures and aviation bailouts have coincided in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Austrian Airlines replaced its Vienna-Salzburg flight with additional train service after it received government money dependent on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, BBC News reported.
The number of flights worldwide declined almost 42 percent in 2020 when compared with 2019. It is expected that global aviation may not fully recover until 2024, according to Reuters.
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Four gray whales have washed up dead near San Francisco within nine days, and at least one cause of death has been attributed to a ship strike.
More whales than usual have been washing up dead since 2019, and the West Coast gray whale population continues to suffer from an unusual mortality event, defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as "a stranding that is unexpected; involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands immediate response."
"It's alarming to respond to four dead gray whales in just over a week because it really puts into perspective the current challenges faced by this species," Dr. Pádraig Duignan, director of pathology at the Marine Mammal Center, said in a press release.
As the world's largest marine mammal hospital, the Sausalito-based center has been investigating the recent spate of deaths. The first involved a 41-foot female who washed up dead at San Francisco's Crissy Field on March 31, SFGate reported. The cause of death remains a mystery, as the whale was in good condition with a full stomach. The second, another female, washed up on April 3 at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve on Moss Beach.
"That animal's cause of death, we suspect, was ship strike," the Marine Mammal Center's Giancarlo Rulli told SFGate. "Our plan is to eventually head back out to that whale and take more samples."
The third whale washed up April 7 near Berkeley Marina, The AP reported. The center determined it was a 37-foot male in average condition, with no evidence of illness or injury.
A 41-foot female turned up the next day on Marin County's Muir Beach. She suffered bruising and hemorrhaging around the jaw and neck vertebrae, indicating a vessel strike.
Vessel strikes are one of the leading causes of death for gray whales examined by the Marine Mammal Center, along with entanglements in fishing gear and malnutrition. While the species is not endangered, the population has declined by 25 percent since last assessed in 2016, CNN reported.
West Coast gray whales travel 10,000 miles every year between Mexico and the Arctic, according to The AP. They spend the winter breeding off of Baja California, and feed along the California coast in spring and summer on their way back north. The Marine Mammal Center began noticing a problem for the migrating whales in 2019.
"Our team hasn't responded to this number of dead gray whales in such a short span since 2019 when we performed a startling 13 necropsies in the San Francisco Bay Area," Dr. Duignan said in the press release.
The 2019 deaths led NOAA to declare an unusual mortality event for West Coast gray whales. It is similar to another event that happened from 1999 to 2000, after which the whales' numbers rebounded to even higher levels. This suggests population dips and rises may not be uncommon for the species. However, it is also possible that the climate crisis is playing a role. The 2019 deaths were linked to malnutrition, and warmer waters can reduce the amount of food whales have to eat in the Arctic, giving them less energy for their migration, CNN explained. Overfishing can also play a role in depriving whales of food, the Marine Mammal Center said.
Dr. Jeff Boehm, Marine Mammal Center CEO and veterinarian, told CNN that he had observed an uptick in shipping traffic after the pandemic caused a slowdown. At the same time, the center is less able to conduct research because of COVID-19 safety precautions. And even in the best of times, only around 10 percent of dead whales wash up on shore, The AP reported.
"This many dead whales in a week is shocking, especially because these animals are the tip of the iceberg," Kristen Monsell, legal director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Oceans program, told The AP.
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