Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Playing games with air pollution

The EEA (European Environment Agency) says air pollution cost up to €169 billion in 2009.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions contribute the most to the overall damage costs, approximately €63 billion in 2009. Air pollutants, which contribute to acid rain and can cause respiratory problems - sulphur dioxide (SO2), ammonia (NH3), particulate matter (PM10) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) - were found to cause €38-105 billion of damage a year. 

Okay, these are made up costs so we don't need to treat them seriously. What we need to take more seriously is the extent to which air pollution may be used as yet another publicly-funded scam. Below are Defra's National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI) charts for sulphur dioxide, ammonia, particulate matter (PM10) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) plotted annually. In the UK, all but ammonia are declining significantly and even ammonia is sloping downwards as we raise fewer cows. I'll ignore CO2 as it isn't a pollutant. As the basic biosphere nutrient, higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are more likely to be beneficial than harmful.

As for the more genuine pollutants, well the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report for 2009/10 had this to say about UK air pollution:-

Poor air quality reduces the life expectancy of everyone in the UK by an average of seven to eight months and up to 50,000 people a year may die prematurely because of it. Air pollution also causes significant damage to ecosystems. Despite these facts being known air quality is not seen as a priority across government and the UK is failing to meet a range of domestic and European targets.

So that's seven to eight month knocked off your stint in a care home is it? Not quite disaster territory I'd say and presumably the health effects are going in the right direction.

Air quality is obviously important, but what's the real game being played here, the one behind the idiot headline? It seems pretty obvious that these fantasy costs and exaggerated health issues are connected with  propping up the green energy game by conflating it with air pollution control measures. Yet even the official figures show that air quality improvements already achieved can hardly be due to wind turbines or electric vehicles. But the EU has invested a lot of money and kudos in climate politics, as has the UN. One worth watching I think.

Sulphur dioxide


Particulates (PM10)

Nitrogen oxides


James Higham said...

Strange. Didn't I see this somewhere else, by an AKH?

A K Haart said...

JH - crikey he must have nicked it.

John Page said...

... is not seen as a priority across government ...

Ooh one of my favourite phrases, "a priority". It's meaningless. Departments can have hundreds of them. An objective being simply "a priority" is meaningless. It's PR talk. No committee which wants to have an effect should write that way.

A K Haart said...

JP - I agree, but what would they do without meaningless phrases?