California plans to launch its own satellite to monitor air pollution

September 17, 2018 by  
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California has promised to launch its own satellite to track air quality in the fight against air pollution. Governor Jerry Brown announced the major initiative amid President Donald Trump’s bid to decrease NASA’s part in monitoring climate change. Brown has not announced when the state will launch the satellite or how much it will cost taxpayers. Brown has long stood in opposition to Trump’s administration, which has fought California’s tough emissions standards. Following the effort to cut NASA funding for climate research, Brown hopes that the satellite will ensure that California has independent access to data gathering in the long term. “We’re going to launch our own satellite — our own damn satellite to figure out where the pollution is and how we’re going to end it,” Brown explained. Related: Striking, solar-powered LA roundabout manages stormwater runoff with art NASA has its own climate change program called the Carbon Monitoring System (CMS). The system gathers data from a collection of satellites and high-altitude aircraft to keep track of carbon emissions around the world. The program came under fire in the latest rounds of White House budget cuts, which were directly aimed at climate change initiatives. Fortunately, the appropriations committee did not cut CMS funding, but the threat left many scientists worried about the program’s future. Brown is collaborating with a company based out of San Francisco called Planet Labs to launch the satellite. The company will work with California’s Air Resources Board to build the satellite and track carbon emissions throughout the state and the world. So far, Planet Labs — backed by companies like Google and DCVC — has a fleet of 150 satellites, all of which take photographs of the earth and transfer the data to various governments, private companies, journalists, agriculture business and hedge funds. Brown hopes the program will lead to better climate monitoring, despite the efforts from the Trump administration. Via Earther and Huffington Post Image via Prayitno

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California plans to launch its own satellite to monitor air pollution

Pipeline leaks 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into Indiana river

September 10, 2018 by  
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An oil company based out of Texas has confessed to a faulty pipeline leaking 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into an Indiana river. Buckeye Pipe Line, based out of Houston, admitted that it detected a pressure loss in its fuel line last week. A break in the line poured thousands of gallons of fuel into a river near Decatur, Indiana, a town with slightly less than 10,000 people. Buckeye Pipe Line closed its line as soon as it detected the leak. Unfortunately, the leak still dumped thousands of gallons of jet fuel into St. Marys River, which runs about 100 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Officials in Decatur installed booms in the river to help stop the spread of the fuel while workers skimmed it from the surface of the water with vacuums. Related: TransCanada natural gas pipeline explodes in West Virginia The mayor of Decatur, Kenneth L. Meyer, believes removing the fuel will take weeks. The Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) is monitoring the situation and checking fuel levels in businesses and homes close to the spill site. The EPA is also checking the quality of water at different spots further downstream to determine how far the spill has traveled. Residents of Decatur first learned about the spill late Friday night after the local police issued a warning. The Decatur Police Department told citizens to stay away from the river until the cleanup was over. Buckeye Pipe Line is not planning on re-opening the line until the pressure issue is dealt with and everything is safe to run. Although 8,000 gallons of jet fuel ended up in the river, the EPA does not believe the town’s water supply will be affected by the spill. Residents might, however, notice a change in air quality . Meanwhile, this spill offers environmentalists further evidence of the dangers of new oil and gas pipelines. Via Associated Press and EcoWatch Image via  Ray Bodden

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Scientists find air pollution leads to a significant decline in cognition

August 28, 2018 by  
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It turns out pollution affects more than just the environment. New research shows there might be a correlation between significant air pollution and cognitive decline in humans. Scientists hope their research will lead to changes in how countries deal with excessive air pollution, especially in heavily populated urban areas. Over the course of several years, more than 25,000 people hailing from 162 different counties in China were studied. The researchers published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and are calling for China to reform its pollution policies. The researchers believe China can significantly increase the population’s education level by adhering to the U.S. EPA guidelines. So, how did researchers link pollution with cognitive decline? The scientists performed verbal and math exams on all of the subjects in 2010 and again in 2014. The data from the exams were then compared between the years, and the team linked these changes to  air pollution . The researchers found that the older subjects performed worse on the tests, which led the team to believe that pollution has a bigger effect on brains as people age. The study also showed that individuals with little education were more affected by pollution, possibly because they typically work outdoors. Although the researchers were confident in linking pollution and cognitive decline, they are not sure why it is happening. Xi Chen, study co-author and professor of health policy at Yale, believes that pollution could be harming white matter in the brain , a region that controls communication within this important organ. James Hendrix, the head of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Global Science Initiative, disagrees. Hendrix does not believe the researchers have any evidence to suggest that pollution is damaging white matter. He also argues that associating air pollution with cognitive deterioration is difficult, because there are too many other factors at play. Either way, it’s clear that air pollution is negatively impacting our health and our planet. + Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Via NPR Images via Fredrik Rubensson and  Nicolò Lazzati

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Scientists find air pollution leads to a significant decline in cognition

Shanxi combats air pollution in China with smog curbs to 2020

August 9, 2018 by  
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Shanxi province is China’s primary coal mining hub and a major industrial manufacturing region. The province is now planning to voluntarily curb production of its goods over the course of the next three winters in an effort to cut down on smog pollution and improve air quality. This is part of a 2018 to 2020 anti-pollution crackdown, which hopes to take proper measures in improving the environmental state and reputation of the world’s second-largest economy. Twenty-eight northern Chinese cities have been issued a draft guidance on pollution reduction during winter months, and four of these cities are in Shanxi. The province is home to about 36 million people, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics of China , as well as a thriving coal mining industry. Related: Reforestation in China heralds the return of rare animals Local authorities in China are hoping to back their promises to the national and international communities by stepping up actions to reduce pollution and start protecting the environment. “Each level of officials must make anti-pollution tasks a significant stance in their work,” the Shanxi government said in a statement. “Those who neglect their duties, forge monitoring data or fail the targets will be punished.” In addition to production restrictions, efforts will include cutting down coal consumption by relying more on natural gas for heating as well as replacing some of the region’s coal-fired power plants. Local officials seem to be taking the mandate very seriously. “Each city [in Shanxi] should set up plans on production restrictions in steel, construction materials, non-ferrous and chemicals by the end of September each year,” officials announced. The province is hoping to go beyond the 15 percent reduction in emissions — compared to levels recorded in 2015 — that has been mandated by the national government, setting its own goal of a 20 percent decrease in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by 2020. Via Reuters Images via Kleineolive and Tim Quijano

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Shanxi combats air pollution in China with smog curbs to 2020

BIG completes an energy-efficient sculptural skyscraper in Shenzhen

August 9, 2018 by  
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Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group , the new home for the Shenzhen Energy Company has just reached completion in the business center of Shenzhen , China. Conceived as a new social and sustainable landmark in the heart of the city, the striking office development comprises two towers — one rising 220 meters to the north and the other to a height of 120 meters in the south — both of which are linked by a 34-meter-tall podium. Dubbed the Shenzhen Energy Mansion, the skyscraper is wrapped in an undulating facade that optimizes solar orientation while minimizing energy consumption. Created in collaboration with ARUP and Transsolar, BIG’s Shenzhen Energy Mansion design was selected the winner of an international design competition in 2009. Spanning an area of 96,000 square meters, this new headquarters for the Shenzhen Energy Company includes a pair of office towers and a mixed-use podium comprising the main lobbies, a conference center, a cafeteria and exhibition space. Circulation for visitors and workers are divided; the commercial spaces can be accessed through sliding glass walls on the north and south ends of the buildings while office workers enter from the front plaza to the lobby. Instead of the traditional glass curtain wall, BIG designed a pleated building envelope specially engineered to reduce solar loads and glare. Site studies and passive solar principles optimize the building’s orientation, which includes maximized north-facing openings for natural light and minimized exposure on the sunnier sides. Green roofs top the building. Related: BIG unveils designs for LEED-certified skyscraper in NYC “Shenzhen Energy Mansion is our first realized example of ‘engineering without engines’ — the idea that we can engineer the dependence on machinery out of our buildings and let architecture fulfill the performance,” said Bjarke Ingels, founding partner at BIG. “Shenzhen Energy Mansion appears as a subtle mutation of the classic skyscraper and exploits the building’s interface with the external elements: sun, daylight, humidity and wind to create maximum comfort and quality inside. A natural evolution that looks different because it performs differently.” + BIG Images by Chao Zhang

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BIG completes an energy-efficient sculptural skyscraper in Shenzhen

HW-Studio transforms a warehouse into a food market in Mexico

August 9, 2018 by  
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When local architecture practice HW-Studio was tapped to redevelop an abandoned warehouse into a food market in the Mexican city of Morelia, the firm looked to the site’s extant conditions and the surroundings for inspiration. HW-Studio founder and lead project architect Rogelio Vallejo Bores was born and raised in the city and loved the site’s sense of solitude — a quality that he says is uncommon in the downtown of any Mexican city. As a result, he and his team used a minimalist design and material palette to create a food market, named the Mercado ‘Cantera’ (also known as the Morelia Market), that would defer to its surroundings. Completed this year on a budget of approximately $80,000 USD, the new food market in Morelia spans an area of 3,444 square feet. Before the architects began work on the design, they studied the perimeter and found it was located two blocks from one of the country’s most important music schools — a former convent of XCI Century Dominican nuns of Santa Catalina de Siena — as well as one of the most beloved and popular city squares, Las Rosas. Then the architects mapped out the most popular food spots in the area and found that people congregated in the public squares to eat. As a result, the guiding principles of the food market are borrowed from the design of public squares, from the use of natural materials, axial routes and sense of openness and connection with nature. “We thought that the place had lost its soul,” said the architects of the warehouse due to its numerous renovations. “Everything antique with architectural value would be rescued, and the new would formally and materially have a different nature: a white and defined nature that would demonstrate its own presence and its own historical and conceptual moment. With this, we would try to achieve a balance between the new and the old.” Related: Grain silo transformed into a community food hall in the Netherlands In contrast to the stone walls and other antique details that were preserved, the architects inserted minimalist and modern white volumes to house the food vendors. They also added a new tree-lined central corridor between the new volumes to emphasize the open-air market’s connection with the outdoors. The eating areas are located on the top of the stalls. The architects noted, “Its most important function is to frame, without exclusion, the different layers of architectural history left over the centuries.” + HW-Studio Via Dezeen Images by Bruno Gómez de la Cueva

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HW-Studio transforms a warehouse into a food market in Mexico

Your shampoo and deodorant cause a daily pollution ‘rush hour’

May 1, 2018 by  
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You may not realize it, but your shampoo, deodorant, or lotion could be contributing nearly as much urban air pollution  as your daily commute. A new study discovered emissions from siloxane, a common ingredient in those personal care products , are similar to those from vehicles in rush-hour traffic. Are you leaving air pollution-contributing chemicals in your wake? Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) led a study published online this month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology that revealed people’s personal care items could be polluting the air. Related: INFOGRAPHIC: Demystifying “Natural” and “Organic” Labels on Personal Care Products The scientists were measuring VOCs from a mobile laboratory and the Earth System Research Laboratory roof, tracking concentrations of traffic-related compounds like benzene at rush hour. They saw a peak in the data and one scientist suggested siloxane. He was right. Siloxane emissions correlated with benzene emissions, so the team guessed siloxane might be found in vehicle exhaust. But tailpipe emission testing and roadside measurements revealed that wasn’t the case. Siloxane, a volatile organic compound (VOC), is added to lotions or shampoos to impart a silky feel. The VOC evaporates rapidly after being applied, and according to CIRES , “In the air, sunlight can trigger those VOCs to react with nitrogen oxides and other compounds to form ozone and particulate matter.” The scientists figured out both chemicals could be connected to commuting . In the morning, after people had applied personal care products and headed outside, siloxane emissions peaked, as did benzene emissions as people traveled in cars or buses. The emissions of both chemicals decreased in the day and then peaked once again at the evening commute, although the evening peak was lower for siloxane emissions as many personal care products had evaporated to a great extent. “We estimate for the city of Boulder, it’s about 3 to 5 kilograms per day of siloxane (D5), and benzene (from motor vehicles), we estimate is about 15 kilograms,” CIRES scientist and lead author Matthew Coggon said . “So it’s about three to five times lower (than vehicles) in terms of total mass. But the emissions that you see in the morning…they’re fairly close, which is the stunning piece. You driving your car, you’re emitting as much siloxane as your vehicle is emitting benzene. That’s the general gist.” “We all have a personal plume, from our cars and our personal care products,” Coggon added. “In this changing landscape, emissions from personal care products are becoming important.” + CIRES + Environmental Science and Technology Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 ) and Kathy Bogan/CIRES

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Your shampoo and deodorant cause a daily pollution ‘rush hour’

Pollution Pods let visitors taste pollution from around the world

April 26, 2018 by  
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Air pollution is a silent killer responsible for millions of death worldwide. In a bid to highlight the environmental problem, British artist Michael Pinsky set up five interconnected geodesic domes, dubbed the “pollution pods,” that let passersby sample air quality from five cities around the world including Beijing, São Paulo, Brazil; London; New Delhi; and Norway’s Tautra Island. Created in collaboration with Danish air filtering company Airlabs, the temporary installation popped up for Earth Day outside London’s Somerset House. Pinsky simulated each city’s atmospheric conditions using safe chemicals that emulate the relative presence of ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide . Visitors pass through increasingly polluted cells starting with the pristine Norwegian island of Tautra, followed by “Living Diesel” London , smoggy New Delhi, hazy Beijing, and finally smoky São Paulo, after which visitors get respite by exiting through the Tautra pod. Related: Blue LED Rings On Famous London Monuments Show Just How Far Sea Levels Could Rise The Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim originally commissioned Pinsky for the installation as part of the Climart project in Norway . The project was brought over to London temporarily and was on display until yesterday, April 25. Pollution Pods aims to bring greater attention to the issue of air pollution and inspire behavioral change; visitors are also offered a leaflet detailing ways to reduce exposure to air pollution in London. + Michael Pinsky Via NY Times Images via Somerset House , by Peter Macdiarmid

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Pollution Pods let visitors taste pollution from around the world

MIT study shows that China’s climate policy could "more than pay for itself"

April 23, 2018 by  
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Is China turning the tide on pollution ? The country stands to benefit not just environmentally, but financially as well. A new MIT study found if China reduces carbon dioxide emissions by four percent a year, the nation could net around $339 billion in health savings by the year 2030. That figure could be around four times what it would cost the country to achieve climate goals – in other words, according to MIT, “the country’s climate policy would more than pay for itself.” Fulfilling its international pledge to cut carbon emissions makes sense for China in many ways. Not only could the nation contribute significantly to the global battle against climate change (as it’s the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases) – but the health impacts for Chinese citizens could be huge. Improving air quality could avoid a considerable amount of deaths from air pollution in every province — and MIT put a dollar figure on the benefit to society: $339 billion. Related: China reports meeting its 2020 carbon intensity goals three years early MIT associate professor Noelle Eckley Selin co-authored the study published today in Nature Climate Change . In a statement, she said: “The country could actually come out net positive, just based on the health co-benefits associated with air quality improvements, relative to the cost of a climate policy. This is a motivating factor for countries to engage in global climate policy.” How did the team reach their figure? They developed a modeling approach called the Regional Emissions Air Quality Climate and Health framework, combining an energy -economic model and atmospheric chemistry model. They used the energy-economic model “to simulate how a given climate policy changes a province’s economic activity, energy use, and emissions of carbon dioxide and air pollutants.” They ran simulations under four scenarios: one with no policy and three with policies aiming to cut emissions through 2030 by three, four, and five percent a year. They then plugged in results into the atmospheric chemistry model and estimated particulate matter concentrations for provinces to help calculate the pollution communities are inhaling. Epidemiological literature helped them figure out how many deaths could be avoided. They calculated the economic value of the deaths, which they compared against the total cost of implementing a policy scenario. Their findings? In a no-policy scenario, by 2030 there would be over 2.3 million premature, pollution-related deaths. In the three, four, or five percent emissions reductions scenarios, China could respectively avoid 36,000, 94,000, and 160,000 premature deaths. The savings “gained as a result of health co-benefits equals $138.4 billion, $339.6 billion, and $534.8 billion, respectively,” according to MIT. + MIT Images via Diego Jimenez , Frak Lopez , and Manon Boyer on Unsplash

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MIT study shows that China’s climate policy could "more than pay for itself"

95% of the world’s population breathes unsafe air

April 17, 2018 by  
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Are you breathing clean air ? A new air pollution study suggests you might not be. It found that almost 95 percent of people in the world live in areas with higher fine particle levels than the World Health Organization ‘s air quality guidelines. According to The Guardian , poor communities are taking the brunt of the burden. The Health Effects Institute recently published the State of Global Air/2018 report. They drew upon satellite data and improved monitoring to discover that the majority of us could be breathing unhealthy air. According to the report , “An estimated 95 percent of people live in areas where ambient (outdoor) fine particulate matter concentrations (small dust or soot particles in the air) exceed the World Health Organization’s Air Quality Guideline of 10 µg/m3. Almost 60 percent live in areas where fine particulate matter exceeds even the least stringent WHO interim air quality target of 35 µg/m3.” Related: New map reveals world’s most toxic countries The 2018 report also delves into household air pollution. More than one third of the world’s population is exposed to polluted air from the burning of solid fuels for heating or cooking indoors. Reportedly, “For them, fine particulate matter levels in the home can exceed the air quality guidelines by as much as 20 times.” Air pollution has been connected to sickness and early death — just last year, exposure to polluted air played a role in over six million deaths around the world, according to experts. Half of the deaths were in India and China . And the gap between the most and least polluted countries is increasing: it’s now 11-fold compared to six-fold in 1990, Health Effects Institute vice president Bob O’Keefe told The Guardian. But, he said even though countries may have a ways to go on cleaning the air, there are reasons for hope — such as India’s focus on electrification. O’Keefe said China “seems to be now moving aggressively,” as they put stronger controls in place and work to cut coal . You can explore the data from the State of Global Air/2018 on the report’s website . + State of Global Air/2018 Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1 , 2 )

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