Emission Impossible Ltd

Flower

Indian businessman rhymes the case for a universal carbon tax

Nadir Godrej of Godrej Industries entertained an online audience at Climate Week NYC with a poetic appeal to tax carbon and stop burning coal

Nadir Godrej, engineer, businessman and poet, recites verse in favour of carbon taxes and clean energy (Pic: The Climate Group)

Q: What could be the key levers for low-carbon development in the Indian context, are we getting it right?

1st Lever: Universal Carbon Price

It is no longer Climate Change

Within a tolerable range.

A crisis is what it’s about

With fires, floods as well as drought.

Every week a constant blast

Far worse than seen in the past.

If we must, we will adapt

Prevention though would be more apt.

There is a cost to adaptation,

It’s rising fast in every nation

As well as for the world at large.

And this will be a heavy charge.

In fact we should by now conclude

Prevention would be really shrewd.

It actually would cost much less

Indeed avoid a lot of stress.

A uniform carbon tax

Would protect all our backs,

Collected by each Nation state

But universal in its rate!

All GHGs would be fair game.

Every country should charge the same.

The benefit that this would yield

Would be a level playing field.

Competitors just wouldn’t care

Because this system’s very fair.

Just how high should this tax be?

A range of numbers we can see.

But Sixty dollars per metric ton

Would surely get reduction done.

For carbon this could be the rate

For others we would calibrate.

The appropriate rate we would select

Based on the Greenhouse Gas effect.

Based on today’s emissions rate

Quite candidly I should state

It wouldn’t be a trivial sum

But there’s no reason to be glum.

In dollars it would be Two Trillion

It is a lot but not a Zillion!

Compared to global GDP

The percentage is less than three.

Compared to taxes then again

The percentage is less than ten!

Of course some would then take a call

To reduce emissions not pay it all.

But bear in mind it’s not a cost.

For the economy nothing’s lost.

A UBI could be instated.

Some other tax could be abated.

And if this is indeed just so

The economy would still grow.

Don’t you think it’s very nice,

That there is no real price

Since very little would be lost

As adaptation has a higher cost?

2nd Lever: Business action

But in the absence of a carbon tax

There is no reason to be lax.

Though business doesn’t find it nice

We already have a carbon price

Or rather we seem to have a range

That is ad hoc and very strange.

On coal we have a largish cess.

Our electricity rates are a mess.

Our motor fuels bear excise

With rates that regularly rise.

Climate change is now a curse

It steadily is getting worse.

Technology can save the day.

So far it has turned out that way.

As technology takes a leap

Green energy gets very cheap.

Keen observers quickly saw

That Solar also tracks Moore’s law.

Whether groundnut shell or bagasse

Our India’s full of biomass.

At first we thought we’d have to spend

But that’s not true, for in the end,

The more we thought, the more we slaved

We did invest but we also saved.

And solar is still getting cheaper

And as we do start digging deeper

In India it will hit the goal

Of being cheaper than even coal

In just a handful of years.

Already we and our peers

Are sourcing solar electricity

At lower rates than from the utility.

For quite some time we’ve been extorted

As their finances aren’t still sorted.

A silver lining can be seen,

All this incentivises green.

There are many paths that we can see

For achieving Carbon neutrality.

But the cheapest way is certainly

Through energy efficiency.

In times of plenty it was fine

To overuse and over design!

But now we find we always gain

If we only use our brain.

Real interest rates are very low

And high returns quickly flow

From any energy saving device.

For business this is very nice.

Not only are returns quite brisk

There’s also very little risk.

In India mandated CSR

Can help us go very far.

Multiple benefits is what one sees

With water projects or growing trees.

Good livelihoods are created.

Our carbon emissions are abated.

Trees planted at a river’s source

Maintain the flow throughout its course.

So many benefits we can see:

The preservation of biodiversity,

Now different species can be tried

Useful products can be supplied

Like biomass or edible fruits

And yet the trunk and the roots

Can sequester carbon, clean the air,

A win-win that is very fair.

3rd Lever: Electrification and Transmission

From government, all that is sought

Is steady and robust support

To electrify our transportation

And ensure that the Indian nation

Vigorously does its bit

To efficiently store and transmit

Quite intermittent green energy.

With solar and wind there’s synergy.

Their peaks are not correlated

So storage needs can be abated.

Green energy buyers have been dazed

As wheeling charges have been raised.

Net metering comes at a cost.

Thus all the benefit is lost!

Instead of being incentivised

Green Energy is penalised!

Dear policy makers won’t you please

Let energy move with greater ease

4th Lever: No New Coal Plants

Right now coal still looks cheap

But the environmental cost is steep

Both climate change and air pollution

Show that coal’s not the solution.

Green energy costs will steadily fall

So coal of course is not at all

Reliable for very long.

New projects could go very wrong.

Investing now can’t be a gain

If new projects can’t sustain.

Only fossil fuels with sequestration

Should be the rule throughout our nation.

 

Q: Are there perceptions that green growth is difficult to achieve and alternatively development cannot be green? What are your views on this, and what is the bargain that India can be making here?

A: No Bargain or Tradeoff

I’ve shown we can decarbonise

While we also monetise.                                

So never fall for either or.

Our hearts and minds demand much more.

Net zero emissions is in sight.

Businesses are seeing the light.

There’s no reason for our Group to fear

We’ll be net zero by next year.

And no there is no major cost

With our initiatives nothing’s lost.

There really is no give and take

We can both eat and have our cake.

All money spent is CSR

Which as I’ve shown can take us far.

So businesses must play a role

By setting an ambitious goal.

They can pay their climate dues

Without anything to lose.

 

Q: What role can businesses play in creating the demand for green growth and leading on low carbon development practices?

The Role of Business

Businesses can act one by one

But much more can be won

By also acting collectively

And doing so reflectively.

For WBCSD’s

Membership one now foresees

Science-based goals reached very fast.

The energy intensive, expectedly last,

Could manage with setoffs instead.

The others could well forge ahead.

Their partnership with CII

Means many more would get to try.

There is a role in advocacy

With good supportive policy.

A good global carbon price

Would solve the problem in a trice.

And nothing much would be lost,

Indeed there is no net cost.

For going green we miss incentives

At least get rid of disincentives!

And of course it would be great

If all stake holders collaborate

To develop technology that’s green.

We should, hand in hand, plan it

Preserving people, profit and planet.

[Source: Climate Home News]

Good (air quality) news you probably didn’t hear about

A new study in The Lancet has shown that between 2013 and 2017, air pollution in 74 key Chinese cities fell by a third, driven by a 85.4% decline in household air pollution and a 12% decline in PM2.5. As a result, the death rate attributable to air pollution has plummeted by more than 60%, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

(Although – gulp – the average annual population-weighted PM2·5 exposure in China was 52·7 μg/m3 (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 41·0–62·8) in 2017, which is 9% lower than in 1990 (57·8 μg/m3, 45·0–67·0)).

[Source: Future Crunch, 17 Sep 2020]

the new AQI

[Source: (US) National Weather Service Spokane]

Changes in air quality during lockdown in Auckland

This paper presents a case study from Auckland, where traffic flows reduced by 60–80% as a result of a government-led initiative to contain the virus by limiting all transport to only essential services. Ambient pollutant concentrations of NO2, O3, BC, PM2.5, and PM10 are compared between the lockdown period and comparable periods in the historical air pollution record, while taking into account changes in the local meteorology.

This ‘natural experiment’ in source emission reductions had significant but non-linear impacts on air quality. While emission inventories and receptor modelling approaches confirm the dominance of traffic sources for NOx (86%), and BC (72%) across the city, observations suggest a consequent reduction in NO2 of only 34–57% and a reduction in BC of 55–75%. The observed reductions in PM2.5 (still likely to be dominated by traffic emissions), and PM10 (dominated by sea salt, traffic emissions to a lesser extent, and affected by seasonality) were found to be significantly less (8–17% for PM2.5 and 7–20% for PM10).

[Source: Patel H., et al., 2020. Implications for air quality management of changes in air quality during lockdown in Auckland (New Zealand) in response to the 2020 SARS-CoV-2 epidemic. Science of the Total Environment. Vol 746. Dec 2020. 141129. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141129]

 

Report: Brake Dust Pollution ‘As Harmful To Health As Diesel’


New research finds brake dust has a “worrying” effect on health, with potentially “important policy implications” given it makes up a larger proportion of traffic pollution than exhaust fumes. When cars brake, they release metallic dust into the air. According to scientists behind the study, these particles stop vital immune cells from doing their job of protecting our lungs and lead to a greater risk of bacterial infections such as coughs, colds, pneumonia and bronchitis.

The UK-based research group was surprised to find that the brake dust had similar effects as diesel fumes, which typically receive more attention.

The study points out that exhaust pollution only makes up 7% of small particulate matter pollution (PM2.5). The rest comes from non-exhaust sources – namely from tires, clutches and brake pads. The latter is responsible for 20% of particulates.

Ian Mudway, who led the research at the MRC Centre for Environment and Health at King’s College, London, said that while it is “completely justified” that all eyes are on exhaust emissions, “we should not forget the importance of other components”.

A European transition to electric cars, which have less need to brake, “could be a slight benefit”, said Florent Grelier, an engineer at Brussels-based green group Transport & Environment. “Though of course, any car with a brake is going to be contributing.”

Mudway agreed, saying: “There is no such thing as a zero-emission vehicle, and as regulations to reduce exhaust emissions kick in, the contribution from these sources are likely to become more significant.”

According to Grelier, it is possible non-exhaust pollutants will be included in the post Euro-6 car emissions regulation, due in mid-2020. “That being said, the negotiations are still in very early stages,” he added.
He forecast that continued pressure from the EU’s Joint Research Centre and mounting scientific scrutiny will extend the conversation from exhausts to non-exhaust sources of air pollution.

Frans Timmermans, European Commission executive vice-president in charge of the European Green Deal, has said new measures are required to address tire pollution.

[Source: Car Lines, Feb 2020]

Reducing Air Pollution Comes With Instant Health Benefits

Continued exposure to air pollution has been linked to a whole host of diseases from pulmonary ailments to brain-related ones in people of all ages. It follows then that reducing exposure to toxic air should have health benefits. And indeed, that is what the authors of a new study have found.

In fact, say the researchers from the Environmental Committee of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), the health benefits can be quite dramatic. “Reducing pollution at its source can have a rapid and substantial impact on health,” they explain in the paper published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

“Within a few weeks, respiratory and irritation symptoms, such as shortness of breath, cough, phlegm, and sore throat, disappear; school absenteeism, clinic visits, hospitalizations, premature births, cardiovascular illness and death, and all-cause mortality decrease significantly.”

They reached this conclusion after reviewing the results of various interventions worldwide that have served to reduce the extent of air pollution at its source. They then evaluated the outcomes and examined how long they took to manifest themselves. The results were eye-opening.

In Ireland, for instance, during the early stages of a ban on smoking the health benefits included a 13% drop in all-cause mortality, a 26% drop in the rate of ischemic heart disease, a 32% drop in the number of strokes, and a 38% drop in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  Not only that but non-smokers also greatly benefited from the ban on smoking. Perhaps that should come as no surprise as second hand smoking has been known to have adverse health effects for non smokers who are exposed to cigarette smoke.

Meanwhile, a 13-month-long closure of a steel mill in Utah, in the United States, led to a state of affairs whereby hospitalizations for pneumonia, pleurisy, bronchitis and asthma were halved. The daily mortality fell by 16% for every 100 μg/m3 PM10 (a pollutant) decrease. Pregnant women were less likely to have premature births while school absenteeism by children also decreased by 40%.

In Nigeria, where indoor cooking has long been a health hazard, especially for poor families, in families that reduced indoor air pollution at home by using clean cook stoves pregnant women gave birth to children with higher birthweights, experienced greater gestational age at delivery, and had less perinatal mortality, the researchers say.

“We knew there were benefits from pollution control, but the magnitude and relatively short time duration to accomplish them were impressive,” said Dean Schraufnagel, a physician who was the report’s lead author. “Our findings indicate almost immediate and substantial effects on health outcomes followed reduced exposure to air pollution. It’s critical that governments adopt and enforce WHO guidelines for air pollution immediately.”

[Source: Car Lines, Jan 2020]

Air pollution is much worse than we thought

Ditching fossil fuels would pay for itself through clean air alone.

The evidence is now clear enough that it can be stated unequivocally: It would be worth freeing ourselves from fossil fuels even if global warming didn’t exist. Especially now that clean energy has gotten so cheap, the air quality benefits alone are enough to pay for the energy transition.

This conclusion has been reaffirmed by the latest air quality research, presented at a recent hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform by Drew Shindell, Nicholas professor of earth science at Duke University (and a lead author on both recent IPCC reports).

Shindell’s testimony reveals that the effects of air pollution are roughly twice as bad as previously estimated.

“The air quality scientific community has hypothesized this for at least a decade, but research advances have let us quantify and confirm this notion, over and over,” says Rebecca Saari, an air quality expert who teaches in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Waterloo. “The air quality ‘co-benefits’ are generally so valuable that they exceed the cost of climate action, often many times over.”

If the numbers are shocking, it’s because the science has been developing rapidly. First, says Shindell, “there’s been a huge upsurge in work in developing countries, in particular China,” which has produced larger data sets and a wider, fuller picture of the real-world effects of exposure.

Second, where scientists used to focus almost exclusively on pollution effects for which there is an established and well-understood biological pathway, the recent production of enormous data sets (for instance, the entire population of more than 60 million Medicare patients) has allowed them to uncover new statistical correlations.

With giant data sets, “you can control for socioeconomic status, temperature, hypertension and other existing conditions,” and other variables, says Shindell. “You can convincingly demonstrate that correlation is in fact causal, because you can rule out essentially every other possibility.”

For example, scientists now know that exposure to smog (tiny, microscopic particulates) hurts prenatal and young brains. Even though they don’t yet fully understand the biological mechanism, they know it reduces impulse control and degrades academic performance. Similarly, they know it hurts the kidneys, the spleen, even the nervous system.

“The well-understood pathways, things like strokes, lower respiratory infections, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, only seem to capture about half the total,” Shindell says. “When you look at the [new] studies, you find that air pollution seems to affect almost every organ in the human body.”

“About twice as many people die in total as die just from the pathways we understand,” says Shindell. “We’ve been underestimating all along.”

While that may sound like a big jump, it is likely a lower bound. On both air pollution and climate change, the study omitted many effects that “are clearly present but cannot yet be reliably quantified.” The true numbers are almost certainly higher.

New air pollution research ought to break the climate policy logjam

Climate change has often been framed as an intractable problem for international coordination, a matter of shared sacrifice, with every country incentivized to be a “free rider,” reaping the benefits without taking on any of the costs.

But the latest air pollution research, coupled with the plunging cost of clean energy, should render that dynamic moot.

It is true that climate change can only be averted with the entire world’s cooperation; if the US reduces its emissions to net zero but the other countries of the world (especially China and India) continue on their current trajectory, it will make almost no difference in temperature. The health benefits of avoided severe heat will not manifest.

However — and this is the crucial fact — the air quality benefits will manifest, no matter what the rest of the world does. Shindell’s team ran a version of their scenario in which the US came into compliance with a 2°C pathway but the rest of the world continued with current policies. “We found that US action alone would bring us more than two-thirds of the health benefits of worldwide action over the next 15 years,” Shindell testified, “with roughly half the total over the entire 50-year period analyzed.”

The air quality benefits arrive much sooner than the climate benefits. They are, at least for the next several decades, much larger. They can be secured without the cooperation of other countries. And, by generating an average of $700 billion a year in avoided health and labor costs, they will more than pay for the energy transition on their own. Climate change or no climate change, it’s worth ditching fossil fuels.

And if this is true in the US — which, after all, has comparatively clean air — it is true tenfold for countries like China and India, where air quality remains abysmal. A Lancet Commission study in 2017 found that in 2015, air pollution killed 1.81 million people in India and 1.58 million in China.

Air pollution ought to be seen as a global civil rights crisis

The extraordinary level of suffering humanity is currently experiencing from air pollution is not necessary for modernity; it could be reduced, at a cost well below the net social benefits, with clean energy technologies on hand.

If they are not necessary, then the millions of lives ended or degraded by fossil fuels every year are a choice. And when suffering on this scale, that is this brutally inequitable, becomes a choice, it enters the same ethical terrain as war, slavery, and genocide. The effects are more distributed over time and geography, as are the decision-making and the moral culpability, but the cumulative impact on human well-being — on our longevity, health, learning, and happiness — is comparable, and every bit as much worth fighting.

[Abridged: Vox]

Baby powder contains asbestos

An appellate court in Missouri upheld more than $2 billion in damages against Johnson & Johnson, saying the company knew there was asbestos in its baby powder.

“A reasonable inference from all this evidence is that, motivated by profits, defendants disregarded the safety of consumers,” the court said.
Credit…Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A Missouri appeals court on Tuesday ordered Johnson & Johnson and a subsidiary to pay $2.1 billion in damages to women who blamed their ovarian cancers on the company’s talcum products, including its iconic baby powder.

The decision slashed by more than half a record award of $4.69 billion in compensatory and punitive damages to the women, which was made in July 2018.

Johnson & Johnson still faces thousands of lawsuits from consumers who claim its talcum products were contaminated with asbestos that caused cancer. The company announced last month that it would stop selling baby powder made from talc in North America, though it would continue to market the product elsewhere in the world.

A spokeswoman said Johnson & Johnson would seek further review of the ruling by the Supreme Court of Missouri and defended its talcum products as safe.

“We continue to believe this was a fundamentally flawed trial, grounded in a faulty presentation of the facts,” Kim Montagnino, the spokeswoman, said. “We remain confident that our talc is safe, asbestos free and does not cause cancer.”

Mark Lanier, the lawyer who represented the plaintiffs, urged consumers to discard any baby powder they had in their homes. Six plaintiffs in the case died before the trial started, and five more women have died since the jury trial ended in 2018, he said.

Since this is a civil suit, “all you can do is fine them, and we need to fine them sufficiently that the industry wakes up and takes notice,” Mr. Lanier added.

In its decision, the appellate court noted that the company’s internal memorandums from as far back as the 1960s indicated that its talcum products — referred to as the “golden egg,” “company trust-mark” and “sacred cow” — contained asbestos, and that the mineral could be dangerous.

“A reasonable inference from all this evidence is that, motivated by profits, defendants disregarded the safety of consumers despite their knowledge the talc in their products caused ovarian cancer,” the court said.

The plaintiffs “showed clear and convincing evidence defendants engaged in conduct that was outrageous because of evil motive or reckless indifference,” the court said.

The court awarded $500 million in actual damages and $1.62 billion in punitive damages, reducing the original award of $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages after dismissing claims by some of the plaintiffs.

Johnson & Johnson has argued that faulty testing methods and shoddy science were responsible for findings of asbestos in its products. But thousands of people — mostly women with ovarian cancer — have sued, saying they were never warned of the potential risks.

The main ingredient in baby powder and many other bath powders was talc, a natural mineral known for its softness. Talc also helped lend baby powder its unique fragrance, said to be one of the most recognizable in the world.

In 1980, after consumer advocates raised concerns that talc contained traces of asbestos, an infamous carcinogen, the company developed an alternative powder made from cornstarch.

Though talcum powder has been promoted as soft and gentle enough for babies, and is sold with other infant products in stores, adult women have long been the main purchasers, using baby powder in pubic areas and to prevent chafing between the legs. Many women in hot climates use baby powder to stay dry.

Early lawsuits against the company pointed to talc as a cause of ovarian cancer, though the scientific evidence was not conclusive. In later cases, plaintiffs’ lawyers zeroed in on asbestos contamination as the culprit, saying the carcinogen could cause cancer even in trace amounts.

Talc is used in many cosmetic products, including lipstick, mascara, eye shadow, blush and foundation. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration issued several alerts warning that asbestos had been found in makeup, including eye shadow sold at Claire’s, a retailer popular with teenage girls.

Talc and asbestos are natural minerals, and their underground deposits develop under similar geological conditions. As a result, veins of asbestos may crisscross talc deposits in mines.

Indeed, internal memos unearthed during litigation revealed that Johnson & Johnson had been concerned about the possibility of asbestos contamination in its talc for at least 50 years. Asbestos was first linked to ovarian cancer in 1958, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer affirmed it was a cause of the cancer in a 2011 report.

As of March, Johnson & Johnson faced more than 19,000 lawsuits related to talc body powders. So far, the legal record has been mixed, with the company prevailing in some cases and losing in others. It is appealing nearly all of the cases it has lost.

Late last year, Johnson & Johnson recalled 33,000 bottles of baby powder after F.D.A. investigators said they had discovered asbestos in a bottle bought from an online retailer. But the company later said its own tests exonerated the product.

Johnson & Johnson is fending off lawsuits on other fronts as well, most notably ones related to opioids. In August 2019, an Oklahoma judge ruled that the company had oversold the benefits of the drugs while playing down the risks, and ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million in damages.

In October, in an unrelated case that involved the antipsychotic drug Risperdal, a Philadelphia jury ordered the company to pay $8 billion to a Maryland man who claimed he had been harmed by using the drug.

Johnson & Johnson is one of several companies racing to develop a vaccine to protect against the coronavirus. The company recently announced it would move up the start date for its safety trials in humans to the end of July. Johnson & Johnson has already signed deals with the federal government to create enough manufacturing capacity to make more than a billion doses of a vaccine, once it is found safe and effective.

“At some point there is a reputational question that mass tort cases bring, and they’re going to have to be concerned,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor who teaches about product liability at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

“They’ve built their entire reputation on being a family-friendly product producer,” Mr. Tobias said. “The classic example of that is talc, and the injuries these women suffered are severe.”

Proposed amendments to the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality

In February 2020, the Ministry for the Environment released a suite of proposed amendments to the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality (NESAQ). Standards currently exist under the NESAQ for particulate matter less than 10 micrometres in diameter (PM10) and wood burners. The proposed amendments include:

  • new ambient standards for particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (PM2.5),
  • more stringent national wood burner design standards, and
  • new standards for mercury emissions to air.

The aim of these proposed amendments is to bring New Zealand’s current air quality standards in line with international standards, improve air quality and associated health effects.

The Ministry is currently seeking feedback on these proposed amendments. The consultation documents and related information are available on the Ministry’s Improving the quality of our air website. Submissions close at 5pm on 31st July, 2020.

Cleaner air during UK lockdown relieves asthma for millions

 A woman walks across an empty Deansgate in central Manchester in late April.

A woman walks across an empty Deansgate in central Manchester in late April. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

Two million people in the UK with respiratory conditions such as asthma have experienced reduced symptoms during the coronavirus lockdown, according to the British Lung Foundation.

A survey by the charity of 14,000 people with lung conditions found one in six had noticed improvements in their health. Among children, the figure was higher, with one in five parents saying their child’s condition had been alleviated. Asthma sufferers in particular reported benefits, with one in four noting relief.

There is a well-established link between air pollution and lung disease. Of the 12 million people in the UK who live with conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, about 8 million have been diagnosed with asthma, of which 5.4 million are receiving treatment. 

The number of visits to hospital emergency departments for asthma in England have also fallen by half during lockdown, according to Public Health England data. But it is unclear how much of the decrease is due to a reduction in symptoms or people’s reluctance to visit hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Zak Bond, of the British Lung Foundation, said: “Now, more than ever before, we have all become aware of how important it is to look after our lungs, and the government has a duty to ensure that as the country recovers from Covid-19, we can continue to keep air pollution levels down and keep pushing them lower.”

There is growing evidence from around the world linking increased Covid-19 infections and deaths to air pollution exposure. On Friday, a cross-party group of MPs said air pollution must be kept at low levels to help avoid a second peak of infections.

Bond called for the rapid introduction of clean air zones in cities, where charges deter the use of the most polluting vehicles. But these have been delayed in cities such as Manchester, with officials citing the need to focus on the coronavirus response. 

Bond said more support was needed for public transport, cycling and walking, and tougher air quality laws: “We want to see the government commit to reaching the World Health Organization’s guidelines for fine particulate matter by 2030 at the latest.”

How to solve the UK’s transport problem in the time of coronavirus – video

Each year, air pollution leads to tens of thousands of early deaths in the UK. More than a third of local authorities in England have levels of fine particle pollution above the WHO’s limit. Nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant produced largely by diesel vehicles, is at illegal levels in 80% of urban areas.

Stephen Holgate, Medical Research Council clinical professor of immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton, said: “As one of the biggest health problems of our time, air pollution has the potential to harm everyone. It is so important we take this opportunity to recognise the lived experiences of people with lung conditions and apply what we have learned from the impact of lockdown to build a future where we prioritise clean air.” 

The lockdown led to traffic falling to 1955 levels while both fine particle and NO2 pollution fell by up to half in cities. The British Lung Foundation survey found that more than 50% of people with lung conditions said they had noticed a decrease in air pollution since the start of lockdown.

One asthma sufferer, Paul, 14 from Liverpool, has often found it difficult to breathe, but has had to use his reliever inhaler a lot less during lockdown. “You can really feel the difference now,” he said. “I walk out, and I’m hit with clean air which is like a utopia compared to before.”

Dr Alison Cook, the chair of the Taskforce for Lung Health, a coalition of 30 organisations, said: “Children deserve to breathe cleaner air and to grow up in a country where their health is not put at risk by going outside.”

[Source: The Guardian 4 June 2020]