What Are We Doing To The Planet? #4

The following articles about our effect on the planet have caught my eye this last week or two.

Ocean-going vessels are a huge contributor to global pollution, according to this article in the Guardian.

Shipping is more energy efficient than road or air transport, but a lack of controls on ship exhausts and the poor quality of marine fuel mean 15% of global nitrogen oxides and 8% of sulphur gaseous pollution come from ocean-going ships. This matters because 80% of shipping is within 400km of land, and major sea corridors and ports are large pollution sources. In Hong Kong, the world’s fourth largest port, daily changes in ship pollution have been linked to heart attack frequency.

Talking of water in a different form, it appears we are using an insanely vast amount of fresh water to grow our crops.

Each person consumes between 2,000-5,000 litres of water embedded in their food, every day – or between 730,000-1,825,000 million litres annually. Currently, around 90 per cent of all freshwater is used by agriculture (70 per cent) and industry (20 per cent), leaving just 10 per cent for domestic use.  However, as the population grows and more people move to a western-style diet, water extraction is estimated to increase by over 50 per cent to 6,900 billion m3 per year. By 2050, the overall impact will see around two thirds of the world’s population living in ‘water scare’ areas, compared to just seven per cent at present.

It seems obvious that we need to deal with this problem.

“None of this will be cheap or easy, but like the mitigation of climate change, it will be necessary to guarantee our quality of life”, concluded [Andy Furlong, IChemE director of policy].

Water and air are two items that are vital to life on earth and we are clearly screwing up both.  The stories above discuss water, while an article at EurActiv notes that air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death, responsible for 400,000 deaths annually.

Not only does air pollution exacerbate existing heart problems, but it also appears to play a role in the development of heart disease in otherwise healthy people, the researchers said …

Air pollution is made up of thousands of different particles and gasses. Among the most important pollutants, from a health point of view, are particles in suspension and gasses like ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), volatile organic compounds (like benzene), carbon monoxide (CO) and sulphur dioxide (SO2). The burning of fossil fuels releases soot particles, nitrogen oxides and sulphur directly into the atmosphere. The main sources of NO2 are road traffic, power generation, industrial processes and domestic heating …

Almost all of the urban population is exposed to levels of pollutants considered dangerous by the WHO … The document also states that nine out of ten inhabitants of Europe’s cities are forced to breathe air that contains the very pollutants responsible for 400,000 premature deaths every year.

Finally, here is a clever take on the environmental cost of litter that the everloving found:

 

Previous What Are We Doing? posts.

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