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Air Quality and the Paris Agreement

Posted by Rachel Stansel on Fri, Sep 09, 2016 @ 10:00 AM


As we end the summer, this year is expected to be the hottest on record for the second year in a row. Climate change is on the forefront of President Obama's mind in his final months in office. Last week, he delivered paperwork commiting the US to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gas pollution to about a quarter below the levels from 2005 by 2025. Likewise, China , the leading producer of greenhouse gas, has committed to a halt in emissions by 2030. A large part of this decrease has been attributed to the reduction in coal consumption.

The Paris agreement now has been signed by 55 countries, responsible for over 55% of the global pollution, and it is expected to take effect this November. It remains to be determined how the agreement will be implemented. Clinton is likely to follow the lead of President Obama. It is less likely that Trump would continue on this path since he has voiced his opinion that global warming is not real.

Once it takes effect, countries are expected to self-regulate. This would include reporting levels as well as actions and activities that are being conducted to meet the agreed upon levels. While the UN is unable to enforce commitment to the agreement, countries that fail to live up to the standards could leave themselves open to embargoes or other trade related sanctions. In the end, following through on the agreement is entirely voluntary.

With the Paris agreement in the news, air quality monitoring will continue to be a key issue going forward.


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Tags: USA Emissions, EPA, Air Pollution, ambient air calibrator, Emission Standards, European Union Emissions

Comparing Air Quality in Cities Across Europe

Posted by Rachel Stansel on Tue, Feb 07, 2012 @ 12:11 PM

Throughout Europe, initiatives have resulted in an overall improved air quality since the 1970's. Some of the main components of air pollution are particulates, ozone, NOx, hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide.

Most generally, air quality affects the health of the population on a daily basis.  Especially at risk are the very young, the elderly and those with breathing issues.  In most cities, traffic related air pollution is the most common source, with industrial emissions also playing a key role.

Recently, I posted about an EPA run site that allows website visitors to view the air quality (along with water quality, etc).  Today, I want to share a site which shows air quality for cities throughout Europe.

The site, Air Quality Now, also provides details on the various components of air pollution, the health threats of each and some background to the current initiatives.

When searching, you can look at historical data, today's data, or a forecast for the following day.  Also of interest, you can view background or roadside data.

Click here to search for your city or nearby areas or to learn more.


Tags: Environics Inc, ozone, EPA, Ambient Air calibration, Emission Standards, European Union Emissions

News: 2011 Report on Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions Released

Posted by Rachel Stansel on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 @ 11:06 AM

Today, a report was published from the research performed jointly by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC).  The preliminary data collected "on the basis of energy consumption data for 2008 to 2010 recently published by BP" as well as the "production data for cement, lime, ammonia and steel and emissions per country from 1970 to 2008 from version 4.2 of the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR)."  The full report (pdf) is available for download here.

In brief, the report presents the following:

  • Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were 5.8 percent higher in 2010 than in 2009. 

  • The 2010 emission level resembles and is reminiscent of the 1976 level.  At that time, the world was recovering from the oil crisis and subsequent stock market collapse.

  • The growth of developing nations, in addition to the recovery of industrialized nations are key causes of this increase.

  • Despite the increase, the level of emissions in industrialized countries remains below the levels before the recession in most cases. 

  • The largest CO2 emissions increases were seen in China (up 10%), India (up 9%), the USA (4%) and the EU-27 (up 3%).

The full details on global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production between 1970 and 2010 are available for download and are examined by region (exl).

Despite these increases, the industrialized countries that ratified the Kyoto target remain on target to hit the emissions reduction levels called out.  The goal, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 4.2% during 2008-2012, should easily be reached.  Current estimates place the average reduction at 16%.  This does not include emissions from the USA, as they did not ratify the Kyoto protocol.  During this time frame, US emissions increased 11 percent between 1990 and 2008-2011.  When these figures are included, the average reduced emissions are approximately 7.5 percent compared with 1990, still well within the goal.

The impact of the Kyoto Protocol is debatable.  While limited in direct impact, many consider it to be an important step in encouraging the development of new green technologies. 

Tags: USA Emissions, Environics Inc, Ambient Air calibration, Emission Standards, European Union Emissions

Ozone and Ozone Generators - Good or Evil?

Posted by Rachel Stansel on Thu, May 05, 2011 @ 01:52 PM

Most people, when they hear the word Ozone, immediately think of air pollution and global warming.  This is just a small part of the story.  Ozone also has many useful applications.  Let's take a deeper look.

121px Ozone 1,3 dipoleOzone, or tri-oxygen, is a triatomic molecule made of three atoms of oxygen.  It is an unstable molecule and is constantly being generated and then destroyed in the atmosphere.  Ozone comprises a tiny 0.00006% of the atmosphere.

The highest levels of ozone are in the stratosphere, commonly called the ozone layer between about 6 and 31 miles up. Ozone serves as a natural filter of ultraviolet (UV) light from the Sun.  These rays are harmful to us in large doses.

ozone layer

Ozone in produced when the UV rays react with oxygen (click here for a great diagram that summarizes the chemistry).  The radiation first splits an oxygen molecule and then allows the formation of the triatomic struture:

O2 + photon (UV radiation < 240 nm) → 2 O

O + O2 + M → O3 + M

Ozone can also be destroyed by a reaction with atomic oxygen in the presence of one of a variety of catalyzing agents (including hydroxyl, nitric oxide, chlorine and bromine):

O3 + O → 2 O2

In recent decades, we have heard more and more about the "hole" in the ozone layer.  Scientists suspect the stratospheric levels of ozone have declined in part due to emissions of CFCs and other  chlorinated and brominated organic molecules.  The presence of these catalyists increase the rate at which ozone is destroyed and decrease the overall concentration of ozone in the stratosphere.

While low levels of ozone are an issue in the stratosphere, here on the ground, it is high levels that present health risks.  Ozone is formed when sunlight reacts with air containing hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides to form ozone.  Ground ozone can take 22 days to be destroyed and can cause effects from smog to reduction in agricultural yields (due to the effects on photosynthesis). 

Despite the negative press, ozone is used successfully in many applications  (beyond its effects as a sunscreen for the planet in the stratosphere).  The largest use of ozone is in industrial applications.  It can cleave carbon bonds, facilitate the breakdown of agricultural organic wastes, sanitize and deodorize items and kill bacteria in drinking water.  Next time, I'll take a look at how ozone can be created and measured for these purposes. 

There are many resources to further investigate the positive and negatives that surround this molecule.  Here are just a few:

Join me next week to learn more about how ozone is generated for these purposes.

Tags: USA Emissions, Environics Inc, ozone, ozone generator, Zero Air, zero air generator, European Union Emissions

Five Stages of Emission Standards in the European Union

Posted by Rachel Stansel on Fri, Feb 25, 2011 @ 11:09 AM

EU resized 600

As in the USA, emission standards in Europe aim to limit and set the acceptable limits for exhaust emissions of vehicles sold in its member states.  On February 7, 2007, the European Commission announced a strategy to both decrease CO2 emissions and increase fuel quality standards. Their goal was to reduce CO2 emissions of the vehicle fleets by 25% to 120 grams per kilometer by 2012.


For automobiles, the stringency of the standards has been increasing since 1993 when the first standard stage was implemented.  Currently, the emissions that are regulated are for nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulates.  To educate consumers on the emissions of new cars, car manufacturers agreed to use a simple, color-coded system to show the level of CO2 emissions for each model.

Although standards are in place for both passenger and diesel vehicles, the specific requirments vary.  For example, diesels have more stringent CO standards; however they are allowed higher nitrogen oxide emissions.

In addition to the increasing strigency of the standards, many EU countries are continuing to look to electric vehicles and are improving/implementing the required infrastructure to make this a more widely available alternative.

To learn more, click here.

Tags: Emission Standards, European Union Emissions