Air pollution, can we reduce the impact of cars on urban air quality?

Air pollution in Delhi

Air pollution in Delhi

In January 2016, Delhi, India, improved air quality on its streets when it conducted a 2-week air pollution reduction experiment, with private cars allowed on the streets only on alternate days, depending on license plate numbers.   The idea is not new and has been tried elsewhere (Paris and Rome) but I guess its novelty (“who’d have thought” brigade) to the USA explained why it made The New York Times!

Last year, it was all headlines about Bejing [China] and the air quality citizens had to deal with. However it would seem that actually Beijing’s levels of PM10 (particulate matter up to 10 micrometres in size), a measure of air quality, decreased by 40% from 2000 to 2013, whereas Delhi's PM10 levels have increased 47% from 2000 to 2011.

Delhi's PM10 levels are nearly twice as much as in Beijing, and it has the worst PM 2.5 levels of 1600 cities in the world. Thus the need for the license plate experiment. In a BBC article, you can read more about the reasons “Why Delhi is losing its clean air war” and discover the varied & innovative measures China has taken to ameliorate motor car use.

No doubt spurred on by Delhi’s experiment, a health journalist in Bangladesh alerted the HIFA forum to the equally bad situation in India’s neighbour, Bangladesh.

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Farming tropical insects to feed the world in 2050

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  Deep-fried locust kebabs.CC BY 2.0

Many non-western cultures already eat insects [entomophagy]: in Thailand  & China its a common streetfood as you can see in the picture, but its an unusual  and frankly unheard of cuisine in the UK.  AS you will see though, CABI staff have an interest in entomophagy AND we have blogged about global entomophagy before [Roasted grasshopper with a sprinkling of termites].

On 18th November 2015, studio guests, and listeners, of BBC Radio 4 – Midweek were treated to the experience of eating insects as food!  Dr Sarah Beynon, an entomologist was a guest: she is on a mission to both educate the UK public on the importance of insects (including wasps and spiders) and to provide sustainable food by farming tropical insects. 

She had brought in samples of insect protein  which is on the menu at her café, The Grub Kitchen. The café  is the latest venture for her Bugfarm in Wales, which functions as  a research & education centre as well as providing dungbeetles for UK farmers to convert dung into compost! 

Guests sounded wary but chef Michel Roux Jnr pronounced the chocolate cookie made with ground cricket flour, sugar and chocolate, as “very nice” and described it as both chocolatey and having a novel “meaty” taste.  Another description was “marmity”: hardly surprising considering marmite was developed from yeast as an alternative to meat extract. 

Weight for weight, we were told, cricket flour is higher in protein than beef. 

Other delicacies available at the café include grasshoppers (taste like tea), mealworm hummus, and gourmet bug burgers containing mealworms, crickets and grasshoppers. By customer request coming soon will be burgers containing crunchy intact mealworms!

Food security for 2050: using insect protein will take the pressure off agricultural land

“WE need to look at new ways of producing food and we think this [tropical insect farming] is one of the ways of doing it” declared Dr. Beynon.

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Ambitious landscape restoration target may be within reach

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In September 2011, at a high-level meeting of world leaders, the Bonn Challenge was launched, with an ambitious goal to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s degraded and deforested land by 2020. This target was recently supplemented by the New York Declaration on Forests, which added an further 200 million hectares to be restored by 2030, putting the total area at 350 million ha, equivalent to an area the size of India.  Earlier this year, at the second Bonn Challenge conference, environment ministers discussed the progress that had been made.  Over 60 million hectares have already been taken under active restoration, and further pledges are in the pipeline.  With one-third of the world’s largest restoration initiative already within reach, there appears to be widespread recognition of the importance of forests in achieving multiple objectives such as tackling species extinction, climate change and restoring livelihoods.

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Indonesia’s mangroves key to climate change mitigation, says study

Mangrove_forest

Mangrove forests in Indonesia store approximately 3.14 billion tonnes of carbon, therefore protection of these ecosystems should be considered a major priority in terms of global climate change mitigation, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change

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Climate of changing public opinion

This week is Climate Week in the UK, which aims to get the public involved in thinking about climate change. In the scientific community, there is an increasing level of consensus about climate change and the need to take drastic action to limit severe consequences. However, in order to introduce challenging policies, there must be public support. In a paper in CAB Reviews, Ashley Cobb and Michael Carolan from Colorado State University, look at trends in public attitudes, and consider their implications for plans to mitigate climate change impacts.

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US media coverage of climate change has been a double-edge sword, in that while it has raised awareness about climate change by increasing perceived knowledge, it has also suggested scientific disagreement on the issue, despite the consensus amongst climatologists.

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Is local food environmentally costly?

Many consumers feel that they should be buying “local food” to help combat climate change – but could “local food” actually result in more carbon emissions than food distributed through conventional supply chains? David Oglethorpe raises this possibility along with some other surprising ideas in a paper in CAB Reviews.

 

Oglethorpe, of the Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University points out that the economies of scale of major production networks do actually result in some environmental benefits. A study of sausages showed that using HGVs in efficient distribution chains resulted in a much lower carbon footprint per sausage than resulted from the many smaller journeys in smaller vehicles that were typical of local food production.

In attempting to be more “green”, many consumers feel that they should not buy food that is highly packaged. But Oglethorpe says that there is much higher food waste with food that is low on packaging. And the emissions associated with food decay, particularly methane, are much more significant than for packaging materials. So it might make more environmental sense to use more packaging. 

Some producers who supply local food also use more environmentally friendly farming or production techniques. However, this is not always the case, and studies suggest that while the association may be strong in the consumer’s mind, in reality it may be weak. There are also examples where local production is more resource-consuming than production in a geographical area more suited to a particular type of farming.  For example, there is some evidence that New Zealand lamb imported to the UK has a smaller environmental impact than that produced in the UK, despite the obvious transport-related emissions.

However, local food may have other benefits. It can provide an important boost to the local economy, offering employment, and attracting tourism, local festivals and the “vibrancy” of an area. The fact that consumers can meet face-to-face with producers may have positive effects on the local community. Some local foods are of better quality – e.g. “local” meat products tend to have higher meat content than typical mass distribution equivalents. However, some that target an “indulgent” consumer have high sugar or fat content, and thus could have negative health impacts.

 

So consumers should not be assumers that local is always best. However, there is currently no agreement on what “local” means, and the hidden environmental costs are far from obvious. As with many environmental analysis, research is only beginning to scratch the surface, and agreeing what is fair to count within the cost is a controversial business.

 

The paper, Food miles – the economic, environmental and social significance of the focus on local food by David Oglethorpe appears in CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources, 2009, 4, No. 072, 11 pp.

World tourism leaders tackle climate change

Earlier this week, some 600 representatives from over 100 countries, representing all sectors of the tourism industry (public and private sector, NGOs and governments) met in the idyllic Swiss resort of Davos to debate the  global challenge of climate change as it affects and is affected by tourism, at the 2nd International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism. This meeting was organised by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in collaboration with UNEP and the World Meteorological Organisation, and included many senior tourism figures. As CABI is a leading information provider in both environmental and tourism literature, I was lucky enough to be able to attend, both to learn more about the issues and consider what contribution CABI may be able to make in the area of information dissemination – one of the components of the Davos Declaration which was drafted at the end of the conference.

To give a full picture of the debate at the conference, and the issues involved, would take a book rather than a blog entry. But I’ll try and give a very broad-brush overview of the issues and conclusions, and will be presenting more detail of some of the ideas presented in CABI’s subscription website, Leisuretourism.com, over the next few days for those whose institutions are subscribers. There were some very impressive presentations at Davos from some leading figures in both the public and private sector, and it was heartening to see areas where governments and private companies are starting to take real action. It was clear that the tourism sector recognises the need for action, not least to avoid being used as a scapegoat for climate change and the target for kneejerk response, as is increasingly the case in some European countries (the UK’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s ears may have been burning, as speaker after speaker attacked his doubling of Air Passenger Duty, without designating the revenue raised for any positive action on transport, the environment or climate).

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