Most-recent articles

7 million people die every year from air pollution – Double previous estimates

Submitted by: Rick Higgins - Published At: 2016-04-16 13:49 - (224 Reads)
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than seven million deaths every year are linked to air pollution exposure from household and ambient (outdoor) air pollution according to the latest (2014) study. Based on the latest results from WHO air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk, linked to 12% of all global deaths. Around 4.3 million deaths every year are attributed to exposure to household (indoor) air pollution, from heating, cooking and lighting using solid fuels. Around 3.7 million deaths every year are linked to outdoor air pollution , including exposure to fine particulate matter from fuel combustion from vehicles and from power plants, industry and biomass burning. The burden of deaths from ambient air pollution falls most heavily on the low and middle income countries of SE Asia and the Western Pacific (including China). In the case of indoor air pollution women and children suffer the greatest mortality rates. Burden of disease from ambient and household air pollution. UN WHO(external link)

Changes in methodology doubles WHO estimates of deaths linked to environmental risk factors

Submitted by: Geoff Zeiss - Published At: 2016-03-22 18:13 - (238 Reads)
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently released a report with an infographic that headlines as “fact” that 23% of all global deaths are linked to the environment, approximately 12.6 million deaths a year. Since these estimates are widely used to support policy decisions, this article aims to elucidate some of the key sources of uncertainty in their calculation. In particular these estimates include limited and unreliable statistics on cause of death, a reliance on generalizing from epidemiological studies in the U.S. and Western Europe to the rapidly developing cities of Asia, and the limited data about the health effects of the different chemical composition of air pollution in different localities. Our conclusion is that while the latest WHO report is based on the best evidence available, there are still important gaps and concerns with the data underlying the estimates.Preventing Disease through Healthy Environments Second Edition 2016 (external link)

High quality satellite remote-sensing data lowers estimates of global emissions from deforestation by 40%

Submitted by: Geoff Zeiss - Published At: 2016-01-18 22:26 - (513 Reads)
Forestry and Agriculture
In 2007 the IPCC concluded that deforestation was the second largest contributor of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, after energy. Over the past decade data from earth observation satellites have increasingly been used to clarify how deforestation is defined (for example, by providing more and higher quality data on forest degradation and forest regrowth) and to augment and check the national data compiled by the FAO. A 2012 paper by Harris et al. estimated carbon emissions due to deforestation using only satellite data, without recourse to any FAO data. The new higher quality satellite data and the work by Harris et al. (and other peer reviewed work) has resulted in a significant lowering of the estimated carbon emissions from deforestation by both the FAO's most recent Global Forest Resource Assessment (FRA 2015) and the IPCC's 2015 Assessment Review 5 (AR5). The new estimates have directly affected assessments of where to focus future climate remediation efforts.

Accelerating retreat of massive Greenland glacier detected by remote sensing technologies

Submitted by: Geoff Zeiss - Published At: 2015-11-18 22:54 - (853 Reads)
The massive Zachariæ Isstrøm (ZI) glacier entered a phase of accelerated retreat in fall 2012. Since then its ice velocity has tripled and it is now losing mass at about 5 gigatonnes per year (Gt/yr). ZI, which is in northeast Greenland, holds enough water to raise global sea level by half a meter. In this study data collected with a number of different remote sensing technologies have been used to construct a high resolution profile of the accelerating retreat of the glacier including glacial ice front positions, glacier grounding lines (where the base of the glacier meets the sea), surface velocity, ice thickness and surface elevation since 1992 and even earlier for some data. By combining surface velocity and ice thickness the researchers have been able to calculate the glacier ice discharge from 1976 to 2015. This is an example of how satellite remote sensing has become an essential tool for studying glaciers and ice sheets by allowing research to be conducted over large inaccessible areas even during winter.

5 trillion pieces of plastic floating on World's oceans

Submitted by: Rick Higgins - Published At: 2015-04-26 00:20 - (2044 Reads)
Marine and Oceans
A recent evidence-based study(external link) has been released which estimates the amounts of plastics floating on the oceans. The study is based on extensive surveys from 24 expeditions across the five major rotating ocean current regions (known as ocean gyres) of the sub tropics as well as coastal Australia, the Bay of Bengal and the Mediterranean Sea. The study estimates ("our estimates are highly conservative") there are in the order of 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic weighing around 270,000 tonnes currently floating on the surface of the oceans. As around 8 million tonnes of plastic waste is added to the World's oceans annually the majority of it sinks to the ocean floor. Plastics take in the order of 5 to 40+ years to break up and degrade/decompose in the oceans, depending on their chemical and physical composition. Some are ingested by marine life and some eventually find their way into the food chain for human consumption. Every year around 100,000 marine mammals and turtles are killed by plastic litter. A second recent study(external link) takes available data on plastics entering the oceans from major sources and models the dynamics of how the plastics are flushed from these land sources into the major ocean regions and demonstrates the subsequent transport of plastics by wind and current around the World. Together these 2 studies provide new, more robust estimates of the global situation.