Delhi goes up in smog after sharp air quality spike before Diwali
NEW DELHI, Nov 5: The air quality deteriorated sharply as a change in wind pattern swept in smoke from farm fires in Punjab and Haryana on Monday, shrouding the national capital region (NCR) in a thick haze made of tiny particulate matter that can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause health problems.
Levels of PM2.5 shot up nearly five times in 24 hours – a phenomenon that officials said was not recorded in the three years since hourly monitoring began for the region. Sunday was the best November day since 2015.
Scientists from government agencies said they expected pollution to increase but were taken aback by how fast it happened. “The prediction was that air quality could deteriorate to ‘very poor’ levels. We have not encountered such an overnight spike in the last three years at least,” said an official of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
The average Air Quality Index (AQI) value shot up from 171 on Sunday to 426 on Monday, settling in the ‘severe’ category, which is the second worst of five classifications of pollution.
According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (Safar), at least 33% of the pollutants originated from fires in farms in Punjab and Haryana, where farmers set fire to crop residue ahead of the next round of sowing later this month.
Satellite images from the United States’s National Aeronautical Space Agency (Nasa) showed that between Friday and Sunday, at least 5,000 instances of crop burning were seen in Punjab.
A farmer leader said fields are still to be cleared and there will likely be more instances between Tuesday and Saturday, a period that is also likely to be affected by pollution from Diwali celebrations.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) general secretary in Punjab, Harinder Singh Lakhowal, said the problem was that many farmers could not afford to use machinery that could clear crop residue. “Those who can afford the additional diesel costs during the use of machinery are not burning stubble. Rest of the farmers are helpless,” he said.
But till now, he added, only about 30% of crop residue has been cleared through burning.
Adding to the problem are the atmospheric conditions – high moisture content, calm winds near the surface and strong currents in the upper atmosphere that are bringing the farm fire pollutants it. “It is almost as if there is a rain of particulate matter, which is being brought in by the upper air currents and being trapped in the moist, still surface air,” a Delhi environment department official said, asking not to be named since he was not authorised to speak to the media.
According to forecasts, the air pollution might relent to ‘very poor’ category – when AQI is between 300 and 400 – on Tuesday before it starts climbing back up again from Wednesday.
Experts said that at this point, it was crucial that officials in NCR made sure that restrictions in place to curb local emissions were being followed. “Commuters must use public transport to minimise the use of private vehicles, which is a major contributor to local emission,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment.
Doctors, meanwhile, reiterated that people should avoid outdoor exposure, particularly strenuous activity.
Particularly at risk are children, said Dr Krishan Chugh, paediatric pulmonologist, Fortis Memorial Research Institute (FMRI), Gurugram. “A child gets affected by all components of polluted air, and each of these components are known to cause serious harm. So, imagine what will happen to a child’s lungs when all these pollutants are collectively inhaled in heavy measure,” he said.
Hospitals and clinics have already recorded an increase in number of people coming in with pulmonary problems.
23 cities including Paris, Tokyo, New York vow to cut down on waste generation
NEW YORK, Aug 28: By slashing food waste and improving waste management and recycling, 23 global cities and regions representing 150 million people pledged Tuesday to significantly cut the pollution-causing garbage they generate by 2030.
Places like New York, Tokyo, London, Paris and Sydney vowed to “cut the amount of waste generated by each citizen 15 percent by 2030,” said a statement from C40 Cities, a global network dedicated to fighting climate change.
They will also “reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and incineration by 50 percent and increase the diversion rate to 70 percent by 2030,” according to the declaration.
The goal of the “Advancing Towards Zero Waste Declaration” is to avoid the disposal of at least 87 million tons of waste by 2030.
Waste is becoming one of the leading threats to the environment, increasing faster than any other pollutant.
Each year, 1.3 billion tons of wasted food is sent to landfills where rotting scraps send the potent heat-trapping greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere.
Improving waste and material management around the world globally could reduce global emissions by 20 percent, and are “essential” to delivering on the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accords and keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 Celsius, said the C40 Cities statement.
The announcement was released ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in mid-September.
Signatories include Auckland, Copenhagen, Dubai, London, Milan, Montreal, New York City, Newburyport, Paris, Philadelphia, Portland, Rotterdam, San Jose, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Toronto, Vancouver Washington DC, and the regions of Navarra and Catalonia.
Specific steps include reducing food waste and facilitating safe food donation.
Participating areas may encourage separate collection of food scraps that could be used for compost, and supporting local policies like sustainable procurement and boosting awareness and use of recycling for construction and demolition materials.
Areas may also support reductions or bans on single-use and non-recyclable plastics.
The signatories pledged to publicly report their progress every two years.
“Dramatically reducing waste will help curb carbon emissions while helping us build a fairer, cleaner and more livable city for all New Yorkers,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“We’re proud to stand alongside other leading cities worldwide in taking ambitious steps to cut down on waste.”
SpaceX rocket launch creates 60 kilometre-wide hole in Earth's ionosphere
NEW DELHI, March 26: SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launched on August 24, 2017 has created a massive hole in the Earth's ionosphere.
The rocket built by SpaceX was launched to take a satellite to orbit.
A new study suggests that the rocket launch has punched a temporary hole - which extends between around 60 kilometre - in the ionosphere, a part of the Earth’s upper atmosphere composed of free electrons and ions.
The study led by Charles Lin of National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, Taiwan, analysed how the launch affected the ionosphere.
The launch created an extremely rare, perfectly circular shock wave, the first such event recorded after a rocket launch.
It was the largest rocket shock wave the team had ever seen.
Researchers said that the hole was caused by 'rapid chemical reactions of rocket exhaust plumes' and charged particles in the atmosphere.
The study was published in the journal Space Weather.
India to showcase 'Yoga' at Climate Conference
BONN, Nov 6: United Nations climate change conference to prepare a rule book to implement Paris Agreement began here on Monday with India asking for including pre-2020 actions of rich nations in the agenda for discussion. India has also decided to conduct 'Yoga' session every evening in the country's pavilion here to showcase its age-old tradition of sustainable lifestyle.
The mega meet took off amid alarming report of the World Meteorological Organisation's (WMO) which says the year 2017 is very likely to be one of the three hottest years on record.
The State of the Climate report of the WMO, released on the inaugural day of the Conference (COP23), says the average global temperature from January to September 2017 was approximately 1.1°C above the pre-industrial era. "As a result of a powerful El Nino, 2016 is likely to remain the warmest year on record, with 2017 and 2015 being second and/or third", it says while noting that 2013-2017 is set to be the warmest five-year period on record.
Though the Paris Agreement is meant for post-2020 climate actions to keep the average global temperature rise within 2 degree Celsius by the end of this century, India's pitch for discussing pre-2020 actions assumes significance considering the recent 'emission gap' report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The report, released last week, said that the national pledges on emission reduction, made by countries from across the globe under the Paris deal, would only bring a third of what is needed to avoid worst impact of climate change.
"India's demand to put pre-2020 actions on the agenda of the COP23 will hopefully be accepted", the country's negotiator said. Under pre-2020 actions, only developed countries - the historical polluters (developed countries) - are mandated to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases. The Paris Agreement, on the other hand, says that all nations should take voluntary climate actions (as they had promised) under this global deal in December 2015.
Clearly articulating India's position, the country's environment minister Harsh Vardhan said, "India has been ambitious in its climate change actions."
Speaking after inaugurating India's pavilion at sidelines of the climate change conference, the minister also noted that India's per capita emission is only one-third of the global average and shared what all the country has been doing to fulfill its Paris Agreement commitment.
The Conference (COP23) was kicked off with strong and unified calls to walk on the path of the Paris Agreement - especially when the US decision to withdraw from the global deal has already sent a negative signal to the world. Negotiators strongly believe that it would be practically impossible to meet the Paris goal without the US - the biggest historical polluter and the second largest current carbon emitter after China.
"All over the world, huge number of people are suffering. Our job as leaders is to respond to the suffering with all means available to us," said newly elected COP23 president and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Whilst Fiji has the Presidency of COP23, Germany is providing logistic resources to the island nation in Bonn to hold the key climate conference.
The participating countries' concerns and need for raising their emission cut ambition got reflected in what the WMO said in its report on global temperature rise.
Referring to warmest years in record, the WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas, said, "The past three years have been in the top three years in terms of temperature records. This is part of a long term warming trend. We have witnessed extraordinary weather, including temperatures topping 50 degrees Celsius in Asia, record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession in the Caribbean and Atlantic reaching as far as Ireland, devastating monsoon flooding affecting many millions of people and a relentless drought in East Africa.
"Many of these events - and detailed scientific studies will determine exactly how many - bear the tell-tale sign of climate change caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities."