Saturday December 16, 2017

Scientists may have found an upside to Air Pollution: Study

two pollutants coming out of the smokestacks at coal-fired power plants interact to make a kind of fertilizer for ocean-dwelling plankton

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FILE - Smoke billows from chimneys of the cooling towers of a coal-fired power plant in Dadong, Shanxi province, China. VOA

US, Mar 3, 2017: Scientists may have found an upside to air pollution.

A new study found that two pollutants coming out of the smokestacks at coal-fired power plants interact to make a kind of fertilizer for ocean-dwelling plankton. That may help increase how much planet-warming carbon dioxide the plankton absorb.

The authors didn’t study the size of the fertilizer effect. But given the amount of coal burning going on, especially in Asia, they say it could be modest but significant.

While coal pollution is a major contributor to climate change and harms human health, “in this case it is doing us a good thing,” said University of Birmingham environmental scientist Zongbo Shi, senior author of the study.

“Earth systems are sometimes very complicated,” he added. “They are doing things that we don’t really expect.”

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Sulfate coating

Iron is essential for plant growth. But the mineral is often in short supply in ocean ecosystems.

Burning coal releases iron particles. Some estimates say the amount of iron falling into the oceans may have doubled or tripled since the Industrial Revolution.

But when that iron leaves the smokestack, it is locked away in a chemical form that’s not useful to plants.

Shi and colleagues found that as airborne particles drift along with other smokestack pollutants, they acquire a coating of sulfate, a chemical responsible for acid rain. That acidic coating triggers a reaction that generates iron sulfate, a soluble form of the mineral that plants can use.

The research was published in the journal Science Advances.

FILE - Power plant chimneys stand behind a coal-burning neighborhood covered in a thick haze on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Jan. 19, 2017.
FILE – Power plant chimneys stand behind a coal-burning neighborhood covered in a thick haze on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Jan. 19, 2017. VOA

Amount of absorption

The study “provides a demonstration of something that we thought was occurring, but couldn’t necessarily demonstrate,” said University of California-Davis engineering professor Chris Cappa, who was not involved with the research. But it’s still not clear how much is occurring, he said.

Burning less coal will still mean fewer greenhouse gas emissions. But Shi said the reduction might be less than anticipated.

“If we control air pollution, then all this potential uptake of carbon dioxide by the ocean will become less and less,” he said. “Then we will have to cut more and more greenhouse gas emissions.”

But outside experts cautioned that it would take more work to figure out what effect these air pollution particles actually have on how much carbon dioxide plankton absorbs.

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‘Nuanced’ relationship

“The link between iron fertilization and carbon dioxide storage is more nuanced,” said marine chemist Scott Doney at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. “There was a period of time when people talked about deliberately fertilizing the ocean with iron as a route to carbon storage. And it turns out not to be so simple.”

Before people get too excited about the benefits of air pollution, they should know this: The same form of iron that plants find useful also triggers damaging chemical reactions in human lungs, Shi said. That may be responsible for some of air pollution’s impact on health.

“It is not a simple good or bad,” he said. (VOA)

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Prince Charles Arrives in New Delhi for two day Visit to Meet PM Narendra Modi

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, accompanied by his wife arrived New Delhi for a two-day visit to India to complete their 10-day four-nation tour

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Prince Charles
Prince Charles visits India with his wife for two days. Wikimedia.

New Delhi, Nov 9: Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, accompanied by his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker-Bowles, arrived New Delhi on Wednesday on a two-day visit to India at the final leg of their 10-day four-nation tour that also took them to Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.

“Their Royal Highnesses Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall arrive,” the British High Commission in India tweeted.

Prince Charles is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday evening and discuss a wide range of issues, including that of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which will take place in April 2018 in the UK.

Prince Charles
Prince Charles arrives in India with his wife. IANS.

Ahead of the royal couple’s arrival, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said climate change, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), economic cooperation, and other bilateral issues would also come up for discussion.

Bilateral trade between India and Britain stands at $12.19 billion. India is the third largest investor in Britain and the second largest international job creator in that country.

Britain is the third largest inward investor in India, with a cumulative equity investment of $24.37 billion for the period April 2000-June 2017

The Indian diaspora in UK is one of the largest ethnic minority communities in the country, with the 2011 census recording approximately 1.5 million people of Indian origin equating to almost 1.8 percent of the population and contributing 6 per cent of the country’s GDP.

This will be Prince Charles ‘s ninth visit to India. He had earlier visited India in 1975, 1980, 1991, 1992, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2013. (IANS)

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Delhi Smog: Smog turns Delhi into a gas chamber

Writers call to confront the smog.

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Delhi smog
Delhi turns into a gas chamber as smog covers the city. wikimedia commons

New Delhi, Nov 8: When acclaimed novelist Amitav Ghosh was writing “The Great Derangement”, a work of nonfiction on the burning issue of climate change, many in literary circles asked him: “Why would you write about something so boring?”

Some two years down the line, as the eyes burn and lungs choke in the “gas chamber” that residents of Delhi find themselves in, his book is a fitting examination of the scale and dangers of climate change.

It was not just a few in literary circles who failed to recognise the problem of climate change; for most of us, it remained something vague. in an interview to this correspondent just ahead the launch of “The Great Derangement”, Ghosh had abruptly asked: “Did you notice the smog that had filled the air just before the onset of winter?”

“I think I did,” I replied. “Well what did you do about it,” he immediately retorted.

Ghosh’s book, however, was a timely response to climate change and deserved much more attention than what it received then.

“Are we deranged,” asks Ghosh in the book and argues that future generations may well think so. “How else to explain our imaginative failure in the face of global warming?” It was his first major book of nonfiction since “In an Antique Land”, and in its pages Ghosh examines our inability — at the level of literature, history and politics — to grasp the scale of climate change.

“In a substantially altered world, when sea-level rise has swallowed the Sundarbans and made cities like Kolkata, New York and Bangkok uninhabitable, when readers and museum-goers turn to the art and literature of our time, will they not look, first, and most urgently, for traces and portents of the altered world of their inheritance? And when they fail to find them, what should they — what can they — do other than to conclude that ours was a time when most forms of art and literature were drawn into the modes of concealment that prevented people from recognizing the realities of their plight? Quite possibly then, this era, which so congratulates itself on its self-awareness, will come to be known as the time of the Great Derangement,” he writes in the book.

Ghosh had added in the interview that, at first, his concerns were about the damage that we are doing to the environment — but climate change is something much bigger.

“When we are talking about environmental impacts, we are talking about specific ecological systems, about specific environments and the ways in which human beings have impacted them. But climate change is something much bigger.

“We are talking about an inter-connected earth’s system, which is changing in ways that after a certain point human beings can’t actually control what is going to happen and that seems to be a situation that we are already in. These changes are occurring in ways that we can no longer impact them. If you look around the world and see what writers are writing about, very few are actually confronting this issue,” he had said.

He also pointed out that, in his opinion, there were no simple or easy solutions.

“What has actually happened is that we have lost the tools, and the ways of thinking, which allow us to understand or even to register what is happening around us. Even if we sometimes find ourselves in the midst of some of these changes, either we are unable to connect it to wider issues of climate change that are occurring or we are unable to think of it in an imaginative way.

“Something is happening, which is going to be, in the long run, catastrophic and yet we are unable to find some story for it,” he maintained.

The fundamental point that Ghosh raised in that interview was that artists, writers and filmmakers have not really given climate change the attention it needs.

He had said that he is “not in the business of finding solutions” but pointed out that one good way to finding a solution is to “understand the gravity and magnitude of the situation we are all in”.

Ghosh suggests that politics, much like literature, has become a matter of personal moral reckoning rather than an arena of collective action. But to limit fiction and politics to individual moral adventure comes at a great cost. The climate crisis asks us to imagine other forms of human existence — a task to which fiction, Ghosh argues, is the best suited of all cultural forms.

A few weeks from now, the smog may fade away and the perils of today may disappear both from the headlines and our minds. But Ghosh’s book will continue to serve as a great writer’s call to confront the most urgent task of our time.( IANS.)

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Attention Delhites! Avoid Outdoor Activities as Air Pollution Levels rise in the Capital

Vikas Maurya, senior consultant at Fortis, said preventive measures like avoiding outdoor physical activities like cycling, jogging or any other outdoor exercises should be taken.

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AIR POLLUTION
Motorcycles and vehicles drive on a road while fog envelope the area (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad) (VOA)

New Delhi, November 8, 2017 : Doctors have issued a health advisory asking people to avoid outdoor activities like jogging and cycling as high levels of air pollution in Delhi and NCR can cause chronic lung and heart diseases and also affect the health of expectant mothers.

The smog that has enveloped the region for the past two days can cause allergies or aggravate already existing allergies and decrease lung immunity, according to tips shared by Fortis Healthcare.

ALSO READ India’s Air Pollution 18 Times the Healthy Limit

The high levels of air pollution might also be instrumental in causing premature birth, the doctors warned.

The other harmful effects include decrease in lung function in all age groups, aggravation of pre-existing lung and cardiac functions along with uncontrollable or chronic coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

ALSO READ Drive Safely! Heavy smog covers India, Pakistan, causing accidents and illness

Vikas Maurya, senior consultant at Fortis, said preventive measures like avoiding outdoor physical activities like cycling, jogging or any other outdoor exercises should be taken.

He suggested that air purifying plants like Aloe Vera, Ivy and Spider Plant should be kept at home and in offices.

Fruits rich in Vitamin C, magnesium, omega fatty acids should be consumed more to fight any allergy or infection. “Have herbal ginger and tulsi tea in adequate quantity.”

The doctors said air pollution poses a major health risk and can cause stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases.

ALSO READ 10 Quick Facts About Delhi Pollution Problem

According to the WHO, 92 per cent of the world population lives in areas where the air quality is below WHO standards.

Eighty-eight per cent of premature deaths occur in the low- and middle-income countries, where air pollution is escalating at an alarming rate. (ians)