problem throughout certain parts of the world, including Asia and Europe. Certain cities are effectively shut down during some parts of the year, because the air is so toxic that it is impossible to function. This affects the economy of the country, and can result in huge public health costs every year.
Not only does air pollution affect our everyday lives, but it also is the main contributor to global warming and climate change. Pollution in the form of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxides cause heat to become trapped in the atmosphere, which in turn leads to global surface temperature increases¹. It is obviously important that we do what we can to reduce air pollution, both for the sake of public health, safety, and comfort, and to prevent the impacts of climate change. There are a number of strategies which can be used, both on a large scale, and by individuals.
Phasing out older vehicles
Older cars, trucks, and boats, especially those powered by diesel, contribute a lot to global emissions. By phasing these vehicles out and replacing them with modern, more emission friendly models, we can reduce the impact on air quality that older models cause. New technology is readily available, and certain cities around the world have made it compulsory for any commercial vehicle to be up to date with emissions standards, or pay huge fees². Electric car and hybrid technology has reached the point where it is a viable option which can be used without any discomfort to the user: in fact, these new cars are actually a lot cheaper to run than older models, which is a further incentive to make the switch³.
Use air-friendly public transport
By adopting environmentally friendly public transport, individual cities can play their role in reducing emissions and improving air quality. Electric trains and trams rather than petrol or diesel ones, hybrid or electric buses, and modern engines in other buses can all help improve air quality by reducing emissions. However, there is one thing that we must keep in mind here: electric vehicles are only more environmentally friendly if the electricity that they use is generated in a sustainable manner³.
Reduce power plant emissions
Electrical powered cars and trains are only more environmentally friendly than those which run on petrol if the electricity they use is produced without major emissions. This can be achieved by moving away from fossil fuel based power plants towards nuclear and renewable energy generation techniques³.
What can you do as an individual?
Choose environmentally-friendly transport options
This can mean a number of things. For example, walk or bike rather than drive where possible. Take public transport or car pool rather than driving alone. Buy a newer model car which has lower emissions and which contributes less to air pollution⁴.
Change your buying habits
Buying local foods and products will reduce the transport associated emissions which are tied to your consumption. Buying less processed products will reduce the processing emissions which are associated with such products. Buy second hand where possible, and reduce your consumption entirely if you can⁴.
Since electricity generation often causes polluting emissions, reducing your electricity usage will reduce the air pollution that you are responsible for. There are a number of ways to do this. Turn lights off when you aren’t in the room. Use energy saving light globes and appliances. Hang your laundry outside to dry rather than using a drying machine. By doing these simple things, you will be doing your bit towards reducing air pollution and making our planet a better place to live⁵.