Information on global emissions of pollutants and their impact on the environment

01 Jan 1970 / 03:00
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Economic sectors under review:

- electricity generation;

- transportation (cars and trucks, petrol and diesel internal combustion engines);

- shipping (bulk carriers, chemical tankers, container carriers, general purpose vessels, liquefied gas tankers, oil tankers, naval fleet, passenger ferries, cruise liners, refrigerated carriers, RORO vessels, vehicles, yachts, service tows, fishing and other vessels);

- oil refining.

 

Types and quantity of pollutant emissions

Name

 

Annual emission rate

Carbon dioxide (СO2)

21.04 bill. tons

Carbon oxide (СО)

2.5 bill. tons

Hydrogen sulphide (Н2S)

2.76 mill. tons

Sulphur dioxide (SO2)

1.14 bill. tons

Nitrogen oxide (NOx)

114.9 mill. tons

Hydrocarbons

  145.02 mill. tons

Ash

555.6 mill. tons

Soot, hard particles

77.33 mill. tons

Aldehydes

0.43 mill. tons

Ammonia

0.83 mill. tons

Benzopyrene

167kg

For more details, see the report on the procedure for calculating emissions.

Carbon monoxide

Carbon oxide differs from the majority of pollutants. It remains in the atmosphere for approximately one month and can be carried long distances. Although carbon monoxide is not a resilient greenhouse gas, its presence in the atmosphere has an effect on the concentration of other greenhouse gases, such as methane, tropospheric ozone and carbon dioxide.

Incomplete fuel combustion leads to an artificial increase in the atmospheric carbon monoxide content. Motor transport and maritime traffic are the greatest perpetrators of such combustion.

Carbon monoxide is detrimental to the health of living organisms. Carbon monoxide has an extremely toxic influence on humans. Having no colour or smell, it cannot be detected without special equipment. When it enters the body, carbon monoxide disrupts blood circulation, which in certain doses can lead to a fatal outcome.

The concentration of carbon monoxide is especially high in large cities and densely populated areas where motor transport prevails, as well as in seaports, where ships have a significant impact on the local climate.

At present, countries such as India and China, where the industrial boom is causing a rapid increase in the number of cars and fuel combustion, are at particular risk.

 

Sulphurous anhydride

Coal-fired power plants emit enormous amounts of sulphur. It is filtrates into the soil and water, thus disrupting the normal state of the ecosystem. The sulphur dioxide content in clouds increases the probability of acid rain, which destroys the fertility of land plots and reduces crop yield.

People living near industrial regions close to highways and coal-fired power plants are at high risk.

 

Nitrogen oxide

Nitrogen oxide is one of the main components in the formation of acid rain. Furthermore, nitrogen forms a so-called photochemical smog. It has a detrimental effect on the environment. Some crops, such as tobacco, tomatoes and spinach, are very sensitive to ozone, therefore photochemical smog can destroy these plants, along with other vegetation. It reduces the growth and productivity of trees and causes necrotic (dead) patterns on leaves.

In the summertime, which is especially conducive to the formation of photochemical smog, the residents of large cities, where transport emits nitrogen oxide into the air, are subject to its relentless impact.

Photochemical smog causes irreversible damage to the lungs and heart. Even the short-term impact of photochemical smog has a detrimental effect on young and old people alike. It causes irritation of the respiratory system – a decrease in pulmonary function and difficulty in breathing. It has a greater impact during physical exercise and other work in the open air. A high level of a smog also causes asthma attacks; people are more subject to allergens, which trigger asthma.

 

Soot

According to estimates, about 400,000 people die every year from inhaling soot particles.

The contribution of soot, or black carbon, to global warming has been underestimated. According to the latest data, soot ranks second after carbon dioxide in terms of its impact on global warming, thus relegating methane to third place. Because of its absorption effect, soot accelerates the thawing of snow and ice. This is especially noticeable in the northern hemisphere: in Canada, in the northern part of the U.S., in northern Europe and northern Asia.

 

ANALYSIS OF THE IMPACT OF EMISSIONS ON THE ENVIRONMENT

Global warming

The fate of the planet in 20, 50, 100 years will depend on the decisions humanity makes today. Under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, the leaders of 185 countries agreed to keep the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (19th century). However, the increase in average global temperature is currently hovering around 3 degrees Celsius. Climate change was first recorded in 1860, and since then the average global temperature has increased by 2.7-3.2 degrees Celsius, while in the 20th century the sea level has risen by 10-20 cm. If greenhouse gas emissions continue at the same or a higher rate, the global air temperature will go on rising in the 21st century. In addition to global warming, pollutant emissions have a huge impact on other aspects of the life cycles on our planet: if the concentration of CO2 doubles, this will cause destruction of 40% of the northern forests. Climate warming slows down the growth of the northern forests:  currently, the life cycle of trees is longer than the time it will take them to adjust to the unfavourable climate changes. The greenhouse effect will cause extensive zones of the Earth to become unsuitable for vegetation. Furthermore, the increase in temperature will lead to the intensive reproduction of forest pests, and consequently forest destruction.

The overall increase in the Earth’s temperature is causing wildfires in some regions. The main danger is that wildfires also constitute a large source of carbon dioxide emissions, which aggravates the greenhouse effect. Areas subject to wildfires are more vulnerable than others to the consequences. The carbon dioxide content in the air increases, and the flora habitat, which is a natural CO2 absorber decreases, thus having a detrimental effect on human health and farming.

Various computer models predict that in the 21st century the Earth’s average temperature will increase from between 1.8 to 4.0 degrees Celsius. Presumably, climate change will affect regions differently. Temperatures are expected to rise more at high latitudes than at low ones.

Therefore, humanity needs to make more motivated decisions regarding global warming control. However, the likelihood of achieving this goal is rapidly decreasing with each passing year. A recent report by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) shows that there is only a five-percent probability that we will be able to keep the average increase in global temperature within two degrees.

In order to achieve this and prevent irreversible consequences, we need to work quickly: humanity must begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions within the next two-three years in order to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement.

According to IPCC forecasts, if no measures are taken, by the beginning of the 22nd century, the Earth’s temperature will be 5 degrees Celsius higher than it is today.

 

Rainfall

Global warming is causing water evaporation acceleration, which, in turn, speeds up water circulation in nature. In 1980-2010, a record amount of precipitation was observed, which was 12% higher than the preindustrial precipitation level. In Southeast Asia, the amount of precipitation has increased by 56%, in Europe by 31%, and in the central regions by 24%.

Carbon dioxide and nitrogen are natural components of the atmosphere, but the combustion of such products as coal and oil creates an excessive concentration of these substances, which significantly increases the acidity of rainfall. The environmental consequences of acid rain can be most vividly seen in aqueous environments, such as rivers, swamps and lakes. It has a detrimental effect on fish and other living organisms. This is caused by an increased aluminium content, which rain water washes out of clay-rich soils and is then runs into the waterways. Some types of organisms can survive in moderately acidic water, but other types, which serve as food for the top food chains, cannot withstand such a concentration. This leads to disruption of the food chain, which can be fatal to the ecosystem.

Acid rain also has an impact on the growth of plants. By washing nutrients essential to plants from the soil, acid rain creates an environment that cannot sustain plant life. In the mountains, the leaves of trees are subjected to acidic fallout from fog and clouds, depriving them of nutrients and making the leaves incapable of absorbing sunlight, which increases their vulnerability to low temperatures.

As a result, the decrease in plant populations means that a certain amount of carbon dioxide will not be absorbed by plants, which will lead to an even higher concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Farming will undergo great difficulties. Acid rain affects both the quality and yield of agricultural production. In addition to causing cosmetic damage, acid rain reduces the nutritional value and mineral wealth of fruit.

Acid rain also has a detrimental effect on human health: as such it is harmless, but if it gets into the lungs, the small particles created by the rain and ozone can cause or aggravate respiratory diseases, such as asthma and bronchitis.

 

Air temperature

Climate change and a rise in temperature will have a different impact on different regions. 

For Africa, which is undergoing unprecedented population growth, a rise in temperature will mean larger drought-inflicted areas, leading to potential migration due to water shortage and farming failure.

For example, the Province of Sind (Pakistan, the Middle East) has experienced two contradictory consequences of climate change. Extreme drought and flooding make it impossible to grow crops and feed animals, leading to multimillion economic losses for the region.

Such Middle Eastern countries as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar are in danger of becoming unsuitable for life. According to the estimates of climatologists, by 2070 the atmospheric temperature in the Gulf States could reach 70-80 degrees Celsius. Of course, in large cities the problem can be solved by means of a developed air conditioning system, but even then people will only be able to go outside at night.

A radical change in temperature could mean that by 2080 600 million people will face starvation. Starvation and water shortage will provoke the mass migration of insects to northern latitudes, where tropical epidemics, such as fever and malaria, could erupt.

It stands to reason that climate changes will also aggravate political differences and conflicts over access to water and food resources.

In Northern Europe, the higher temperature are causing warmer winters, which means a higher level of rainfall, more clouds, more strong gales and considerable changes in the environment. Farm land will become too damp for growing crops, and the sea level will continue to rise.

In September 2017, the southeast coast of the U.S. was hit by two major hurricanes, one of which was called Irma. Climate changes have led to hurricanes becoming more extreme because of the higher level of precipitation and storm tides. There can be no doubt that the destructive scope of hurricanes will continue to increase in the future.

If the temperature rises 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level, water supply in regions of the Mediterranean will decrease by 50%. For example, reservoirs in France are drying out, forcing the authorities to introduce water restrictions. The Earth’s coastal areas will be destroyed. Buildings and other infrastructure will be washed away by the sea, which will lead to an increase in insurance premiums. The risks associated with flooding are currently the main natural phenomenon forcing people to leave their homes every year. Every year floods leave an average of 22.5 million people homeless. If measures are not taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this figure may double. 

China and Japan, where about 140 and 30 million people live, respectively, could be left without sufficient housing. Bangladesh is also at risk because of the rise in sea level. It is expected that by 2050 tens of millions of people will be homeless.

The climate in Russia is also undergoing perceptible change, abnormally high and low temperatures are being recorded with increasing frequency. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Russian Federation, between 1990 and 2010 the number of natural disasters, such as flooding, landslides, and hurricanes, has increased four-fold and continues to increase by 6-7% every year.

The thawing of glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica is natural process, however global warming is considerably speeding up this activity, thus leading to the sudden loss of a large amount of ice. This could have an impact on the rise in sea level and the circulation of sea water. 

Furthermore, Antarctic ice contains a large amount of methane, a resilient greenhouse gas. The thawing of ice will lead to an all-out emission of methane, which will not only increase global warming manifold, but also lead to environmental disaster. According to some scientists, humanity is currently seeing the mass extinction of animals, the sixth occurrence of this kind in the Earth’s history. This time it is related to human activity. According to the forecasts, the global ecosystem may lose 30-40% of its animal and plant species, since their habitat will change faster than their ability to adapt to the new living conditions.

According to the estimates of researchers, the thawing of glaciers will cause the land to sink into the ocean at a rate of three-four millimetres a year. Scientists believe that this rate will accelerate and, in the next decades, the glacial cover will begin receding at a faster rate. Depending on various scenarios (which take into consideration different volumes of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions), the sea level will rise by 0.3-2 meters by 2100.

Whereas in the past, the land was covered by a five-centimetre layer of water every 100 years, now, according to the results of a research study published in Scientific Reports magazine, this will happen every 25 years. Major flooding is more likely in the tropics. There the frequency of natural disasters will double by 2030 (if the sea level rises by 5-10 centimetres). So island dwellers are the most vulnerable members of the Earth’s population.

Climate change causes hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide every year.

Humanity is now faced with the urgent prospect of making decisions that will effectively soften the consequences of ongoing climate change.

Benchmark Indications of Climate Change

1. Greenhouse effect

Both the quantity and duration of heat waves is rising, as well as the number of heat strokes and fatal cases associated with them. Large cities worldwide bear the brunt of heat waves, since the greenhouse effect is particularly virulent in them during the summer.

2. Dengue fever

It would seem that the developed countries have long forgotten about certain diseases. But American scientists have begun sounding the alarm: U.S. residents will become more and more susceptible to Dengue fever and malaria.

3. Fresh water

Although the sea level is rising, the availability of fresh water is constantly on the decline. This is because the ice fields are melting and droughts are becoming more frequent.

4. Extreme weather conditions

Extreme weather conditions are expected to increase with each passing year. For example, tropical storms will occur more frequently and will be more destructive. If the climate continues to change at the current rate, there will be a sharp decrease in the number coral reefs in the ocean by 2050.

5. Ground smog

Warm stagnant air in the cities increases the formation of a ground smog. Half of the population of the developed countries already lives in the cities where the air quality does not meet the established standards, while in China it has already become a national disaster.

6. Flooding of inhabited areas

Some island countries are already considering evacuation plans. For example, Tuvalu has entered an agreement with New Zealand regarding resettlement of its residents to this country in the event of total submergence of the Tuvalu islands, which are disappearing under water at a faster rate every year.

Due to the increased thawing of glaciers, our descendants will no longer know the following countries and large cities:

 

Europe

Dublin, London, Lisbon, Barcelona, Venice, Rome, Tunis, Brussels, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, St. Petersburg, Odessa, and Istanbul;

Asia

Beirut, Baghdad, Kuwait, Doha, Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, Dubai, Calcutta, Dhaka, Bombay, Hong Kong, Yangon, Bangkok, Manila, Colombo, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh, Kuala - Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta;

North America

Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Montreal, Boston, New York, Halifax, Philadelphia, Washington, Houston, Charleston, Norfolk, Miami, New Orleans, Pine Bluff, Havana, Cancun, Veracruz, Port-au-Prince;

South America

Paramaribo, Georgetown, Lima, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo and Buenos Aires;

Africa

Dakar, Tunis, Tripoli, Alexandria, Cairo, Mombasa, Cape Town, Mogadishu, Dar es Salaam, Maputo, Luanda, Lagos, Accra, Abidjan, Monrovia, Freetown and Bissau;

Australia and New Zealand

Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Wellington and Auckland

Map of the changes in the coastlines of continents (Appendix 1).

 

7. $700 billion thrown to the wind

Climate change is causing many countries immense financial detriment. According to forecasts, by 2030 the world economy will lose $700 billion due to spending measures relating to climate change.

8. Allergy season

The allergy season is becoming increasingly longer. It is having an adverse effect on the respiratory organs of those who suffer from allergies (which applies to nearly half of the population).

9. Food problem

Soon food problems may arise. First, the higher temperatures will increase the spread of food diseases, such as salmonellosis. And second, crop production is strongly influenced worldwide by droughts. Global harvests of wheat and corn are already on the decline.

10. Demography

Extreme weather conditions and reduced agricultural production in the developing countries will begin to cause more conflicts and migration. And the opening of maritime routes in the Arctic, due to the receding ice, may lead to problems of sovereignty and international conflicts. Larger desert areas and the rise in sea level will also lead to demographic and political problems related to a higher migration level.

11. Flora and fauna

Many of the changes the planet is undergoing are irreversible. For example, different types of flora and fauna are entirely disappearing.

12. The Arctic

By 2050, the Arctic will be almost completely ice-free during the summer.

13. Polarization of society

Children, elderly and poor people will suffer the worst consequences of climate change, since they will be unable to cope with the abrupt changes in the availability of food and living conditions. Climate change will most likely polarize society into those who will be able to cope with it (the richer countries) and those who will be unable to do this (the poor countries).

14. Extinction of 30% of flora and fauna

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has published quite a horrendous forecast. If its predictions regarding the temperature prove to be true, by the end of the 21st century up to 30% of flora and fauna will have become extinct.

 

Conclusion

If humanity does not take measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, intelligent life on our planet will be doomed. In order to curb global warming and prevent the temperature from rising higher than two degrees above the preindustrial level, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by at least half. This will make it possible to decrease the significantly pernicious effect of global warming in the future. If nothing is done, in 50 years the average increase in the Earth’s temperature will reach 4-6 degrees Celsius, which means a destructive rise in the sea level, extreme weather conditions and lack of food security.

According to PwC analysts, since the beginning of the century, Russia has reduced greenhouse gas emissions on average by 3.6% a year, Great Britain by 3.3%, and the U.S. by 2.3%. The average annual decrease in emissions over the last 15 years amounts to 1.3%, but these efforts are not enough. To prevent irreversible climate changes, carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced by no less than 6.3%.

This means that energy-saving technologies must be introduced, on the one hand, and alternative energy sources used, on the other. The EuRICAA project, carried out by the entire world community, will resolve these issues. The environmental effect from launching the project will be as follows:

1. A decrease in CO2 emissions by 65% of the world value of 32.3 billion tons/year.

2. A decrease in volumes of oil production and refining.

3. A guaranteed reduction in the anthropogenic impact on the global environment and climate change.

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