22,000. That’s how many breaths we take on average every day. Breathing is a power source for us. We take in air, our lungs then separate the oxygen and pass it through our bloodstream for the rest of our body to use. Breathing is so essential for life that our bodies do this without us having to think about it.
Now imagine what life would be like should our breathing become strained and difficult. That is the future our increasingly poor, and downright dangerous, air quality is presenting us with. With June 16th marking Clean Air Day, we’ve taken a look at the extent of the air quality problem, as well as some of the things that can be done to combat it.
The World Health Organisation and UK Government have agreed that air pollution is the largest environmental risk we face today. The WHO’s data suggests that 99% of the global population breathes air that exceeds their guideline limits of high pollutants, with the UK Government linking 36,000 deaths a year to air pollution.
A large part of the problem stems from man-made sources, such as household items, vehicles and industrial sectors. Climate change itself also has a large role to play in this: as it intensifies and wildfires become more frequent, the air quality around us will suffer. As it stands, the result is 4.5 million deaths a year from ambient (outdoor) air pollution.
Focusing on our hometown, Belfast was the UK’s third most polluted city in 2019, according to the IQAir’s World Air Quality Report, despite only being the 12th most populated. The report also found that some areas of Northern Ireland are carrying an illegal amount of nitrous dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3) in accordance with UK and EU guidelines. It is also highlighted that Northern Ireland was responsible for 12% of the UK’s overall ammonia emissions whilst only accounting for 3% of the population. In Belfast’s Road Map to Net Zero, it stated that Belfast accounts for 1.5m tonnes of CO2 each year and as such, would effectively use their carbon budget by 2030.
To put that into context, our Nuada team have been running the numbers. The findings are pretty mind-blowing:
Imagine filling a balloon with CO2. Now imagine 1,585 of these CO2-filled balloons. That's what Belfast alone emits per second.
In a year, CO2 emissions from Belfast amount to 1.5 million tonnes, To put that into context, and continuing the balloon analogy, if you filled balloons with 1 year's worth of Belfast CO2 emissions you could build a balloon road to reach the moon and back 18 times. You could also fill a modelling balloon with enough CO2 to wrap it around the world 1,000 times.
And that's just the CO2 from little Belfast. The impact from other cities, not to mention the huge contribution of industry, makes for scary reading.
There are however reasons to be optimistic. 90% of the UK public are reporting they already actively contribute to help reduce outdoor air pollution, and so do we. As a local Belfast business, Nuada is determined to clean the air around us, not just locally but globally too. That is why we created our carbon capture unit which is breathing fresh life into the air pollution problem. Nuada is poised to bring the fight to heavy polluting industries such as concrete, which is responsible for 8% of the worlds global CO2 emissions. We’ve teamed up with the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) to deploy our technology in the field and make cost-effective carbon capture a permanent fixture within the industry.
While Nuada aims to severely disrupt the level of pollution in our air, more can be done. 82% of the public believe that air pollution should be a priority for the UK Government, and we concur. We must put pressure on legislators to include policies which will benefit our air quality. Not only would such policies lower our chances of disease attributable to air pollution, they would also contribute to both the short- and long-term mitigation of climate change.
So, what are some simple actions that you can take to contribute to improving the air quality this Clean Air Day? How about cycling or walking to work, consciously avoid using high chemical aerosols, and search for replacement products with low chemical content and organic properties. Planting trees is the best thing you can do for our air quality and our climate, whilst other energy saving practises such as turning off the lights will reduce energy consumption and fossil fuel use, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Enjoy!