Global Atmospheric Circulation and Pollution

While it may seem that our atmosphere is random and chaotic, on a global scale, the movement of earth’s atmosphere is actually very predictable, and follows predetermined patterns. There are 3 cells in each hemisphere, the Hadley cell, the Ferrel cell and the Polar cell. These cells move air vertically along the longitude lines, and are caused when warmer air rises and moves towards the cooler poles, then drops back down and moves back towards the equator, slowly cycling in a oval shape. Along the latitude lines are wind currents that rotate around the earth. These currents are caused by the north-south motion of air in the Hadley, Ferrel and Polar cells interacting with the earth’s spinning motion.

Diagram showing global air currents

These currents effect global weather patterns and temperature in a multitude of ways, but they can also have some unexpected consequences. More specifically, they can carry air pollution from one side of the globe to another. This means that even though a specific area produces very little pollution, it can still be affected by pollution from across the world. This situation is not merely hypothetical, and it is one of the reasons that pollution is a global problem, rather than simply a local one.imgres

Pollutants such as mercury have been found in the U.S., providing physical proof that this phenomena is occurring. This raises many concerns, as it is difficult to compel a country to limit its emissions if the country is not inclined to. It also causes a distressing paradox: if a county cannot eliminate pollution within its borders by eliminating pollution, what incentive is there for that country to try to clean up its emissions. This leads to a downward spiral of countries unwilling to spend money to control pollution. While this may seem unavoidable, with strong leadership from the developed world, it can be avoided. The problem today is that the environment seems to be at the back of policy makers’ minds. If the major industrial countries were to put real political and economic effort into solving this issue, we could contain pollution without any serious difficulties. Sadly, this does not seem likely to happen until pollution becomes too serious to ignore. By that time, it may be too late.

Sources:

http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2008/04/chinas_mercury_flushes_into_or.html

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/04/15/3426934/air-pollution-changing-weather-patterns/

http://daily.sightline.org/2014/05/20/blowback-chinas-cross-pacific-pollution/

Farming and the Environment

There are about 7 billion people in the world currently, and that number is projected to rise to about 8.9 billion by 2050. Assuming that each person consumes 1200 calories per day, this means that each year, the world consumes about 3066 trillion calories. Producing this massive amount of food is a problem that is not going away, and neither are the problems created by the growing of this food. The main problem with fertilizer is that it is not all absorbed by the farmland that it is intended for, causing runoff that can pollute natural bodies of water with excess nitrogen. In lower concentrations, nitrogen is actually necessary to sustain life within an ecosystem. When there is an excess of nitrogen, however, the system becomes overloaded with algae, which can cause problems.

A sign warns swimmers about an algal bloom. This is an example of one of the negative repercussions that fertilizers can have.

A sign warns swimmers about an algal bloom. This is an example of one of the negative repercussions that fertilizers can have.

The algae can be toxic, poisoning animals that consume it, but this is not the most common result. The vast majority of times, fertilizer runoff causes a massive amount of algal growth, leading to mass death and decomposition of the algae. This process of decomposition removes oxygen from the water, making the area survivable for other organisms in the ecosystems. This effect can be very damaging to ecosystems, and it can be very difficult for them to recover their biodiversity. Non-organic fertilizers are often used in conjunction with chemical pesticides/herbicides that can contaminate and pollute clean bodies of water

An algal bloom near Qingdao china.

An algal bloom near Qingdao china. Blooms such as these are often caused by fertilizer runoff.

. Despite all of these problems, use of artificial fertilizer and pesticides/herbicides is still an extremely common practice. Why? Very simply, because other methods are not efficient enough. There are 7 billion people to feed, and not producing enough food is not an option. Crop rotation is nice in theory, but for a farm attempting to produce the maximum amount of possible food, it does not work, because it does not allow the farm to produce the same product on the same field every year. Pesticides/herbicides and fertilizer can be detrimental to the environmental, but for many farmers, they are a necessary evil. In an ideal world, we would be able to produce all the food we need without any ecological harm, but sadly, it is not economical to run a large-scale farm without using chemicals, and hence nobody does it. There are, however, many ideas about improving are farms. Improved laws and incentives aimed at increasing the sustainability of large-scale farms are one option. As awareness of the importance of protecting the environment has risen, so have technological innovations such as the N-Sensor a sensor that helps farmers to reduce nitrogen runoff, protecting the environment as well as saving money. Innovations and ideas such as this are the best way to combat the problems caused by large-scale farming.

 

Sources:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fertilizer-runoff-overwhelms-streams/

http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/longrange2/WorldPop2300final.pdf

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-fertilizers-harm-earth/

http://www.noaa.gov/features/earthobs_0508/algal.html

http://www.yara.co.uk/crop-nutrition/Tools-and-Services/n-sensor/

rising carbon emissions

Singapore is a city in south east Asia, It’s pollution level is one of the highest in the world. The government in singapore has limitations on the amount of private cars driven through taxes. When a private car is purchased in singapore the person has to pay up to 1.5 times the commercial value of the car to be able to drive it; not every one can afford these prices so this causes the amount of cars driven to decease. These taxes may help to decrease the amount of emissions from cars but the port of singapore is the 5th most busy port in the world. This constant amount of ships in the singapore port from all over the world more than cancels out what the taxes that the government put on the purchasing of private cars. I think that if other countries implemented the taxes that Singapore does then it would greatly decrease the amount of cars that add to the rising carbon emission problem.

Carbon emissions dont just come from cars and boats, they come from any form of combustion. energy plants(especially coal burning energy plants), and increases in deforestation are also large contributors to the rising carbon emission level. Without drastic change in the regulations on carbon emissions, this will be a hard obstacle to conquer. To upgrade a factory or power plant to lower carbon emission is very expensive and not alot of companies are willing to do it if not required.

Governments are taking steps to reduce the amount of pollution coming out of daily commuting, trade ships, trains, and other forms of transport, and on emissions from factories and power plants. In america Cars are inspected every year to see if the emissions levels are too high, and if they are you are required by law to fix your car. In india there are road blocks set up by the government to catch cars that have higher emission than the maximum legal level. There are precautions being taken by governments to lower emission levels, but the carbon emission level is still rising.

Year

Carbon Emissions 

2013 9.9 billion metric tonnes (GtC)
2012 9.7 billion metric tonnes (GtC)
2011 9.47 billion metric tonnes (GtC)
2010 9.19 billion metric tonnes (GtC)

2009

8.74 billion metric tonnes (GtC)  

2008

8.77 billion of metric tonnes (GtC)  

2007

8.57 billion metric tonnes (GtC)

2006

8.37 billion metric tonnes (GtC)

sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singapore

http://www.delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/doit_transport/Transport/Home/Pollution+Control/Steps+Taken+by+Delhi+Govt.+to+reduce+the+Pollution+in+Delhi

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/02/rapid-carbon-emission-cuts-severe-impact-climate-change-ipcc-report

http://co2now.org/Current-CO2/CO2-Now/global-carbon-emissions.html