Air, Breathing and the Environment
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Air and Breathing

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Environments in Crisis

The tolerance for environmental destruction is ancient and human history is littered with civilizations that failed because humans indiscriminately exploited natural resources and spoiled their own nest. The benefits to citizens of all modern industrial societies peaked sometime in recent decades. Now, we are paying penalties for careless consumption and pollution of our own nest. You could argue that all human activities have adverse effects on environments, but, at the same time, you can argue that humans are capable of enhancing environments, protecting animals at risk, cultivating plants, and above all else, humans are capable of understanding their dependence on healthy nature.

In an ideal world, everyone would seek personal health and well being, but at the same time would strive to restore planet health. Smart people realize that no personal benefit will survive long in a world that is ailing, polluted and careening toward more man-made disasters.

Complex Systems The attempt to understand complex systems has taken a quantum leap in recent years. We have gone beyond naïve linear models and now appreciate that if complex systems such as the atmosphere, the oceans, and land ecosystems change, they may become unstable, more unfriendly and less predictable.

Extra heat will cause more turbulence, and weather patterns will change in unpredictable ways. Unfortunately nature changes in abrupt ways and catastrophes are natural phenomena - volcanic eruptions, storms, floods, earthquakes, avalanches all represent basic patterns of nature. We have to understand that our actions contribute to weather events - the issues loom large when you consider that climate changes with increasingly destructive extreme weather events are adverse consequences of human activities that can be improved.

Air pollution is an obvious adverse effect of human activities. Air pollution was first noticed as problem of city dwellers, poisoning themselves, but more recently, air pollution is acknowledged as a problem of global significance. Air pollution is not a good idea for a variety of reasons, large and small. The right ideas for remediation of environmental degradations involve unselfish and compassionate behavior, a scarce commodity. The right ideas involve long-term planning, conservation and a deep commitment to preserving the natural world. Without a healthy natural environment, there will be few or no healthy humans. The really sad part of our current predicament is that all the right concerns and the right ideas for remediation have been around for decades and have been clearly articulated in many forms by a host of intelligent people.

The immediately negative effects of air pollution in cities is measured on a daily basis; however, the negative impact on human health remains mostly undefined. The largest issue is climate changes due to burning fossil fuels, increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The release of the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was a milestone, a scientific consensus that we had created problems of catastrophic proportions. A political consensus was required for real, effective remedial action in all countries.

Dec. 2007, Al Gore shared a Nobel Prize with the IPCC, a United Nations agency. In his acceptance speech, Gore, made another passionate plea of recognition of the climate crisis and the need for cooperative action across the planet. Gore warned that “we, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency — a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.”

Humans and other animals are in peril, not the planet. Planet Earth is a work in progress that changes continuously. No environment has been stable over the stretch of millions of years and climates change without human help. The problem today is that human activities have changed the environment quickly and that current arrangements to supply clean air, good food and clean water are not sustainable.

Dec. 2007 Indonesia: At the international climate conference, the world’s nations committed to negotiating a new accord by 2009 that cut in half emissions of heat-trapping gases by 2050. While the commitment is welcome, humans remain critical of each other, disputatious and focused on self interest. The negotiations that might lead to an accord will not be a smooth path. Even if an accord is achieved, compliance with its terms will not be enforceable. The description, global warming, has generated one of the more irrational debates of this century. A better description climate change is more readily demonstrated from weather records and insurance claims. See Climate Change.

The climate talks in Copenhagen in December 2009 involved 200 nations who failed to achieve enforceable agreements to reduce carbon emissions. If you were an optimist you might value the Accord that was achieved, a five-page document that represented another tentative step toward global action to reduce atmospheric pollution and climate change. A realist would restate our understanding of human nature – that local interests always trump global concerns and local interests are divergent and divisive. US President Obama stated: “I think that people are justified in being disappointed about the outcome in Copenhagen. The science says that we’ve got to significantly reduce emissions over the next 40 years. There’s nothing in the Copenhagen agreement that ensures that will happen.”

Since the Copenhagen failure, leaders of many countries have experienced extreme weather events with substantial cost, morbidity and mortality. Their conviction increased -- climate change is occurring and emissions of greenhouse gases must decrease.

In his opening address to the UN Climate Summit in 2014, secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon warned the dreams of humanity hung in the balance. "To ride this storm we need all hands on deck. The human environmental and financial cost of climate change is fast becoming unbearable."Dr Rajendra Pachauri the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated: "Time was running out. How can we leave our children with a world like this? "I'm not sure if I could stand before you if the threats of climate change had no solutions, but they do. We already have the means to build a better, more sustainable world... renewable energy is a real option."

US president Barack Obama said despite the present threats of terrorism, instability and disease, climate change would define the contours of the century more dramatically than any other issue. This challenge demands our ambition. Our children deserve such ambition. Today I call on all countries to join us - not next year or the year after that but right now - because no nation can meet this global threat alone."

Several countries pledged to cut CO2 emissions. China, the world's largest emitter, reiterated its goal to cut carbon intensity by 40 to 45 per cent of 2005 levels by 2020. The next formal round of talks between nations will be in Peru at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Nearly 200 countries have pledged to reach agreement in Paris at the end of 2015 on a climate pact for carbon cuts beyond 2020.

A major change in human priorities was established in 2015. The Group of 7 (G7) leading industrialized nations (June 2015) called for global greenhouse-gas emissions to be reduced by around 70% by 2050, and for the world economy to be de­carbonized by the end of the twenty-first century. These twin goals were issued in a communiqué at the conclusion of the group’s meeting at Schloss Elmau in Krün, Germany, on 8 June, alongside a suite of promises to help developing nations to provide their citizens with clean energy, jobs, financial security and food. To the credit of Germany and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader of the host nation, the commitments surpass all of the G7’s previous promises. Most notably, the group has formally acknowledged — and quantified — the scale of the industrial renaissance that will be required to keep global average temperature increase to less than 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. It has provided concrete and measurable targets that should help to make clear where precious capital and human resources should be invested — not just for other governments, but also for businesses. It should also make clear where resources should not be expended. The G7 nations renewed their pledge to end “inefficient” fossil-fuel subsidies. But the world is still waiting for action that will give these targets credibility. Countries should adopt the G7 communiqué’s emissions targets and look for ways to expand climate-related investment in the developing world, where emissions are poised to rise quickly if no intervention is made. The communiqué rightly points out that engagement by the private sector will be crucial to meeting these goals, but it is up to policy-makers to lay down the rules of the road.(Nature Editorial. Tough targets. Concrete goals set out by the G7 nations lay the groundwork for a climate accord. Nature 522, 128; 11 June 2015)

Stefanni descibed the G7 process:" It was a long, hard slog for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but in the end the woman once dubbed the “climate chancellor” for her personal commitment to combating global warming pulled fellow G7 leaders to her side and triumphed over those resistant to putting an expiry date on fossil fuels. Germany has become the big economy most dedicated to shifting away from fossil fuels, although coal is still an important part of the mix. A 2011 decision to shutter its nuclear plants has led to surge in power generated by wind, solar and other renewables; last year they accounted for almost a third of Germany’s electricity production. The transition, called Energiewende, has become much more than an energy project, turning into a social revolution with broad political support. Backed by the German public, and boosted by her own deep knowledge of climate change (Merkel is a trained chemist), her long and steady push is now being lauded for bringing other G7 leaders on board, and eventually forcing the two primary opponents, Japan and Canada, to back down." (Sara Stefanini. Merkel convinces Canada and Japan on CO2… to join broad G7 pledge to cut emissions. POLITICO 8/6/15)

The Canadian conservative government under Stephen Harper has been a perpetual disappointment and embarrassment to well-informed, thoughtful Canadians. Canada is an economically dependent oil producer. There are special concerns here about cuts in Government income and spending on social resources. In every country short-term selfish interests will always prevail over long term planning for sustainable human welfare.

If you were an environmentally conscious God watching human behavior, you might be properly annoyed - who gave them the right to burn all that fossil fuel, pollute the air and water, cut down all those trees, kill all those animals, pave all those forests and farmers' fields? Why didn't they move closer and walk to work everyday? Of course, God is likely to have a longer-term view and while lamenting the current folly of humans will probably recall that planet earth undergoes continuous change and from time to time, cataclysmic events alter the entire planet. At least 90% of all the creatures that have lived on the planet are gone. Perhaps our folly is seen as just another natural phenomenon. What if 500 years from now, God enters a note into her journal " Humans on Planet Earth had the chance to get it right but they didn't quite make it. Humans turned out to be self-destructive, short term planners and tragically selfish. They soiled their own nest and now they are gone."

Big environmental problems are built from many business and personal decisions, little mistakes that add up over time. If there is a solution, it will emerge from the collective value of millions of better decisions made by individuals all over the globe. The environmental action plan is to think globally and act locally - it does make sense.

Discussions of Environmental Science and Human Ecology were developed by Environmed Research Inc. Sechelt, B.C. Canada. Online Topics were developed from the book, Air and Breathing. This book helps you understand air quality issues, normal breathing and the causes of breathing disorders. You will find detailed information about the atmosphere, air pollution, climate change, airborne infection, air quality and airborne hazards at home. The Author - Stephen J. Gislason MD. Air and Breathing is available as a Printed book or as an eBook for Download

Not all respiratory diseases are caused by airborne pathogens. If asthma, bronchitis and/or nose sinus congestion is chronic or attacks occur frequently in all seasons and are not related to airborne exposure, then consider delayed pattern food allergy as the cause and do diet revision using the Alpha Nutrition Program.

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