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Posts Tagged "air"

15Sep

Julie Talbot and Julien Arsenault: Universities should reduce academic air travel

by admin

A recent article in the journal Science caused turbulence in academia.

In it, Kim Cobb, a climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, calculated that she had travelled nearly 200,000 kilometres in 2017, mostly to attend conferences. That’s the equivalent to flying five times around the world.

That tally prompted her to question the environmental impact of her professional activities, and to reduce the distance she travelled by plane by 75 per cent the following year.

Although her case is extreme, Cobb is no exception. University researchers are often required to travel to conferences, meetings, committees or to conduct research. A survey we conducted among Université de Montréal professors determined that they travel an average of 33,000 kilometres per year in the course of their professional activities, mostly by air.

Post-doctoral fellows and graduate students also travel as part of their research and to present their results, at a rate of 13,600 kilometres and 5,900 kilometres per person, respectively.

A significant environmental impact

All these kilometres travelled for science leave their mark. Transport contributes significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions, which are largely responsible for climate change. Air transport alone contributes nearly two per cent of global annual emissions of carbon dioxide and emits many other pollutants that are harmful to both health and the environment. It is also one of the fastest growing sources of CO2 in the world.

Aviation emissions, for example, increased by more than 75 per cent between 1990 and 2012, and they continue to grow.

At the individual level, the average Canadian emits, through their consumption of goods and services, about 13 tonnes of CO2 per year. However, emissions resulting from the air transport of Université de Montréal professors alone averages 11 tonnes of CO2 annually per person. To stay within the Canadian average, researchers would therefore have to reduce emissions in other areas of their lives, including food, energy consumption and daily transportation to virtually zero — a mission that is almost impossible.

If we compile the CO2 generated by all research-related travel for the Université de Montréal, they are responsible for nearly 40 per cent of all the university’s CO2 emissions. That’s a calculation that takes into account energy consumption on campus, daily staff and student travel and the production of food sold on campus, among other emissions.

The Université de Montréal is not unique. Other universities, such as McGill University or the University of B.C., have done this exercise. The results vary, but one constant remains: research-related travel is frequent and responsible for the emission of a significant amount of CO2.

Why travel so much?

Researchers have several reasons for travelling, but the main reason is related to the presentation of research results: 67 per cent of the trips made by Université de Montréal respondents were to conferences or seminars, while 18 per cent were for research purposes. The rest were for meetings, committees or other gatherings.

These activities are valued by universities and granting agencies, which promote the international reach of research. However, this internationalization is not limited to researchers. Universities are increasingly seeking to recruit foreign students and promote international exchanges among their own students, which also has a significant environmental impact.

Cost-effective travel

The question remains: are all these trips scientifically profitable? The debate was launched earlier this year by UBC researchers, who assessed the scientific productivity of researchers based on the frequency of their air travel. The reasoning is simple: the more researchers travel, the more they expand their networks. The more they disseminate their research, the more successful they are.

The results are surprising: the number of trips made would have very little influence on the productivity of researchers. One hypothesis that could explain these results is that researchers who travel a lot would have less time to do their research and write articles for scientific journals.

Another finding: 10 per cent of the reported trips would have been easy to avoid, since they were trips of less than 24 hours that could have been replaced by video conference or whose distance did not justify air travel.

Are there any solutions?

Some researchers, such as Cobb, have opted for a clear commitment to reduce their travel. Several, in particular, climate experts, are signatories to the No Fly Climate Sci initiative, where they commit to travel less by air, among other things by limiting their attendance at international conferences.

Some institutions have also taken the lead. For example, the University of California at Los Angeles requires a contribution from all researchers travelling by air to offset CO2 emissions from their travel. Others, such as the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in England, have established clear rules to promote remote encounters, use another mode of transport where possible and combine different professional activities within the same trip.

At the Université de Montréal, for the time being, there is no policy in place to reduce the environmental impacts of academic travel. Although several researchers interviewed wanted to reduced their emissions, they raised two issues: the difficulty of paying for carbon offsets from their research funds, due to granting agency rules that often do not allow this type of expense and the lack of accessibility to video conferencing systems.

Finally, it must be asked whether all researchers have the same responsibility or ability to reduce their emissions, which raises questions of equity.

For example, researchers from New Zealand or Australia have difficulty finding alternative means of transportation to international destinations. This is also the case for researchers from developing countries who benefit from presenting their results at European or North American conferences. Travel is also essential for researchers at the beginning of their careers who need to expand their network of contacts to secure permanent employment or for those whose research requires a presence in the field.

In short, the environmental impacts of academic travel are known. So are the solutions. It is now up to institutions to determine how to adapt their realities to these impacts and to researchers to adopt measures put in place.

Julie Talbot is an associate professor of geography at the Université de Montréal. Julien Arsenault a doctoral student of geography at the Université de Montréal. This op-ed was distributed by The Conversation.

 

15Jul

New air passenger protections kick in today | CBC News

by admin

Airline passengers have new rights starting today, as rules from the Canada Transportation Agency that have prompted backlash from industry and consumer advocates kick in. 

The Air Passenger Protection Regulations require airlines to meet certain obligations, including clear communication to passengers about their rights and timely updates for delays or cancellations. Passengers will also be compensated up to $2,400 if they’re bumped from a flight. 

In addition, passengers are now entitled to a certain standard of treatment when stuck on the tarmac. People will be allowed to leave the plane in certain situations if the delays exceed three hours — though that’s twice the time the Senate committee that studied the rules recommended.

Time spent on the tarmac became a huge point of contention when two planes were stranded for up to six hours on the tarmac at the Ottawa airport in 2017 due to bad weather. The passengers were kept on board with no air conditioning, food or water.

Air Transat was fined after the CTA found the airline broke its agreement with passengers. Transportation Minister Marc Garneau used the example to illustrate why the new bill of rights — then in the Senate — should be a priority.

Lost baggage procedures have also been updated to allow for compensation of up to $2,100. There are also clearer policies for transporting musical instruments. 

The regulations will apply to all flights to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights. Large airlines, those that have serviced two million passengers or more in the last two years, will have a slightly different regulatory regime than smaller airlines in some cases.

Smaller airlines, for example, will have to pay less compensation for delays or cancellations that are within the airline’s control but are not related to safety issues

Pushback from both sides

The rules have been controversial among airlines and passenger advocates, and the government will have to fend off attempts to kill the rules in court. 

The International Air Transport Association and several airlines are arguing the rules violate international agreements and Canada is overstepping its authority. It’s asking a federal court to invalidate the regulations. 

While the airlines say the rules go too far, passenger rights experts say they don’t go far enough.

WATCH: Incoming air passenger rights detailed ahead of new law 

Air passenger rights taking effect on July 15 include compensation for travellers bumped from their flights. 3:09

Two advocates are also challenging the tarmac delay rules, saying they violate the charter rights of some Canadians with disabilities who may not be able to sit for extended periods. 

Bob Brown, a disability rights advocate who is quadriplegic, says the rules reduce the distance he can travel by air without putting his health at risk by up to 2,000 kilometres. The case is currently before the Federal Court of Appeal.

These are only some of the changes coming in. Starting in December, airlines will also have to adhere to standards about flight disruptions and seating passengers with children. Compensation for cancelled flights and delays are part of phase two of the rollout.


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15Jul

New air passenger protections kick in today | CBC News

by admin

Airline passengers have new rights starting today, as rules from the Canada Transportation Agency that have prompted backlash from industry and consumer advocates kick in. 

The Air Passenger Protection Regulations require airlines to meet certain obligations, including clear communication to passengers about their rights and timely updates for delays or cancellations. Passengers will also be compensated up to $2,400 if they’re bumped from a flight. 

In addition, passengers are now entitled to a certain standard of treatment when stuck on the tarmac. People will be allowed to leave the plane in certain situations if the delays exceed three hours — though that’s twice the time the Senate committee that studied the rules recommended.

Time spent on the tarmac became a huge point of contention when two planes were stranded for up to six hours on the tarmac at the Ottawa airport in 2017 due to bad weather. The passengers were kept on board with no air conditioning, food or water.

Air Transat was fined after the CTA found the airline broke its agreement with passengers. Transportation Minister Marc Garneau used the example to illustrate why the new bill of rights — then in the Senate — should be a priority.

Lost baggage procedures have also been updated to allow for compensation of up to $2,100. There are also clearer policies for transporting musical instruments. 

The regulations will apply to all flights to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights. Large airlines, those that have serviced two million passengers or more in the last two years, will have a slightly different regulatory regime than smaller airlines in some cases.

Smaller airlines, for example, will have to pay less compensation for delays or cancellations that are within the airline’s control but are not related to safety issues

Pushback from both sides

“We have recognized that when somebody buys a ticket to take a flight, particularly when they are buying it for the whole family, it’s a considerable expense,” said Transportation Minister Marc Garneau.

To mark the date, the CTA launched a website where passengers can lodge complaints.

The rules have been controversial among airlines and passenger advocates, and the government will have to fend off attempts to kill the rules in court. 

The International Air Transport Association and several airlines are arguing the rules violate international agreements and Canada is overstepping its authority. It’s asking a federal court to invalidate the regulations. 

While the airlines say the rules go too far, passenger rights experts say they don’t go far enough.

WATCH: Incoming air passenger rights detailed ahead of new law 

Air passenger rights taking effect on July 15 include compensation for travellers bumped from their flights. 3:09

Two advocates are also challenging the tarmac delay rules, saying they violate the charter rights of some Canadians with disabilities who may not be able to sit for extended periods. 

Bob Brown, a disability rights advocate who is quadriplegic, says the rules reduce the distance he can travel by air without putting his health at risk by up to 2,000 kilometres. The case is currently before the Federal Court of Appeal.

These are only some of the changes coming in. Starting in December, airlines will also have to adhere to standards about flight disruptions and seating passengers with children. Compensation for cancelled flights and delays are part of phase two of the rollout.


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20Jun

Reschedule Vancouver fireworks if air quality poor? Not so fast

by admin


Team U.K. puts on a show at the 2017 Honda Celebration of Light in Vancouver.


Francis Georgian / PNG files

When wildfire smoke settles over English Bay this summer, as experts predict it will, there’s not much Vancouver can do about it.

But the city shouldn’t be adding any more ingredients to the “toxic soup,” says Kitsilano resident Judith Maxie, who wants council to reschedule fireworks events if the air quality is poor.

“You don’t have to be a scientist to see that tossing all those fireworks into the soup isn’t a good thing,” she said Thursday. “This is something we can actually change.”

Maxie doesn’t want to ban fireworks altogether — “over the years we’ve loved attending them,” she said — but wants the city to hold events like the Honda Celebration of Light at a different time of year, or put a contingency plan in place in case it’s smoky during the annual Canada Day fireworks.

Dr. Christopher Carlsten said he considers fireworks pollution “a significant issue,” particularly for people who are sensitive to poor air quality. A number of case reports have shown an increase in asthma attacks and irritation in people with lung disease during fireworks events.

“There’s not a lot of good defences for them in a health sense,” said the Vancouver physician. “If we’re just talking about health, I’d say don’t do it.” But the University of B.C. professor and head of respiratory medicine admitted that argument doesn’t factor in the “cultural equation” or the enjoyment derived from the spectacle.

Carlsten, who holds the Canada research chair in occupational and environmental lung disease, said much of the research on fireworks pollution has been done in countries where festivals last for days and fine particulate pollution accumulates at ground level.

“It’s quite clear that fireworks do affect air quality, but in Canada the events do tend to be short,” he said.


Vancouver’s Honda Celebration of Light show. ‘It’s quite clear that fireworks do affect air quality, but in Canada the events do tend to be short,’ says Dr. Christopher Carlsten, a UBC professor and head of respiratory medicine.

Francis Georgian /

PNG files

University of B.C. public health professor Dr. Michael Brauer said Vancouver’s fireworks shows happen high above the ground, which can help the particulate dissipate sooner, especially if wind conditions are favourable.

“It’s a transient increase,” he said of the rise in fine particulate pollutants associated with fireworks. “For most people, it shouldn’t be a concern, but for those with asthma or heart and lung concerns, it would be best to minimize exposure.”

Metro Vancouver air quality advisor Geoff Doerksen said pollution from fireworks is “short-lived and dissipates quickly,” and most years it doesn’t reach the ground. Any localized impacts to air quality tend to return to normal levels within a few hours.

Doerksen advised people who are concerned to avoid viewing areas and close their windows if they live in the area.

In a statement, the City of Vancouver said it did not receive any complaints about air quality during last year’s fireworks events and “is not considering cancelling or rescheduling fireworks that occur on Canada Day or at the Celebration of Lights.”

The summers of 2017 and 2018 were the worst on record for smoky skies across B.C.


Dr. Christopher Carlsten.

In Metro Vancouver, there were 22 days last July and August under air-quality advisories, three more than in the summer of 2017.

The last two summers have far exceeded the number of advisories issued in any other year since 1996, the first year for which data is available. Several years, including 2016, had zero air-quality advisories.

In 2015, a U.S. study published in Atmospheric Environment found that levels of fine particulate matter are elevated in urban areas by an average of 42 per cent during the 24-hour period starting with a fireworks event.

“That was a national average across 315 monitoring sites; it actually varies from place to place and year to year,” lead author Dian Seidel, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told Postmedia at the time.

One monitoring station located near the site of a display registered a 370-per-cent increase in fine particles.

Meanwhile, a study led by researchers from the University of Montreal took recorded PM2.5 concentrations as much as 1,000 times normal on single readings within the smoke plume.

Readings from monitoring stations set up at “breathing level” near the ground showed PM2.5 concentrations about 50 times normal levels during the display. Elevated concentrations of fine particles were detected as far away as 14 kilometres, suggesting the particles remain in the atmosphere for “a long period of time,” probably days.

With Postmedia files

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18Jun

Will this be another summer of wildfire smoke and poor air quality in B.C.?

by admin


Shell Road in Richmond was hit by a wildfire on July 27, 2018.


Francis Georgian / PNG

All indications suggest British Columbians should prepare for another smoky summer this year, experts warned today.

B.C. Wildfire information shows the province has so far this year seen increased drought and higher-than-average temperatures, which are expected to continue. Experts are predicting a greater risk of wildfires and smoke in the province this summer, particularly in the southwest, which includes Metro Vancouver.

Metro Vancouver air quality engineer Francis Reis said more studies are making a strong link between climate change and the exacerbation of wildfire seasons.

“As we continue to see further warming, we can expect the patterns we are seeing now to continue or even get more extreme,” he said.

Residents are reminded to try to stay indoors when air quality bulletins are issued.

The summers of 2017 and 2018 were the worst on record for smoky skies in B.C., caused by wildfires. This led to warnings that people take caution when outside, especially those with asthma, lung conditions, the elderly and pregnant women.

The hot, dry spring has many worried that 2019 could also bring hazy skies that are bad for residents’ health.

More to come…

[email protected]

Twitter: @loriculbert




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19Nov

Vancouver study shows air pollution linked to possibility of autism

by admin





Prenatal exposure to air pollution has been linked to an increased likelihood of autism, according to a recently published Vancouver-based study.


Arlen Redekop / PNG

Prenatal exposure to air pollution has been linked to an increased likelihood of autism, according to a recently published Vancouver-based study.

Lief Pagalan, a Simon Fraser University researcher, conducted the birth cohort study in Metro Vancouver using birth data from 2004 through 2009.

The study analyzed air pollution to assess exposure rates over the same period and found that there was an increased risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder in children when their pregnant mothers were exposed to air pollutants such as particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide.

The impact, however, was small and not statistically significant.

“Our study, which indicates that air pollution is associated with ASD in a city with relatively lower levels of air pollution adds to the growing concern that there may be no safe levels of exposure to air pollution,” said Pagalan.

“While the causes of ASD are not yet fully known, this study suggests that reducing exposure to air pollutants in pregnant women could reduce the likelihood of their children developing autism.”

The findings are similar to those of previous studies conducted in the United States, Israel and Taiwan.

Pagalan noted that the study is important as it highlights that “there may be no safe levels of exposure to air pollution.” While the cause of autism is not fully known, researchers acknowledge that genetics and environmental factors play a role.

The study was conducted by linking pregnancy data with birth records in Vancouver from 2004 through 2009, alongside medical records of children up to the age of 5.

The study, Association of Prenatal Exposure to Air Pollution with Autism Spectrum Disorder was published in JAMA Pediatrics this year. It was conducted with the involvement of the following people and agencies:

• Celeste Bickford
• Whitney Weikum
• Bruce Lanphear
• Michael Brauer
• Nancy Lanphear
• Gillian E. Hanley
• Tim F. Oberlander
• Meghan Winters
• Faculty of Health Sciences, SFU
• Centre of Hip Health and Mobility
• School of Population and Public Health, UBC
• Department of Pediatrics, UBC
• Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children, BC Children’s Hospital
• BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute
• Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, UBC
• Population Data BC

[email protected]
twitter.com/stephanie_ip




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