carbon emissions, emissions, Science

Moving Bus Stops Could Reduce Pollution Exposure

Moving bus stops 120 feet from intersections can drastically reduce the amount of pollutants bus commuters are exposed to.
Passengers board an MTA bus in New York. Moving that stop away from the intersection could reduce the pollution to which transit commuters are exposed. Photo: Roman Tiraspolsky / Shutterstock.com

There’s no doubt that mass transit can make a huge difference in the overall air quality of cities. An increasing number of people are realizing that they can reduce their carbon footprint by riding a bus to and from work rather than being stuck in traffic in a car.

There’s just one problem with riding the bus, and that’s waiting for the bus.

Research has shown that in many cities in the United States and internationally, bus riders could spend 15 to 25 minutes each way waiting for a bus. This isn’t just a convenience issue; it’s a pollution exposure issue, too.

“The wait often means spending time in some of the most polluted locations in cities, close to intersections where cars, trucks, and buses are continually stopping and accelerating, spewing out high concentrations of noxious exhaust,” said Suzanne Paulson of UCLA, senior author of an article that appeared recently in the journal Environmental Pollution. “The exhaust contains gases and large amounts of ultrafine particles that are essentially unregulated by the Environmental Protection Agency because the EPA regulates fine particles by weight, and these particles weigh so little.”

The good news, according to the researchers, is that moving bus and light rail stops to locations 120 feet from intersections can significantly reduce the amount of pollutants to which bus commuters are exposed.

The researchers came to their conclusions by using a zero-emission vehicle equipped with instruments that measure ultrafine particles and tailpipe pollutants like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. The studies were conducted in several neighborhoods in and around Los Angeles, over a 15-day period from summer into late fall in 2013 and over four days in the summer of 2014.

“We then combined and analyzed the data for each intersection to create high-resolution maps of pollutant concentrations along blocs,” said study lead author Wonsik Choi.

“Except in areas with minimal traffic, we always found there would be a significant reduction [of pollutants],” said Choi.

Traffic engineers believe that traffic flows better if bus stops are located after intersections rather than before. Better traffic flow can lead to less stop-and-go traffic, which would also improve air quality. The researchers caution that although moving the stops 120 feet from the end of a block will improve transit users’ pollution exposure, as long as that distance doesn’t put the bus stop in range of pollution from the next street.

Considering that most city blocks are about generally about 400 by 400 feet in size, it seems like it should be easy to move bus stops 120 feet away from intersections. That doesn’t mean buses won’t park all along a block where a stop is located, but it does mean that theoretically, passengers waiting for their bus will be able to do so in an area that exposes them to fewer pollutants.

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carbon emissions, Uncategorized

Black Carbon In the Siberian Arctic Comes From Unexpected Sources

Black carbon in the Russian Arctic comes from different sources than it does in the European Arctic.
The Russian Arctic. Photo: Shutterstock

Black carbon, better known as soot, can cause serious problems in the Arctic. It settles on top of snow and speeds up the melting process because it soaks up the sun’s heat instead of reflecting it. Increased snow and ice melt are serious problems in the Arctic, and it has a number of knock-on effects that make climate change worse. Finding a way to reduce black carbon in the Arctic could actually help to mitigate some aspects of climate change, but fist we have to figure out where it comes from.

In the Russian Arctic, 35 percent of black carbon comes from residential heating, and 38 percent from transportation. Open fires, power plants, and gas flaring account for the rest. This is according to a new study that set out to get a better understanding of where the soot comes from.

There are a number of factors, but first and foremost is proximity. “High-latitude sources are especially important. Even though China, for example, releases much more black carbon than Arctic regions, reductions there have less impact per kilogram than reductions in the Arctic,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers drew on previous research that was part of an EU-funded project to study carbon emissions and how they affected the European Arctic. But while they found good agreements between model estimates of black carbon concentrations and measurements for the European Arctic site, there was a mismatch between their projections and what they found in the Russian Arctic site of Tiksi, a research station in the far eastern region of Siberia.

The more complete results they got from adding the Tiksi results showed them the importance of heating and transport in the buildup of black carbon in that region of the Arctic.

Learning more about where black carbon is coming from is a big step toward figuring out how to reduce it, because now researchers can start looking at ways to address those problems in particular. This will involve research on how to reduce black carbon production in housing and transportation in Artic Russia. These findings could probably be extrapolated to other parts of the Arctic as well.

carbon emissions, Conservation, Environmental Hazards, Nature

Fixing Rivers Can Release Greenhouse Gases

Colorado River in Arizona
Efforts to “rewet” the Colorado River have led to a slight increase in carbon emissions–but it might be worth it in the long run.
Image: Shutterstock

The Colorado River isn’t what it used to be. Because it is so important to so many communities, it has been tinkered with for years. The Hoover Dam and others like it along the Colorado River have resulted in river water rarely reaching the ocean. The Colorado River now has a dry delta, and where once there were healthy wetlands, they’ve been reduced to about 5% of their original size. Invasive plant species have replaced many native species, which has reduced biodiversity and negatively impacts the ecosystem.

That’s why the federal government released 130 million cubic meters of water (about 52,000 Olympic swimming pools) into the river basin in order to kick start the river again. That’s still only about 1% of the total water that used to flow down the Colorado. The goal is to get wetlands and river ecosystems back in action and to provide more water for agriculture and other uses. This kind of flooding is a useful tactic that has been used elsewhere.

But researchers attached to the project learned something new about this process: wetting dry riverbeds in this way releases a great deal of carbon and other greenhouse gases that would otherwise have been stored in the ground. Some of it thousands of years old. These gases are released into the water and, presumably, into the atmosphere as well. Water is an excellent system for trapping such gases, but it can only hold so much. Too much carbon in water makes it acidic, which is bad for wildlife.

Overall, though, the researchers are confident that the benefits of rewetting the riverbed outweigh this potential downside. One such benefit is the fact that rewetting the riverbed can lead to a flourishing of indigenous plants, which are better at trapping carbon than invasive species. That new growth in and of itself may offset the additional release of greenhouse gases.

carbon emissions, Climate Change, Conservation

Preserving Forest Carbon Sinks Requires Funding

Forest and mountains
In order to preserve forests, many states will require significant financial assistance.
Image: Shutterstock

Forests are valuable as carbon sinks, in that they take up a lot of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be in the atmosphere. As such, protecting forests is an important part of the world’s current strategies for keeping global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius before the end of the century.

But preserving forests, especially in developing countries, can be difficult and expensive. That’s why funding from large donors, such as Japan or Germany, is almost a requirement. Luckily, the five largest donors to climate change mitigation–Japan, Germany, Norway, France, and the United States–tend to allocate large amounts of their donations for the preservation of forest carbon sinks.

It’s not a perfect process, though. There are a number of factors that are considered by these donors when determining who gets money, and in many cases, those donations go to states with close trade relations or which are perceived as having “good governance.” Those aren’t exactly terrible reasons to choose recipients, but those states aren’t always the most in need of such funds. States with poorer governance, for example, have a harder time allocating funds towards climate change mitigation projects and may need more money and more help in order to reach their goals. There are a great many states out there that may not seem like “ideal” candidates, but that have a lot to offer to the collaborative process of climate change mitigation.

As more and more money is sunk into these projects in the coming years, it will be important to start thinking of these donations less as economic or trade investments and more as environmental investments. We need to have an eye for the global situation when preserving forests, and that means investing money in states that might not be “safe bets.” Saving the world will require some risks, after all.

Business, carbon emissions, Climate Change, Eco-friendly, Green, Sustainability

Why We Need Companies like Resource Environmental Solutions

Every company is in it for a profit, but not every company believes that doing good for the world is profitable—or possible. However, companies like Resource Environmental Solutions (RES) are making a difference in the ways businesses give back to their communities, making the world a better place.

RES is the largest and fastest-growing provider of ecological solutions to businesses in the country, helping more companies incorporate a commitment to ESG into their business practices.

RES offers commercial solutions that help companies mitigate risk from operations in environmentally sensitive areas like wetlands and preserved habitats. The company can provide impact analyses for development projects, streamline the regulatory permissions process, and assist in the creation and implementation of conservation and restoration practices. RES has helped with ecological restoration all across the United States.

Private equity firm KKR recently invested in RES. Ken Mehlman, KKR’s Global Head of Public Affairs, said, “This investment builds on our efforts to create value by improving environmental impacts at KKR portfolio companies and also by investing more than $5 billion in companies whose missions are to improve the environment, build human capital, promote health, and solve societal problems.”

Without companies like RES, corporations might continue to harm the environment, building in sensitive areas without regard for what could be lost. ESG needs to be recognized for the essential element of business it is: the world will only be saved if companies can make a profit from it, so there is no other option than to marry business with ethical practices. Research indicates that consumers are more willing to buy from companies they believe follow ethical practices and help sustainable causes, too.

If more companies provide ecological solutions like RES, or if businesses create solutions that allow other sectors to be more environmentally and socially responsible, corporations will have no choice but to participate ethically if they want to make a profit. Easy access to ESG practices will encourage companies to implement them. And the more companies that adhere to ESG practices, the better the world will be.