autosanity.com
Making sense of responsible motoring
We've all heard about pollution and CO2 in the media, and it has been the cornerstone of most recent government initiatives to protect the environment from Vehicle emissions. But what is pollution? What is contained in the emissions caused by a vehicle?

To start with we will refer to the government's own advice on Cars and air pollution. Their research suggests we should be worrying about five key elements:

What is air pollution?
13th September 2018
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx)
Particulate Matter (PM)
Hydro Carbons (HC)

But what are these, and why are they bad for you? Here is a run down of them to explain.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

Pretty much all living things on earth produce CO2, but cars produce large quantities of the stuff. The below shows how much CO2 is produced by the average person, and some example man made contraptions:

The average person

The average petrol car

The average bus

The average plane

0.38 tonnes of CO2

8 tonnes of CO2

78 tonnes of CO2

920 tonnes of CO2

So you can see from the above, that man-made vehicles are having a giant impact on the level of CO2 produced in the world.

First, we must consider that the sun sends solar radiation in the form of light to earth. The atmosphere deflects some of this radiation, while the rest hits the planetary surface and warms the land and oceans. The earth then radiates its own heat back up in the form of infrared rays. Some of those rays escape the atmosphere, while others are absorbed and then re-emitted by the atmospheric gases. These gases (the greenhouse gases) then help to keep the planet at its normal temperature.

if we know why CO2 is bad, then obviously the next step is to do something about it. So we might find outselves asking, how much CO2 is acceptable? The trouble is it really is impossible to say, because no-one really knows exactly how much CO2 will cause climate change, and therefore how much is OK. However what we do know, is that in the last 1 million years the CO2 levels have continuously fluctuated between 180 parts per million (ppm) and 290ppm. That is until the 1900's, when it soared up, before rising to the current level of over 400ppm.

Scientists generally agree that in order to avoid climate change, the CO2 levels need to stay below 350ppm, so we need a serious reduction. Some scientists are even saying it is already too late.

Currently it is estimated that 87% of the worlds CO2 is produced by fossil fuels being burnt. But while 14% of that is caused by road vehicles, the other 73% is caused mainly by the power generation industry. An enormous 37% of that is caused by the burning of coal!

So the humble road vehicle, be it a haulage vehicle, bus, car or motorcycle, can actually only make a small improvement on the CO2 levels being produced. The real solution would be to find a way to reduce electricity consumption on the planet.
But why is CO2 bad? To understand this, we need to get a little bit sciencey…
Humans have been adding to the greenhouse gases since the beginning of the second half of the 1700's, at the start of the industrial revolution. These extra gases trap extra heat, and warm the planet - potentially causing climate change. CO2 represents 84 percent of all greenhouse gases, so you can see why it is generally considered to be so important.

In addition to this, it is also thought that rising CO2 levels have made the oceans about 30% more acidic, affecting a wide range of sea organisms.
Now don't get me wrong, that's not a coded way of me saying electric cars are bad; far from it. Comparatively speaking, Electric cars are still an incredibly green source of transport. It is actually the industrial sector, with its enormous usage of electricity, which is causing the greatest level of CO2 pollution. But governments do not like to bully industrial giants, as they are generating lots of money for them, so this obvious situation is being kept secret from the public.

To put it into perspective, if all of the Coal and Gas power stations were converted into Nuclear power stations, there would be a global reduction of CO2 pollution by 53%! But it's far easier to keep bullying the motorist, for the gain of a measly few percent…

So in reality, although it is great for manufacturers to continue making vehicles that produce less and less CO2, cars are not really the major problem.
Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Coal power stations are responsible for 37% of the worlds CO2
Reports suggest the sea is becoming more acidic, due to the additonal CO2 in the atmosphere
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a gas produced by the incomplete burning of carbon containing fuels, such as fossil fuels, charcoal and wood. Carbon Monoxide is not naturally produced by living beings. The table below shows how much CO is produced by some man made devices.
The average petrol car

The average bus

The average plane

57kg of CO per year

580kg of CO per year

6,700kg per year

It is a common misconception that CO is not actually that important. However every year it accounts for around 10,000 illnesses and 50 deaths. These days CO deaths are generally caused by faulty home appliance installations. You may have seen 1980's films with suicide attempts, involving circulating car exhaust gas into the cabin. It is unlikely this would work these days, as cars produce very little CO compared with many years ago, thanks to Catalytic converters.

The amount of CO produced in comparison with CO2 is tiny. The amount of CO produced on a global scale is not thought to be a problem. But in order to remove CO from the atmosphere the only solution is to convert the CO into CO2, using a catalyst (such as a catalytic converter on a car). The CO2 can then be converted into Oxygen and Carbon by plants.

Limits have been set on the amount of CO cars are allowed to produce, because in close proximity the gas can be harmful. If live in a built up area you would ideally look to minimise your production of his harmful gas wherever possible.
Poisoning from CO can result in headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, weakness and chest pain. In severe cases it can lead to death.

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