“Climate Check” newsletter
Fine solution against fine dust
A thick layer of smog covers Chiang Mai. In addition to forest fires, slash and burn continues in northern Thailand and the neighboring countries of Laos and Myanmar.
© Source: Wichai Taprieu/AP/dpa
sometimes the particulate matter values are underlined in red. That means “unhealthy” – and that’s good news. Because mostly the values in parts of Thailand are purple or even brown these days. the toxic smog, under which the kingdom has been groaning for weeks, is then considered “extremely unhealthy” or even “dangerous”. The farmers who burn their fields at the end of the dry season are responsible for the stinking air in Thailand. But vehicle exhaust fumes also contribute to air pollution, explains climate researcher Witsanu Attavanich to Thai PBS World. “Thailand has postponed the introduction of Euro 5 emissions standards from 2020 to 2024. Without this shift, air pollution could have been significantly reduced,” the expert believes.
A tourist wears a mask while standing on a high-rise observation deck in Bangkok.
© Source: Getty Images
How dangerous fine dust is for health is no longer a secret. And this is not just a problem in Thailand. According to the WHO, around seven million people die every year prematurely due to air pollution. For particulate matter to become a health hazard, air pollution does not have to be as extreme as it is in Thailand at the moment. A study recently showed: Even low particulate matter levels increase the risk of dementia.
Particulate matter is caused, among other things, in traffic by combustion engines, but also by tire abrasion. Traffic jams don’t help either. This is also the case for a not inconsiderable part of emissions from road traffic according to a calculation by the University of Graz to traffic disruptions. Preventing traffic jams also means cutting emissions. But how can that succeed? Build more roads? Expand public transport? Make driving more expensive? My colleague Sarah Franke has it looked at different options. Their conclusion: Simply building more roads is definitely not a good idea.
To reduce fine dust, it can also help to drive more slowly, explains the Federal Environment Agency. But is the speed limit a good idea? “There is not a single argument against a speed limit,” says my colleague Steven Geyer. “Other measures are needed,” contradicts RND author Jan Sternberg. Which arguments convince you? You can find the link to our “Debate of the week” in the “What was important this week” section.
What can I do?
Balcony solar systems are much smaller than those on the roofs – they usually consist of one or two solar modules and therefore have a lower output. They can be easily mounted on the balcony parapet or the house wall.
© Source: Stefan Sauer/dpa
More and more people in Germany are using solar systems to generate electricity. More than two million photovoltaic systems are currently installed in Germany. The Federal Statistical Office has recorded increasing interest in solar systems: compared to the previous month, the number of systems had increased by around 10 percent in March 2022.
The systems can be installed on the roof, the balcony or in the garden. But not every location is always suitable. Laura Beigel wrote, what you need to pay attention to. Regardless of the location, the consumer advice center recommends: “Take your time for planning.” Interested parties should obtain thorough information in advance and seek professional advice.
That gives hope
Sea turtles have existed since the time of the dinosaurs. Since then, they have survived mass extinctions and many climatic changes.
© Source: imago/imagebroker
Sea turtles are fascinating: they can dive deep and swim far. Thanks to their super senses, they can find their way back to their birthplace decades after hatching. But climate change is endangering seagrass meadows and coral reefs and thus also the habitat of many sea turtles, explains marine biologist Frauke Bagusche in an interview (+). Rising sea levels and increased flooding also pose a threat to the animals’ nesting beaches.
The good news? “We know a lot about what would help sea turtles – less garbage in the oceans, for example, and stricter rules in fishing.” The expert advises anyone who wants to do something for the animals to support marine conservation organizations. “You can do that with donations or as a volunteer,” says Bagusche.
What was important this week
April 15, 2023 will be a historic day: the last three nuclear power plants in Germany will go offline. What happens to the systems then? But just because the connection to the energy grids is cut does not mean that the piles are over. It will be in operation for decades to come explain Miriam Keilbach and Sebastian Scheffel.
The German nuclear phase-out is not the end of nuclear energy either. Other countries continue to use the old ones or are researching new technologies, such as using thorium instead of uranium. The advantage of such power plants is that they are not dependent on the availability of larger quantities of water in times of increasing water scarcity, explains my colleague Irene Habich. According to estimates, the waste would emit radiation for “only” a few hundred years – conventional nuclear waste radiates for up to hundreds of thousands of years. However, the radioactive waste would have to be cooled.
But there is still no data on how the CO₂ balance would be in a molten salt reactor operated with thorium – also because the technology has not yet been used commercially anywhere in the world in the long term.
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