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BBC’s Air Pollution Bandwagon

March 7, 2017

By Paul Homewood


h/t Stewgreen




Apparently the BBC now has a “So I Can Breathe” series, which will no doubt give Mr Harrabin and his chums more opportunity to spread their propaganda.


From yesterday’s latest piece:




The government must devise a new plan to clean the air after losing two court cases. As part of the So I Can Breathe series, we examine air pollution in the UK. Who is most to blame and what should be done?

How bad is UK air pollution?

Air pollution is a major contributor to ill health in the UK, but it’s hard to say exactly by how much.

Dirty air doesn’t directly kill people. But it’s estimated in the UK to contribute to the shortening of the lives of around 40,000 people a year, principally by undermining the health of people with heart or lung problems.

How accurate are media headlines about 40,000 deaths?

Headlines claiming that pollution kills 40,000 are just wrong – it’s more subtle than that. It’s also wrong to say pollution in the UK is rising.

The 40,000 pollution-related deaths figure is not a count of actual deaths – it’s a statistical construct, with a lot of uncertainty involved.

Government advisers say the 40,000 number might be a sixth as big – or twice as big.

Pollution clearly is a problem, though. And, remember, it doesn’t just contribute to early deaths, it also compromises the health of people suffering from ailments like asthma and hay fever.

Is pollution increasing?

In cities globally, pollution is increasing.

In the UK, air pollution nationally has been generally dropping (except from ammonia from farming).

But despite the overall fall, in many big UK cities safe limits on harmful particulates and oxides of nitrogen – NOx – are still regularly breached. And in London, NOx levels at the roadside have barely dropped at all.

Why is there so much concern at the moment?

Experts in air pollution argue that it has been under-reported for decades, but the issue has been thrust into the news because the UK government lost court cases over illegally dirty air, and because car makers were found to be cheating tests on car emissions.

Scientists are also more confident now about the ways that air pollution harms people. It has even recently been linked with dementia, although that link remains debatable.


Diesel cars seem to be portrayed as the main villains. Is that fair?

Yes and no. Diesel car manufacturers drew fire by cheating emissions tests. Diesels are much more polluting than petrol cars on a local scale, and the biggest proportion of pollution in UK cities does come from road transport in general.

But if you look at Greater London (London stats are the most detailed) you see that private diesel cars contribute 11% of NOx – less than you might have thought. Lorries – with far fewer numbers on the roads – produce the same amount.

Zoom into Central London, and just 5% of NOx comes from private diesel cars. That is dwarfed by 38% from gas for heating homes and offices.

There are many other sources of pollution, including buses, taxis, industry and other machinery, such as on building sites. So it’s a many-sided problem.

Image caption Particulates are an important component of air pollution and are classified according to size, from large (PM10) to small (PM2.5)

What should we do?

Solving air pollution needs a many-sided approach. The best value for money comes from targeting the really big individual polluters – that’s old buses and lorries in cities. Most big cities are already doing that, although critics say not fast enough.

Insulating homes so they don’t burn as much gas, would save pollution, cash and carbon emissions in the long term – but critics say the government appears to have no strategy for this.

Stopping the spread of wood-burning stoves in cities might help a bit. Cutting pollution from ships would be good in port cities. Reducing use of some chemicals in the home would help a little.

What about taxing diesel cars more?

A previous government encouraged drivers to buy diesel vehicles because they produced fewer emissions of greenhouse gases. Incentives for diesel were removed in 1999.

Petrol cars are now almost as efficient and are much less polluting locally, so scientists say it makes sense to tax diesel cars extra.

Politicians are nervous upsetting drivers, and we shall have to wait to the Budget to see how they respond.

Ministers are also under pressure to offer a £3,500 incentive for drivers to scrap old diesel cars, which would incentivise the purchase of new cleaner vehicles.

The Green party says it would be perverse to reward car makers with increased sales when they caused the problem in the first place by failing on their promises to government to make diesel engines clean.


Before you all rush out and buy facemasks, you might like to see what the actual pollution trends have been since 1970:





There may be problems in cities, but there can be little doubt that they were much worse in the past.


I’m all for cleaning up the air, but surely we need to keep a sense of perspective?

  1. Joe Public permalink
    March 7, 2017 6:22 pm

    A nice & factual debunking.

  2. March 7, 2017 6:32 pm

    A new fake statistic is starting to gain traction in this area, the number of people who die “prematurely” due to air pollution, often simplified to just the number of people who die from it. Since nobody knows its precise definition, or how to determine it, it is surely destined to become a new “truth”, like the one about CO2 causing global warming, which an amazing percentage of scientists have a amazing degree of confidence in, but without saying exactly what they are so confident about.

    The BBC continues its dismal decline, I no longer watch TV, and have to actively avoid news bulletins on the radio.

    • David Richardson permalink
      March 7, 2017 8:02 pm

      Yes – the guy who came up with the 40k premature deaths had a charmed life from the usual MSM numpties, but when he was asked to provide the proof by one more clued up journo, he admitted that many of these people might die a week early!!! Some maybe 10 years. Fake as you say – probably came out of the same model as the polar bear figures.

      Don’t get me wrong – poor air quality is a problem in cities, but just like AGW it suffers from “inflation” – well i’m 97% sure that is the case.

    • catweazle666 permalink
      March 8, 2017 12:23 am

      The calculations are based on the discredited ‘Linear No threshold’ model, which maintains that if any particular – usually large – dose of a substance is harmful and decreases life expectation, then all concentrations of that substance down to parts per trillion can be considered harmful too, and thus capable of causing a decrease in life expectation, even if it is only of a few seconds.

      Total bull ordure, purely for the purposes of setting up another target to extort taxation out of some section of the population – in this case drivers of diesel cars, having demonised them in the media first.

      As many are starting to suspect, the CAGW scare is looking decidedly flaky, so a new demon has to be created, there was some buffoon on the BBC earlier asserting that pollution was a greater threat to the health of the population than smoking or obesity.

      It is also notable that no less a CAGW advocate and gatekeeper than Steven Mosher of BEST has now associated himself with the pm2.5 and NoX scare:

      See the acknowledgements.

  3. March 7, 2017 6:35 pm

    Great post Paul. It is quite surprising (though it shouldn’t be by now!) to see that things are not as bad as is being portrayed just about everywhere else. I wonder how much of the licence fee they are going to invest in this one?

  4. AlecM permalink
    March 7, 2017 6:35 pm

    The poor BBC retards have lost control of fake climate alchemy so have created a replacement.

    • BLACK PEARL permalink
      March 7, 2017 9:31 pm

      My thoughts on this also
      Must be nice to have national broadcasting facility at your disposal to keep yourself in a job
      Informative graph, adds some missing perspective that most would not have considered !

      (Often its what is not reported that can tell the truth)

      • Paddy permalink
        March 8, 2017 7:31 am

        I’m sure that as the Co2 scam is rumbled, the BBC is going to use air pollution and Box to replace it.

      • Paddy permalink
        March 8, 2017 7:32 am

        Nox, not box.

  5. March 7, 2017 6:48 pm

    Once again, alarmist beliefs splatted on the windshield of factual reality. Only observation is that major cities are worse than the UK average, primarily because of the rush to diesel automobiles. That gets locationaly specific. LA is worse than Chicago because of the local geography creating temperature inversions.

  6. miket permalink
    March 7, 2017 7:11 pm

    While not denying that there are cases of significant shortening of life, was there not research recently which found that this shortening of life was, in most cases only a matter of a week or two?

    • John Palmer permalink
      March 7, 2017 7:45 pm

      I do think so…but – if you then use all of these weeks and extrapolate them over a population of millions, then do your thing with ‘statistics’ and ‘scientific estimates’, then – ‘tra-la’ you get thousands of years of wonderful, valuable lives tragically lost to the dreaded fossil fuel based economy.
      Nothing that a capitalist-run, western economy does as regards improving standards is remotely good enough for our misanthropic greenies and their BBC and MSN handmaidens.

  7. March 7, 2017 7:27 pm

    Dellers has another of his great articles, this one also about air pollution. The so-called BBC should sack Cardinal Hazzabin with his fake news stories and replace him with Dellers.

  8. Jack Broughton permalink
    March 7, 2017 7:34 pm

    Definitely the new band-wagon for the luvvies and haters of industry and commerce.
    Half-truths and opinions become facts and soon it will be the biggest fear campaign since global warming, already lots of medics have launched campaigns based on the claimed life reductions.

    It is interesting to note that much of the pollution in London originates in Europe: particularly the dust. PM10s and PM2.5s have only been measurable for a few years and the instruments are still low in accuracy, but that does not prevent claims about their danger to people.

    We all want clean air, but pollution improvements should be best available method not involving excessive costs (BATNEEC) not fear campaign based.

    • John Palmer permalink
      March 7, 2017 7:47 pm

      Yes… but what else have they got to go on?

  9. Bitter&twisted permalink
    March 7, 2017 7:48 pm

    Who’s to blame?

    The usual suspects- Greens, the BBC and politicians.
    Zealots and stupid- a dangerous combination.

  10. Roger Cole permalink
    March 7, 2017 8:21 pm

    When ships are in port they are not going anywhere and only their accessories are being run, hence the pollution they produce will be negligible. Desperate!

  11. Graeme No.3 permalink
    March 7, 2017 9:44 pm

    One graph is worth a thousand BBC words.

  12. Athelstan permalink
    March 7, 2017 9:45 pm

    An absolutely stonking post, first class sir, boss – Paul.

    I bet that if, you could talk to one of the lads who could remember the “pea soupers” – he’d very likely tell you that, today’s Londonistani air by comparison is, as clean and as fresh as mountain air, well yer know wot I mean guv?…………………
    Furthermore, talking about that, with the prevailing westerlies – London air is kept relatively fresh, the real problems arise when and in; anticyclonic conditions and particularly when a faint South Easterly is pumping malodorous EU vapours, air across London, our near neighbours have far worse air pollution problems – than do we.

    “I’m all for cleaning up the air, but surely we need to keep a sense of perspective?”

    Yeah “perspective” we maintain it, precision demands it…………

    but “greens” and “perspective” are strangers living in parallel universes, who’ll just never meet.

    • Paddy permalink
      March 8, 2017 7:38 am

      In the ’50s all the buildings were black with soot, and your clean shirt collar was grey by 4 pm.

  13. Pat Swords permalink
    March 7, 2017 10:00 pm

    There has been a huge amount of very valuable work done on the whole issue of air pollution under the auspices of UNECE in Geneva. This goes back to the 1980s when many of the UNECE countries were then behind the Iron Curtain. So there is actually a remarkable body of knowledge about it. The hoary chestnut is then, as always, implementation. In many respects air pollution affects the very young or the very old and is in effect a form of premature aging or death. Furthermore, as the pollution levels are reduced, the cost benefits no longer look anyway as attractive. For those who like to delve into the ‘nuts and bolts’ of an issue, you may find the report below to be an informative document on practical form of how one should go about such implementation.

  14. March 7, 2017 11:02 pm

    How many lives are being shortened by frustration at the BBC’s reporting of climate-related issues? We should be told 😉

  15. Gamecock permalink
    March 7, 2017 11:19 pm

    ‘Air pollution is a major contributor to ill health in the UK, but it’s hard to say exactly by how much.’

    Then why are you saying it’s a major contributor?

    • Athelstan permalink
      March 7, 2017 11:57 pm

      Your above quote is from al beeb you plonker, now go back and re read it and

      Nota Bene: the stuff not italicized is Mr. Homewood’s contribution.

      got it?

      • Gamecock permalink
        March 8, 2017 4:11 pm

        You seem unfamiliar with the use of the pronoun “you.”

  16. HotScot permalink
    March 8, 2017 12:05 am

    As is the norm, of course, all the numbers come from cities, notably anti-Brexit, anti-Trump, lefty liberal London.

    Meanwhile, across the vast majority of the country, everyone else has to suffer the loss of diesel cars which are some 25% more efficient than petrol cars.

    My understanding is also that diesel fuel is less refined than petrol and therefore less energy intensive to produce.

    Less of the stuff (25% presumably) has to be transported to move cars the equivalent number of miles as their petrol counterparts.

    But as usual, 90% of the country has to suffer inconvenience for the city dwellers, the Green Goons, few of whom know what green living beyond their window box even means.

    But this is their idea of democracy, 10% of the country telling the other 90% how we should be living. We are ruled by the demands of lots of tiny pressure groups and they all join in each others demonstrations and petition signing; ably supported by the BBC and the Guardian journalists to exaggerate and distort facts because they all congregate in cities as well.

    • March 8, 2017 9:30 am

      Harrabin himself says ‘But if you look at Greater London (London stats are the most detailed) you see that private diesel cars contribute 11% of NOx – less than you might have thought. Lorries – with far fewer numbers on the roads – produce the same amount.

      Zoom into Central London, and just 5% of NOx comes from private diesel cars.’

      So clearly diesel cars are a relatively minor problem in London, and they should be looking elsewhere to get the pollution numbers down.

  17. March 8, 2017 6:45 am

    The so-called BBC follows up with an article about a French woman who can smell the fine particles.

    The pollution is all down to renewable energy: “the main cause is a renewable energy source with an environmentally-friendly reputation – the humble wood-burning stove.”

  18. John Page permalink
    March 8, 2017 7:43 am

    So did Harrabin know and suppress the facts, or was he ignorant?

    • Bill Church permalink
      March 8, 2017 8:28 am

      In my opinion, a liar or a fool – can’t be both.

    • Athelstan permalink
      March 8, 2017 8:35 am

      suppress the facts, shurely……………not da beeb – innit?

      ignorant – very and always.

  19. Bill Church permalink
    March 8, 2017 8:26 am

    But I thought we were all living longer? I worked in Birmingham in the late 50s and early 60s and I know what pollution looks like! They don’t make smogs like they used to in the good old days.
    Now that the credibility of man-made global warming is busted, the Green Blob already have their next big “end of the world” story ready.
    And yes, the BBC has gone South big time with dumbed-down programmes for imbeciles and fake news everywhere. It no longer reports the news but peddles its own interpretation according to its leftist elite numpties.

  20. March 8, 2017 9:51 am

    Don’t concern yourself about the numbers – keep you and your’s out of harms way. Try not to breathe in PM2.5 and support any sensible [economic] moves to minimise it:

    “…The black carbon part of PM2.5, which results from incomplete combustion, has attracted the attention of the air quality community owing to the evidence for its contribution to detrimental effects on health as well as on climate.

    Many components of PM attached to black carbon are currently seen as responsible for health effects, for instance organics such as PAHs that are known carcinogens and directly toxic to the cells, as well as metals and inorganic salts.

    Recently, the exhaust from diesel engines (consisting mostly of particles) was classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as carcinogenic (Group 1) to humans (13). This list also includes some PAHs and related exposures, as well as the household use of solid fuels (14,15)…”:

    • dennisambler permalink
      March 8, 2017 10:28 am

      Why is life expectancy continually increasing?

    • Sheri permalink
      March 12, 2017 3:33 pm

      Sadly, most research on carcinogens is fatally flawed.

  21. dennisambler permalink
    March 8, 2017 10:22 am

    Harrabin should be forced to spend time in Beijing, Bangkok and Delhi.

    Especially Delhi:

    “Delhi, on an average, adds nearly a 1000 cars everyday to its already choking roads. Studies also say the national capital has more cars than Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai combined.”

    The ban didn’t work:

    “Air quality didn’t improve—but that doesn’t mean it was a failure.” [shades of AGW?]

    “The government has called the trial a success, but official air-quality data and independent air pollution analyses available for that time-period don’t support that view. Delhi’s air quality in the first week of January was, on average, 20 to 25 percent worse than it had been the week before, and worse than it had been over the same period in January 2015, write Rukmini S and Samarth Bansal in The Hindu.”

  22. dennisambler permalink
    March 8, 2017 10:33 am

    No-one would argue against clean air, but the use of false claims does no-one any favours:

  23. Gerry, England permalink
    March 8, 2017 1:26 pm

    Back in the early 90s I had to be a courier driver to make ends meet while trying to get back into engineering. The work was taking packages from south London into the centre mainly but then became a contract job delivering and collecting films for Kodak developing. Young people might need to google what this is all about. I have suffered from allergies since childhood but don’t have either asthma or suffer hayfever. I did notice that on some days there was a certain restriction to breathing when in the centre of London on some days. These were the hot still days when after a few days of such a period a brown smog would develop.

    I then worked back in engineering and other areas outside London until 2005 when I got a job in Victoria. And I am still in the City now. At no point have I ever felt the same as I did back in the 90s. I doubt I have grown out of it as I was an adult even then but take a look at the graphs and note how much change there has been between then and now.

  24. Dave Ward permalink
    March 8, 2017 2:47 pm

    “A previous government encouraged drivers to buy diesel vehicles”

    You’ll note the political persuasion of said “Previous government” is not mentioned by the Beeb. Could that be because it was the Labour party??? You can bet if the situation was reversed they would have been only too happy to mention it…

  25. A C Osborn permalink
    March 8, 2017 3:13 pm

    I was quite surprised at how factual the BBC were by providing data, rather than just the usual “emotion”.
    However there was no mention of a total breakdown for PM particles ie
    Brake Dust
    Tyre Dust
    Cement Dust
    Road Dirt
    Wood Smoke
    Diesel Fumes
    They also do not mention that this “melange” of dust is not just being created by the passing vehicels but lays on the road and is stirred up by passing vehicles and the wind.
    It has much less affect when wet or when it is raining and they have found in other studies that continues road sweeping cuts down the pollution a lot.
    They also do not mention that it is past Government actions that have made it much worse, ie Traffic calming measures, Bus Lanes, Cycle Lanes and unsequenced Traffic Lights and the use of traffic lights instead of roundabouts.

  26. March 8, 2017 5:28 pm

    Seen this problem coming years ago, especially with the huge increase in buses in town centres. Buses by their very design and the environment they operate in are always stopping and starting, they are also very low geared so require most of the revs to just move at a normal urban traffic pace.

    Stand at a bus stop and watch the smoke that sprays out their exhaust when they pull away. Admittedly they are much better than they were years ago but there is still too many pumping out huge amounts of noxious fumes. Most buses only have to pass some old standard from years ago rather than they new really-stringent one diesel cars have to pass.

    The other problem with buses is they are heavily subsidized and spend most of the off-peak time driving about empty, if they don’t run the service they get no money, even if they bus is empty most of the day, which they usually are.

    Remember this was pushed by the green zealots, they wanted lots of buses, so the government obliged. It’s their fault we have this pollution problem.

    Funny thing I noticed about my local town they have their air quality meter right next to a set of lights, on a main road. Meaning it will pick up artificially high readings.

    The whole emissions cry babies are targeting clean cars and totally ignoring the things they personally wanted like buses and all the congestion and pollution causing traffic calming.

  27. March 9, 2017 12:17 am

    OK There is is quite a lot going on, I’ve been trying to document it over on the BH Doctors Against Diesel thread from Page 9 Mar 6, 2017 at 10:17 AM

    The critical links are the BBC’s PR page

    And the BBC’s campaign #SoICanBreathe is organized by Emily Kasriel “Head of Editorial Partnerships and Special Projects”
    She has a blogpost which has OPEN COMMENTS ..fill your boots

  28. March 9, 2017 12:20 am

    Link to page 9 I mentioned

    PR experts are clearly backing off the Global Warming narrative
    And regrouping around air pollution narrative as a strategy.

    Now I bet The BBC has been some secret #SoICanBreathe meeting with the NGO PR guys again like 28gate ?

    What I have done is once asked in that blog for a list of attendees
    and then tweeted the request to her also
    So that we are already covered if/when we have to FOIA them

  29. March 9, 2017 12:22 am

    Monday the BBC started a campaign saying that the diesel cars is the new paedophile & directed the baying mob to them.
    Every live program me throughout the day had PR tricks stirring up hate against them.
    Stuff like getting children to stand in front of school with placards etc.
    This is wrong !
    I have no objection to the Green Party participating in political campaigns, but the BBC is unelected and undemocratic it should not be driving politics.

  30. David Cooper permalink
    March 10, 2017 8:55 pm

    BBC NorthWest have also been reporting on air pollution all this week. The TV reporter kept describing Nitrogen Dioxide as “this invisible gas”. NO2 is a well known vivid orange-brown gas – but at least they got the gas part correct!
    Some time back the very same program kept on referring to Carbon Dioxide as Carbon – one is a colourless gas and the other a black solid!
    This week they visited Lancaster University to report how they found solid particles in the human brain. Some of these particles were iron. To convert the hydrocarbon chemicals in diesel fuel to iron would be a world first!
    The scam we know we are heading for I.e. electric cars and diesel scrappage schemes, is founded on shameful science.

  31. Sheri permalink
    March 12, 2017 3:37 pm

    Where are the statistics on lives saved by modern conveniences? In the 1800’s fire killed millions, tornadoes, floods, famine, etc. Lives were shortened by decades by natural disasters. Only the introduction of cheap energy combined with technology results in increased survival rates for all of the population. How many lives are extended and/or saved due to the use of items that contribute to some air pollution? I venture to estimate that it’s millions, not 40,000.

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