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Summary Of UK Air Pollutants – 2018

February 27, 2020

By Paul Homewood


h/t Joe Public




The government has published the latest summary of air pollution.

Emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide continue to fall rapidly, but PMs have levelled off:

Trends in annual emissions, 1970-2018

There has been a long term decrease in the emissions of all of the air pollutants covered by this statistical release (ammonia, nitrogen oxides, non-methane volatile organic compounds, particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5) and sulphur dioxide). The UK has met current international ceilings for emissions of air pollutants since they were introduced in 2010. The 2010 emissions total for nitrogen oxides exceeded the emissions ceilings, but the UK was allowed to apply an adjustment to the national total which brought the adjusted total under the emissions ceiling. Adjustments are allowed where non-compliance with the ceilings results from applying improved emission inventory methods updated in accordance with scientific knowledge. Compliance with national ceilings is then assessed by reference to the adjusted totals.

A large number of factors are responsible for the long-term decrease in emissions of air pollutants:

  • The reduction in use of coal for domestic heating and power generation has been a major factor in reducing emissions of particulate matter, although burning of other solid fuels for domestic heating and industry has increased in recent years.

  • The move away from using coal to gas for power generation and fitting flue gas desulphurisation equipment to existing coal-fired power stations has been responsible for long-term decreases in emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

  • Stricter emissions regulation for road transport has also led to significant emissions reductions for nitrogen oxides and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs).

  • Stricter emissions limits placed on industry has significantly reduced emissions from solvents, which particularly affected emissions of NMVOCs.

  • Emissions of ammonia were largely influenced by changes to herd sizes and farming practices, as emissions from agriculture form a large majority of emissions of ammonia.

4. Recent trends in emissions of air pollutants

Trends in annual emissions of particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), nitrogen oxides, ammonia, non-methane volatile organic compounds, and sulphur dioxide, 2008-2018

Trends in annual emissions, 2008-2018

In the most recent ten-year period of emissions estimates, there has been mixed progress in reducing emissions of air pollutants:

  • For sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, emissions have continued to fall in line with the long-term trend with much of the reduction as a result of the decreasing dependence on coal for energy generation (emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from energy industries has fallen by 83 and 57 per cent respectively between 2008 and 2018).

  • Emissions of nitrogen oxides and non-methane volatile organic compounds from road transport also decreased by 47 per cent and 77 per cent respectively between 2008 and 2018. This is largely as a result of tighter emissions standards being introduced for petrol and diesel cars.

  • For particulate matter decreases in emissions from many sources have been partially offset by increases in emissions from residential burning (domestic combustion; emissions of PM2.5 from this source increased by 33 per cent between 2008 and 2018). This reflects the increasing popularity of solid fuel appliances in the home such as wood-burning stoves.

  • Emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds have changed little since 2008 across most sources, and annual emissions of ammonia increased by 8.7 per cent between 2008 and 2018. This is largely due to increased fertiliser spreading.

With emissions falling rapidly, the case for banning petrol/diesel cars for pollution reasons becomes ever weaker.

  1. February 27, 2020 10:54 am

    I am surprised, but pleased to see that CO2 wasn’t included!

    • February 27, 2020 11:00 am

      CO2 is only a problem in the polluted minds of deluded eco-warriors… for everyone else it’s the gas of life.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 27, 2020 12:28 pm

      NAEI have a separate section on GHGs.

      They don’t appear to have updated their website with the 2018 data release yet.

    • Joe Public permalink
      February 27, 2020 12:53 pm

      CO2 isn’t a pollutant, so no need to include it. 😀

  2. Mad Mike permalink
    February 27, 2020 11:01 am

    Off Topic but the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow has been rules as unlawful as it goes against Government policy on CC, Paris accord and all that. Now that ruling has been made virtually every new infrastructure project could be stopped.

    Trump doesn’t sound so mad now.

    • Jason permalink
      February 27, 2020 11:15 am

      Who says any of those things are pollutants anyway at those concentrations?? The plan is to call everything in the air a pollutant and collapse western economies.

    • HotScot permalink
      February 27, 2020 12:17 pm

      Mad Mike

      “Trump doesn’t sound so mad now.”

      Whilst Boris gets madder by the day.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        February 27, 2020 12:48 pm

        Yes, he started out s a PM10(out of 10); now he’s more like a PM2.5.

    • David Virgo permalink
      February 27, 2020 12:24 pm

      Been watching BBC2 this morning – three interviews from those against the 3rd runway expressing glee, followed by introduction of Heathrow CEO and then the plug pulled. This was switched very smoothly to some Eurovision nonsense and then end of programme. Bias? You couldn’t make it up!

    • February 27, 2020 12:42 pm

      Perhaps a case against HS2 can be launched on similar grounds, since the government seem unwilling to consider economic sense.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        February 27, 2020 12:42 pm

        That’s me…

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        February 27, 2020 2:42 pm

        I should have said

        It is I….

        Though I’m not leClerc…

    • Keith permalink
      February 27, 2020 12:55 pm

      What ‘a the point in an extra runway. Heathrow and all UK airports will need to close by 2050 to meet Zero Emissions. This is just the start of the law being used to close down the UK as we know it and take us back to rationing and starvation and the Middle Ages by 2050.Emissions
      The Government is now in a total.mess over this climate hysteria and they don’t even know it. By the time.they wake up we will be on the big slippery slope to the bottom while other nations surge ahead.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      February 27, 2020 2:17 pm

      The sticking point is the Paris Agreement. It would be interesting to see a legal analysis of whether this is something that requires compliance. It was labelled an ‘agreement’ to allow Obummer to sign it given he had no power to sign a treaty without approval from senate or congress. If it is shown to be ‘aspirational’ as opposed to ‘binding’ it can be ignored. But, given the snivelling wretches in government would not have to desire to see it exposed as just wishful thinking, that is not likely.

  3. February 27, 2020 11:18 am

    We know that there are serious doubts about the validity of the science linking PM2.5 to public health. It appears to be another example of policy-based fake evidence.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 27, 2020 1:46 pm

      Many thanks for pointing up that story. I had missed it. It exemplifies the propaganda we are subjected to.

  4. Ian Magness permalink
    February 27, 2020 11:25 am

    It’s interesting that ammonia is included (and doesn’t seem to be reducing in emissions) as some are now promoting it (eg as the next “carbon-free” energy wonder-source to be generated by “spare” renewable capacity. Not only does this renewable energy idea have similarities with the Orkney and similar hydrogen projects but the ammonia can even be used to produce the hydrogen to be used in electricity or fuel generation. Moreover, the ammonia itself, supposedly, can be burnt to provide electricity.
    As with hydrogen, there simply have to be storage issues and the possibility of explosions and general pollution (in the case of ammonia). The main difficulty that I have getting my head around all this, however, is the idea of going through several processes – all of which energy and equipment intensive – only to arrive at products far more easily and efficiently derived, transported and stored. And, of course, all of this relies on “spare” energy from sources that are wholly unreliable in the first place. Colour me sceptical – not for the first time.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 27, 2020 12:39 pm

      The energy is not spare. That’s a favourite green fallacy. You have to invest in capacity to produce it. At the very least there is a levellised cost for that. Then there are all the added costs of accommodating it in the energy system. It’s very expensive.

  5. jack broughton permalink
    February 27, 2020 11:26 am

    The tables do not give figures for wind-imported pollution, the calculated sources of emission must be very approximate too. I understand that the South of England gets much of its PM10 and PM2.5 from Europe and Africa. Also, in coastal areas there is significant salt in the air as fine particles. It may well be that even if we banned all the good things that the doom-mongers want us to there will be no measurable difference.

    I’d also take bets that the doom-mongers will leap on the PM10 and PM2.5 data as proof that thousands are dying from pollution, even tho’ there is no real historical data for the long term improvements that have occurred as these fine particles could not be measured until about 1980.

  6. John Pearson permalink
    February 27, 2020 11:31 am

    No mention of the particulate output from Drax biomass burning – just Joe Public’s log burner. Funny that.

    • Joe Public permalink
      February 27, 2020 1:03 pm

      Oi!! I’m being environmentally friendly by using home-grown, locally sourced renewable fuel. Just as the Greenies demanded. 😀

  7. Phoenix44 permalink
    February 27, 2020 11:33 am

    So if PMs at today’s level are so dangerous, where are all the deaths saved since 1970 as we have reduced PM levels so drastically?

    On a simplistic basis, if 30,000 people die now from PMs, there should have three to four times that number in 1970 – 120-150,000 a year.

    • LeedsChris permalink
      February 27, 2020 12:07 pm

      Agreed. This shows that all ‘science’ needs to pass the ‘sniff test’ of common sense. It is EXACTLY as you say: the figures published showing alleged deaths from air pollution now – in the tens of thousands – cannot be correct. If they were the majority of deaths in 1970 would have been due to air pollution. And imagine if the figures when back further, to 1960 or 1940 when pollution levels were even higher – on current models the sole cause of death would have been air pollution!. What is so incredibly depressing is that almost no-where now do proper journalists question and investigate.

    • Joe Public permalink
      February 27, 2020 1:15 pm

      It seems the govt can’t actually pin a death on PMs.

      DEFRA’s 21st Feb 2020 “Consultation outcome: Summary of responses and government response” to ‘Air quality: using cleaner fuels for domestic burning’ has an Executive Summary which states:

      ” … particulate matter (PM). The tiny particles in smoke can enter the bloodstream and enter internal organs, causing long term health issues as well as having more immediate impacts on some such as breathing problems or asthma attacks.”

      i.e. no mention of anyone being killed by PMs.

      That is a telling admission-by-omission; and destroys greenies’ claims of hundreds / thousands annually ‘killed by particulates’.

  8. David permalink
    February 27, 2020 12:10 pm

    The Penny dropped this morning.
    The Coronavirus is just the latest scam designed to destroy our way of life in the west. As I see it, although it may be more virulent than average it is basically little worse than a common cold and it is ludicrous to change our whole way of life to avoid it. The dark forces that are promoting it are getting their way with the vast unnecessary and expensive measures being taken and the significant hit taken by the world’s stockmarkets. Control has been exercised over Hinkley Point and we now have the offer to build H S 2 at half the cost in five years! Who is really behind Extinction Rebellion?

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      February 27, 2020 12:39 pm

      As reported on another well known blog, in the US there were 10,000 deaths last year from ‘flu! Imagine the panic if that had been from Nov.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        February 27, 2020 12:40 pm

        Nov = coronavirus.

      • dave permalink
        February 27, 2020 1:26 pm

        The CDC of the USA estimated influenza burden for the United States” ‘Season 2017/18:’ (a bad ‘year’, admittedly);

        45 million infections,

        810,000 hospitalizations,

        61,000 deaths.

        All this despite vaccination.

        Are we really happy to add another illness – “just another ‘flu!” – to the annual seasonal misery if we can possibly stamp it out now?

  9. dave permalink
    February 27, 2020 12:17 pm

    The UK will never require a third runway at Heathrow. Two will be quite enough for any emergency flights laid on to evacuate us (will the rest of the world take us?) when the country is totally insane, and officially ruined.

  10. Harry Passfield permalink
    February 27, 2020 12:43 pm

    Just wondering, is PM10 inclusive of PM2.5?

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 27, 2020 2:39 pm

      Having downloaded all the PM data (PM10, PM2.5, PM1.0, PM0.1) it would appear that the answer is yes. On a sector by sector basis all the statistics show < means what it says – there are no negative results by subtracting smaller particles from larger ones.

  11. Broadlands permalink
    February 27, 2020 2:41 pm

    Because concrete and asphalt are deemed bad for the atmosphere there will be no new runways or even new roadways. Not even those in need of repair. Back to muddy paths for shiny new PV vehicles? The insane are in charge of the asylum.

  12. A man of no rank permalink
    February 27, 2020 8:26 pm

    Love that downhill graph that Paul keeps showing. Has Greta seen this? Ruining their future indeed!
    Last December, in the Honest John column of the Saturday Telegraph BC reported that his Skoda Superb diesel car had just had a MOT. The garage reported that “emissions were too low to report” The writer had been using high grade fuel that H.J loves to promote.
    If we all run diesel cars and use Shell V Power fuel or its equivalents then Paul’s graph may go down a lot further. Just think – no need for Emission Zones or Electric cars!

  13. Steve permalink
    February 28, 2020 8:22 am

    The political doctors always parade the children who they allege are suffering with increasing asthma due to the increasing NO2 and PMs. But their parents suffered from double the amount of these pollutants and their grandparents quadruple. The logical answer therefore is to restore the pollution to previous levels or accept that some other factors are causing any increase in asthma. However, they won an important victory in the courts recently when one unfortunate child’s death was directly attributed to vehicle pollution. If only all doctors were as sensible as the late Tony Frew.

  14. James Broadhurst permalink
    February 28, 2020 9:32 am

    So we know that the VW scandal arose because somebody calculated NOx emissions had risen even after tighter regulations were imposed. The USA caught VW red handed. And then someone else calculated that 40,000 deaths per year were due to emissions from diesel engines. Ricardo who produced the current set of data which appears to contradict everything that has gone before got there data from where? Ricardo are a well respected company.

    • Steve permalink
      February 28, 2020 3:16 pm

      Presumably Ricardo were expert in producing the jump from 5% to 40 by juggling the figures as described. Assuming that they were involved. They were also involved in the commendable improvement in engine development which lead to the large decrease in nox shown on the graph.

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