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We breathe from the moment we are born until the moment we die. It is a vital and constant need, not only for us but for all life on Earth. Poor air quality affects us all: it harms our health and the health of the environment, which leads to economic losses. But what does the air we breathe consist of and where do the various air pollutants come from?
The extent of the sea ice in the Arctic reached a new record low in September 2012. Climate change is melting the sea ice in the region at a rate much faster than estimated by earlier projections. The snow cover also shows a downward trend. The melting Arctic might impact not only the people living in the region, but also elsewhere in Europe and beyond.
Copenhagen, 2 July 2011. Up to 150 mm of rainfall in two hours – a city record since measurements began in the mid-1800s. Homes destroyed. Citizens and emergency services struggled to cope. This is one example of how excessive extreme weather events can affect a European capital – events that are expected more often under climate change.
Forests are essential to our survival and well-being. Forests clean our air, our water, our soil and they regulate our climate, amongst many other things. Trees and forests are not always associated with urban landscapes. However, there too they provide invaluable, often invisible, services. Simply by acting as 'green oasis' in our concrete jungles, they offer recreation and health services for many European citizens.
In August 2007, local health authorities in Italy detected a high number of cases of an unusual illness in Castiglione di Cervia and Castiglione di Ravenna, two small villages divided by a river. Almost 200 people were affected and one elderly man died (Angelini et al., 2007).
Lower speed limits on motorways are generally associated with road safety. But several European countries are now debating whether they also benefit the environment and, if so, how much. There is no simple way of measuring the environmental benefits of lower speed limits but several factors clearly play a key role.
In modern societies, almost everything consumes energy. It is not only electronic gadgets, household appliances or street lighting that need it. Bringing water to our homes or food products to our supermarkets also require energy. Current consumption and production patterns demand a steady and often increasing energy supply.
Climate change is happening. The current global average temperature is already about 0.7-0.8 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial level. Even if greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations had stabilized in the year 2000, temperatures are predicted to increase by 1.2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level by the end of the 21st century.
In Eastern France and Western Germany there is 3000km2 of a biosphere reserve called ‘Parc Naturel Régional des Vosges du Nord – Pfälzerwald’. It is the largest uninterrupted forest area in Western Europe.
For the first time the waste in Greenland has been analyzed and the result is alarming. All households and industries need to get better at separating their waste. It’s a crucial mission and everyone needs to be involved, if Greenland is to have a cleaner and greener future.
It is estimated that honey bees are the most valuable pollinators of crops worldwide. But in recent years there has been a global trend of honey bees declining in numbers. The way in which they live means that they fly out and collect pollen from plants and pollinate them. In a modern world this means also bringing back pesticides, which is killing them or making them vulnerable to diseases. In the cities they are not exposed to pesticides, so The Project City Bees give bee populations a helping hand, help pollinate our world, and produce some of the cleanest honey around.
As the source of substantial and rapidly growing greenhouse gas emissions, transport must clearly be part of a global agreement to mitigate climate change.
Every winter the gates of Copenhagen's famous Tivoli Gardens, an old-world amusement park in the city centre, open to officially mark the beginning of the extended Christmas period. This December the twinkling lights of Tivoli will most likely be outshone by COP 15 — the most important global climate change meeting ever — as thousands of diplomats, politicians, business people, environmentalists, media and climate experts from around the globe flock to the Danish capital.
Cities and towns are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and will need to find innovative ways to adapt. Now is the time to start rethinking urban design and management — yet few have taken concrete action.
Barcelona is becoming a leader in solar energy use, Malmö is developing a carbon neutral residential area and London is setting ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets. Cities are joining in the fight against climate change.
'Our water is shut off once or twice a month, sometimes more,' says Baris Tekin from his apartment in Besiktas, an historic district of Istanbul, where he lives with his wife and daughter. 'We have about 50 litres of bottled water in the apartment for washing and cleaning, just in case. If the water is off for a really long time we go to my father's place or to my wife's parents,' says Baris, an economics professor at Marmara University.
A fisherman's tale: on the night of 6 October 1986 lobster fishermen from the small town of Gilleleje, north of Copenhagen, fishing the Kattegat Sea, found their nets crammed with Norway lobster. Many of the animals were dead or dying. About half were a strange colour.
We already have much information to guide strategic climate change response measures at the EU, national, regional and local levels. But the effectiveness and efficiency of actions can be improved with more and better information.