The weather is being driven by hot air currently over the Low Countries


No, not the Great British Obsession with Brussels and all things EU. Just the Evening Standard coming to grips with the killer photo-chemical smog shrouding Londoners:

… the Met Office said there was a pollution warning level ten, the highest on their scale.

A level this high means adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people, should avoid strenuous physical activity, according to the Met Office.

People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often, according to their advice.

People are advised to reduce physical exertion, particularly outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as cough or sore throat.

Things have been grim much of the month, and it’s not yet summer. Nobody in authority seems keen to address the problem. It really is a problem:

It is estimated that fine particles have an impact on mortality equivalent to 4,267 deaths in London in 2008, within a range of 756 to 7,965. A permanent reduction in PM2.5 concentrations of 1μg/m3 would gain 400,000 years of life for the current population (2008) in London and a further 200,000 years for those born during that period, followed for the lifetime of the current population. For the current population, this is equivalent to an average 3 weeks per member of the 2008 population, with the expected gains differing by age. 

A measure of the ambiguous posturing of Mayor Johnson was encapsulated in a prize quotation:

A spokeswoman for the mayor said although the figures were hypothetical, he took the issue “extremely seriously”.

Yeah, BoJo, so “hypothetical” that we have official warnings to stay indoors, avoid exercise which may add to breathing the filth.

2012 measures

The London Olympics were a particular example of how Johnson took the issue “extremely seriously”. £5million was thrown at remedies. These amounted to:

  • planters along the designated route network (i.e. the roads marked up to bring officials to and from the Olympic site);
  • applying sticky to the roads adjacent to monitoring stations, in the hope this would glue down the pollutants.

Another trick was simply to deny that some monitoring stations existed at all. Brent Council has such a station at Neasden Lane, on the heavily-polluted North Circular Road. It regularly records the kind of pollution levels that would get us into trouble and cost with the EU:

Across London, a network of boxes monitor the level of pollution that we breathe in. There are limits on the amount of pollution allowed, which were agreed over a decade ago by our government and all the others in the Europe Union. Many of the boxes around London regularly measure pollution exceeding that amount. The UK should get fined an estimated £300m by the European Commission if any one station measures unsafe pollution levels for more than 35 days in the year. 2011 was one of several years that have landed our Government in the dock, and the Mayor and the Government are [d]oing everything they can to wriggle out of their responsibility for our health.

Since that’s from Jenny Jones, her detractors would sniff (understandable in this climate) and mutter something along MRDA lines.

Note that “if any one station measures unsafe pollution levels“. Ms Jones has that one nailed:

The Government only get away with it, by not telling European Commission that the monitoring stations exists. They claim it doesn’t meet the standards the Commission sets, but the local authority and the experts who run the London air quality network both agree that it does. 

But, wait!

There is a cunning plan! Close the monitoring sites!

The closures could save councils nearly £50m over 10 years, Defra suggests. The proposals only apply to England, and have been rejected by the Scottish government on the grounds that they “would deliver no obvious benefit”.

“The UK government wants to hide air pollution and cares nothing for public health,” said Simon Birkett, director of the campaign group, Clean Air in London…

He added: “Worse, the changes would mean the loss of key protections in the planning system and the very monitors and expertise needed now to improve air quality.”

Prof Duncan Laxen, the managing director of Air Quality Consultants in Bristol, said that much of our understanding of air pollution has come from local authority monitoring: “It will be a retrograde step if the government’s preferred option is to lose this local knowledge.”

Defra insisted that the aim is to “reinvigorate and refocus” local air quality management. It said that the current regime was “diagnosis driven” and that “the level of local reporting can distract resources”.


Let’s follow and adapt Mr Punch:


If you had been planning to visit London, Don’t.

booksAs for the second zinger Mr Punch has there, try Jules Feiffer’s 1959 cartoon story, Boom! — you’ll find it in Passionella and Other Stories. At that time the nuclear powers were popping off tests on a regular basis, to the extent that, as Feiffer imagined, the air was filling with big black floating specks. Official solution: posters declaiming “Big black floating specks are good for you”.

Seems familiar.




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Filed under Boris Johnson, Evening Standard, London

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