Air pollution is one of the greatest concerns in modern-day United Kingdom. The issues have been in the public domain in recent years; with different entities proposing different mitigation methodologies towards sustainable resolution of the problem. The United Kingdom has a thriving economy that has played a key role in global economics. Like many developed countries London is based on an industrial-led economy. There are millions of residents who work and reside in London. These workers act as appendages to the UK economy, but are also affected by the very economy that they contribute to. For the purposes of this assignment, it is important to have a working definition for air pollution. Air pollutions is defined as “ the presence in the outdoor atmosphere of one or more contaminants such as dust, fumes, gas, mist, odor, smoke, or steam, and the amounts and timing characteristics so as to hurt damage, plant, animal or human life or property, or unreasonably interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property” (Colls, 2002, p.46).
As a way of alleviating the problem of air pollution, the UK government has put in place mechanism to reduce the release of toxic fumes and emissions into the atmosphere in the country. However, government efforts have not significantly decreased air pollution in the United Kingdom. Those who are most affected by air pollution in the United Kingdom are children and older people who in some cases have heart complications. People living in areas with poor air quality are more likely to contract diseases and illness that are associated with air pollution. Some the areas that have poor air quality include areas near road which tend to have higher levels of road traffic pollution, and areas near industrial plants which are the main sources of pollution.
The most serious air pollution that was experienced in the United Kingdom and our region was during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th Centuries. There is no doubt that the factory creates jobs for employers and the figures of unemployment significant decrease. However, it is important to realize that the presence of employment in many industrial areas increases the level of migration to urban areas. This often results in the mushrooming of slums that are characterized by low quality services such as security and sewerage. In addition, the increase in employment within major cities in the United Kingdom led to rising levels of congestion on roads and air pollution as many of the workers in major cities either commute or use privately-owned vehicles to drive to work.
In order to reverse this decline in air quality within cities in the United Kingdom, there have been attempts to encourage people to reduce their level of private car usage by embracing the use of public transport. In this way the amount of emissions that result from the use of motor vehicles can be significantly reduces in the United Kingdom. The UK government has invested millions of pounds in creating mechanisms that will improve air quality in UK cities. However, the process of improving air quality in the city has to come from an internal drive by the UK citizenry. If people in the UK are not willing to work towards creating a country that has a higher air quality, then government initiatives continue to be thwarted as millions of Pounds go into waste. For example, the UK government pays lots of money annually to the European Commission with the aim of promoting a more sustainable environment for its citizenry. However, government efforts have not successfully addressed the issue of air pollution in the United Kingdom.
Therefore, air pollution is one of the most serious problems in the United Kingdom. Despite increased government effort to create a more sustainable environment, the problem of air pollution has remained unsolved for a long period of time. For example, city residents in London can attest to the fact that there have been an increasing number of cars in the city often resulting into more carbon emissions and at some time creating vehicle traffic and jam, which results into longer commuting periods among the city residents. This increase in the number of vehicles in UK cities shows that there is a lack of an internal drive among the people to make sure that they create cities that are more environmental friendly. People are more concerned about their short-term economic needs at the expense of the lives of their future generations.
The release of carbon emissions from motor vehicles and industries leads to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (Copeland, 2012, p.62). These greenhouse gases result in the depletion of the ozone layer. Once depleted, the ozone layer permits harmful rays from the sun to reach the earth. Some of the effects of ozone layer have been the upsurge in the number of people contracting diseases such as cancer. Harmful particles from carbon emissions can also lead of respiratory complications among people living in areas that are characterized by poor air quality.
Motor vehicles are one of the major sources of air pollution in the United Kingdom. The toxic fumes that emanate from the combustion of petroleum fuel such as diesel can be attributed to the poor air quality in many cities. The combustion of chemicals in many industries also leads to the production of dangerous fumes such as sulfuric gas and carbon monoxide. This means that the gases that are released to the atmosphere by various industries are not only harmful to the people working in those factories but also harm people who reside outside those industries. Emissions from industrial plants contain many toxic substances that are detrimental to the general public and other life forms that are necessary in UK because they create jobs for people. It is through industries that the United Kingdom is able to produce products for markets both within and without the United Kingdom. If the United Kingdom is to continue thriving economically industrial production cannot be eliminate due to the benefits that it creates for society. However, the production process has to be made more sustainable and environmental friendly. The vibrancy of the UK economy has led to an increase in the size of the British middle class. This means that more people are in a position to purchase vehicles. The purchase of more vehicles means that the level of air pollution in the country continues to increase due to the large number of motorists. For example: traffic congestion remains a key problem in many major cities in the United Kingdom.
Respiration and the inhalation of gases in the atmosphere is something that is unavoidable. Human beings and other life forms have no choice other than inhale and utilize gases that are at their exposure. This means that even when air is polluted, people will still inhale the harmful gases despite their knowledge of the detrimental effects that this might pose to their health. Some of the ailments that are associated with air pollution include burning eyes, coughing, and breathing problems. Air pollution can in some instances lead to death. For example, there have been some instances in which people in the United Kingdom have been exposed to dangerous gas fumes and died. The London fog of 1952 is one such incident where more than 4,000 people lost their lives after being exposed to dangerous fumes (Thorsheim, 2006, p. 249). Though the current release of toxic fumes into the atmosphere might not lead to the immediate death of people as was the case in 1952, the fact remains that air pollution in Britain has the some effect over a prolonged period of time. People continue to can silently die of diseases such as asthma or bronchitis, as a result of their exposure to toxic fumes. Children and older people are more vulnerable to ailments resulting from air pollution because they have a weak immune system.
Global warming is also another concern that is attributes to air pollution. The release of greenhouse gases such as methane, CO2 or CH4 leads to an increase in air temperature. These increased temperatures have detrimental effects to the ecosystem. Some of the effects of global warming include the melting of the ice caps, the lowering of the pH of oceanic waters often affecting the growth of marine plants such as planktons, and the rise of sea level often resulting in the shrinkage of beach areas. Greenhouse gases lead to Ozone layer depletion. Once the Ozone layer is depleted harmful radiation from the sun are able to reach the earth’s surface. UV rays from the sun are believed to be carcinogenic and have been attributing to the rise of cases of cancer around the world (Billy, 2006, p.112).
The first way in which air pollution in the United Kingdom is by encouraging people to drive less. In this way people can be able to use public transport. The government can create initiatives that encourage the use of public transport such as making public transport more comfortable and cheap. The strengthening of the public sector would remarkably reduce the amount of vehicles on the road thereby significantly reducing the annual amount of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere. Secondly, industries that release carbon emission should be required to have scrubbers that are used in the conversion of toxic gases from their toxic form to more environmental friendly gases. The government can also introduce taxes to industries that most pollute the environment through the release of carbon emission. In this way, these industries can be able to work towards sustainable production so as to avoid the carbon taxes. Industries that find it difficult to make their production systems more sustainable can trade their rights to pollute the atmosphere with other companies that have the ability to easily create sustainable production systems. In addition, it is important to create forums that the general public can be sensitized about the need to actively participate in the process of reducing air pollutants in the atmosphere. By addressing the problem of air pollution in a bottom-up approach, it will be easy for government efforts to be supported by members of the public. For example, when the members of the public understand the advantage of using public transport as opposed to driving, then efforts of the government to create a greener public sector will significantly reduce air pollution in the United Kingdom.
Air pollution is not a problem that can be solved in a single day. It is a process that needs to be continually adhered to. However, for the process of reducing air pollution to be successful, there is a need for the process to start at the micro-level. People at the grassroots have to understand that there is a need to have a cleaner environment that has high air quality. In this way, macro-efforts by the government will have the backing of the general public. This means that there is no way macro-level preventative methods can be successful unless they are supported by the members of the public. Therefore, the success of creating a high air quality environment, there has to be a bottom-up approach. This does not mean that current government efforts should be halted. Instead, government should make sure that members of the general public are more involved in the process of environmental protection, and also in the process of creating favorable environmental regulation and policies.
In conclusion, motor vehicles and industrial emissions are the major sources of air pollution in the United Kingdom. In order to help reduce the problem of environmental pollution in the United Kingdom there is a need for people to embrace public transport so as to reduce the number of motor vehicles on the roads. In addition, industries should have more corporate responsibility by making sure that they reduce the toxicity of emissions by use of scrubbers. Scrubbers are able to convert toxic gases into environmental friendly gases. In this way, the United Kingdom can be able to significantly address the problem of air pollution in the country.
Bily, C. A. (2006). Global warming. San Diego: Greenhaven Press. p112-115
Colls, J. (2002). Air pollution (2nd ed.). London: Spon Press.p46-48
Copeland, B. R. (2012). International Trade and Green Growth. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.p61-62
Thorsheim, P. (2006). Inventing pollution: coal, smoke, and culture in Britain since 1800. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.p249-250