What do Houston, London, and San Francisco have in common? You might be thinking about great food, an excellent job market or a thriving arts scene, but the answer is that all three cities are taking action to improve their understanding of an often invisible urban threat: air pollution.
The first time I spoke at a conference about air pollution, the venue was right beside a daycare—a well-regarded chain, no doubt with significant waiting lists. But on the outside, the facility was steps from onramps to a bridge and a major highway, where horns blared and buses and trucks idled at the lights.
The pollution around this daycare was invisible, but because there is still so much we don’t know about air pollution, so were many of the risks. Read more
Leaders from pretty much every country in the world representing current and future customers attended the World Health Organization’s (WHO) inaugural Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health in Geneva last week, along with academics and nongovernmental organizations, but there were no corporate leaders in attendance.
The absence of companies suggests that air pollution isn’t front and center on business leaders’ radars. Here are three reasons why it should be.
When you picture a city bus, an animal control van or a waste management truck, you’re probably not thinking about a high-tech, mobile urban sensing platform, about saving millions of lives, or about the smart city of the future. At least not yet. But a new initiative in Houston is turning public fleets into the rolling eyes and ears of the city, and enabling these vehicles to revolutionize the way air pollution is monitored, measured – and ultimately addressed across the United States.
The information generated by these IoT-enabled “future fleets” is also a key tool in the transformation to fully connected, smarter cities, where hyperlocal data makes streets safer and less congested and where market forces reward urban efficiency, decarbonized electricity, and clean transportation. Picture using connected, clean fleets to improve delivery times, bring residents to work, school and doctor’s appointments, and even pinpoint the location of toxic air pollution threats – all at the same time.
These vehicles are enabling a future where air pollution forecasts eliminate hundreds of thousands of heart attacks, tens of thousands of hospital and ER visits, and an even larger number of missed school and workdays that are caused annually by air pollution. Air pollution also costs the global economy $225 billion dollars every year in lost labor income, but recent studies show that improving air quality – both indoors and outside – could improve worker productivity. Read more
Right outside my window in Washington, DC, there is a hill where trucks accelerate towards the north, and buses idle to pick up tour groups. Even when the air looks clear, it may be hiding an invisible danger. Air pollution kills 4.5 million people a year and costs the world $225 billion a year in economic damages. These global figures mask what can be a highly local, personal risk. Recent studies show that air pollution varies as much as eight times within one city block. We also now know that living by streets with the most elevated pollution can raise the risk of heart attack or death among the elderly by more than 40% – suggesting air pollution is far more dangerous than previously understood.
The good news is we are on the cusp of generating widespread hyperlocal insights into air pollution. Understanding for the first time at a local, personal level where pollution is, where it comes from, and its impacts could shine a spotlight on the problem and increase the urgency and motivation for action. Because the best actions will protect health and mitigate the risk of climate change, local insights can provide the springboard for local, regional, national and even global impact. Read more
In an affront to the health of all Americans, U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is trying to reopen a loophole for super-polluting glider trucks. This action reflects the worst of Washington politics: a special deal for the benefit of a single company; a sloppy, industry-funded analysis; and a process that shuts out EPA’s own staff expertise.
It has the potential to add thousands of super-polluting trucks to our roads, spewing 40 times more pollution than new trucks and leading to more than 6,000 premature deaths by 2021.
The question every company in America that uses trucking services must ask is: Do you want these trucks backing up to your loading dock?
A recent study from UPS and GreenBiz revealed that 95 percent of surveyed companies recognize the effect that urbanization – particularly air quality and traffic congestion – will have on business growth and sustainability.
Why? Because poor air quality costs the global economy $225 billion every year in lost labor income, according to the World Bank. Air quality also worsens with congestion, which will likely increase as 2.5 billion more people are expected to live in urban areas by 2050.
It’s no surprise then that less than half of the UPS/GreenBiz study participants feel prepared to address these challenges.
The good news is that cities and businesses can turn their anxiety into action by embracing and utilizing disruptive mobile sensor technologies that collect air quality data.