Jun 152020
Motor Vehicle Emissions – Greenhouse Gas
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Welcome to my 'Motor Vehicle Emissions' post!

First of all, I must congratulate you for taking the time to do your research on this topic of green living. When we operate vehicles, exhaust gases are released into the atmosphere. There are a variety of different types, some occur naturally on the planet, others do not.

Some contribute to global warming and others do not. Some have drastic effects on human health and others do not. As an environmentalist, I believe that we need to be green transportation solutions that promote our health and the health of our planet.

As a qualified teacher, I am passionate about education and the impact it can have on bettering our future. It is down to us individuals to do our research and make small changes to the way we live our lives. 

These small changes are easy to make and can have a big impact on our health, the health of our family and our environment. This website is designed for everyday people looking to make these changes. Here you will learn a legitimate way to go green. 

Let me be completely transparent with you, I am not here to pitch or sell anything to you. I am here to reveal and to assist you on your journey of going green! 

Exhaust Gas...

When fuels combust, the exhaust gas is emitted into the atmosphere. The type of engine will affect how and where it is emitted, some engines will have an exhaust pipe, flue gas stack, or a propelling nozzle. The exhaust plume travels downwind as it disperses.

These emissions create air pollution. In some large cities, vehicle emissions are the major ingredient in creating smog. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), found them to be the cause of 53,000 early deaths every year in the United States and 5,000 annual deaths in the United Kingdom.

There are many different gases that makeup exhaust gas. Some are greenhouses gases and others are not. The nongreenhouse gases still cause harm to human health and our environment even though they are not considered greenhouse gases.


Greenhouse Gases...

A greenhouse gas absorbs and emits radiant energy, and cause the greenhouse effect where radiation in the atmosphere warms the planet's surface. These gases included water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), ozone (O3), Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs and HFCs). These gases are most abundant in the order listed.

The majority of CO2 emissions are a result of fossil fuel combustion. The second highest contributor of methane is fugitive emissions from fossil fuels and other industries. The temperature of the planet would be 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-19 degrees Celcius) without greenhouse gases. The current temperature of the Earth's surface is 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celcius).

NASA states greenhouse gases are present on planets such as Venus, Mars, and Titan and created Venus's current conditions. This is concerning. We must learn from other planets in our atmosphere. If we continue to emit pollutants at our current rate, temperatures could increase by 2 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celcius). The United Nations Interventional Panel on Climate Change insists staying below this level between now and 2036 is the only way to stay safe.

Water Vapor (H2O)...

This is water as a gas, produced when water is heated, boiled, and evaporates. It is transparent and continuously generated naturally in the atmosphere and removed through the process of condensation. It is responsible for the formation of clouds as it triggers convection currents.

The use of water vapor as steam has been an important part of human activity since the industrial revolution, we use it primarily in cooking, energy production, and transportation. Because of this, it is a particularly abundant component in the Earth's atmosphere, making it the most potent greenhouse gas. It is far stronger than other gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.

Carbon Dioxide (CO)...

This is a colorless gas that occurs naturally in our atmosphere in volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, and some rocks. It occurs naturally in bodies of waters because it is soluble in water. It is normally odorless unless encountered in a high concentration when it smells acidic.

It is produced by all aerobic organisms when the breath, returning it to the air. Fish return it to water using their gills. It is also produced during the process of decay and the fermentation of sugars. The combustion of organic matter and fossil fuels produces CO2.

The industrial revolution has since caused anthropogenic emissions, which primarily come from the use of fossil fuels and deforestation, have quickly increased the concentration of this greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. It is the most significant long-lived we have and it leads to global warming and ocean acidification.

Ozone (O3)...

This is a pale blue gas that converts into a dark blue liquid and an even darker solid. It has a distinctive smell, similar to chlorine. It is formed from dioxygen when ultraviolet light and electrical charges react in the atmosphere. The highest concentration is found in the ozone layer of the stratosphere where most of the sun's ultraviolet radiation is absorbed. In liquid form, it has the potential to be explosive at high temperatures as it is unstable.

It is a powerful oxidant and therefore used for its oxidation properties in many industries. However, this property damages the mucous and respiratory issues of many animals and humans. It too damages plant tissues. Although this gas is harmful at ground level it has benefits in the ozone layer, where it prevents damaging UV light from reaching the Earth's surface.


Non Greenhouse Gases...

Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)...

These are a family of organic compounds containing different amounts of carbon and hydrogen, but nothing else. They can be found in coal and tar deposits and are produced by the thermal decomposition of organic matter e.g. in engines, incinerators, or when biomass burns in forest fires.

They can be found abundantly in our universe, dating back as early as a couple of billion years after the big bang. They are present in the formation of new stars, exoplanets, and were used in the earlier forms of life. They count for a significant percentage of all carbon in the atmosphere.

Smoke from cigarettes, wood, coal, and industrial sites contain PAHs and they enter our lungs when we breathe air polluted with them. they generally have a low degree of toxicity for humans and people living in highly polluted areas are the most at risk. The most significant health concern is cancer.

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)...

Sulfur Dioxide or SO2 is dangerous for human health and the environment. It is a toxic gas and smells like burnt matches. Volcanos naturally release it into the atmosphere along with human activity such as copper extraction burning fossil fuels containing sulfur compounds. Yet About 99% of the sulfur dioxide in air comes from human activity. 

Motor vehicles and power plants significantly create this environmental pollutant when they burn coal and diesel which are a rich source of sulfur. It poses serious health risks to humans, with children, people with immune dysfunction and asthma being the most vulnerable. 

Nitrogen Oxide (NOx)...

This is a compound of oxygen and nitrogen and is formed whenever combustion occurs in the presence of nitrogen e.g. car engines and lightning.

In cities and another area where there are high amounts of traffic, the amount of NOx emitted into the air as pollution can be significant. When it is released into the atmosphere through fuel combustion, it combines with oxygen atoms and creates nitric oxide (NO), which in turn combines with oxygen to create nitrogen dioxide (NO2). With regards to health, NO is not considered hazardous at typical concentrations, but NO2 has the potential to be.

Together they are referred to as oxides of nitrogen (NOx). Smog, acid rain, fine particles, ground-level ozone are produced when NOx gases react. These are all associated with detrimental health concerns. NOx is an irritant and high concentrations cause inflammation in the airways and affect our immune system, promoting conditions such as influenza and pneumonia. New research shows that people with these conditions are more vulnerable to the novel coronavirus “SARS-CoV-2.” 

Here is a piechart showing NOx emitted in the city of London, 2011, and similar predictions were made for 2015. Since then, measures have been taken to reduce the amounts of emissions in this city. However, not all cities throughout the world are taking such measures.


City of London Air Quality Strategy 2011-2015

Carbon Monoxide (CO)...

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas. The dangerous thing about CO is that it is highly poisonous for humans and animals that use hemoglobin as an oxygen carrier. You may be familiar with the term carbon monoxide poisoning. 

When inhaled it releases oxygen in the blood which results in bodies' vital organs being deprived of oxygen. This effect happens very quickly and without much warning because of properties which make it impossible for humans to identify without specialized equipment. It results in a loss of consciousness, suffocation, and even death.

Sadly, it too is formed when vehicles release gasoline emissions in the atmosphere. The combustion-engined vehicles we have on the road today are considered the primary cause of CO in the environment. 

Nitrogen Gas (N2)...

A light and common element that is one of the most abundant found in within the milky way and our solar system. It occurs in all organisms, usually found in amino acids, DNA, and RNA totaling three percent of human body mass. This element moves from the air to the biosphere and organic compounds, then it returns to the atmosphere in the process referred to as the nitrogen cycle.

Nitrogen is used in many industries. For example, it is widely used in fertilizers, causing land, and water pollution. Nitrogen is used in the medical industry, particularly in the pharmacological drug class which is responsible for the production of antibiotics. Many drugs imitate natural nitrogen molecules e.g. medicines for blood pressure, morphine, and amphetamines. Although some of these drugs have had huge positive impacts on health they can also be detrimental to us and our environment.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's)...

This is a term used to describe a large and varied group of organic chemicals with a high vapor pressure at room temperature as a result of their low boiling point. This results in a large number of molecules to enter the air which has health concerns. Some are dangerous to the environment and our health with long-term health effects.

Some of these compounds occur naturally and others are handmade. Researching the health effects of these compounds is difficult because their concentrations are low and the symptoms take a long time to develop. Most scents and smells are VOC's and they play an important role in the communication between plants and between plants and animals. An example of a manmade occurrence is the evaporation of formaldehyde from paint and resin.

In the presence of sunlight, these compounds react with NOx to form ground-level ozone layer, the primary ingredient of smog. At ground levels, these compounds can completely compromise your respiratory system. It can cause cough, flu, fever, choking, shortness of breath, and poor lung capacity. VOCs make changes in the structure of DNA and as a result, people can develop cancer. 

Soot (C)...

These are impure carbon particles which are the result of incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons in fossil fuels, coal, woodland petroleum. Soot is hazardous to human health, causing a variety of cancers and lung diseases.

The Solution: Sustainable Transport...

Combustion engines are powered by fossil fuels, an unsustainable power source that is detrimental to human health and the environment. Transport is the number one contributor to greenhouse gases in many cities and across the U.S.

We have a short window to prevent climate catastrophe and sustainable transportation is the essential solution to this crisis. There are numerous different types of green transportation and they can be as simple as walking and riding a bike. Public transport systems are too effective at cutting carbon emissions. Many cities such as London and Minneapolis have aggressive goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, however, this is something we need to be working towards in every city and on a global scale.

We have the world's greatest brains working towards sustainable modes of transport. Electric buses and hydrogen trains are now a viable option for most cities. There are numerous options for personal transport too. Some methods are more effective than others and there are still developments needed in personal transit, in particular the development of batteries.

For now, people should make transport decisions based on what they have the best access to, considering the environment. If you can walk or ride a bicycle, then do. If you need to travel further look at public transport or ridesharing until you get access to a sustainable personal car.

Motor Vehicle Emissions: The Final Verdict...

'Vehicle emission' is a generic term used to describe a variety of different gases released into the atmosphere from the use of combustion engines. Some are naturally occurring on earth and in our solar system. Some contribute to climate change and all of them pose risks to human health and the health of our environment.

 Using vehicles with combustion engines is rapidly creating an unhealthy imbalance of these gases in our atmosphere, encouraging rapid climate change. We have a limited amount of time to control the warming of the Earth. Green modes of transport are the only solution to avoid the planet drying out and becoming inhabitable. 

If you have any comments or questions for me, please reach out in the space below.

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