Northern Ireland’s Landmark Climate Change legislation will mean nothing

without an ambitious and robust climate action plan

Last year the NI Assembly passed its first Climate Change Act, and now the NI Assembly and government departments must create an ambitious Climate Action Plan to implement the legislation.

The Northern Ireland Climate Action Plan will set out the policies and programmes necessary to deliver net zero by 2050 in Northern Ireland. RSPB NI has laid out 4 key tests that must be met as government prepares to publish its first Climate Action Plan for Northern Ireland later this year.

The policies and programmes in the CAP should:

1. Ensure that NI remains on course to meet net zero by 2050 and realise the economic opportunities of investing in nature and climate.

a. Deliver net zero by 2050 in line with the latest science to limit temperature rises to 1.5

b. Embrace the transition to net zero as a huge investment opportunity as highlighted by the Independent Review on Net Zero & the US’s landmark climate legislation.

c. Recognise that there is overwhelming evidence showing that the costs of inaction dwarf the costs of action.

2.  Embed nature-based solutions at the heart of climate action (fulfilling clause 34 of the Climate Change Act (NI) 2022)

a. Deliver large scale nature-based projects on land and at sea to mitigate climate change, enhance resilience, support biodiversity, create jobs and improve health and well-being.

b. Deploy nature-based solutions as a cost-effective way to deliver multiple benefits to society.

c.  Establish a Nature for Climate fund combining public & private sector investment.

3. Support a just transition to nature & climate friendly farming.

a.  Reform agriculture policy to ensure that nature and climate friendly farming becomes the central plank of agricultural policy with payments to farmers based on public money for delivery of public goods.

b.  Empower farmers to be part of the solution and realise the opportunities of a just transition.

c.  Ensure the Just Transition Fund supports fundamental change to agricultural practices in a way that supports farmers, climate and nature.

4.  Ensure renewables are delivered in a nature positive way on and offshore.

a. Ensure that a rapid phase out of fossil fuels is delivered in line with the urgency required by climate science.

b. Deliver greater energy efficiency and demand management measures to reduce energy use, minimise impacts on nature and lower the cost of living.

c.  Take a strategic spatial approach to steer renewable energy developments away from ecologically sensitive sites.


Originally published by Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Northern Ireland, at

A David and Goliath fight

People’s right to compensation against illegal pollution

When people stand up to industry the battle often resembles a David and Goliath fight. Under current EU rules, people cannot claim compensation for damages to their health that result from illegal pollution. As a result, illnesses caused by pollution, such as cancer and heart disease, and even premature death are going unaddressed. But the EU has an opportunity to ensure people’s rights against illegal pollution.         Maria Luís Fernandes and Olatz Fínez report for EEB

The Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) is the main EU instrument regulating the environmental and human health impact of industry pollution. As it is currently under revision, there is a unique window to ensure the protection of fundamental rights. A proposal to include an EU-wide right to compensation is on the table but in practice the legal fight might reveal itself as uneven. A fairer footing for those claiming compensation would help balance the scales of justice. But will the IED lend a hand to David?

Illegal pollution Goliath 

Up to 70% of EU soil is unhealthy, 60% of European waters have bad chemical status and air pollution leads to 400,000 premature deaths per year – industry pollution has harmful consequences. While we might wish for an end to pollution altogether, industry is actually allowed to pollute within a certain range, taking into account the Best Available Techniques of pollution prevention. Within that range, each installation has a specific limit that determines how much pollution it can emit. This does not mean, however, that such rules are always respected. Illegal emissions are not uncommon and lead to even more damaging pollution levels.

The price for illegal pollution is often paid by people, and with their health. Meanwhile, the sanctions or suspensions that might be imposed on polluters do not help people affected to get reparation for the damage they suffer. To address this issue, the EU law for industrial emissions could provide a legal route to obtain compensation from industry that pollutes illegally. Such a crucial provision would allow for individuals to claim compensation from polluters that emit over their established limits.

“Innocent people and the environment are paying the price of industry pollution with their health. An Italian town has been suffering the consequences of an environmental crisis for decades. A Bulgarian plant is allowed to pollute by obscuring information. Romanian coal plants benefit from working outside the law. Will EU policymakers ensure protection for people, not polluters? Maria Luís Fernandes reports. The Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), the key EU-level legislation to protect communities from pollution, is currently under revision. To protect people …” See Maria Luis Fernnandes, “The Struggle to Survive Industry,” EEB META (1 March 2023).

The IED does not cover compensation for health damages and only some Member States address it in their national law. Currently, even if people can claim this compensation, it is dependent on proving the causal link between the pollution and the health damage suffered. However, this proof is often virtually impossible to acquire – for example, due to an extremely limited access to information on pollution levels of installations. This results in a significant imbalance of power and obstacles for individuals to act. So, can the revised IED balance the scales?

A fighting chance for David 

It’s important to strengthen the rights of people affected by pollution. An adaptation of the burden of proof can be the solution: rather than people having to establish the causal link between health damage and illegal pollution, it would be presumed. This means that people would only have to provide enough evidence that of pollution beyond legal limits – not the causality. Instead of burdening David with unreasonable requirements, the new IED could make it the polluters’ responsibility to show their activities were respecting the law.

This would be easy for this story’s Goliath. Compensation would only be granted if operators are not complying with their legal pollution limits – if industry activities prove they are compliant, there is no compensation to fear. In fact, an individual claim for compensation does not oblige industry to suspend their activities. Installations can continue business while they are given the chance to rebut the claims. A tour of EU rules finds similar principles in other regulations that influence industrial activities, such as the Employment Equality Directive or the Antitrust Damages Directive. Should EU law protection of human health not be equal?

“Two myths, one truth – what is the reality of rules for industry? EU decisionmakers reviewing key pollution prevention rules have an opportunity to enact pollution prevention that works for people and the environment. Let’s play – and win – the game of industry rules. We have all been there. You are new and need to get to know the people around you – what better way than a game? You give a couple of statements about yourself, and others need to … “  See Maria Luis Fernnandes, “Two Myths, One Truth – The Game of Industry Rules,” EEB META (8 Feb 2023).

The revision of the EU law for emissions can give people a fighting chance. It is only just and reasonable to expect that people can hold polluters operating above the legal levels accountable for the damages stemming from their unlawful emissions. Moreover, the right to an effective compensation can be a tool for ensuring compliance as it acts as a deterrent for illegal emissions.

Ensuring a fairer fight for David against illegal pollution can help balance the scales of justice for people and environment. A revised power balance for compensation rights would finally acknowledge the link between environmental pollution and human health damages, as well as offer a stronger legal basis for the protection of people’s fundamental rights. As it stands, it runs the risk of missing its chance.

Balancing the scales of justice 

Laws exist for people – the IED exists to protect people from pollution. It has the potential to become one of the legislative flagships translating the European Green Deal into tangible legal obligations, including the protection of human health. A new compensation right in the IED is a key opportunity to protect fundamental rights by providing a stronger protection for people harmed by pollution.


Originally published by European Environmental Bureau (EEB), META at  (15 March 2023).

If you think climate change is tough on coal,

Take a look at cotton and perfume

Floods, heat waves, droughts:  these extreme weather events announce a dramatic shift in what our lives will be like as a result of climate change.  The destructive impacts are typically sudden and clear.  Floods usually pass in a short time; heat waves and droughts can last for extended periods — months to years.

Other impacts from climate change affect our day-to-day lives with less drama.

Take, for example, the effects of climate change on cotton and perfumes.


Upland cotton is short and coarser than Pima cotton and it is the main ingredient of cheap clothing, including denim jeans, and basic hygiene products, like gauze pads, cloth diapers and tampons.   In the US, upland cotton is grown predominately in Texas so whatever happens to Texas weather has significant impacts on upland cotton markets.

Recent reports on that market in 2022 reveal a disaster unfolding with the biggest loss of cotton on record.  Farmers in Texas had to abandon 74% of their planted crops because of heat and parched soil, and resulting megadrought worsened by climate change.  Prices increased accordingly.  In the US, cloth diapers rose by 21%, cotton balls by 9%, and tampons by 13%.  Since Texas is the main source of upland cotton in the US, and third biggest producer in the world, those price increases were felt across the globe. At the same time,  severe flooding, exacerbated by climate change, destroyed half of the cotton crop in Pakistan, the 6th largest producer in  the world.

The future for upland cotton is not bright.  It is projected that heat and drought, thanks in large part to climate change, will continue to impact the crop, and its prices.  That prognosis turns in part on the diminishing supply of water in the southwest from the Ogallala Aquifer that stretches across eight western states, from Wyoming to Texas.  The Aquifer is being dried up, like the Colorado River, so much that the Ogallala Aquifer is now being considered a non-renewable resource.  That is remarkable .

Disturbingly, this same region was the site of the infamous 1930s Dust Bowl where more than two million farmers had to abandon their land because of severe drought and destructive farming practices.







Just as the Aquifer is drying up, so too may be the extensive government subsidies provided cotton farmers since the 1930s.   Over the past five years, cotton farmers have been paid annually on average about $1 billion dollars in crop insurance subsidies.  The cotton farmers argue that more government relief is necessary to soften the conditions generated by climate change.  But others question whether it makes economic sense to continue to grow cotton in Texas when the climate is making it too difficult.   Instead we may all be wearing polyester instead of cotton.

Unfortunately polyester is a petroleum based synthetic fiber with its own adverse environmental impacts.


As an example of a less functional product we have perfume which is also subject to significant impacts from climate change.  Flagrant flowers, which are harvested to make perfume, grow in Grasse, France, the perfume capital of the world.  While the fields around Grasse have been filled since the 17th century with may rose, tuberose, lavender and jasmine, climate change is transforming those fields.

Much like wine, the quality and specific fragrance of a perfume depends on its soil, sun, geographic location and/or harvesting technique.  Alter those conditions and you lose the unique ingredients of Grasse perfumes.  And climate change is indeed altering those conditions.







Droughts, heat waves and excessive rainfall have created havoc with the Grasse perfume crops.  Extreme weather events that used to be experienced every 50 to 100 years are now occurring every two years.  Last summer, for example, as a result of an extreme drought, perfume producers lost about half of their harvest.  Winters are now warmer, and springs colder.

With increases in extreme weather events expected to continue, the very culture and way of life in Grasse is under threat.  Families have been harvesting the flowers for hundreds of years and in 2018 Unesco entered the perfume region as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.  Losing their crops would be earth shattering for the people of Grasse.


There is a growing recognition that we all have some responsibility to help solve the challenges facing coal mining communities as the world withdraws from burning coal in order to save the planet.  The growing  challenge will be: What do we do to help those communities that will lose their livelihood because the weather has changed, in fundamental, irretrievable  ways.

What’s to come of the cotton farmers in Texas and the perfume producers in Grasse?


Coral Davenport, “Climate Change Withers Cotton, And Prices Soar,” The New York Times (19 Feb 2023).

Mélissa Godwin, “Climate crisis brings whiff of danger to French perfume capital,” The Guardian (18 Feb 2023).

“The Sustainability of Polyester Vs. Down & Feather,” DOWN (April 2020).

Eleanor Beardsley, “In France’s Perfume Capital Of The World, There’s A World Of Beautiful Fragrance,” NPR (25 Sept 2021).

Too little rain or too much rain

Or both, at the same time

Over the past several decades we have become accustomed to extreme weather events that are often, if not almost always, intensified by climate breakdown.  Most common are flooding events, with too much rain, or drought, with too little rain.  With hotter temperatures, the atmosphere holds more moisture, leading to storms and heavy rains, and water evaporates from the land, leading to intense dry spells.  The rainfall saturates soils and overloads streams, limiting their ability to hold more water in the next rain event.  Dry conditions stress vegetation and supplemental water reserves so those resources do not have a chance to recover before the next dry spell.

Studies from the US reflect the increases in extreme weather events.  From 1958 to 2016 NASA reports that they have increased by 55% in the northeastern states, 42% in the midwestern states, and 27% in the southeastern states.  Interestingly the western states, collectively considered, have shown modest increases, yet they have overwhelmed local watersheds.

What’s new is that we are increasingly seeing events with both flooding and drought, sometimes around the same time.  Rather than treating such events as independent, they are being seen as “inextricably linked.”  The efforts to manage such “hyro-climatic risks” are getting more complicated.




California reflects some of these complications.  Recent “atmospheric rivers” (See iePEDIA in current issue of have caused over $1 billion in property damage and at least 17 deaths.  Despite this rainfall, 46% of the state is still experiencing “extreme drought” and 49% is in “moderate drought.”

Managing water resources in California has gotten more challenging.  In the past droughts have been managed by using snowpack in the winter as frozen reservoirs that store water as snow.  The snowpack  melts gradually in the spring and summer and feeds streams and rivers and other parts of the state’s water supply infrastructure.  But when the precipitation in the winter is heavy rain, especially in the mountains, and the storms come quickly, the water flows directly to streams and rivers and directly into the sea, and creates havoc on the way.

At the same time, land is so saturated that heavy rain flows overland and does not infiltrate the groundwater acquifers, which also serve as storage for water.  Rain that falls on concertized urban areas is also lost to storage and much of it runs off to seas.

During floods it is hard to encourage people to conserve water since the immediate problem is to get rid of the floodwaters as soon and as directly as possible.  And it is hard to be concerned about flooding in the midst of a drought.

Policy and practices in distributing water will need to account for the complex set of conditions caused by too much and too little rain at the same time or place.


London Fog 1952

On the 70 anniversary of the Fog

THE MOST UNUSUAL fact about the London Fog of 1952 was not that some 4,000 people died of it—one of the largest numbers of people killed by any environmental disaster—but that no one seemed to recognize that it was happening. Everyone knew, of course, that for four days the fog was so thick that traveling throughout the city was almost impossible. Few realized, however, just how deadly it was. After all, London had been notorious for its fog for a very long time. Romantic notions were attached to the fog, with events in many a thriller and period novel set amidst fog-bound London. For the residents of London, the fog was a frequent, if unwelcome, guest who was becoming a bit of a nuisance.

In 1952, when the fog hit, Londoners were relying heavily on soft, bituminous coal for fuel. The soft coal was cheap, in part because of the low cost of shipping it by sea from Newcastle, but it had a higher sulfur and nitrogen oxide content than the harder anthracite coal used in Wales and Scotland. The smoke it emitted was tarry and full of hydrocarbons.

When carbon particles of soot from coal-fire emissions combine with particles of water, fog becomes smog. The soot and water combination is not transparent to light, and as the fog thickens, light is prevented from penetrating through the foggy air. The sooty air is like the layer of black that gathers on the glass chimneys of oil lamps. Visibility is limited, and the breath one takes carries with it carbon particles and other dangerous substances.

Certain weather conditions, particularly temperature inversions, aggravate fog. Usually the air near the ground is warmer than air higher up, and the warm air rises and mixes with cooler air. Occasionally this relation is inverted with colder air remaining close to the ground and warmer air above, trapping the colder air on the ground. If there is little or no wind, the air becomes stagnant and anything in that air, such as soot, remains suspended.

During the nineteenth century, clean-air advocates attempted to address the emissions from factories and other businesses that contributed much of the soot. Eventually, they met with some success as legislation was passed making it a nuisance for a chimney to emit black smoke from a commercial establishment. Yet, enforcement was difficult and sporadic, especially with regard to proving what constituted black smoke.

The smoke from domestic hearths remained uncontrolled. One problem in regulating domestic sources was the lack of alternative, smokeless fuel supplies. Just as difficult an obstacle was the English fascination with a “pokeable” open fire. It was considered a national entitlement to make an open-hearth fire, and it was a sign of affluence, as well as of hospitality, to have a blazing hearth. By the first few decades of the twentieth century, those pokeable, domestic fires, along with industrial emissions, dumped some 76,000 tons of soot on London each year, the equivalent of about 650 tons for every square mile. About two-thirds of the smoke in London came from domestic fires. During World War II, the government even actively encouraged businesses to pollute as military authorities thought the smoke would serve as camouflage and make it more difficult for the German bombers to see their targets.

After the war, the fog remained an accepted aspect of living in London. In December 1952, however, a dense fog descended on London and stayed for four days. Earlier that December, a number of events had distracted Londoners from the typical cold, wet winter weather. The London papers were filled with reports on the plans for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II that had been scheduled for June 1953. People were looking forward to Elizabeth’s first Christmas message. Christmas lights softened the cold, damp nights. Many looked forward to the Smithfield Show of prize cattle, sheep, and pigs, and agricultural machinery. The show, which took place in Earl’s Court, had been a major event since the eighteenth century, attracting a crowd from throughout England and abroad. The highlight of the show was the auction of the finest stock to butchers, a measure of pride for those who esteemed traditional English roast beef.

These distractions, however, could not entirely eliminate the weather. In the first few days of December, London experienced its typical climate: cold, damp air with some clearing spells, followed by fog or rain or snow. Often, the entire pattern—cold, clearing, rain, snow, and fog—occurred daily. During the first week of December, fog dominated.

By Thursday evening, December 4, a high-pressure system settled over London, and a temperature inversion trapped in the fog throughout the area. By Friday morning, tons of carbon particulate and sulfur dioxide poured out of millions of domestic coal fires and industrial plants into the still, foggy air over London. The temperature inversion prevented the dispersal of the fog into the upper air and trapped the smoke and other pollutants at ground level. Smoke that escaped from the tall stacks of the manufacturing plants fell to the ground rather than rising into the air.

On Friday, the fog and smoke covered much of London. A visitor staying in a warm, dry hotel with nothing to do might have found the fog on that first full day to be charming. Those who had to go to work did not. In the morning, people could see the outlines of buildings from a distance of only seventy to eighty yards; by noon, the large sculptural figure atop Nelson’s Column on Trafalgar Square was barely visible. Around Parliament, visibility was limited to a dozen yards. By noon, streetlamps had to be lit. With visibility along the Thames at zero, the Port of London was forced to close. Airports also closed. As the day wore one, travel became increasingly difficult. Buses everywhere in London experienced serious delays.

The color of the fog was not the usual gray but rather black, or at times yellow. As evening fell, the Christmas lights in store windows looked eerily suspended in open air since the stores themselves could not be seen from a short distance. Flares were placed at intersections for the vehicles still on the streets. People groped along buildings, stumbled over curbs and each other, and when they arrived home found they were covered with soot. Those who had meetings on Friday evening realized that the fog was seeping inside.

More disturbing than the impaired visibility was the difficulty in breathing, especially for older people and those with bronchitis. The smell of sulfur permeated the air. Noses stung, throats felt tight; people coughed up blackness.

When people awoke on Saturday morning the fog was everywhere, yellow and thick. It extended over an area of 1,000 square miles (2,590 m2) around London. Very few buses operated. At one point, seventeen buses formed a caravan to try to find their way back to the garage. The famous red double-decker buses inched along, bumper-to-bumper, with conductors leading the way by walking in front with flares, shouting directions. Ambulances traveled the same way. The fog infiltrated the tube stations. At one station, a bride and groom were waiting for a train to take them to their reception, since they had to abandon street-level transport. The bride’s wedding gown was black from the soot in the air. Sporting events were cancelled, and the unloading of livestock at the Smithfield Show was delayed. By Saturday evening, the fog followed people inside, through open doors, down chimneys, through cracks in walls, floors, and windows. Hospitals began to fill up. Yet by late Saturday, the BBC was reporting only that the fog might persist. No emergency had been declared.

On Sunday, with no break in the conditions, everything was blackened, inside as well as outside. Visibility remained at a few yards. Ambulances ran out of flares. With so many patients needing assistance the ambulances began to carry several on each trip to the hospital. On one trip, an ambulance that had been dispatched to carry four patients to a hospital ended up taking them all to the mortuary instead.

The elderly and sick, especially those living alone, were increasingly isolated during the fog. They could not get out, and if they did they could hardly breathe. As one elderly patient described it:

It makes you feel certain that you’re going to die, that death is surely coming for  you, partly because of your difficulty in breathing and partly because of the fierce  pain in your throat and lungs…and adding to your terror is the sight of the fog, when you see it there all around you, like some kind of gray, obscene animal, outside your window, drifting, floating, almost looking in at you, as though it were waiting there to claim you, to seize you, to choke you…to squeeze the breath, the very life out of your body.[1]

On Monday, the fourth full day of the fog, forecasts suggested that the fog might be lifting, but the forecasts were wrong. While air west of London cleared some, conditions over the city remained stagnant. An Aberdeen-Angus cow at the Smithfield Show died from the polluted air. The other cattle were saved by penicillin and whiskey-soaked rags that were held over their nostrils. Vehicles were abandoned all over the city.

In the Underground, the only viable means of transportation, long lines formed at the ticket booths. A performance of Verdi’s opera, La Traviata, was cancelled after the first act because fog inside the theater made the stage invisible. Early in the evening, the BBC broadcast that the fog was dirtier than usual and that coal-burning domestic fires were partly to blame. The item was deleted, however, from later broadcasts.

Finally, on early Tuesday morning, December 9, a slight breeze blew across London and the fog began to lift. By 9:00 a.m., the Thames cleared of fog, and the port reopened. More than one hundred ships waited to leave the port; over 200 ships waited to get in. The city began to breathe more easily.

The disruption of travel and sporting events, along with the impact of the fog on prize cattle in the Smithfield Show, dominated coverage in the papers. In the days following the lifting of the fog, letters to The Times debated only the economic benefits of electric versus coal heat. Few recognized the environmental or health hazards of the fog.

Soon, however, its human costs became visible. Doctors reported significant increases in respiratory disorders over previous winters. During the fog, hospitals around the city experienced a rise in emergency admissions, especially for respiratory ailments. The hospitals remained filled for days even after the clearing.

By mid-December the papers reported that as many as 1,000 Londoners had died as a result of the fog. Questions were raised in Parliament, and the Health Minister responded that there the deaths attributable to the fog may have been as many as 3,000. Smoke abatement advocates demanded an investigation. The government resisted. Harold MacMillan, then a Cabinet minister, remarked in private that they should form some committee that would do little, but would appear busy, in an effort to calm the public. It was not enough. In turn, the air pollution committee in Parliament, named after its chairman, Sir Hugh Beaver, addressed the matter with all due seriousness. The Beaver Committee published several interim reports that castigated both the local and national governments for failing to take preventive measures to protect the public. The committee also laid blame on domestic consumers as the largest producers of smoke and recommended the limit of smoke from all chimneys, both industrial and domestic, the production of greater supplies of smokeless fuel, and the establishment of smokeless zones in urban areas.

In January 1954, an article in the respected British Medical Journal estimated that the fog had caused over 4,500 deaths. That same year, the Ministry of Health produced a report that analyzed the effects of the fog. The government recognized that throughout those early days of December the metropolis of 8.5 million people was hardly aware that a disaster was occurring. The residents were also unaware that the aftereffects had continued to affect the city for several weeks. Dark smoke was detected as high as 4,500 micrograms per cubic meter and sulfur dioxide as high as 3,700—concentrations five to ten times normal levels. The report indicated that over 150 cattle at the Smithfield Show had received treatment, one had died and twelve were slaughtered. Autopsies of the cattle revealed emphysema and pneumonia.

The Ministry of Health concluded that as many as 4,000 people had died in excess of what would normally have occurred in the first three weeks of December, and that these deaths were caused by the fog, and in particular its tarry particles and sulfur oxides. The deaths were concentrated among people with pre-existing respiratory or cardiac disorders, and the vulnerable, those over sixty-five years and under one year old. The source of the contaminants was identified as irritants derived from the combustion of coal.

The report suggested that many of those who died from the fog likely experienced premature deaths. That is, the fog merely hastened the death of many who already had been suffering and were expected to die within a short time anyway. Some have referred to this concept as short-term mortality replacement or, more graphically, as harvesting. But others analyzed the number of deaths over the following weeks and determined that there was no drop in the number of deaths, and thus those who died during and immediately after the fog were not harvested but killed.

Only after further agitation by anti-smoke factions and other civic groups did the government address the issue through the Clean Air Act of 1956. For the first time, regulations subjected domestic coal fires to controls, established an objective measurement for what constituted dark smoke, and empowered local governments to establish smokeless zones in their areas.

The British Clean Air Act of 1956, implemented slowly over a decade, significantly reduced smoke caused by domestic fires. For example, when smog covered London in December 1975, the peak concentration of smoke and sulfur dioxide did not exceed 800 micrograms per cubic meter and 1,200 micrograms per cubic meter, respectively, or less than 20-30 percent of peak levels during the 1952 fog. Besides prompting the Clean Air Act, the 1952 fog served as a catalyst for the study of diseases and deaths attributed to air pollution. Studies over the past fifty years have led to an increased understanding of how soot, fog, and particulate matter affect populations, especially in demonstrating the correlation between high concentrations of particulate matter and respiratory diseases and deaths. Recent regulation of ambient air quality standards in the United States grew out of this work. Based on more advanced research techniques, a recent reassessment of the effects of the 1952 fog estimates that as many as 7,000 to 12,000 deaths, not 4,000, resulted from the fog.

Though Londoners moved away from soft, high-carbon coal, to smokeless fuels, they also grew more reliant on cars for transportation. While catalytic converters have reduced emissions per vehicle, the number of vehicles in London has only grown, contributing significantly to the air pollution in the city. By the 1970s, domestic coal fires had receded as a pollutant, only to be replaced by vehicular emissions as the primary threat to the health and environment of London. Londoners solved one fossil fuel problem only to create another, relying less on dirty coal fires but more on dirty and dangerous oil-fueled cars.


[1] Quoted in William Wise, Killer Smog: The World’s Worst Air Pollution Disaster (New York: Ballantine Books, 1970), at 164-65.


from Robert Emmet Hernan, This Borrowed Earth: Lessons From The 15 Worst Environmental Disasters Around The World (PalgraveMacmillan, 2010).