The Dim-Post

September 28, 2011

Cough

Filed under: economics — danylmc @ 12:03 pm

Via The Herald:

New Zealand’s main centres have the worst air in Australasia and Auckland is the most polluted with twice the concentration of damaging airborne particles as Sydney, the World Health Organisation says.New Zealand’s main centres have the worst air in Australasia and Auckland is the most polluted with twice the concentration of damaging airborne particles as Sydney, the World Health Organisation says.

I’m not a treasury economist, but my understanding is that if we pay the people who produce the pollution to produce more pollution, they’ll produce less pollution.

Update: The WHO has withdrawn their data.

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34 Comments »

  1. Rubbish! John Key has another report that is better, and Nick Smith believes that one!

    Comment by Sanctuary — September 28, 2011 @ 12:17 pm

  2. Hmmm. I have some troubles with this one. I heard it one the news, and I am wondering if the WHO measurement protocols have some difficulties. I have been in a number of cities around the Pacific, and as someone with asthma, I tend to notice air quality. Auckland worse than Sydney? I have my doubts. I want to the the report and how they did their determinations.

    My first gut reaction is that somehow the WHO are also measuring sea water aerosols – those tiny water droplets or dried out residues from sea water droplets, associated with being close to the ocean.

    Comment by David in Chch — September 28, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

  3. I’d like to hear some comments from actual atmospheric scientists (conspicuously absent from all the discussion so far) on whether it’s plausible that Christchurch has better air than Wellington. Even Nick Smith noticed that.

    Comment by Mike Dickison (@adzebill) — September 28, 2011 @ 12:41 pm

  4. And Sydney isn’t close to the Ocean.

    Also, +1 Sanc.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 28, 2011 @ 12:47 pm

  5. It’s a huge cock up IMO. The WHO data does not agree with the NZ generated data that it says is its source. For anyone with a bit of little knowledge it doesn’t pass the sniff test (or wheeze test in David’s case), eg it says Wellington has worse AQ than Chch.

    It will be interesting to see if WHO sent draft report to NZ for comment and no-one actually commented or noticed the anomalies.

    Comment by insider — September 28, 2011 @ 12:48 pm

  6. And the raw data…

    http://www.who.int/phe/health_topics/outdoorair/databases/en/index.html

    Link to Excel is at the bottom of the page.

    This is beginning to look a bit like a sensationalist beat up…

    Ottawa 9
    Sydney 12
    Melbourne 13
    Auckland 15
    Tokyo 23
    Salzberg 24
    Osaka 27
    London 29
    Berlin 26
    Singapore 32
    Lyon 33
    Roma 35
    Bangkok 54
    Seoul 64
    Guangzhou 70
    Shanghai 81
    Bangalore 90
    Xi’an 113
    Beijin 121
    Ulaanbaatar 279
    Ahwaz (Iran) 372

    Comment by kyotolaw — September 28, 2011 @ 12:52 pm

  7. WHO & IPCC: as reliable as ever.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — September 28, 2011 @ 12:54 pm

  8. The headline should read, “Australasian Cities Amongst the best for Air Quality in the World”

    Comment by Paul Rowe — September 28, 2011 @ 1:13 pm

  9. CF: I know you have a massive chip on your shoulder about the IPCC/Climate change, but I don’t see what they have to do with the report?

    What happened to you, man? You used to be cool.

    Comment by Simon Poole — September 28, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

  10. @kyoto

    Where’d you get that data because the one I saw at http://www.who.int/entity/phe/health_topics/outdoorair/databases/OAP_database_8_2011.xls shows Dunedin, Chch, Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland at 19,20,21,22 and 23 mcgPM10 (which now I’ve put it like that looks like an extremely suspicious number sequence…and coincidentally matches the north to south position of each city). This is the data source that shows AUckland as bad as Tokyo.

    As an aside, it was pleasantly surprising to hear an OECD guy on NatRad about water quality saying we have a relatively damn good environment and should probably not be so self flaggetory about it (despite Kat Ryan’s ongoing “but what will it do to our reputation” line).

    Comment by insider — September 28, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

  11. Insider: the PM10 in that sheet you linked to gives the cities as:

    Dundedin 25
    Christchurch 11
    Wellington 13
    Hamilton 13
    Auckland 15

    I might be reading it wrong? It’s my lunchbreak.

    Comment by Simon Poole — September 28, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

  12. @insider The database I’m using is the same you did – Tab 4, Rows 494-498. I see the link I pasted above doesn’t work – sorry. I can’t find the data you’re referring to in the Excel sheet though…

    WprHI New Zealand Dundedin 25
    WprHI New Zealand Christchurch 11
    WprHI New Zealand Wellington 13
    WprHI New Zealand Hamilton 13
    WprHI New Zealand Auckland 15

    Comment by kyotolaw — September 28, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

  13. @Simon Poole – Snap! Spelling mistake verbatim.

    @Paul Rowe No kidding, right? Of course, that headline wouldn’t have generated an instaquote from the Greens…

    Comment by kyotolaw — September 28, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

  14. And (if “Otago 2″ has been used for Dunedin, which seems to be the case) those listed values are in line with the cited reference source here: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/environmental-reporting/air/air-quality/pm10/annual.html, except for Christchurch, which the WHO lists as having an average of 11, but the reference shows as around 17.

    Comment by NBH — September 28, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

  15. @simon and kyoto

    Weird. I followed Kyoto’s link and it worked and I got the same data I listed earlier and that matches what the media has been reporting. Oddly all the other data Kyoto listed do match on my spreadsheet – it’s only the NZ stuff that doesn’t. I wonder if it is an xcel issue or if there has been an update.

    On mine the tab is ‘PM10 (cities)’ and the line numbers are not city sequential they are listed by PM10 level. What does yours say for the NZ national avg on the next tab? Mine has it at 22, which matches the levels I have listed

    Comment by insider — September 28, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

  16. Insider: PM10 (Countries) on the next tab gives NZ a national average of 14 which would appear to fit the data on the previous tab.

    Caching issue, perhaps? I’ve gone straight off the file you linked to at 1.30pm, and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen the data. Does your spreadsheet say when the readings were taken? The one I’m looking at says 2010.

    Comment by Simon Poole — September 28, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

  17. Environment Minister Nick Smith yesterday challenged the accuracy of the WHO figures, which suggested that naturally well-ventilated Wellington had worse air quality than frequently smog-shrouded Christchurch and had air pollution as bad as New York.

    I’ve often seen this claim about natural ventilation from officials of various sorts when discussing air quality, but it’s always seemed like a myth to me as far as the air people actually breathe. Wellington’s made up of sheltered spaces all over its main pedestrian thoroughfares, which are often full of people smoking, and any wind measured at the airport or at the top of Kelburn is typically unrelated to what’s happening downtown in the sheltered areas. Granted that it might be cleaner in the suburbs than in some other cities.

    Comment by MikeM — September 28, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

  18. Gregor W. My point was based on the fact that Auckland has sea on both side, whereas Sydney was a waterfront – but only one.

    But looking at the numbers posted make me then ask – what are the error bars? Because the values do not look greatly different. I still would question them.

    I see also that Danyl has added an update that the WHO have withdrawn their “data”.

    Comment by David in Chch — September 28, 2011 @ 2:18 pm

  19. @simon

    I wondered about caching too but I’d have thought that wouldn’t affect the source table. Data shows as 2009 in column E – so maybe we are working off different tables. The data I;ve listed looks like placeholders bearing in mind the suspcious numerical sequence. Nonetheless it seems the info the media have been using, so strange I’m not the only one seeing it.

    Comment by insider — September 28, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

  20. Does the fact that the WHO have withdrawn their data mean that the Greens will withdraw their instaquote?

    ‘Green Party transport spokesman Gareth Hughes said the air pollution reflected in the figures was a result of Aucklanders’ dependency on cars and “should serve as a wake-up call to the Government which is about to pour $13 billion into new roads and motorways”.

    “The Government’s not doing enough.

    “We’ve got one of the oldest vehicle fleets in the world, Aucklanders are heavily car-reliant and it’s no accident we’ve got the highest air pollution in Australasia.”‘

    Presumably he will need to find another pretext as to why the government isn’t doing enough and shouldn’t spend $13bn on roads and motorways.

    Comment by kyotolaw — September 28, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

  21. Don’t hold your breath…especially in Auckland (or should that be Dunedin?)

    Comment by insider — September 28, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

  22. It’s tempting to conclude that since their data was withdrawn we can all go back to pumping money into motorways. However, the second news story still admits Auckland is worse than Sydney (though just not AS worse as they first thought), *despite having a third of the population.* There’s also this: “Auckland Council estimates the health costs of air pollution in urban Auckland from all sources is at least $727 million a year and results in about 730 premature deaths each year.”

    It was a bit silly of Gareth from the Greens not to check the figures, but doesn’t his point still stand? Why on earth are we pumping so much into motorways (esp compared to public transport/pedestrian/cycling infrastructure) when driving causes so many health problems too? Not to mention the sedentary lifestyle driving promotes, or the chemical runoffs from roads into our streams that threaten local biodiversity. Any skeptic can argue about climate figures all day but it’s not the elephant in the room really.

    PS. This is not to say everyone who drives is lazy/evil – but perhaps some support needs to come from the govt for people who do want to make a healthier choice.

    Comment by Zo Zhou — September 28, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

  23. @ zo

    I don’t think you can blame gareth too much – he likely took the stats at face value from a reputable organisation. That said he should have scratched his head when Wellington came out worse than Chch as should have any journalist with a mild level of curiosity and skepticism. Unfortunately none stepped forward.

    But it’s hard to take the stats like “at least 700 deaths” in Auckland seriously when put up against a HAPINZ study from only 4 years ago that said 900 for the whole of NZ due to air pollution. And when set against a background environment of declining or flat air pollution levels. 700 in Auckland is 1 in 10 deaths. Do you know anyone that has died as a result of air pollution?

    The huge variability in the data (and Peter Dunne-like common sense) tells me there is something smelly with these numbers, and it is not diesel fumes.

    Comment by insider — September 28, 2011 @ 5:27 pm

  24. “9.CF: I know you have a massive chip on your shoulder about the IPCC/Climate change, but I don’t see what they have to do with the report? What happened to you, man? You used to be cool. Comment by Simon Poole — September 28, 2011

    Eh? Why, thank you, no one’s ever said that to me befor - sniff -.
    Yes I have a chip on my shoulder (and a bee in my bonnet). At least the WHO seems to be a genuine error, and when it was pointed out to them, they put their hands up to it.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — September 29, 2011 @ 6:31 pm

  25. By which I meant: I used to enjoy your comments here. Now every time I see your name in the feed I know it’s going to be about climate change(gate) or similar. Change horses man, that one looks dead.

    Comment by Simon Poole — September 29, 2011 @ 9:21 pm

  26. “Man has to suffer. When he has no real afflictions, he invents some.”
    Jose Marti

    Comment by Clunking Fist — September 30, 2011 @ 2:20 pm

  27. “But it’s hard to take the stats like “at least 700 deaths” in Auckland seriously”…

    This is the sort of stuff I mean – we can argue about numbers, but even if you ignore numbers altogether and look at our car-dependent culture and its consequences, the whole thing is kind of dumb.

    Comment by Zo Zhou — October 1, 2011 @ 12:02 am

  28. Look at the consequences without looking at any numbers?

    Hoooooow does that work?

    Comment by Hugh — October 1, 2011 @ 12:20 am

  29. “Hoooooow does that work?”

    you don’t have to count the cars, just sit in traffic for an hour and watch how many other people are taking an hour and a half to make the twenty minute drive home from work. think how much time is collectively wasted by the idea that we each need our own private chariot to take us to the city every day. As Zo said, “kind of dumb”

    Comment by nommopilot — October 1, 2011 @ 9:43 am

  30. Hugh, I’m surprised you have to ask that (I am assuming you’re not being deliberately obtuse…)! What I suppose I meant is that *sometimes* you can observe and think about things logically to arrive at a conclusion. Numbers are important but in themselves they aren’t the be-all and end-all of an argument. So far most people disagreeing with me so far are doing so based solely on the fact that I (or some other organisation) has the numbers wrong. Does that still mean pumping disproportionately large amounts of money into motorways is a sensible idea when alternative modes of transport are logically healthier for individuals and society more broadly?
    I figured the benefits of alternative transport were pretty obvious already, but clearly not! If you were to bike instead of drive a short journey, for example, here are a few benefits that don’t require statistical analysis: you’d be getting more exercise, reducing the chemical runoff from roads that are caused by cars and car brakes that threaten the health of local waterways, reducing the amount of soot around. On a larger scale, roads would be safer for pedestrians as well, who won’t have to breathe as much dirty air. The “larger scale” thing would be good to have numbers for, but do you think we could at least agree that biking is healthier than driving?

    Comment by Zo Zhou — October 2, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

  31. other advantages of riding a bike is that it takes up less space on the road, and less space for parking. Car parking uses up a lot of space in our cities.

    Comment by Kahikatea — October 2, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

  32. Pftt, Zo.

    Don’t you know how many cyclists are killed by cars?! Clearly they are less healthy.

    Comment by Gregor W — October 2, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

  33. lol. I’d say the apocalypse was nigh if those assertions were truly accurate.

    Comment by Betty — October 3, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

  34. “So far most people disagreeing with me so far are doing so based solely on the fact that I (or some other organisation) has the numbers wrong. Does that still mean pumping disproportionately large amounts of money into motorways is a sensible idea…”

    If your numbers are wrong, how can you tell the money going on motorways is disproportionate? If you used the right numbers mightn’t it be proportionate?

    Comment by insider — October 5, 2011 @ 11:54 am


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