So just a short post today about a quite different solution to a very important problem.

As part of my Final Year Project I have been trying quite hard to find a reliable and interesting data source to affect my installation. I investigated and tested a range of data sources and eventually settled on air pollution data, due to its availability and volatility – it changes on an hourly basis.

However, the data I was receiving countered my research and understanding of the issues. I was calculating the Air Quality Index (AQI) and placing the measurements for each location into a band (1-10) based on UK Government guidelines.

But I found that when calculating readings under these guidelines, 95% or more of the data sources from around the world landed in the “Low” (1-3) bands. This made no sense, I thought, as if these measurements are “good” then how is there a problem?

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 13.01.35

But then I realised, these bands are government guidelines for what is healthy to humans. But my issue is with the pollutants’ effects on the environment and climate change. I therefore instead looked into these pollutants’ pre-industrial levels, and found a clear disparity between the UK governments’ bands and pre-industrial levels. Ground-level Ozone, for example, is recommended by the WHO to not exceed 100 µg/m^3 over an 8 hour period, but pre-industrial levels were closer to 10-15 µg/m^3.

When I plugged these pre-industrial values into my system for each of the pollutants I have measurements for (O3, NO2, SO2, PM2.5, PM10) the picture is quite different;

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 12.52.56

As is clear above, almost all of the measurements of atmospheric pollutants have at least one value far above pre-industrial levels. Is this disparity a purposeful ploy by government institutions to literally “turn the map green” by moving the goalposts?