Pollution Scorecard – WIF Environment

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Countries Causing

the Most


If we humans were to have a collective hobby, it’d probably be ‘polluting the heck outta stuff’. As a species we chuck so much stuff into the atmosphere that there are arguably no pollution-free places left on Earth. Every year car exhausts, coal plants, forest fires and cow farts (seriously) wind up choking our atmosphere and heading the planet towards what we’re gonna call Climate-ageddon.

 But who’s really to blame for this planet-sized catastrophe? Well, it’s hard to tell, exactly. If you measure pollution per capita, then Canada is far and away the biggest emitter. On the other hand, if you measure environmental impact in terms of those killed by pollution, then the tiny nation of Georgia outstrips even China. On the other hand, if you look at it in terms of actual greenhouse house gas emissions, then there is one clear winner… scroll down to see it. But first, the 10 worst polluters in real terms, according to the Global Carbon Atlas.

10. Canada (557 mtCO2 emitted per year)

The second biggest nation on Earth, Canada is essentially an icy wilderness ringed by a tiny human population clinging desperately to its slightly-less frozen parts. It’s a land of virgin forest, desolate mountain ranges, crystal blue lakes, and enough pollution to suffocate a herd of buffalo. Sorry, what?

Yep, despite its squeaky-clean image, Canada is actually kind of dirty. And we don’t mean in the way yo momma is. Like the weed-addicted younger brother of America’s beer-swilling older sibling, Canada is puffing out more clouds of smoke than even the biggest bong-addict. Want the numbers? In 2015, Canada sent 557 mtCO2 (million tonnes of CO2) spewing into the air, from a population of 35.9 million. For comparison, the 11 th biggest polluter, Indonesia, sent 537 mtCO2 into the atmosphere from a population of over a quarter of a billion. And these guys have deadly annual smog that have killed 100,000 people.

Yet Canada may not keep its less-than-coveted 10th ranking for long. In October 2016, the government signed up for a carbon tax plan that could put the country on a path to a cleaner economy. Failing that, Indonesia’s pollution output is increasing like mad, so they’re probably about to overtake North America’s answer to Denmark pretty soon anyway.

9. South Korea (592 mtCO2 emitted per year)

On a peninsula half-occupied by the country of a demented fat man armed with nuclear weapons, South Korea can seem like a breath of fresh air. It’s clean, safe, modern, rich… and very, very dirty. Yeah, that ‘breath of fresh air’ we just mentioned? That was only metaphorical. Visit Seoul in spring, and it can feel like you’re trying to outdo your uncle’s four-pack-a-day habit with a single breath.

Partly, this is China’s fault. The neighboring super-polluter sends its toxic gunk spewing over both Koreas like an annoying kid repeatedly chucking his carcinogenic death-ball into your yard. But the Global Carbon Atlas doesn’t track pollution caused by other countries. Plenty of Seoul’s clean air problems come from the Republic of Korea itself. As NPR has pointed out, the country is powered by 50 coal plants, with more on their way. Then there’s the sheer size of their capital. Seoul has a bigger population than New York or London, and everyone’s driving cars. For comparison, dystopian nightmare LA recorded 7 days of air ranked ‘unhealthy’ in 2015. Seoul recorded 53.

So what’s South Korea doing to tackle this problem? Umm, nothing actually. They’re one of the few countries in smog-choked Asia Pacific that are increasing their carbon output.

8. Saudi Arabia (601 mtCO2 emitted per year)

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the Saudi capital of Riyadh is one of the most polluted cities on Earth. Even Beijing doesn’t rank so highly in terms of horrifying stuff that’ll get into your lungs and make you feel like you’ve swallowed a cheese grater. While some of this is thanks to stuff beyond human control – namely, the region’s terrifying sandstorms – plenty can be laid squarely at the feet of the ruling classes. Across Saudi Arabia, industrial waste is let into the environment like it’s going out of fashion.

Part of this may be to do with the fact that the Wahhabist kingdom is a petro-state that bungs its 31 million citizens subsidized gas. Until recently, you could fill-up a medium-sized car from empty for about $7. While prices have gone up, that’s still a massive incentive to drive everywhere. Add lax rules with industrial waste and plenty of oil flowing, and it all adds up to a state where ‘environmental concerns’ are ranked by the government as a slightly lower priority than ‘literally anything else’.

Like South Korea, Saudi Arabia is not interested in cutting its current output by much. Although they signed up to a 50% clean energy target a while back, this was recently reduced to only 10%.

7. Iran (648 mtCO2 emitted per year)

A short hop over the Persian Gulf from Riyadh, and you arrive in one of the planet’s other super-polluters. The Islamic Republic of Iran is home to Ahvaz, a city with the unfortunate claim to fame of being literally the most polluted place on Earth. Air quality is so poor in this city of a million that the WHO can’t even measure how dangerous it is. Their official scale calls any place with over 20 micrograms of tiny, health-destroying PM10 particles per cubic meter of air a hazard. Ahvaz has over 372 micrograms of PM10s per cubic meter. You might as well just wire your lungs up to a sewage pipe as breathe this stuff.

But it’s not just Ahvaz. All across Iran, from Tehran to Qom, blankets of smog severely screw with people’s lives. In November 2016, all the capital’s schools had to be shut down due to clouds of killer fumes strangling the city. We aren’t using the word ‘killer’ lightly. Over 400 people died from the pollution in just 23 days.

Aside from a reliance on petrochemical industries, one big reason for Iran’s bad air is the sanctions placed on it following the Islamic Revolution. Fume-belching cars and low-grade fuel were all anyone could afford for decades, contributing to the current situation.

6. Germany (798 mtCO2 emitted per year)

So, we’re probably all pretty surprised to see Germany on this list. The economic powerhouse of the EU, Germany is also supposed to be unfailingly clean and efficient. Which it totally is… provided you just concentrate on visible dirt. Focus on those pesky invisible PM10s, and wandering through Germany’s cities is like stepping into a blizzard of flying death.

 Stuttgart, for example, has been called “Germany’s Beijing”. While you won’t get the same clouds of smog you get in China, you’ll still get pretty unhealthy air. Hazardous particles exceeded the legal limit for 64 days in 2014, more than Seoul and Los Angeles combined. Elsewhere, things are just as bad. 28 areas of Germany, including Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, have levels of air pollution considered dangerous. In 2013 alone, hazardous amounts of nitrogen dioxide were estimated to have killed over 10,600 Germans.

Things have gotten so bad that the EU recently threatened to hit Germany with a hefty fine if it didn’t clean up its act (literally). Not that they can really talk. Taken as a single nation, the EU would be the 3rd biggest polluter on Earth.

5. Japan (1,237 mtCO2 emitted per year)

Leaping upwards a few hundred million tonnes of CO2 per year, orderly Japan emits enough bad gas per annum to make it Asia Pacific’s 2nd biggest polluter. Man, what is it with these supposedly clean countries and terrible air quality?

Actually, we’re being pretty unkind here. Japan may be a high-level emitter today, but it’s a squeaky-clean utopia compared to what came before. In the 1960s, Japan was what China is now: a smog-choked industrial powerhouse that was raking in billions, even as it killed hundreds of thousands of its citizens with horrifically unsafe air. Some pollution-related illnesses, such as Minamata Disease, are still known globally after the Japanese cities where they were first identified. It was only after a massive push to curb emissions in the 1970s that Japan started its slow climb down from smog-filled dystopia to the relatively clean place it is today.

In fact, things would likely be even better, were it not for Japan’s recent reliance on coal fired power stations. 2014 was the country’s second-worst year for emissions on record. For that, you can thank the Fukushima disaster of 2011. The only nuclear disaster in history to come within touching distance of Chernobyl, it resulted in nearly all of Japan’s nuclear plants being shut down and replaced with coal fired ones.

4. Russian Federation (1,617 mtCO2 emitted per year)

If you need an illustration of how polluted Russia is, look no further than the town of Karabash. A small town 100 miles north of Kazakhstan, Karabash is home to only 13,000 people… possibly because no one else is fundamentally insane enough to live there. The river water is orange. The lake is dead and red. A mile-long ridge of black slag runs through the town. The air is so nasty it causes your eyes to sting and your throat to burn. Children have multiple birth defects. In 1996, the government declared it a disaster zone.

Of course, most Russians don’t live in a city even remotely approaching this bleak state. But even in the richer, western cities, things can still get bad. Moscow occasionally records pollution at ‘especially dangerous’ levels, and, in 2010, was hit by a suffocating smog more like something you’d see in Beijing. Still, it’s the Siberian industrial towns that are really to blame for Russia’s impact on climate change.

Interestingly, the Kremlin doesn’t seem too bothered about combatting this. Although Moscow announced a recent carbon reduction plan, some analysts have said it’ll actually increase emissions in the long term.

3. India (2,274 mtCO2 emitted per year)

When you’re emitting as much gunk into the air as Russia and Iran combined, you know you’ve got a problem. At least, you probably should. But India is something else. Home to five of the world’s most polluted cities, its insane population levels are contributing to an ecological bomb that could threaten the entire region. It’s estimated that up to 1.2 million people die in India each year due to air pollution. That’s equivalent to the entire population of Prague dropping dead every 12 months.

Although India has signed up to cut emissions and move towards clean energy, economists are asking whether this will be possible in a practical sense. India’s economy is booming, but it’s still a long, long way behind even China in terms of supplying a decent standard of living for its poorest citizens. Hundreds of millions still lack electricity. Tens of millions are stuck in poverty so dire most of us can’t even imagine it. Central to India’s recent economic gains have been its reliance on cheap, atmosphere-destroying coal. Take that away, and Delhi worries it will be condemning its citizens to an eternity of moneyless misery.

On the other hand, India is also one of the countries that will be most affected by climate change, with its coastal cities being flooded and crops destroyed. Huh. Some choice.

2. USA (5,414 mtCO2 emitted per year)

Sorry to any frat bros out there hoping to start up a chant of “USA! USA!” when America snagged the top spot. The good ol’ US-of-A ain’t even close to being the planet’s number one emitter. That’s not to say they’re a slouch, though. With over 5,000 million tonnes of CO2 being released into the atmosphere each year, the USA is laying into the atmosphere with more gusto than nearly any other country on Earth.

“But hang on,” you may be thinking, “the US doesn’t have any of the post-apocalyptic pollution wastelands you’ve written about for most other entries.” Well, no, maybe not. But that doesn’t mean bad stuff isn’t happening. A 2016 report by the American Lung Association found more than half the country’s population lives at risk of breathing in dangerous air pollution. That’s 166 million Americans at risk of asthma, cancer, heart disease and reproductive problems, all thanks to the air they’re breathing.

To be fair, the US’s air problems don’t all start in Washington. The smog in Western states frequently starts life in China and India, before drifting into the USA and causing misery for millions. Still, America isn’t totally innocent. According to the Global Carbon Atlas, it’s still one of the biggest emitters, however you cut it. Yet even this pollution behemoth has nothing on…

1. China (10,357 mtCO2 emitted per year)

Be honest: you saw this coming, didn’t you? No other country on Earth emits as much smoggy nastiness as China. If the USA, India, Russia and Japan were all to suddenly decide to conglomerate into a single state (we’re not exactly sure why or how), that new super-nation would still only be emitting the same amount of greenhouse gas as China. If polluting was an Olympic sport, China would bring home gold every single time.

You hardly need us to repeat all the stories of China’s toxic air. The deadly smog that suffocate entire regions. The impenetrable haze that makes seeing more than a few meters in front of your face an impossibility in Beijing. The studies that have compared breathing the country’s air to being as bad for you as smoking. It’s all grim stuff that’s pretty well known.

But hey, at least China signed up to the Paris Agreement, right? And Beijing seems pretty down with combating this whole ‘toxic air’ thing. Not quite. Recent data has shown that China’s air crisis is actually getting worse as time goes by. Expect them to stay at #1 for some time yet.

Pollution Scorecard

WIF Environment

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Futuristic Technologies

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People watch sci-fi movies and get excited by the crazy ideas presented. Some of them even go on to become scientists or inventors, and many have helped bring the world inventions that mimic what they once saw in movies. In a way, these people are making a specific vision of the future happen, but some of these inventions aren’t really practical and are really more a form of wish fulfillment than they are moving humanity’s scientific advancement forward. But there are many inventions humanity could actually use, in a practical sense, that are also really cool and wouldn’t seem out of place in a science fiction movie…

10. An Accurate Breathalyzer-Type Device To Know If Someone Is High On Marijuana

Today, law enforcement everywhere has a difficult task on their hands when it comes to the roadways. They have to not only deal with drunk drivers, but drivers who are high on heroin, meth, and now (legally in many states) marijuana. And this raises a really difficult question for the police: How do you know if a driver is under the influence of marijuana, in a way that wouldn’t be instantly thrown out in any court of law in the country? The roadways need to be safe, but it’s no use prosecuting someone if you don’t have evidence that will hold up.

Now, a small startup does have a device they are testing with law enforcement that can also test for alcohol as well, but it’s limited. The device can only tell if you’ve smoked within the last two hours. This isn’t exactly the futuristic level we were talking about, but it likely would be a lot of help, and may be enough to keep the roads safe for the time being. While some people may dispute that they would be safe to drive sooner, two hours is a pretty reasonable window of time, especially for state regulation.

9. Home Security Systems That Use Carefully Targeted Infrasound To Scare Off Intruders

Today, we have a lot of state-of-the-art security systems but most of them are just concerned with motion detection, cameras, making loud noises, and so forth. And, of course, all of them alert law enforcement. However, some have already considered the use of infrasound detection in order to help find intruders, and with that in mind, infrasound could help us in an entirely different way. Instead of guard dogs, actual guards, or weapons and the legal liability they can involve, if infrasound could be properly weaponized you could essentially scare people off your property.

Infrasound, often known as the “fear frequency,” usually stirs up the fight or flight feeling in people, and in the absence of anything to fight, most people just… run. A properly designed passive system that could detect and target intruders could theoretically use inaudible sound in order to keep your property safe and secure — almost like a magical spell that deters intruders. And as we know, it doesn’t get much more futuristic than something your enemies cannot distinguish from magic. Infrasonic detection could snuff out intruders quietly and alert the police if needed, but the active component would likely scare them off before they even broke a window or got up to any other shenanigans. It might even help deter teenage vandals from your property or, to put it another way: it might finally get those young punks to stay the heck off your lawn.

8. The James Bond “Fingerprint” Gun, For Which Only A Partial Prototype Exists

In the recent James Bond movies with Daniel Craig, Q gives Bond a special gun that can’t be fired without his handprint. Now, while there isn’t anything like this in real life, a German company did try to make a prototype. However, it involved a separate watch and the whole thing was all rather cumbersome. This technology, if it could actually be implemented in a way that truly worked well on a consistent basis and didn’t require any extra components, could revolutionize gun safety in the modern world, and especially in America.

Of course someone looking to hurt people could still use their gun to do so, but they couldn’t use their dad’s gun, a friend’s gun, and so on. And, a huge amount of gun deaths are tragically accidental, like when a kid gets his hands on a parent’s gun and, sadly, it goes off. Technology like this would keep your firearm from being used against you by someone who took it, and avoid horrible accidents that would scar you for life and destroy your family and relationships.

7. An Exercise Bike — Or Bike Switching Station — That Powers A Home Generator As You Use It

At the moment, this is the stuff of fantasy because of the amount of power it would (or more to the point, wouldn’t) generate. A bike-powered generator could fuel, say, lights for a little bit… and that’s about it. Some people have done the math and it really doesn’t sound like much. However, our imaginations have always wondered about how much power we could get from our own work, and many of us think of hand crank emergency radios as a good analogy. Still, those don’t use very much power at all, and that’s the real problem. While powering somelights is within the realm of reason, the biggest reason people want electricity after a disaster is heating and cooling.

Those things require a much more significant amount of power, and thus it’s quite difficult to actually get enough to make a real difference, or do anything for any significant amount of time. The amount of effort, in comparison to what you actually get in terms of cooling, or heating, might not be worth it. If a bike with enough gears and an efficient enough system was created so that a small family could, at least, generate enough power to keep themselves warm, or cool, as needed, it would be an incredible help in any kind of big disaster.

6. Ferromagnetic Roadways And Walkways For Practical Hover-Vehicle Technology

Not long ago, people saw the demo of the Hendo Hoverboards and got very excited… only to quickly crash back down to earth. The Hendo Hoverboard could hold several hours worth of charge, and really and truly hovered above the ground. It was a dream come true to many (especially those of us who have been waiting for Hoverboards since Back to the Future II), until the realities of the project hit. Now, it was a genius bit of engineering and did use some clever new techniques, but it was basically maglev technology, which requires a surface with metals that interact with magnets to actually do anything at all. In other words, unless it was on top of the right metal surface, it was just a big hunk of expensive junk you could stand on. This meant you could use it nowhere other than places specially constructed its their use.

However, if we had ferromagnetic roadways, we could have hoverboards, hover cars, and other hover technology. With the precision of maglev technology, we could likely cut down greatly on accidents while increasing our overall speed and efficiency at the same time, which is a big win-win. Of course, this would be ludicrously expensive, but in the long term, if built right, it would probably also last a lot longer than our current roadways.

5. Researchers Are Looking Into Ways To Use Our Own Body Heat To Charge Our Phones

Several years ago, people latched onto an article about some very experimental ideas to use a small device in your pocket to generate energy from your body heat, and some magazines started wildly speculating that you would have body heat-powered smartphones before you knew it. However, several years of fast-moving technology later, we really aren’t any closer on that front. The good news is, researchers are looking into it now for real, and not just looking at something that theoretically could get there for unrelated reasons.

If something like this could be designed, it could at least help with supplementary power. It’s possible it would only be enough to slow down the battery degradation, and not charge it enough to go much farther, but with battery technology bottlenecked every little bit could help. This would allow us to push our phones just a little bit further without resorting to bulky and cumbersome backup batteries and the like.

4. If We Could Create A Truly Energy-Efficient World, Much Fossil Fuel Use Would Be Eliminated

Today, there’s an incredible amount of energy used that is simply untapped. This source is motion, in general. Whenever something is moving, a certain amount of force is used. Some of that energy is transferred (energy, as we know, cannot be created or destroyed). If we could truly harness all kinetic energy from movement, especially all of our movement throughout the day, and not waste any energy potential around us, we could greatly cut down on our reliance on fossil fuel and other energy sources.

One company that found its way onto Shark Tank called Tremont Electronics designed a special device that could help charge a smartphone while you walk. They are working on other smaller products, but are also thinking big. They hope to one day secure the funding to test their technology to make “wave farms,” where energy is generated by using the motion from… well, waves. That was probably obvious. With this kind of technology, we could take green energy to an entirely new level most people never before imagined.

3. Affordable Water Filtration Infrastructure That Removes Pharmaceuticals And The Like

Today, the water infrastructure of some of the biggest countries — including the United States — has some huge deficiencies. And we aren’t even talking about places like Flint. But a huge amount of pharmaceutical byproducts are ending up in the water supply. Unfortunately, many water filtration plants are not properly equipped to clean this stuff out of the water. Even those sites that can get most of it out often only boast success rates of about 95%, which doesn’t sound so great when you realize the other 5% or so is pharmaceutical byproducts in your water.

To make matters worse, the FDA doesn’t really even have proper guidelines for this yet in the USA, and there really isn’t a standardized technology, much less a standardized system or set of methods get water to a safe level across the country. Part of the problem is people aren’t even sure what a safe level is with some of this stuff, as hormones have even ended up in the water can have effects in incredibly low concentrations, which we don’t even fully understand yet. If someone could invent a filtration method that could get this stuff out entirely (or, at least, almost entirely), and get water to a safe level — that could be easily implemented across the country — it would be an incredible help to humanity.

2. Sound Technology That Allows You To Filter And Hear Only What You Want To Hear

Hearing aids allow deaf people, or those hard of hearing, to hear. There are now special prototype speakers out there that can direct sound to an almost pinpoint degree, to the point where it will only be heard in one small location. Now, the second technology is fairly new and experimental, but with a little tweaking the two could be combined into an incredible invention. If you could truly direct sound accurately enough, you could make a device you could fit in your ear that could block out everything except for the sounds you did want to hear.

Imagine having a device where you could tell it to listen only to the TV in front of you, and not anything else that might be going on in the background. You could also use it to pay better attention to a conversation without worrying about background noise, or just shut out people or things that are bothering you in your environment. Let’s face it: All of us need our peace and quiet sometimes, and almost everyone would use this.

1. Even In The Year 2018, In The Fanciest Cars, You Won’t Find A Truly Accurate Gas Gauge

It’s fairly amazing to think that, even in the year 2018 — when most vehicles now are decked out with all of the most ridiculous new gauges and sensors and features — the one thing that’s stayed pretty much the same is the gas gauge. It still operates on the same principle with the floater mechanism where, on inclines, you may think you have more (or less) gas than you really do, and overall even when you think it’s full, it often really isn’t.

The truth is your gas gauge is actually designed to lie to you, mainly because car manufacturers think you enjoy the crazy game of trying to figure out how much gas you have left at any given time, and like going for broke — psychologically speaking. They also like to give you the false sense of security you get when you think it’s full when it really isn’t. Apparently, people really enjoy that feeling and don’t like how quickly the full meter would truly go away. Now, we believe that in 2018 people are grown up enough to accept the truth and enjoy the convenience of a truly accurate gas meter. It would lead to fewer people being stranded on the road, as they’d know the exact percentage at any given time — if this theoretical design was done right — and it would just be a great convenience for everyone in general.

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