Smog is a "naturally occurring phenomenon", say UK leaders

london smog photo
CC BY 2.0 Luton Anderson

While Saharan sand choking London air may make for a nice, unusual news story, it also provides a convenient "out" for politicians who are failing to tackle air quality issues.

Prime Minister David Cameron, for example, seized on the Saharan angle when discussing recent smog, calling it a "naturally occurring weather phenomenon". He is, of course, partially right—sand from the Sahara is currently blowing over to Britain, exacerbating London's already problematic air quality issues—but that sand is only adding to pollution which is already harming and even killing Londoners on a daily basis.

That's why, as The Guardian reports, the European Commission's environmental spokesperson is laying into Cameron's comments as dangerously misleading:

"It's more than disappointing because you have 400,000 people across the EU dying each year – including 29,000 in the UK – because of air pollution. To say this is a temporary issue caused by Saharan dust shows a clear misunderstanding of the air pollution issue. Next week you will still have the same levels of air pollution in London and unless governments do something about that we will still have these problems."

Meanwhile Boris Johnson, London's Conservative mayor, also told reporters that the smog seemed "perfectly fine" when he was cycling to work.

Despite politicians' attempts to shrug off the problem, there are a few hopeful signs that things may be changing. Take the newly unveiled plug-in hybrid Metrocab, for example, showcased by the aforementioned Boris Johnson below. Or the expansion of Paris' Autolib electric car share program into London.

These developments won't do much about Saharan dust. But, if we were being really truthful, Saharan dust is not the real problem anyway.

Tags: Air Pollution | Air Quality | Cities | London