Europe's Most Polluted Area: Germany's Steel and Coal Haven

coal plant emissions
Having firmly cemented its status as one of Europe's most coal-friendly states, Germany can now lay claim to also having the continent's most polluted area: a strip of land between Amsterdam and Frankfurt, home to the country's steel and coal industries. According to a new report by Bremen University scientists published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussion, this small region of Western Germany has Europe's highest concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

As reported in Deutsche Welle, the scientists used a novel technology (see below the fold for an image), called SCIAMACHY (Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Cartography), to detect levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The unique device was built by the German Aerospace Center and has been in orbit on a satellite around the Earth since 2002.

carbon dioxide envisat

SCIAMACHY is able to detect carbon dioxide by measuring the amount of sunlight reflected from the atmosphere; different gases reflect light differently so the scientists were able to accurately pinpoint carbon dioxide's signal. The scientists collected three years' worth of data before analyzing the results. Michael Buchwitz, one of the study's lead scientists, said he was confident of the group's findings, explaining that "the raised CO2 concentrations can be attributed to human activities because the patterns in this European urban area are very stable," despite slight fluctuations caused by seasonal changes.

If Germany truly intends on significantly reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, they could do worse than follow these policy prescriptions: stop all proposed coal power plant projects and impose stricter regulations on the existing ones.

Image courtesy of hAdamsky via flickr

Via ::Deutsche Welle: Europe's Worst Pollution Pocket Found Above Western Germany (news website)

See also: ::WWF: Europe's Dirtiest Power is in Germany, ::Coal Mining Returns to UK

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