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Government / Local politics

Boris Johnson admits that air pollution exists

Guys, science has won. Today, Boris Johnson has finally admitted that the severe levels of pollution on London’s Oxford Street are, in fact, “not a myth”. We can’t see it from here, but we can only assume there’s confetti billowing from the windows of the Royal Society.

Here’s some context. Back in July, scientists from King’s College London found that Oxford Street has the highest recorded level of nitrogen dioxide in the entire world; or 11 times the EU limit. Johnson’s measured, scientific take on this news? “B*ll*cks: ludicrous urban myth.” 

Besides a worrying ignorance as to the meaning of the phrase “urban myth”, the statement revealed a reluctance to admit that traffic and construction were taking their toll on Londoners’ lungs. An article by Zoe Williams of the Guardian to this effect was countered in the same publication by a tract from City Hall, titled “London, far from being toxic, is leading the way in tackling air pollution”. The EU, which has threatened fines and legal action over “excessive” UK air pollution levels, would beg to differ.  

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The mayor grapples with yet more numbers. Image: Getty. 

Now it seems Johnson is finally willing to admit that science is not some kind of witchcraft, and that we may in fact have a pollution problem. In response to a letter from the chair of the Commons Environmental Audit Committtee voicing concerns that Johnson may withdraw funding for air quality research, Johnson replied that funding was not under threat, and, more importantly: “We are not disputing King’s College data”.

So there you have it, kids: data, unlike Walt Disney’s cryogenically frozen body or the vanishing hitchhiker, is not an urban myth. 


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