Friday, November 21, 2014

Tackle air pollution to kickstart climate action

Carbon Brief - Air pollution is a huge problem worldwide, killing millions of people each year. Further warming will only increase the size of the problem, according to a Nature article today. It's time efforts to curb soot, ozone and other pollutants in the atmosphere got more attention at an international level, the researchers argue. Getting serious about air pollution could provide the impetus needed to tackle climate change more effectively.

Methane, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and soot (or black carbon) all contribute to poor air quality. Air pollution is already the leading environmental cause of ill-health, leading to about seven million premature deaths each year from respiratory and circulatory illnesses. Earlier today, the European Council ruled the UK must take urgent action to address dangerous levels of air pollution. A number of major cities, including London, are lagging behind targets to reduce nitrogen dioxide to legal limits by the January 2015 deadline. The burden of ill-health is likely to increase in cities by mid century, as air pollution interacts with further greenhouse gas warming, research shows.

Tackling both at once could reap benefits, the paper explains. For example, electric cars powered from renewable sources curb air pollution in the short term, and reduce demand for carbon-intensive fuel. This kind of joined up thinking could avoid legislation in one area cancelling out progress in the other. The paper warns that some strategies to cut carbon emissions could worsen air pollution, and vice versa.

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