Alongside the many contemporary social problems, humanity today faces two major threats: climate change and environmental pollution. So far, both situations have been analyzed separately, however, new evidence confirms that such problems are related in multiple ways, so it is absurd to address them individually.
Currently, pollution from the burning of toxic gases not only causes millions of premature deaths per year but also causes atmospheric degradation and various imbalances in the planet’s environmental dynamics. For this reason, researchers are analyzing how the fight against climate change can reduce air pollution, and how clean air measures can reduce emissions of toxic gases to the atmosphere.
What do we know about toxic gases and environmental pollution?
When talking about toxic gases, the first thing we imagine is Carbon Dioxide (CO2). However, there is another great variety of pollutants that, when grouped, form what we know as "short-lived climate pollutants".
One of these pollutants is black carbon, a toxic compound produced by vehicles and other diesel-powered devices. In addition to being potentially hazardous to health, black carbon is 1,500 times more polluting than CO2. Likewise, its effect is so harmful, that it can even be more toxic than particulate contamination (PM2.5).
According to Dr. James Allan, black carbon expert at the University of Manchester, black carbon "has a high global warming potential in terms of watts per square meter (...) which may be affecting specific regions more than others, as well as local climate patterns and localized climate events".
On top of that, in the area of health, this contaminant is associated with heart disease, cancer, and multiple congenital conditions. Moreover, in India alone, its deadly effect is responsible for at least 400,000 premature deaths each year.
Along with black carbon, another harmful component such as methane is also among the "short-lived climate pollutants" facing the earth daily. In this case, methane is less toxic than black carbon, but it is still 86 times more harmful to the atmosphere than CO2, as it is capable of generating other harmful pollutants such as ozone.
How does this relate to climate change and what can we do to reverse it?
According to the researchers, "short-lived climate pollutants" pose a major risk to the planet’s environmental stability. These toxic emissions settle in the atmosphere, making it difficult to form clouds that protect from solar radiation. Similarly, these chemicals also spread through the rain, causing thaw and other phenomena affecting nature.
According to Pippa Neill, a researcher at the Environment Journal, the United Nations Climate and Clean Air Coalition explain that "the implementation of control measures could reduce global emissions of short-lived climate pollutants by up to 80%, helping to limit global warming and saving thousands of lives".
However, not everything is as simple as it seems. According to Neill, "despite the clear and necessary benefits of reducing air pollution, there is concern that any immediate reduction may lead to an increase in temperatures. Certain climate pollutants, including particulate matter (PM2.5), can have a cooling effect by reflecting solar energy away from the Earth, which is known as global attenuation".
Contrary to this argument, Dr. Aiden Farrow, a researcher in the field, says that "there is not enough reason to prolong or prevent the corrective measures of this situation. (...) The ultimate goal must be to stop producing and using fossil fuels and to do so as quickly as possible. Every time we extract, transport, and burn fossil fuels, we are losing pollutants in the atmosphere and moving one step closer to catastrophic climate impacts".
For more information, see the original Air Quality News article here.