As the planet warms, air pollution will increase … unless we can keep our aerosol emissions under control.
Air pollution, which has been linked to a wide variety of mental impairments and physical ailments, is affecting billions of people, in one way or another, around the planet. And as many urban areas get ever more crowded and congested, levels of air pollution are bound to rise.
But there’s another factor that is set to make matters worse: climate change.
A team of scientists, who have just published a study in the journal Nature Climate Change, say that the phenomenon whereby land and water surfaces warm at different rates is causing an increase in the concentration of air-polluting aerosols in the atmosphere.
These aerosols are mostly tiny solid particles that are emitted by a variety of sources from wildfires to vehicle exhaust to industrial emissions. The minute particles remain suspended in the air where in large quantities they cause smog and other forms of air pollution. Longer exposure to such polluted air can result in severe health problems in people and can also impact their emotional state.
Because of climate change “the land is going to warm faster than the ocean,” says the study’s first author Robert Allen, an associate professor of earth sciences at UC Riverside in the United States. “This enhanced land warming is also associated with increased continental aridity,” which can lead to decreases in low cloud cover and cause less rain, which is how aerosols are removed from the atmosphere through natural means.
As the climate warms, levels of air pollution are going to become persistently higher … unless, that is, we can keep our emissions of aerosols under control. That can be done by adopting electric vehicles in favor of gas-fueled ones and reducing industrial emissions significantly, such as by phasing out coal-fired power plants.
“The question is what level of air quality are we going to accept,” Allen observes.