The United Nations Meteorological Agency warns that climate change and air pollution go hand in hand

The United Nations meteorological agency has warned that the dangers of air pollution from climate change are being overlooked in the battle against global warming.

The World Meteorological Organization, an intergovernmental group that promotes international cooperation in atmospheric sciences, climatology, hydrology and geophysics, said air quality goes “hand in hand” with warming.

On Wednesday, it released its third annual report Air Quality and Climate Bulletinhighlighting the danger of heatwaves and how climate change and air quality must be tackled together.

The report shows how heatwaves caused wildfires in the northwestern United States, while high temperatures combined with desert dust transported across Europe led to dangerous air quality in 2022.

“Heatwaves worsen air quality, with knock-on effects on human health, ecosystems, agriculture, and even our daily lives,” said WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas.

“Climate change and air quality cannot be addressed separately. They go hand in hand and must be addressed together to break this vicious cycle.

“This Air Quality and Climate Bulletin is for 2022. What we are seeing in 2023 is even more extreme. July was the hottest month on record, with extreme heat in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, continuing into August.

“Wildfires have ravaged vast swaths of Canada, caused catastrophic devastation and deaths in Hawaii, and also caused extensive damage and casualties in the Mediterranean region.

Professor Taalas said: “This caused dangerous air quality levels for millions of people, and sent plumes of smoke across the Atlantic Ocean into the Arctic.”

Dr. Lorenzo Labrador, World Meteorological Organization’s scientific officer for the Global Atmosphere Watch Network, said smoke from forest fires creates a “magical brew.”

“Heat waves and wildfires are closely related,” he said.

“Smoke from wildfires contains a magical mix of chemicals that not only affect air quality and health, but also damage plants, ecosystems and crops – putting more carbon emissions and therefore more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”

The report said that air quality and climate are interconnected because substances responsible for climate change and deteriorating air quality are often emitted from the same sources, and because changes in one inevitably cause changes in the other.

She said that the summer of last year led to hundreds of air quality monitoring sites exceeding the guideline level for ozone air quality set by the World Health Organization.

In Europe, this followed a heat wave coming from the southwest, then moving to Central Europe and finally reaching the northeast.

This resulted in an unusually large amount of Saharan dust appearing over the Mediterranean and Europe during the second half of August 2022.

The report said: “The coincidence of high temperatures with high aerosol amounts, and thus particulate matter content, has affected human health and well-being.”

“While high-altitude (stratospheric) ozone protects us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation, near-surface ozone is harmful to human health. It can also reduce the quantity and quality of production of staple food crops.

The WMO report said the average crop losses from ozone globally ranged from 4.4 percent to 12.4 percent for staple food crops.

It said wheat and soybean losses reach 15 to 30 percent in major agricultural regions of India and China.

“Heat waves and dry conditions lead to wildfires that, once they start, grow rapidly when they encounter dry, easily flammable vegetation. Such situations can lead to an increase in aerosol emissions,” the report said.

However, it also emphasized how parks and tree-covered areas within cities can improve air quality, absorb carbon dioxide and lower temperatures.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), the European Union’s climate monitoring service, said on Wednesday that June-August 2023 was the warmest period on record globally “by a large margin”, with an average temperature of 16.77 degrees Celsius. – That is, 0.66 degrees Celsius. C above average.

It said the average European summer temperature was 19.63°C, which was 0.83°C higher than the average.

She added that the summer of 2023 saw marine heatwaves in several regions across Europe, including around Ireland and the United Kingdom in June, and across the Mediterranean in July and August.

C3S deputy director Samantha Burgess said August was the warmest month on record.

“Global temperature records continue to fall in 2023, with a warmer August followed by warmer July and June, resulting in the warmest boreal summer in our data record going back to 1940,” she said.

“2023 is currently ranked as the second hottest year, with a temperature of just 0.01°C after 2016, with four months left until the end of the year,” Ms. Burgess added.

“Meanwhile, the global oceans in August experienced the warmest daily surface temperature on record, the warmest month on record,” she said.

“The scientific evidence is overwhelming – we will continue to see more climate records and more frequent, intense extreme weather events affecting society and ecosystems, until we stop emitting greenhouse gases.”

C3S said that every day from July 31 to August 31 saw a global average sea surface temperature exceed the previous record set in March 2016.

Updated: Sep 06, 2023 at 10:59 am

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