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Pollution Combined With CO2 Emissions Can Raise the Societal Cost of Carbon by up to 66%

According to a new study, the effects of air pollution on human health, economies, and agriculture vary dramatically depending on where the pollutants are produced in the world.

In certain circumstances, pollution co-emitted with CO2 can increase the societal cost of carbon by as much as 66%.

Air pollution can amplify the negative effects of climate change

(Photo : Kristen Morith/Unsplash)


The study, led by The University of Texas at Austin and the University of California San Diego, is the first to mimic how aerosol pollution impacts both climate and air quality for areas throughout the world. It was published on Sept. 23 in Science Advances, as per ScienceDaily.

Aerosols are microscopic solid particles and liquid droplets produced from industrial plants, power plants, and vehicle tailpipes that contribute to pollution.

When compared to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which are the focus of climate change mitigation efforts, they have a distinct worldwide impact on human health, agricultural output, and economic productivity.

Although CO2 and aerosols are frequently produced at the same time during fuel burning, they react differently in the Earth’s atmosphere, according to co-lead author Geeta Persad, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences.

“For these aerosol pollutants, they tend to stay concentrated around where they’re produced, so the influence that they have on the climate system is extremely patchy and highly dependant on where they’re coming from,” said Persad.

Aerosols, according to the researchers, can increase the social costs of carbon (an assessment of the economic consequences of greenhouse gasses on society) by up to 66% depending on where they are emitted. Brazil, China, East Africa, Western Europe, India, Indonesia, the United States, and South Africa were among the countries studied.

According to Jennifer Burney, co-lead author, and Marshall Saunders Chancellor’s Endowed Chair in Global Climate Policy and Research at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, our research underscores how the detrimental impacts of our emissions are typically underestimated.

CO2 is warming the world, but it is also released with a slew of other molecules that have direct effects on humans and plants and cause climate change in their own right.

To investigate the impact of aerosols in contrast to CO2, the researchers ran a series of climate simulations using the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Community Earth System Model version 1.

They created simulations in which each of the eight locations produced identical aerosol emissions and then plotted how temperature, precipitation, and surface air quality varied throughout the world.

The data was then linked to established correlations between climate and air quality and infant mortality, crop production, and GDP across the eight areas.

According to the researchers, the study represents a significant advancement above prior studies, which either assessed the air quality consequences of aerosols or did not account for their various global climatic implications.

Emissions from certain places have two to ten times the climatic and air quality consequences as others, as well as societal costs that often affect nearby regions more than the region that created the aerosol emissions.

Local emissions, for example, cause four times as many newborn deaths outside Europe as inside.

Finally, they compared the overall societal costs of these aerosol-driven consequences to the societal costs of co-emitted CO2 in each of the eight locations, creating worldwide maps of the combined effects of aerosols and CO2.

Read more: Trees Reduce Air Pollution, Respiratory Problems

The framework can also be applied to maximize societal benefits

According to recent research that might motivate specific nations to reduce climate-changing emissions, the effects of air pollution on human health, economies, and agriculture vary dramatically depending on where on the earth the pollutants are released, as per UT News.

The study, led by The University of Texas at Austin and the University of California San Diego, is the first to mimic how pollutants impact both climate and air quality in areas all over the world.

The study, published in Science Advances, looked at the climate and air quality effects of aerosols, which are microscopic solid particles and liquid droplets released by industrial industries, power plants, and vehicle tailpipes.

This study’s paradigm may also be used to optimize societal benefits from existing mitigation options being explored by policymakers.

The researchers, for example, applied it to the “fair-share” strategy outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement, in which all nations aim for the same per-capita CO2 emissions.

They discovered that, while the method is favorable for climatic stability, it does not enhance the mortality and crop impacts from combined aerosol and CO2 emissions because it focuses on mitigation in places with relatively low aerosol impacts, such as the United States and Europe.

Related article: Air Pollution vs. Ozone Pollution Seesaw: Impacts on Health, Agriculture, Environment, Scientists Warn


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