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Researchers Say a Sudden Cut in Air Pollution Could Speed Up Climate Change

Sudden cuts to air pollution in Europe and Asia could trigger a short-term increase in temperatures and rainfall, new research published on March 5th by experts from Reading University, says.

Scientists have observed the impacts of particle pollution on the atmosphere in Europe and China and analyzed changes in temperature extremes under the maximum possible air pollution decrease.

In the paper, which has been published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the team of researchers foreseen in a worst-case scenario that the hottest day of the year could reach up to four degrees more by 2050, with about 30 to 40 percent of this rise caused by air pollution cuts.

Sudden Cut in Air Pollution Won’t Help

In a different research by scientists at Reading University, measurements of sunlight at the Earth‘s surface and from space between 1985 and 2015 implied that a rise in air pollution over Europe and China has restricted sunlight from getting to the surface, but also heated the air up in the atmosphere as the pollution particles collected more sunlight.

This suggests that cutting air pollution, first in Europe and slowly now in China, has triggered surface warming because more sunlight can now reach our planet.

Dr. Laura Wilcox, a co-author of the study and staff at the University of Reading, said: “The immediate health benefits of reducing air pollution are clear, but tackling air pollution can initially accelerate climate change. This warming side effect underlines the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions quickly to limit damaging climate change in the long term and give us a chance of meeting the Paris Agreement Targets.”

She further explained that “this is very much a case of short-term climate pain for long-term gain. It might seem counterproductive to prompt temperature rises by reducing pollution, but this research also shows that this effect will disappear in a few decades.”

If we continue emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the current pace, we will encounter greater temperature rises that are going to last a long period. This would be extremely hard for society to adapt to, Dr. Wilcox said and would trigger devastating environmental damage.



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