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Fighting for cleaner air and a more stable climate

24 September 2015

When it comes to climate change – the warming and climate modifications our planet is suffering due in part to greenhouse gases trapping too much heat inside the Earth’s atmosphere – the finger is often pointed to carbon dioxide (CO2). However emissions of carbon dioxide are only part of the problem. There are other substances, called short-lived pollutants, that we should pay attention to as well, especially because they could also be important in reducing air pollution.

Short-lived pollutants, which include tiny pollutant particles known as aerosols, remain in the atmosphere for a shorter time than carbon dioxide, but can have a significant effect on both the climate and air quality. Previous environmental policies have tended to separate the two issues, with measures that fight air pollution not always bringing climate benefits and vice-versa. Now a team of scientists from around Europe and China has shown that reducing emissions of short-lived pollutants can have a double benefit of improving air quality and reducing climate change.

The new measures to reduce emissions of short-lived pollutants would make the air cleaner, meaning that people would breathe healthier air and live longer. The measures would also make the climate more stable, with global temperatures not rising as much as expected in the next few decades.

While the researchers hope to see governments implement their measures, they caution that short-lived pollutants are only a small part of the climate change problem, and the governments must still work hard to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Lead-scientist Andreas Stohl, from the Norwegian Institute of Air Research warns: “The project results clearly show that reductions in the emissions of short-lived species cannot replace CO2 emission reductions.”

Reducing emissions of short-lived pollutants would give us cleaner air and a more stable climate
Reducing emissions of short-lived pollutants would give us cleaner air and a more stable climate (Credit: Camille Clerc)

Print version

This is a kids' version of the EGU article: 'Curbing short-lived pollutants – a win-win for climate and air quality'. It was written by Bárbara Ferreira (EGU Media and Communications Manager), reviewed for scientific content by Sam Illingworth (Lecturer, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK) and Kirsty Pringle (Research Fellow, University of Leeds, UK), and for educational content by Teresita Gravina (Teacher, Don Gnocchi High School, Maddaloni, Italy).

Translations

All English-language Planet Press releases are carefully edited, reviewed and proofed, by scientists, educators and EGU staff. Please note that once translated, Planet Press releases receive no further checks from EGU staff. For this reason, we cannot guarantee their accuracy, though we trust the quality of our voluntary translators and are grateful for their work.

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