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Reducing pollution accelerates global warming. How do we solve this catch-22?

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By illuminem briefings

· 2 min read

illuminem summarizes for you the essential news of the day. Read the full piece on Euronews or enjoy below:

🗞️ Driving the news: A paradox in climate efforts has been highlighted, where cleaning up air pollution could paradoxically lead to an increase in global warming
• This phenomenon, known as 'unmasking', has been observed following China's aggressive 'war on pollution', which has significantly reduced sulfur dioxide emissions but led to a rise in average temperatures due to the decrease of the aerosol particles that reflect sunlight

🔭 The context: Air pollution, particularly from sulfur dioxide, has been creating a cooling effect by reflecting solar radiation back into space
• As countries like China have successfully reduced these emissions, the absence of this 'solar shield' has led to an increase in warming, which could push global temperatures beyond the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit set by the Paris Agreement

🌍 Why it matters for the planet: The removal of air pollution is essential for public health, but it also reveals the full extent of global warming
• This catch-22 situation underscores the urgency for more aggressive action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, especially methane, which is a more potent but shorter-lived greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide

⏭️ What's next: Scientists suggest that focusing on reducing methane emissions could be a key strategy to offset the warming effects of pollution reduction
• Methane's shorter lifespan in the atmosphere means that actions taken now could quickly stabilize temperatures

💬 One quote: "We want to clean up our air for air quality purposes but, by doing that, we're increasing warming" (Patricia Quinn, atmospheric chemist)

📈 One stat: China's SO2 emissions have plummeted by about 87% since 2013, leading to an increase in average temperatures by 0.7 degrees Celsius since 2014

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