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The terrible paradox of air pollution and climate change

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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 Vox or enjoy below

🗞️ Driving the news: Recent studies show that some sources of air pollution emit particles that reflect light and subsequently cool the planet, but at the same time air pollution contributes to 7 million premature deaths globally each year

🔭 The context: Greenhouse gasses, primarily from electricity production and vehicles, warm the planet, while aerosol particles counteract some of this warming by reflecting sunlight and promoting cloud formation
• However, these aerosols have a short lifespan, so as their emissions cease, the world will face intensified warming from long-persisting greenhouse gasses

🌍 Why it matters for the planet: Continued burning of fossil fuels will exacerbate both air pollution and climate change, leading to poorer air quality and a cascade of environmental challenges, including increased ozone production, droughts, wildfires, and a rise in extreme weather events and diseases

⏭️ What's next: As the world transitions away from fossil fuels to combat climate change, scientists are exploring ways to replicate the cooling effect of aerosols without their harmful side effects
• Methods like geoengineering, which include practices like producing artificial clouds or placing mirrors in space, are being considered, though they come with their own set of concerns

💬 One quote: “Let’s say we emitted greenhouse gasses, CO2, and [aerosol cooling] particles at the same rate forever. Eventually, greenhouse gasses are going to win...” (Jason West, Professor at the University of North Carolina)

📈 One stat: Cooling aerosols counteract global warming by reducing temperatures by nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit

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