Call for joint approach to climate and air quality

An official advisory group has called for more holistic policies to address the links between air quality and climate change

The Air Quality Expert Group’s draft report, published on 19 December, focuses on projections for the next 10 to 15 years, while also looking at likely impacts up to 2050.

Draft findings and recommendations include:

  • Pollutants such as particulate matter and ozone precursors play a role in climate change which is not currently recognised.
  • Many abatement technologies used to improve air quality lead to increases in carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Efforts to improve air quality by reducing emissions which lead to secondary aerosols are likely to speed the rate of warming.
  • Environmental impact analysis of policies and individual developments should consider the full range of emissions.
  • More research and information is required to develop a holistic understanding of atmospheric processes and to limit human impacts.
  • In developing future energy policies, full fuel cycle implications of non-fossil fuel electricity generation, including biomass and nuclear, should be evaluated.

The draft report also warns that by 2040, heatwaves similar to that in 2003 are likely to become the norm, leading to ongoing risk of photochemical summer smogs.

Yesterday, the Met Office’s Hadley Centre added to the debate by warning that global warming may be underestimated by existing climate models which may not give sufficient recognition to the cooling effects of man-made aerosols. The implication is that efforts to improve air quality will lead to a faster rate of warming.

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