When Air Pollution and Climate Change Mix

Aerosol Pollution
new research is showing how aerosol pollution can enhance the impacts of climate change in different regions of the world.

The impacts of air pollution on human health, economies, and agriculture differ drastically depending on where on the planet the pollutants are emitted, according to a study that could incentivize certain countries to cut climate-changing emissions.

Led by the Jackson School of Geosciences and the University of California San Diego, the study, published in Science Advances, is the first to simulate how aerosol pollution affects both climate and air quality for locations around the globe.

Although carbon dioxide and aerosols are often emitted at the same time during the combustion of fuel, the two substances behave differently in Earth’s atmosphere, said co-lead author Geeta Persad, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

“Carbon dioxide has the same impact on climate no matter who emits it,” said Persad. “But for these aerosol pollutants, they tend to stay concentrated near where they’re emitted.”

The researchers found that, depending on where they are emitted, aerosols can worsen the social costs of carbon by as much as 66%. The scientists looked at eight key regions: Brazil, China, East Africa, Western Europe, India, Indonesia, the United States and South Africa.

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