Atmosphere: Climate Change and Air Pollution

According to near complete scientific consensus, human influence on the climate system is clear. This can be observed in instances such as a decrease in cold and warm temperature extremes, an increase in high sea levels and an increase in the number of heavy precipitation events in several regions. These recent extreme events have had irreversible and widespread impacts on human and natural systems, shaking up everything from the economy and healthcare. Air pollution is one of the most negative outcomes of climate change causing global public health crisis. It is predicted to intensify in the decades to come.

Most people in the developed world have at least a basic level of understanding regarding these major issues facing the species. Before the start of the module, we were in the same initial position, albeit with considerably more enthusiasm and advocation. After undertaking our research and becoming familiar with scientific publications, as well as official data, did we realise that there exists a gap between being aware of climate change and having a comprehensive understanding of its multi-layered impacts, signalled by the vital warning signs of the planet, and even a larger gap separating apprehension of the issue and the development of complete solution. Extensive works have been done, major treaties have been signed, yet it is to the scientific community’s agreement, and much to our growing concern, that the solution still eludes governments, businesses and institutions worldwide and our effort is nowhere near enough to combat climate change.

It was astonishing to note that even if we manage to cease all greenhouse emissions, negative consequences will continue affecting our lives and the ecosystems for centuries to come. Take a moment to imagine what the impact would be if no steps are taken to substantially reduce the destructive outcome of our activity. What are the chances we have in waiting until the eventual and irreversible end, when we finally grasp the cost of our inertness?

With regard to air pollution, many innocent victims already paid dearly for our inaction – exposure to polluted air has led to more than 6.5 million premature deaths on an annual basis. The single biggest killer of children less than five-years old worldwide is pneumonia, with more than half of the premature deaths being caused by exposure to household air pollution.

This links inextricably to what sustainability is and why it is so vital to implement sustainable solutions in the long-term with the objective to meet the needs of the present without compromising the future needs of the following generations. Eventualities will always be present and while we have no power over the unforeseen consequences, we do need to have deeper understanding of how the Earth functions as an interconnected system, and why we must stop manipulating it throughout the interaction processes. We do believe that this matter should, and can be addressed in an efficient, innovative and even optimistic way.

By Nam Thanh Nguyen Le and Yolina Stoyanova

REFERENCES

IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland.

NASA Global Climate Change, Vital Signs of the Planet

World Energy Outlook, IEA, 2016, Energy and air pollution,  Chapter 1, pp19-38.

Ruggeri, A. (2017) How Climate Change Will Transform Business And The Workforce. BBC Future

Stead, J. & Stead, W. (2009) Management for a Small planet, Sharpe.

Steffen, W. et al (2011) The Anthropocene: Conceptual and historical perspectives, Phil. Trans R Soc..

 

 

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