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Massive Benefits Could Be Achieved If Air Pollution Is Controlled In Asia: UN

One billion people would enjoy high air quality, while the number exposed to the worst pollution would be cut by 80 percent to 430 million.

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India, air pollution, WHO, diwali, Pollution, Delhi, egypt, air quality
A man walks in front of the India Gate shrouded in smog in New Delhi, India. VOA
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Asia could reap massive benefits in health, environment, agriculture and economic growth if governments implement 25 policies such as banning the burning of household waste and cutting industrial emissions, according to a U.N. report.

Air pollution is a health risk for 4 billion people in Asia, killing about 4 million of them annually, and efforts to tackle the problem are already on track to ensure air pollution is no worse in 2030, but huge advances could be made, the report said.

The report’s 25 recommendations would cost an estimated $300 billion to $600 billion annually, a big investment but loose change compared with a projected $12 trillion economic growth increase.

The publication of the report, “Air Pollution in Asia and the Pacific: Science based solutions,” on Tuesday coincides with the World Health Organization holding its first global air pollution conference in Geneva this week

Air Pollution, China
A man wearing a respiratory protection mask walks toward an office building during the smog after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in Beijing’s central business district, China. VOA

The recommendations also included post-combustion controls to cut emissions from power stations, higher standards for shipping fuels, ending routine flaring of gas from oil wells, and energy efficiency standards for industry and households.

The biggest gains would come from clean cooking, reducing emissions from industry, using renewable fuels for power generation and more efficient use of fertilizers.

Huge improvements in post-combustion controls and emission standards for road vehicles were already anticipated because of recent legislation, although both could be improved further.

Indeed, India may halt the use of private vehicles in the capital New Delhi if air pollution, which has reached severe levels in recent days, gets worse, a senior environmental official said Tuesday.

global warming, air pollution, Asia
The sun is seen through evening air pollution in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 8, 2018. VOA

Authorities in the capital have already advised residents to keep outdoor activity to a minimum from the beginning of next month until at least the end of the Hindu festival of Diwali on Nov. 7, when firecrackers typically further taint air choked by the burning of crop stubble in neighboring states.

Helena Molin Valdes, head of Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat at U.N. Environment, said there was increasing political openness to taking action on air pollution and the report reflected three years of discussions with governments.

“What the governments were saying in the region was: ‘Don’t tell us we have a problem, we know there is a problem, how can we deal with it and what will it take to do it?'” she said.

The report estimates its recommendations would cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent compared to a baseline scenario, potentially decreasing global warming by one-third of a degree Celsius by 2050, which would also be a contribution in the fight against climate change.

Air pollution, asia
Air pollution shortens life by more than one year in India. Wikimedia Commons

One billion people would enjoy high air quality, while the number exposed to the worst pollution would be cut by 80 percent to 430 million. Premature deaths would fall by a third.

Also Read: Air Pollution A Major Risk For Children: WHO

Crop yields would benefit because of a reduction in ozone, which is estimated to have cut 2015 harvests by 10 percent for maize, 4 percent for rice, 22 percent for soy and 9 percent across Asia, a total of 51 million tons. (VOA)

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Skyscrapers May Have Made The Impact Of Hurricane Harvey Worse: Study

The scientists projected future warming and found future versions of the same storms would be significantly wetter and stronger.

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Hurricane
Floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey overflow from Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston, Texas, VOA

Humans helped make recent devastating U.S. hurricanes wetter but in different ways, two new studies find.

Hurricane Harvey snagged on the skyscrapers of Houston, causing it to slow and dump more rain than it normally would, one study found. The city’s massive amounts of paving had an even bigger impact by reducing drainage. Land development in the metro area, on average, increased the chances of extreme flooding by 21 times, study authors said.

A second study looked at last year’s major Hurricanes Maria and Irma and 2005’s deadly Katrina and used computer simulations to see what would have happened if there had been no human-caused global warming. The study found that climate change significantly increased rainfall from those three storms, but did not boost their wind speed.

Both studies are in Wednesday’s journal Nature.

Hurricane, skyscraper
A smoky haze envelopes the skyscrapers and Rocky Mountains that usually can be seen as a backdrop to the city from a high-rise building, Aug. 20, 2018, in Denver. VOA

Houston was a literal drag on Harvey as it sloshed through, with the storm getting tripped up by the skyscrapers, said study co-author Gabriele Villarini, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Iowa.

Co-author Gabe Vecchi, a climate scientist at Princeton University, said that forced the storm to move up higher, causing more concentrated rain over Houston and slowing, which also made more rain.

He compared it to a river running over rocks, creating bubbles.

“That’s sort of what’s going on here,” he said.

This effect is dwarfed, though, by the paving and building that don’t allow water to sink into the ground, Vecchi said.

Harvey’s record rainfall reached 5 feet in one spot near Houston. The scientists used computer simulations to see the effects of urbanization. In parts of the Houston metro area, the effects of development ranged from a 10 percent higher risk of extreme flooding in the less developed northwest to nearly 92 times the risk in the northeast, they reported.

Hurricane Florence, Lawmakers,
A work truck drives on Hwy 24 as the wind from Hurricane Florence blows palm trees in Swansboro N.C. VOA

That’s on top of the unique weather patterns that made Harvey slow down and stall and climate change which brought more water into the storm, Vecchi said.

MIT hurricane and climate expert Kerry Emanuel, who wasn’t part of the study, called the Harvey study “a real advance in our understanding of hurricane impacts on urban areas.”

But Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon wasn’t convinced. He said the team used generic shapes instead of the actual Houston skyline. He said the storm’s wind speeds may have slowed, but that’s different from the storm’s forward movement slowing.

The other study in Nature looked at a variety of historical damaging storms and tried to calculate past and future effects of climate change. In three cases, the scientists simulated the storms without the changes in the climate from greenhouse gases, showing that global warming increased rainfall 8.9 percent in Hurricane Maria , 6.3 percent in Hurricane Irma and 8.7 percent in Hurricane Katrina .

Maria hit Puerto and Rico and other parts of the Caribbean. Irma hit the Caribbean and Florida, while Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Climate Change, Hurricanes
Russ Lewis covers his eyes from a gust of wind and a blast of sand as Hurricane Florence approaches Myrtle Beach, S.C.. VOA

In Maria’s case, a warming climate concentrated heavier rain in the center of the storm and reduced it on the edges, said co-author Michael Wehner, a climate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

For 15 storms, which included the devastating Typhoon Haiyan , the potent Gilbert and 1992’s Hurricane Andrew , the scientists projected future warming and found future versions of the same storms would be significantly wetter and stronger.

Also Read: Vietnam Does Its Part in Cleaning The Environment, Cleans Plastic

“We are beginning to see a climate change influence emerge on tropical cyclones and that’s coming out as rainfall,” said study lead author Christina Patricola, an atmospheric scientist at the national lab.

Although replicating a storm in a different climate is difficult and can’t account for certain changes, this work bolsters science understanding of how climate change alters hurricanes, Emanuel said. (VOA)