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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

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)

Next Story

Students Worldwide Skip School to Protest Government’s Failure against Global Warming

They're angry at their elders, and they're not taking it sitting down

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global warming, climate change
Students from different institutions hold placards and banners as they participate in a climate protest in New Delhi, India, March 15, 2019. VOA

They’re angry at their elders, and they’re not taking it sitting down.

Students worldwide are skipping class Friday to take to the streets to protest their governments’ failure to take sufficient action against global warming.

The coordinated “school strikes,” being held from the South Pacific to the edge of the Arctic Circle, were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who began holding solitary demonstrations outside the Swedish parliament last year.

Since then, the weekly protests have snowballed from a handful of cities to hundreds, driven by social media-savvy students and dramatic headlines about the impact of climate change.

climate change, global warming
Students attend a protest ralley of the “Friday For Future Movement” in Berlin, Germany, March 15, 2019. VOA

Thunberg, who was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was cheered for her blunt message to leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this year, when she told them: “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day.”

Friday’s rallies are expected to be one of the biggest international actions yet. Protests were under way or planned in cities in more than 100 countries, including Hong Kong; New Delhi; Wellington, New Zealand; and Oulo, Finland.

In Berlin some 10,000 protesters, most of them young students, gathered in a downtown square, waving signs with slogans such as “There is no planet B” and “Climate Protection Report Card: F” before a march through the capital’s government quarter. The march was to end with a demonstration outside Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office.

Organizer Carla Reemtsma, a 20-year-old university student, said social media had been key in reaching people directly to coordinate the massive protests in so many different locations, noting that she was in 50 WhatsApp groups and fielding some 30,000 messages a day.

“It’s really important that people are getting together all over the world, because it’s affecting us all,” she said.

Critics, supporters

Some politicians have criticized the students, suggesting they should be spending their time in school, not on the streets.

“One can’t expect children and young people to see all of the global connections, what’s technically reasonable and economically possible,” said the head of Germany’s pro-business Free Democratic Party, Christian Lindner. “That’s a matter for professionals.”

climate change, global warming
Students hold signs during a rally for global climate strike for future in Seoul, South Korea, March 15, 2019. VOA

But scientists have backed the protests, with thousands signing petitions in support of the students in Britain, Finland and Germany.

“We are the professionals and we’re saying the young generation is right,” said Volker Quaschning, a professor of engineering at Berlin’s University of Applied Sciences.

“We should be incredibly grateful and appreciative of their bravery,” said Quaschning, one of more than 23,000 German-speaking scientists to sign a letter of support this week. “Because in a sense, it’s incredibly brave not to go to school for once.”

Scientists have warned for decades that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are unsustainable, so far with little effect. In 2015, world leaders agreed in Paris to a goal of keeping the Earth’s global temperature rise by the end of the century well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Yet at present, the world is on track for an increase of 4 degrees Celsius, which experts say would have far-reaching consequences for life on the planet.

“As a doctor, I can say it makes a big difference whether you’ve got a fever of 41 degrees Celsius (105.8 Fahrenheit) or 43 C (109.4 F),” said Eckart von Hirschhausen, a German scientist who signed the call supporting striking students. “One of those is compatible with life, the other isn’t.”

Other action

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have publicly welcomed the student protests, even as their policies have been criticized as too limited by environmental activists.

In France, activist groups launched legal action this week for failing to do enough to fight climate change, citing a similar successful effort in the Netherlands.

climate change, global warming
Hundreds of schoolchildren take part in a climate protest in Hong Kong, March 15, 2019. VOA

In Germany, environmental groups and experts have attacked government plans to continue using coal and natural gas for decades to come. Activists say that countries like Germany should fully “decarbonize” by 2040, giving less-advanced nations a bit more time to wean themselves off fossil fuels while still meeting the Paris goal globally.

Other changes needed to curb greenhouse gas emissions include ramping up renewable energy production, reining in over-consumption culture now spreading beyond the industrialized West and changing diets, experts say.

“The fight against climate change is going to be uncomfortable, in parts, and we need to have a society-wide discussion about this,” said Quaschning.

ALSO READ: The Flamboyant Plastic Waste Boat Reminds The Global Policy-Makers The Urgency To Address Impact Of Plastics on The World’s Marine Environment

That conversation is likely to get louder, with several U.S. presidential hopefuls planning to campaign on climate change.

Luisa Neubauer, one of the Berlin group organizing Fridays for Future, said politicians should take note of the young.

“For the European elections in May, we’re urging everyone to think about whether they want to give their vote to a party that doesn’t have a plan for the future and the climate,” she said. (VOA)