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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)

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Diversifying Crops will Lighten Growing Climate Impact in India: Study

To reach this conclusion, the authors combined historical data on crop yields, temperature and rainfall

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diversifying crops, climate impact
"Expanding the area planted with these four alternative grains can reduce variations in Indian grain production caused by extreme climate, especially in the many places where their yields are comparable to rice. Wikimedia Commons

Diversifying the crops in India can be an effective way to adapt its food-production systems to the growing influence of extreme climate change, said US researchers including Indian-origin.

The team studied the effects of climate change on five major crops: finger millet, maize, pearl millet, sorghum and rice which make up the vast majority of grain production during the June-to-September monsoon season in India — with rice contributing three-quarters of the grain supply for the season.

Taken together, the five grains are essential for meeting India’s nutritional needs. In a paper published in Environmental Research Letters, Kyle Davis, environmental data scientist from the Data Science Institute at Columbia University found that the yields from grains such as millet, sorghum and maize are more resilient to extreme weather.

Their yields vary significantly less due to year-to-year changes in climate and generally experience smaller declines during droughts. But yields from rice, India’s main crop, experience larger declines during extreme weather conditions.

climate impact, diversifying crops
Their yields vary significantly less due to year-to-year changes in climate and generally experience smaller declines during droughts. Wikimedia Commons

“By relying more and more on a single crop — rice — India’s food supply is potentially vulnerable to the effects of varying climate,” said Davis, the lead author on the paper.

“Expanding the area planted with these four alternative grains can reduce variations in Indian grain production caused by extreme climate, especially in the many places where their yields are comparable to rice.

“Doing so will mean that the food supply for the country’s massive and growing population is less in jeopardy during times of drought or extreme weather,” he noted.

The co-authors on the paper are Ashwini Chhatre, Associate Professor at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad; Narasimha D. Rao, Assistant Professor at Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; Deepti Singh, Assistant Professor at Washington State University in Vancouver; and Ruth DeFries, University Professor of Ecology and Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

diversifying crops, climate impact
To reach this conclusion, the authors combined historical data on crop yields, temperature and rainfall. Wikimedia Commons

Temperatures and rainfall amounts in India vary from year-to-year and influence the amount of crops that farmers can produce.

With episodes of extreme climate such as droughts and storms becoming more frequent, it’s essential to find ways to protect India’s crop production from these shocks, according to Davis.

ALSO READ: Conflict and Climate Change Largely Responsible for Rising Global Hunger, Finds Study

To reach this conclusion, the authors combined historical data on crop yields, temperature and rainfall. Data on the yields of each crop came from state agricultural ministries across India and covered 46 years (1966-2011) and 593 of India’s 707 districts.

“This study adds to the evidence that increasing the production of alternative grains in India can offer benefits for improving nutrition, for saving water, and for reducing energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture,” said Davis. (IANS)