Air pollution in Asia is not only affecting the health of its population but is most seriously having a damaging impact on global warming. Most of the approximately four billion people living in Asia wear masks when outside to shield themselves from thick clouds of pollution, as days where the blue sky is visible become scarcer. Whilst the increasing urbanisation of countries in the far east has seen an alarming number of deaths caused by pollution, new actions are being made to reduce the growing threat that this has on our climate.
A staggering 60% of the earth’s total population lives in Asia and is responsible for a recent surge in the sales of cars and motorbikes. The pollution produced by the vast quantity of vehicles in Asian cities is only exacerbated by the: increasing number of coal-burning power plants, rapid deforestation and factories built due to Asia’s booming economy. Beyond the effects that industrialisation and heavy traffic has on the climate, the fumes produced by fires burnt by the large portion of those living in poverty further contribute substantially to Asia’s air pollution.
The pollutants produced by this fast growth in the economy have drastic impacts on the climate. Scientists have found that this results in a lose-lose scenario: the pollutants (carbon dioxide and methane) emitted from these large cities retain heat from the sun and contribute to the warming of the earth. This rise in temperature has now been shown to worsen pollution as it increases the levels of surface ozone (a toxic pollutant produced by a chemical reaction between high temperatures and NOx and VOC pollutants) in the atmosphere. Furthermore, greenhouse gases are responsible for strong storms and cyclones in addition to irregular cloud formations, all of which are having a global impact.
As a direct consequence, the growing mortality rate has motivated new strategies to combat the worst pollution on earth. New energy efficient housing equipped with solar technology is being built in addition to the implementation of eco-friendly public transport. Moreover, investments have been made in new pedestrian-only areas and bike paths, all in the hope of reducing emissions and managing the toxic fumes produced by these megacities.
Whilst these new features are aimed to revert some of the damage already done, they are only being included in higher-income areas, and much progress needs to be made to assist poorer areas before pollution can be drastically reduced.