Rome: Most of the global population will be exposed to degraded air quality in 2050 if man-made emissions continue as usual, according to a new study.
The average world citizen 40 years from now will experience similar air pollution to that of today's average East Asian citizen.
Air pollution is a major health risk that may worsen with increasing industrial activity. At present, urban outdoor air pollution causes 1.3 million estimated deaths per year worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation.
"Strong actions and further effective legislation are essential to avoid the drastic deterioration of air quality, which can have severe effects on human health," concluded the team of scientists, led by Andrea Pozzer of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy (now at the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry, Germany), the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics reported.
The researchers studied the impact of man-made emissions on air quality, assuming past emission trends continue and no additional climate change and air pollution reduction measures (beyond what is in place since 2005) are implemented. They point out that, while pessimistic, the global emissions trends indicate such continuation, according to a statement of Abdus Salam International Centre.
"At present the post-Kyoto climate negotiations are progressing slowly, and it is unclear how air quality policies will develop globally," explained co-author Greet Janssens-Maenhout of the European Commission Joint Research Centre in Italy.
"In regions with economic growth, it might be less effective to implement emission-reduction measures due to strong growth in activities in particular sectors; in countries suffering from the economic downturn, implementing expensive air-quality measures could prove difficult in coming years," she added.
"We show that further legislation to control and reduce man-made emissions is needed, in particular for eastern China and northern India, to avoid hot-spots of elevated air pollution," said Pozzer.
Combined with the fact that these are regions of high population density, elevated air pollution here would mean that air quality would worsen significantly for the average world citizen in 2050.
Air pollution would also increase in Europe and North America, but to a much lesser extent than in Asia, due to the effect of mitigation policies that have been in place for over two decades.
First Published: Thursday, August 02, 2012, 12:39