Atmospheric pollution: The Atmospheric Issues and Global Warming
It is often noted that air pollution is the oldest form of pollution that had existed alongside water pollution since the early civilizations. Nonetheless, it is also one of the most controversial forms of pollution considering the arguments that had been discussed regarding the nature of its effects to the atmosphere and subsequently, global warming. Air pollution or atmospheric pollution does not only affect biodiversity in the extent of its content, but it also fosters the slowly deteriorating quality of the earth’s ozone layer and atmosphere. As noted by historians, the problem itself had already attached its influence to the planet since man discovered fire and had rapidly increased by the time of the Industrial Revolution; its effects are considered fatal if air pollution prevention would not implemented around the globe. This paper will discuss the nature of atmospheric pollution, its effects to mankind, the several solutions stressed around the globe to foster air sustainability and the writer’s personally drafted action plan for air sustainability.
According to Jacobson (2002) air pollution had long been present since the Earth itself began. Natural air pollution came from dust, volcano eruptions, natural fires, desert storms and even the regular water cycle as salt particles also remain in the air. In these early times, humans contributed to the natural air pollution through burning wood, land clearing, and cooking. However, by the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, man had increased his share of air pollution as he slowly burnt fossil fuels, chemicals, transportation fuel, and even waste. There are also cases that chemicals had been released by accident to the atmosphere, creating several air pollution manifestations: urban smog, indoor air pollution, acid deposition, ozone depletion and reduction, and subsequently, global warming. While air pollution had remained untouched by governments given the lack of consequences it seemed to present, studies have already been done showcasing the negative consequences it presents. However, no one had heeded information as to the influence of human-induced atmospheric pollution or naturally induced atmospheric pollution to the currently heating planet with the researches that had been done since the 1900s. Maslin (2007) had noted that the scientific community had already ideas on how atmospheric pollution affects the planet and the possible consequences it could entail once it is not remedied. One of the earliest known studies was done in 1896 by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius with his theory discussing on how man’s continuous production of carbon dioxide causes an increase in the atmosphere’s CO2 levels, thereby heating the planet in the process. While Arrhenius’ study was not accepted by the scientific community upon his discovery, other scientists had supported his theory such as Roger Revelle and Charles Keeling in 1950. Revelle had discovered that carbon dioxide molecules take ten years to dissolve naturally and immediately returns to the atmosphere given the chemistry of the ocean. For Keeling, he studied the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide rates in both Antarctica and Mauna Loa to see the gradual increase each year. In his research, Keeling discovered that the average carbon dioxide rates have increased since 1958 and continuous to increase. He had also estimated that it is possible that in the 20th century, the global temperatures could have increased up to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
The effects of atmospheric pollution, as noted by Molina and Molina (2004) presents consequences that may influence not just human life but also biodiversity. In their study, adverse health impacts have been recorded around the globe to areas recorded to have high concentrations of air pollution. While the effects vary from the intensity and duration of exposure to air pollution, age and health capacity of a person would also influence the health risks it presents. The most usual health effects of air pollution are the contraction of airborne diseases such as respiratory and cardiopulmonary diseases such as asthma, tuberculosis, and cancer. It also manifests with infections such as in the eyes, skin, and in the ears before it mutates into a more severe disease or complication. In some regions, such as in Canada, air pollution had also caused 1900 premature deaths and 46 million illnesses to be recorded in 2000 alone. India had recorded increased cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and acute coronary events due to air pollution. The study had also noted that visibility impairment can also be caused by air pollution if the pollutants reach a high concentration. Urban haze is the most common example of result of high concentrations of air pollutants. In China, air pollution had caused the country’s visibility quality to be low especially in foggy days. In Egypt, a black cloud had also been reported to develop in highly concentrated polluted airways due to rice straw burnings, which causes low visibility hours in farm lands and in the Nile region .
Jacobson had noted that global warming in itself was a problem that would cause regional impacts, given the nature of the pollution visibly seen in the area. However, in the case of air pollution, possible sustainability projects and air pollution prevention plans would have been difficult as no one owns air privately. He cited that there is only one known mechanism that could limit air pollution aside from the community and individual volunteering, government intervention. Of course, intervention could take the form in various mediums such as economic markets for carbon dioxide emitters, emission monitoring and regulation for various chemicals, and the administration of emission reduction through government methods. While these procedures could effectively limit or reduce global air pollution, the problem of involving everyone or having a united consensus would influence its effectiveness. Throughout history, governments did not immediately intervened in the growing rate of air pollution despite its visible impacts economically, physically and globally until the results of the studies done by the international community in the 1970s pointed out the problem’s importance. Today, government intervention remains to be hindered by various conservatives and skeptic groups, including industries known to produce high concentrations of CFC and CO2 emissions as it would drastically influence the country’s economic status. In some cases, especially in Third World Countries, they would not accept air pollution prevention strategies due to the perceived prices of emission-control frameworks and devices . According to Brunekreef and Holgate (2002), the international community and regional environmental agencies had enforced several guidelines to ensure the reduction of atmospheric pollution and emissions. In the case of the United States Environmental Protection Agency aims to reduce the nation’s carbon emissions up to 157 parts per million, the European Union announced that it proposes to reduce 120 parts per million emissions while the World Health Organization aims to achieve a global output of 100 parts per million. Nonetheless, the WHO had advised governments to decide on their own air quality standards as the problem varies per region .
The table below is my personal stance on how achieve air sustainability and foster actions to eliminate or reduce air or atmospheric pollution:
(in the correct order)
Acquiring data and current studies on atmospheric/air pollution and its effects.
Accumulate past and recent environmental studies on air pollution, quality, effects, and prevention
Assess acquired information based from its date of publication, arguments, evidences and content.
Locate documentaries, films and short clips detailing air pollution, its effects and the current action for prevention
Attend local or state symposiums regarding air pollution and prevention
Devising information dissemination programs and citizen action plans to aid in prevention strategies
Develop information dissemination mediums (ex. flyers, posters, guides, commercials or videos) to enable citizens to understand the importance of air pollution prevention by introducing the issue and its effects with graphics and easy to understand text.
Develop a citizen action plan on how citizens could apply acquired information on air pollution prevention in their own homes.
The citizen action plan include: proper recycling techniques, waste disposal, CFC producing item identification, and weekly town meetings to discuss other prevention strategies on air pollution
Scheduling presentation dates for both local and state participants
Attend a public town or state meeting to present the dissemination programs and citizen action plans, including its benefits for the participants.
Request local or state officials to include the proposal for the next month agendas for analysis, revisions or approval.
Present the proposals with an audio-visual presentation, detailing procedures on how the proposal will be implemented.
Identify and invite community participants.
Tally the number of homes in the community and create a survey as to their knowledge on air pollution and prevention strategies.
Distribute flyers regarding the first meeting to discuss the citizen action plans and discussions on questions citizens may have on the disseminated flyers.
The action plan presented above presents several benefits and challenges considering that it would begin in a community scale. The first benefit visible in the action plan is the scale of the intended audience, or the community level. Nowadays, communities are unaware as to the importance of pollution prevention and community-level prevention programs. Most of these communities come from the middle and lower class groups, thus the lack of acknowledgement of their actions. With the action plan in place, it would be able to reach out to these communities and educate them with easy to understand information mediums (which may either be in the form of flyers, videos, audio, or commercials). Another benefit of the action plan is that it would be able to educate people on how they could contribute in air pollution prevention while in their backyard. From the simple recycling techniques to proper waste management and product use, families can contribute in reducing CO2 emissions that may influence global warming. A citizen action plan would also be beneficial in some extent to introduce cooperation within the community on how they could put their knowledge on air pollution and come up with other ways they could sustain air pollution prevention in their area. Disseminated information would also be easily transmitted online, wherein the youth could also browse the facts easily while online.
A visible challenge to enforce this personal action plan is the voluntary cooperation of the community and the officials to try out the program. Nowadays, some programs on prevention plans have been reduced in funding due to other issues that require more budgets. In this case, the officials may think twice on cooperating on the program due to the fees that would be incurred while implementing the action plan. In this action plan, there must be funds to be distributed to designing, printing and disseminating information on air pollution plans and modules. There is also the need to employ some people to help in acquiring information, dissemination and in presentation to the public and the officials. In terms of the cooperation of the people, some may not attend in meetings or reject house visits given the time they would need to allot. Others, or the skeptics, may say it is a waste of time to do the plan as they do not believe in the problem of global warming. A few would appreciate the action plan but given their financial status and their literacy, they may not voluntarily cooperate or join in the CAP. Another challenge for the action plan is the information that must be included in the data mediums to be disseminated to the public. While the group may deem information easily understandable, the wording may cause problems for the citizens or the officials that would read the data. There is also the fact that some citizens may find it hard to understand text data given their literacy, thus the need to develop graphic plan mediums. Another considerable challenge is to ensure that the public would continue the CAP even without supervision. While some may enthusiastically greet the plan, in the long run, many may not see the benefits of the plan.
In ensuring that the action plan drafted above would be implemented, it is crucial that the local government units, NGOs that may find the plan interesting for application, and for state officials to support the plan. In a social scale, having this plan implemented would need the 100% cooperation and support of the community given the capacity of one society to produce air pollution through improper waste disposal, CFC producing product use and irregular car maintenance that could produce toxic gas through smoke belching. In a political scale, any plan would not push through without the support or acknowledgement of the local or state politicians. Without their support, it is possible that no one in society would allot their time to try the action plan or cooperate on any initiative. If the plan is applied globally, it would be up to the society and for the government officials to tweak the plan to customize their atmospheric pollution situation and their initiatives.
Brunekreef, B., & Holgate, S. (2002). Air pollution and health. Lancet, 360, 1233-1242.
Jacobson, M. (2002). Atmospheric Pollution: History, Science and Regulation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Maslin, M. (2007). Global Warming: Causes, Effects, and the Future. Minnesota: MBI Publishing Company.
Molina, M., & Molina, L. (2004). Megacities and Atmospheric Pollution. Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association, 54, 644-680.
Pittock, B. (2009). Climate change: the science, impacts and solutions. Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing.