Air pollution and the environment
How is reducing air pollution also a means to tackle the climate crisis?
Climate change and air pollution are both issues associated with the burning of fossil fuels i.e. many sources of air pollution are the same sources that contribute to climate change. This means that reducing sources such as carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, will not only help to improve air quality but may also help to tackle climate change.
Burning fossil fuels for electricity, manufacturing, heating, transportation and agriculture creates greenhouse gas emissions. In the UK , transport is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and to some types of air pollution. Burning fossil fuels produces a variety of emissions. Some of these emissions, such as carbon dioxide, cause climate change. Some emissions, such as nitrogen dioxide, damage our health and some, such as black carbon, do both. Reducing fossil fuel burning therefore has the dual benefit of directly reducing both air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. However, these benefits will only be seen if the technologies replacing the burning of fossil fuels, emit less pollution and carbon. A good example is wind or solar power for electricity production, which do not produce harmful emissions. On the other hand, some replacement technologies such as biomass boilers and wood burning stoves emit PM2.5 (particles) which contribute to poor air quality and are harmful to our health. Encouragingly, for virtually all the changes proposed on the CCC Net Zero Pathway, positive, improved and better air quality outcomes can be envisaged.
How about the effects on nature?
Air pollution is bad for nature as well as people, and is impacting on and contributing to the loss of wildlife. Scientific evidence clearly shows the negative effects of air pollution on wild plants, trees, fungi, mosses and lichens, with knock-on effects for wildlife and whole ecosystems in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.