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Heatwaves worsen air quality and pollution: WMO

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GENEVA, 6th September, 2023 (WAM) — The extreme heatwaves witnessed by the world recently are increasing in intensity and frequency due to climate change. This extreme heat, compounded by wildfires and desert dust, is having a measurable impact on air quality, human health and the environment, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

The 2023 WMO Air Quality and Climate Bulletin, the third in an annual series, puts the spotlight on heatwaves to draw attention to the fact that it is not just high temperatures which are a hazard, but also the impacts of resulting pollution which are often overlooked but are just as pernicious.

“Heatwaves worsen air quality, with knock-on effects on human health, ecosystems, agriculture and indeed our daily lives,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas. “Climate change and air quality cannot be treated separately. They go hand-in-hand and must be tackled together to break this vicious cycle.”

“Wildfires have roared through huge swathes of Canada, caused tragic devastation and death in Hawaii, and also inflicted major damage and casualties in the Mediterranean region. This has caused dangerous air quality levels for many millions of people, and sent plumes of smoke across the Atlantic and into the Arctic,” Prof. Taalas stated.

Climate change caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases from human activities is a long-term global threat, the report explained.

Globally, ozone-induced crop losses average 4.4–12.4 percent for staple food crops, with wheat and soybean losses as high as 15–30 percent in key agricultural areas of East Asia.

Khoder Nashar/ Tariq Al Fahaam

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