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Careless Consumption: Developed Countries Responsible for Worsening Pollution in East Asia

Sep 09, 2016 04:00 AM EDT
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Air pollution is one of the most severe environmental problems in East Asia. But where does Asia's air pollution come from?

A study published recently in the journalNature Geoscience revealed that most of East Asia's aerosol emissions are driven by consumption in the developed countries of Western Europe and North America. This marks the first time the climate effect of international trade had been calculated.

Researchers looked at a number of aerosols, tiny particles suspended in air, created through manufacturing and energy production.

"Our study revealed a strong, yet little-recognized link among consumption, trade and environmental and climate consequences," says co-author, atmospheric scientist Yi Huang in a press release. ''Although global pollution is largely generated in developing countries, it is foreign demand that drives much of the goods production and associated pollution.''

According to the study, while natural aerosols emanate a cooling effect in the environment, man-made aerosols such as those emitted through industrial processes or fossil fuels, contain black carbon, sulfate, nitrate and ammonium. These elements contribute to global warming through an effect known as "radiative forcing."

A study about climate change defines radiative forcing as an "externally imposed perturbation in theradiative energy budget of the Earth's climate system brought about by secular changes in the concentrations of radiatively active species such as carbon dioxide and aerosols." The imbalance of Earth's energy budget alters the climate parameters.

NASA said man-made aerosols cause polluted clouds to last longer and reflect more sunlight than non-polluted clouds.

Quoting another study from the University of Maryland, New York Times writes that aerosol emissions causes drier regions to experience even less rain and wetter regions to experience more rainfall as well as severe weather.

The research suggests developed nations must find effective ways to reduce their negative environmental impacts to less developed regions to make the growth inclusive to all.

"A rational person may ask what is the optimal way to distribute goods production such that the overall global pollution and climate forcing is minimized,'' Huang adds. ‘'This important question has yet to be addressed, but could be through the framework and ideas laid out in this study.''

Read:
Ocean Warming Now at Dangerous Level; Wreaking Havoc in Marine Life, Human Health
Success! London's Air Pollution Levels are Dropping, Thanks to Smart Policies
UN: More Than 300 Million at Risk Due to Polluted Waters

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