Giving Compass' Take:
- Since climate change is causing extreme heat waves to occur and extreme heat impacts air quality, scientists recommend approaching both environmental issues simultaneously.
- How can donors help support solutions and dismantle silos in climate action and financing?
- Learn more about the deadliness of heat waves and air pollution.
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According to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), extreme heat waves resulting from human-caused climate change are significantly and measurably impacting air quality, so the two must be addressed at the same time.
This year’s WMO Air Quality and Climate Bulletin focuses on heat waves, highlighting the fact that high temperatures aren’t the only danger of the climate crisis, but heightened pollution and its impacts are consequences as well, a WMO press release said.
“Heatwaves worsen air quality, with knock-on effects on human health, ecosystems, agriculture and indeed our daily lives,” said professor Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary-general, in the press release. “Climate change and air quality cannot be treated separately. They go hand-in-hand and must be tackled together to break this vicious cycle.”
The report discusses how wildfires in the northwestern U.S. were triggered by heat waves, and how heat waves along with desert dust in Europe resulted in hazardous air quality last year. It also highlights Brazilian case studies on the ability of urban parks and tree-covered spaces to lower temperatures, absorb carbon dioxide and improve air quality.
“This Air Quality and Climate Bulletin relates to 2022. What we are witnessing in 2023 is even more extreme. July was the hottest ever month on record, with intense heat in many parts of the northern hemisphere and this continued through August,” Taalas said. “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.”
The intensity and frequency of heat waves has been exacerbated by climate change, and WMO said this is expected to continue.
The mounting consensus among scientists is that heat waves will increase the severity and risk of wildfires.
“Heatwaves and wildfires are closely linked. Smoke from wildfires contains a witch’s brew of chemicals that affects not only air quality and health, but also damages plants, ecosystems and crops – and leads to more carbon emissions and so more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” said Dr. Lorenzo Labrador, a WMO scientific officer in the Global Atmosphere Watch, the program that compiled the Bulletin, in the press release.
Today is the United Nations’ International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, and the WMO report was released to coincide with it and this year’s theme: Together for Clean Air, which focuses on the necessity of partnerships, shared responsibility and increased investment to address and overcome air pollution.
WMO points out that climate change is a long-term threat, while air pollution has more local effects that last from days to weeks.
Read the full article about extreme heat and air pollution by Cristen Hemingway Jaynes at EcoWatch.