How does air pollution affect global warming?

In this blog post, we will discuss “How does air pollution affect global warming?” Firstly, we will briefly discuss air pollution. Then, the article will outline the connection between air pollution and global warming. In the end, the article will provide practical solutions to lessen air pollution.

How does air pollution affect global warming?

Air pollution caused due to human activities such as the combustion of fossil fuels and industrial processes can create many global challenges such as global warming. The air pollutants released from these activities cause heating of the climate and causes global warming. The contaminants, which cause global warming, is as follows:

  • Methane
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Water Vapour

Let’s first discuss air pollution.

What is air pollution?

The introduction of harmful agents into the atmosphere is known as air pollution. The toxic agents are known as pollutants. These pollutants are derived from natural and human activities, and they can be chemical or biological.

Major pollutants present in the air are particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone (O3), NO2, SO2, and CO. Air also has lead, allergens, bacteria, viruses and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Besides climate change, air pollution has become a significant environmental risk to human health. 

What is Outdoor and Indoor pollution?

Air pollution in the outside environment is called outdoor pollution. The examples of outdoor pollution are as follows:

  • Transportation
  • Combustion of fossil fuel
  •  Cooking activities
  • Energy generation and consumption
  • Agriculture
  •  Improper Solid Waste Management
  • Industries and factories
  • Household pollution
  • Celebrations
  • Construction and demolition

Air pollution created inside any closed structure is called indoor pollution. The examples of indoor pollution are as follows:

  • Household activities 
  • Perfumes and fresheners 
  • Cooking fuel/activities
  • Cigarette 
  • Radon 
  • Poor ventilation 
  • Uncleaned furniture 
  • Pets 
  • Asbestos

 There are two leading causes of air pollution- natural pollution (happened due to natural events like dust storms) and anthropogenic pollution (happened due to human activities like combustion of fossil fuels).

Air pollution has shaken the balance of our ecosystem. Since the stone age, humankind has always strived hard to achieve stability and comfort in their life. Finally, we succeeded, which led to the industrial revolution, followed by urbanization and much-needed changes in the lifestyle.

However, in the process of progression, somewhere we left behind the great values of nature, we forgot the support and symbiotic existence of the environment. While human inventions, no doubt, have always helped us to save our lives, it has also given birth to much inevitable stuff. One such thing is air pollution.

Humans have tremendously exploited natural resources such as fossil fuels in the constant chase of becoming the best in every term and during the development of energy and manufacturing sectors. But, unfortunately, such combustion of fossil fuels for various purposes such as transport and energy releases lots of toxic gaseous and solid contaminants such as carbon monoxide, noxious gases and particulate matter. 

The ever-growing menace of air pollution has also created other challenges such as global warming, greenhouse effect and climate change. These challenges have affected the whole world greatly.

What causes global warming?

The greenhouse effect (GHG), as mentioned earlier, causes global warming. The challenges like global warming and climate change happen due to an upsurge in the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The term global warming was coined by Swedish physicist and chemist Svante Arrhenius in 1896. In his paper published in the Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, he quantified the carbon dioxide concentration. Therefore, scientists nowadays term it as the greenhouse effect.

What are these greenhouse gases?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), gases that confine heat in the atmosphere are greenhouse gases (GHG). The types of greenhouse gases are as follows:

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

Carbon dioxide is formed due to fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, etc. In addition, many manufacturing companies, such as cement manufacturer, also causes the generation of carbon dioxide.

Methane (CH4)

Methane is a hydrocarbon that is produced during the production and transportation of coal or natural gas. The agriculture and livestock sectors are the major contributors to methane gas. In addition, the decomposition of the organic waste also generates this gas.

Nitrous Oxide (N2O)

Nitrous Oxide is formed due to agricultural and industrial activities. Even treatment of wastewater releases nitrous oxide. Besides, the burning of fossil fuels and solid wastes generate nitrous oxide gases.

Fluorinated Gases

The industrial process generates lots of fluorinated gases. For instance, fluorinated gases are hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride. These synthetic gases are potent greenhouse gases. They are so powerful that even small quantities of them can cause depletion of the ozone layer. Therefore, as per the US EPA, these gases are called High Global Warming Potential gases (High GWP gases).

Water vapour

This is one of the most abundant greenhouse gas. In addition, scientific evidence notes that increased levels of water vapour increase cloud cover.

How does global warming occur?

The greenhouse gas effect is beneficial to us. It keeps the planet warm enough to maintain the life system on the Earth. Without the greenhouse gas effect, our world would not be habitable; it would resemble other solar system planets.

But then, you might have heard an enormous cry and agony against the greenhouse gases and their effects on the Earth. It’s because of the excess of artificially produced greenhouse gases contributing to this otherwise necessary effect.

Scientists identified the greenhouse effect back a century ago. They discovered that this effect is the earth’s natural warming due to the trapping action of the gases in the atmosphere. These gases trap the heat from the sun.

According to NASA’s Earth observatory, around 30% of the solar energy received by the earth is reflected in space. However, approximately 70% passes through the atmosphere to the earth’s surface, absorbed by land, water bodies, and the atmosphere. This process heats the planet. Further, this heat is discharged back in the form of invisible infrared light. While some of this infrared light goes back into space, about 90% gets trapped by atmospheric gases, and they are transmitted back towards the earth, which causes global warming.

Much before human civilization, this process is functioning correctly. As per NASA’s Global Climate Change portal, the concentration of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide at that time in our atmosphere, was between 180 and 280 parts per million. However, in these coming centuries, due to the industrial revolution, deforestation and successful development of humans, this concentration has skyrocketed by 50% – it climbed up to 410 parts per million. Such elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases are causing extra heat to get captivated. As a result, the global temperature also rises. 

Which GHG contributes the most to global warming?

According to US EPA, the most significant greenhouse gases are water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. In addition, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were once used as refrigerants, or aerosol propellants, are also contributors to global warming.

The ozone layer is exceptionally beneficial for the proper functioning of the Earth. The main job of the ozone is to protect the Earth from harmful ultraviolet (UVB rays) from the Sun. Without the ozone layer, humans will acquire many dangerous skin diseases such as skin cancer, cataracts and compromised immune systems. Unfortunately, this ozone layer is vulnerable to hazardous air pollutants such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). This chemical is used as the refrigerant in your refrigerators, and it is made up of chlorine atoms. When the chlorine atoms are released into the atmosphere, they can destroy ozone. A single chlorine atom has the power to kill thousands of ozone molecules. 

What are Global Warming Potential (GWP) gases?

As mentioned earlier, the fluorinated gases are called the Global Warming Potential (GWP). The US EPA said this concept was developed to measure the energy of the 1-ton emissions of gas absorbs over a while compared to the 1-ton emission of carbon dioxide. Thus, the larger GWP denotes that more gas will warm the Earth than carbon dioxide over that time period. The time period used for GWPs is equivalent to 100 years. Such measures simplify policymakers’ work of emissions reduction.

How is Global Warming affecting us?

The world is already facing global warming’s consequences. Scientists around the globe have predicted that global temperatures will carry on to escalate in the future decades due to uncontrollable greenhouse gases. The Intergovernmental Panel on the Climate Change (IPCC) have forecasted that there will be a temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century.

According to the Third and Fourth National Climate Assessment Reports, due to global warming, the duration of the frost-free season and growing season will continue to increase across most of the United States. The report warned that the western part of the United States would experience the largest upsurges in the frost-free season. However, they can be mitigated if the emissions are reduced.

The global warming condition has also messed up with the weather conditions of the United States. The precipitation pattern in the United States has become uneven. There are records of excessive rainfall than the national average in some regions, whereas some areas face scanty rain. The report also predicted that there would be more winter and spring precipitations in the northern part of the United States and less in the Southwest part. The report also forecasted that there would be an upward trend in the rain and the country will receive the highest rainfalls in the future. However, the showers will decrease in the Southwest.

The climate report warned that heatwaves would intensify, and their duration would widen in the coming centuries. The southwest region of the country will face drought conditions. There will be less intense cold waves. Such variations in temperatures due to global warming will cause a reduction in soil moisture. The heat of the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface will intensify the frequency and duration of the North Atlantic hurricanes.

The global warming condition has already started affecting the ice caps from the poles. As a result, the sea levels of the globe has risen by about 8 inches. However, by using computational models, scientists have concluded that sea levels will rise another 1 to 8 feet by 2100. In addition, researchers have said that the high tides and increase in storms will cause flooding in many regions. Further, they noted that oceans would continue to warm, and sea levels would rise at higher levels. Intense heatwaves will increase wildfires and insect outbreaks. This can further cause tree diseases and widespread tree die-off.

What is the US doing to fight global warming?

The local and state governments have made great efforts like the American Cities Climate Challenge and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The business and industrial sectors are adopting clean-energy technologies and the development of energy-efficient appliances. In addition, the American automotive industry is finding innovative ways to generate more fuel-efficient commutes, which will advocate zero emissions on the road. In 2020, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy will produce more electricity than coal in the US. President Biden has taken the initiative to tackle global warming. He has recommitted the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement.

The greenhouse effect, global warming, and climate change are part of the vicious loop. The increase the artificial air pollutants can cause trapping of the excess heat into the atmosphere. Thus, it will contribute more to global warming. Global warming will lead to changes and drastic fluctuations in the weather and climate and add to climate change.

I know these effects are too scary to imagine, but we still have time to save the Earth. So I am giving you a comprehensive list full of solutions to mitigate air pollution.

   What can I do to protect myself from air pollution?

I will elaborate on some of the measures to protect yourself from air pollution.

Personal Hygiene

You can also fight the effects of air pollution by maintaining personal hygiene:

  • You can cut your nails short to avoid the accumulation of dirt. 
  • You can also practice mouth gargling after coming home to free your mouth from unwanted guests.
  • You can also brush twice a day to keep airborne infections at bay.
  • You can also take steam therapy at home to cleanse your lungs.

Quit Smoking

Smoking cigarettes, hookahs (shisha), electric vape or any other types of cigars are not at all suitable for your health. It’s best to stop smoking. Active and passive smoking provides the direct entry of harmful pollutants into your body. This causes the risk to your respiration and other organs dependent on it. 

Physical Exercise 

Physical activities have many benefits to your body. It not only improves your stamina and immunity levels but also helps to increase your lung capacity. Yoga, sanas, swimming, running, cycling, brisk walking and dancing are some of the best forms of exercise to improve your health.

Breathing Exercise 

The majority of people in the world don’t breathe properly. However, correct breathing techniques can keep illnesses due to air pollution at bay. A pranayama is a form of yoga asana which helps to improve breathing methods and lung functionality.

Some of the pranayama types that help you fight air pollution are Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom, Chandra Nadi, Surya Nadi and Bhastrika. It is strongly recommended to learn this art of breath from a well-certified yoga trainer. 

You can also increase your lung muscles by simply taking a deep breath and holding it for a count of 10. Then, slowly breathe out the air. If you can keep your breath for a longer time, then you have good lungs health.

Good diet 

Always go for a well-balanced diet to remain fit and strong. Consistent eating of junk and fast food will increase the risk of obesity and other diseases. In addition, such people are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution. Instead, add more fresh veggies and fruits to your diet. Also, you can consume less meat to minimise carbon footprints.

You can also add anti-inflammatory foods as these types of food help to cleanse your lungs effectively. Anti-inflammatory foods which I recommend are: 

Immunity booster drinks

You can do your immunity booster drinks by using readily available items in your kitchen. Immunity booster drinks help to cleanse your lungs. Some of the DIY immunity booster drinks are as follows:

  • Take a glass of warm white milk. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder to it. Also, add two strands of saffron to it. Drink it at night before sleeping. You will get good sleep, and you will be relieved from chest congestion. 
  • Boil water by adding half cinnamon stick. Drink the spice-infused water once a day. Your sinuses would be cleared up. 
  • Buy an excellent green tea. Prepare a green tea by following the packet instructions. Have it whenever you feel irritation in your throat. 
  • Take some crushed 1 or 2 peppercorns, a half-inch of a blade of lemongrass and 1 inch of grated ginger and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Add everything in one glass of boiling water and reduce it to half a glass. Drink two tablespoons of this spice-infused warm water every after three hours. Adding honey is optional. 
  • You can also drink warm water and add honey if you want. Honey helps to relieve throat irritation.

Use Mask

Mask can prevent you from inhaling the polluted air. You would be able to work in contaminated areas without any fear of allergy infections and stress. 

Masks I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
BASE CAMP CROSSDUST MASKEAPI Filter Technology & Advanced NanotechnologyUser FriendlyMore Durable Six layers face maskFilter materials of the dust mask: Double-Layer Melt-blown with Electrostatic Adsorption Performance, Activated carbon, Non-woven Polypropylene
NIOSH approved N95 maskFour layers mask Flexible nose pad, dual strapsDisposable maskEasy to breathe
BASE CAMP Reusable Cloth Face MaskThree layers mask; 100% cotton Skin-friendly and breathablePocket to add additional filterReusable Mask

How can I individually reduce air pollution?

You can always try your level best to minimise air pollution. The following are the methods to reduce air pollution at an individual level.

Plant Trees

Encourage tree plantation drives amongst the communities. You can be a green saviour of your region. Trees are the natural air purifiers of the environment, and it supplies us with clean air.

Municipal councils or the local authorities can develop urban forests to increase the green cover of the locality. They can also plan to create vertical green walls to improve oxygen levels of the region naturally. But don’t forget to plant only indigenous trees. 

Human/ religious celebrations in eco-friendly ways 

Nowadays, many couples celebrate gender (of their baby) revealing parties by bursting firecrackers. But, unfortunately, these firecrackers can transform into massive wildfires if they are burst near trees.

Thus, you can celebrate such celebrations by planting trees in your nearby barren land. Bursting firecrackers on any religious, festive or personal occasion are only going to harm your loved ones. 

You can also celebrate Christmas by not cutting Christmas Trees. Instead, you can buy artificial ones and use them in the coming years too.

Discourage Plastic

Single-use plastic has been one of the major concerns in the environment. Plastic pollution indirectly contributes to the degradation of air quality. Plastic, when burned, releases various toxic gases such as dioxins into the air.

Encourage alternative use of the plastic product. For example, you can wear a cloth bag for shopping. You can also carry your travel cutlery set to a restaurant. Additionally, you can take your water bottle instead of purchasing a packaged drinking water bottle every time.

Use of public transportation 

Increase the use of public transport to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. You can also try carpooling or the cab sharing option. Then, you can also use bicycles instead of scooters. Lastly, you can always opt for walking a shorter distance. 

Alternative use of fossil fuel

It would be best to try switching to other fuel alternatives. For example, don’t use wood for the fireplace. Instead, you can wear multiple layers of clothes for warmth. In this way, you can conserve energy. Additionally, you can also install solar panels on house roofs to convert solar energy into electricity. 

You can also buy electric and hybrid vehicles to minimise tailpipe emissions. Finally, propose or discuss a plan with your mayor or any relevant local authority to promote your region’s renewable energy sector.

Reduction of personal carbon footprints

You can also keep a check on your carbon footprints. For example, you can delete unwanted photos, videos or emails from clouds and email boxes as and when possible. Unfortunately, this unwanted stuff takes a lot of energy, which indirectly contributes to air pollution.

You can also switch off the lights and electrical appliances of the vacant rooms. Try buying local products instead of imported ones. Be vocal about them. You can also discover your own country rather than travelling to different ones.

Create Awareness

Air pollution is unpredictable; air pollution in your vicinity can affect people living in Asia and vice-a-versa. However, you can create public awareness about air pollution amongst your community by teaching and interacting with your kids about the importance of good air. 

Educate youth by telling them the ill effects of poor air quality. Then, let your country’s future know that they deserve a better place to live!

How can the local authorities improve the air quality of your region?

You can always observe the changes happening in your surrounding nature. If you experience bad air quality or any activities producing air pollution, you can always concern relevant local authorities or the mayor.

Here are some methods which local authorities can do.

Proper disposal of waste 

Improper solid waste management of an area is an invitation to many diseases and infections. In addition, burning solid waste in public can cause air pollution, although such practices are rare in the US. 

The wastes are mainly disposed of in the engineered landfills and recycled before final disposal to landfills and waste incinerators. 

In addition, waste incinerators help to convert waste into energy.

However, many researchers have claimed that gasification technology or waste-to-energy technology may release harmful gaseous contaminants. Thus, it is necessary that waste collectors rigorously segregate the waste before sending it to waste incinerators. 

The best solution is to minimise waste at a personal level. Statistically, 70% of the waste generated can be recycled effectively. Thus, strive to recycle your waste at a personal level as much as possible.

Reducing air pollution from agriculture

Stubble burning is still practised in some parts of the US. This event contributes to the degradation of air. Local authorities can help farmers convert this waste into cattle fodder or be transformed into pellets as fuel. In addition, farmers should stop the usage of harmful pesticides or fertilisers to decrease air pollution.

How can I reduce indoor air pollution?

Maintaining household or indoor hygiene

You can decrease poor air quality by adequately maintaining indoor hygiene. For example, you can frequently clean your cupboards and open decks to avoid an accumulation of dust particles. You can then vacuum your carpets and sofas at least twice a week. 

Make sure your doggies and cats are well-groomed. Use chimneys and exhaust fans in kitchens. You can also install an exhaust fan in washrooms. Always make sure you are keeping your house well ventilated. 

Keep doors and windows open when possible. Maintain the health of electric appliances such as heaters, humidifiers, AC, fans, air ducts and so on at regular intervals of the year. Avoid overuse of strong perfumes or strong scented candles indoors. You can additionally use indoor plants to make your indoors more lively and fresh.

Indoor plants

Indoor plants do the same work as outdoor ones- they help to purify indoor air naturally. These indoor plants are also easy to maintain.

The indoor plants which I recommend are as follows: 

Air purifiers

Air purifiers help to improve indoor air quality. The risk of getting air pollution-related diseases decreases due to the use of air purifiers. Air purifiers having good HEPA filters do an adequate job of filtering pollutants.

Air Purifiers I recommend are as follows:

NameWhy I recommend it
Blueair Pro XL Air Purifier99.7% of airborne pollutants such as mould, allergens, smoke particles and pollens are captured. 
AIRMEGA 400SReduction of 99.97% of particulates of 0.3 microns. Also responsible for reducing more than 99% of VOCs, NH3 and CH3CHO.Washable and permanent pre-filters are available 
Blueair Pure 121Includes 3-part filtration system. Captures 99% of common airborne PM 2.5 pollutants such as allergens, odours, smoke, mould spores, dust mites and pet dander.An activated carbon filter removes common odours caused by smoke, pets, and gases (VOCs) and smoke caused by wildfires.

Humidifiers

The humidity levels in the office should be maintained between 30 and 50% in the office. This range helps to keep dust mites, mould and other allergens under control. In addition, when AC or heater makes the air in the room dry, humidifiers can maintain correct humidity levels.

Humidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Amazon Basics Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier 4 litre of tank capacityAuto shut-off feature and 12 or 24-hour timer settingsIt can be used in both seasons
MOVTIP HumidifierPortable Mini-humidifier500 ml capacity, still produces longer mistsEasy to operate
LEVOIT HumidifierIt can be used for both seasons6 litres of capacity Easy to clean and has a remote control

Dehumidifiers 

Dehumidifiers also work similarly to humidifiers. It controls the high levels of humidity in the office.

Dehumidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Pro Breeze DehumidifierCan extract 50 pints of moisture a dayEnergy-saving auto-off systemBuilt-in Humidity sensor
HOmeLabs DehumidifierEliminates moistness, odour controllerEasy to cleanRemovable water tank
TCL Portable Dehumidifier20 pints of moisture removed per dayIt can be operated at low temperatures tooEasy to maintain

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

How does air pollution affect nature?

How does air pollution affect plants?

How does air pollution affect poverty?

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed “How does air pollution affect global warming?” Firstly, we briefly discussed air pollution. Then,  we outlined the connection between air pollution and global warming. In the end, the article provided practical solutions to lessen air pollution.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How does air pollution affect global warming?

How does pollution affect global warming?

Global warming is caused due to a thick blanket of pollution around the Earth. This pollution traps the heat around the Earth and makes the climate warm. Such pollution is mainly produced from burning fossil fuels, heavy industrial activities, vehicular pollution, etc.

What is the effect of air pollution?

The effect of air pollution are as follows:

  • Respiratory ailments such as asthma, lung cancer and bronchitis
  • Heart diseases such as heart attack, heart failure and stroke
  • Mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts

What are the three effects of global warming?

The three effects of global warming are as follows:

  • Rapid melting of ice caps
  • Accelerated rise in the sea levels
  • Prolonged intense heat waves

What are the effects of air pollution?

The effects of air pollution are:

  • Depletion of Environmental resources
  • Degrading human health
  • Global Warming
  • Loss of biodiversity
  • Ozone layer depletion
  • Infertile Land

Is pollution worse in summer or winter?

Air pollution can be worse in both seasons; it depends upon the type of prevalent pollution. The atmospheric conditions which create weather can also affect the air quality. These atmospheric conditions are:

  • Air pressure
  • Temperature
  • Humidity

Can snow get polluted?

Yes, snow can get polluted. Snowfall may absorb pollutants like dirt, pesticides, and other contaminants present in the air. However, the pollutant levels may be below toxic levels. This level depends upon the area type—urban or rural areas and the activities happening around.

References

Climate Change Indicators: Greenhouse Gases, EPA. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/greenhouse-gases

Overview of Greenhouse Gases, EPA. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases  

Understanding Global Warming Potentials, EPA. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/understanding-global-warming-potentials  

Demchak, M., 2019. Greenhouse effect 101. NRDC. Available at: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/greenhouse-effect-101  

MacMillan, A. & Turrentine, J., 2021. The effects of climate change. NASA. Available at: https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/  

Means, T., 2021. Greenhouse gases: Causes, sources and environmental effects. LiveScience. Available at: https://www.livescience.com/37821-greenhouse-gases.html  

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