UN Climate Organization Warns Link Between Pollution, Weather, Climate Impact Health

By Lisa Schlein

GENEVA (RPRN)23 March 2009– The United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization says there is a close relationship between weather-climate systems and global pollution. The organization says these relationships also affect people’s health.

The World Meteorological Organization says 90 percent of all natural disasters are related to weather, water and climate events. It says air quality is an important factor as well.

The World Health Organization estimates about two million people die prematurely every year due to air pollution, more than half in developing countries. WHO says declining air quality worsens illnesses and deaths from asthma, heart disease, and lung cancer.

The relationship between climate, weather, air quality and health is the theme of this year’s World Meteorological Day, which is observed Monday.
WMO Secretary-General, Michel Jarraud, says the scientific community is becoming increasingly aware of the inter-connection.

“For the air quality, what we are talking about is not only the sort of traditional pollutants as you could imagine them,” he noted. “But, it is also many of the gases, which are the greenhouse gases that are also influencing the quality of the air when they are abundant in the lower atmosphere.”

WMO scientists assess and monitor air pollutants such as ground-level ozone, smog, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide. Most of these substances directly result from the industrial, urban and vehicular combustion of fossil fuels.

Jarraud says an analysis of this data enables scientists to better forecast the distribution of potentially harmful pollutants in the atmosphere. He says it is increasingly important to do this analysis in connection with urbanization because more than half of the world population lives in urban areas.

“The pollution issues are even more acute in the big urban areas,” he said. “Something else, which we hope does not happen very often, but which happens from time to time are the accidents which can release huge amounts of chemicals or radioactive-during Chernobyl, the radioactive things. We also provide forecasts in order to predict where these things will go, which are the areas which are the most likely affected.”

WMO says a warming climate can exacerbate air pollution. For example, it says climate change and land use are expected to increase desertification worldwide, increasing the risk of sand and dust storms.

It says climate change models show particle-producing fires will continue to increase in both frequency and intensity with rising global temperatures. Drought also is likely to increase, leading to more fires.

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