Heat waves amplify air quality and pollution: WMO report

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“Heat waves degrade air quality, which has side effects on human health, ecosystems, agriculture and even our daily lives,” warned WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas. “Climate change and air quality cannot be dealt with separately. They go hand in hand and must be addressed together to break this vicious cycle.”

The report emphasizes that wildfires, often fueled by extreme heat, have caused destruction in various parts of the world. Canada has seen massive wildfires, Hawaii has suffered tragic devastation, and the Mediterranean region has seen significant damage and casualties. These events have resulted in hazardous air quality levels that have affected millions of people and sent plumes of smoke long distances, including into the Arctic.

Climate change, caused by the heat trapping of greenhouse gases from human activities, is a long-term global threat. One of the report’s critical findings is that ozone-induced crop losses average between 4.4 and 12.4 percent of staple food crops worldwide. In the central agricultural regions of East Asia, such as wheat and soybean production areas, losses can be as high as 15–30 percent.

The report emphasizes the urgent need to integrate actions to solve problems related to climate change and air quality. As heat waves become more frequent and proliferate, they not only challenge human health and safety, but also disrupt ecosystems and agriculture, with far-reaching consequences for our planet.

In conclusion, the WMO report is a stark reminder that curbing climate change and mitigating its air quality impacts are interrelated challenges that require immediate and concerted global action.

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