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Brown Soot Clouds Over Asia Threaten Catastroph

November 14, 2008
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean as seen from the...

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Whenever we happen to mention “a darker future” we usually mean figuratively. But this could literally be true if the results of a scientific study carried out by the United Nations Environment Program are anything to go by. It seems there now exists in the atmosphere “a more than three-km thick layer of soot and other man-made particles that stretches from the Arabian Peninsula to China and the western Pacific Ocean“,

These “atmospheric brown clouds” result mostly from the burning of fossil fuels and biomass, and they naturally worsen the impact of climate change caused by the emission of greenhouse gas emissions. It is found that about 13 cities in Asia and nearby regions including Beijing and New Delhi already bear the brunt of its impact of receiving¬† lesser sunlight and increasing health hazzards.

India as a whole had become darker by about two percent per decade between 1960 and 2000, while China had lost its natural light by about three percent to four percent per decade from the 1950s to the 1990s. Poor air quality, less productive agriculture affecting food production and heightening the impact of climate change are the immediate portends.

According to lead scientist Veerabhadran Ramanathan of the US-based Scripps Institution of Oceanography, “One of the most serious problems highlighted in the report is the documented retreat of the Hind Kush-Himalayan-Tibetan glaciers, which provide the head-waters for most Asian rivers, and thus have serious implications for the water and food security of Asia,”

The report identified three Asian regional hotspots for the giant clouds of pollution: eastern China; the Indo-Gangetic plains stretching across parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar; and Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, and
Vietnam.

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