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Climate Change: Reducing Industrial Air Pollution Essay

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Updated: Jun 3rd, 2021

Introduction

Industries present one of the most severe climate change actors and air pollutants. Toxic substances released by plants and factories in large amounts are detrimental to both humans and the planet as a whole. In order to fight these negative effects, environmentalists need to find solutions that will allow combining industrial development with minimized disastrous influence on people’s health. So far, industrial air pollution is a highly dangerous factor impeding positive living conditions and deteriorating the health of millions of individuals.

Main body

Whether it is noticeable or not, air pollution is a frequent occurrence nowadays. Technological breakthroughs have made and continue to be making existence easier and more comfortable, but they come with a price. Carbon dioxide, smoke, soot, and other harmful substances undermine citizens’ health on a daily basis. The image by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which was taken in 2016, offers just a small part of a large picture (see fig. 1).

The rationale behind selecting this photograph is to show that although emissions do not always look menacingly grey or black, they are pervasive. The director of the Clean Air Project, John Walke, notes that the largest amount of air pollution comes from energy production and use (Mackenzie). An “especially destructive feedback loop” causes an interconnection between air pollution and climate change (Mackenzie).

On the one hand, air pollution reinforces climate change, and on the other hand, climate change aggravates air pollution. According to the NRDC, soot and smog are the most common air pollution types (Mackenzie). Since these substances are the result of industrial production, it is crucial to analyze the possibilities of reducing their amount.

Industrial air pollution
Fig. 1. Industrial air pollution (Natural Resources Defense Council).

The World Health Organization (WHO) pays much attention to investigating the causes of air pollution and finding solutions to them. One of the most effective measures of air quality in the USA is the Air Quality Index (AQI), which estimates air conditions by concentrations of such pollutants as particle solution (particulate matter), nitrogen and sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and ground-level ozone (Nunez).

Particulate matter is composed of microscopic particles of dust, chemicals, or allergens in the form of solids or gas that are released in the air (Mackenzie). Statistics provided by the WHO indicate that in 2016, nearly 4.2 million premature deaths were caused by poor-quality outdoor air (Nunez). Industrial air pollution is connected with severe health issues as heart disease, increased risk of cancer, stroke, and asthma.

According to data collected by the American Lung Association, more than 40% of American citizens have an increased danger of becoming ill or dying due to air pollution issues (Nunez). These long-term implications may be aggravated by short-term problems, such as dizziness, sneezing, coughing, and eye irritation. Hence, industrial air pollution undermines people’s health and may shorten their lives considerably.

Air pollution is considered to have reached its peak with the start of the industrial revolution, so the contribution of industrial causes to this negative phenomenon cannot be overestimated. One of the most dangerous pollutants in this relation is sulfur dioxide, the history of which can be traced to the 17th century when fossil fuel production was the most important resource of energy (Ritchie and Roser).

With the advent of industrialization, the amount of sulfur dioxide in the air rose considerably in Europe and North America in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, in the 21st century, a decrease in sulfur dioxide emissions was marked on these continents (Ritchie and Roser). Instead, in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where industrialization developed later, the level of this dangerous substance in the air is increasing at present. This is one of the many examples of the destructive effect that industries have on the air people breathe. There is a large number of hazardous pollutants, nearly 200 of which are regulated by law (Mackenzie). The most dangerous ones are benzene, lead, mercury, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons released by wildfire smoke and traffic exhaust.

While industrial pollution is the most dangerous contributor to a variety of poor health outcomes, some may argue that people cannot survive without the advantages offered by industries. Without gas and electricity, people would not be able to heat and light their houses, cook food, or use gadgets. Without transport, citizens would not be able to cover long distances within short periods of time. Without agricultural advancements, there would be fewer food options, especially in places with poor climates. Undoubtedly, all of these achievements that became possible due to the development of industry should not be underestimated.

However, it is crucial to revise the present statutes of many factories, plants, and other institutions that release dangerous chemicals as a result of their work. Moreover, the industry sector is accountable for 21% of greenhouse gases, which is highly hazardous for the ozone layer (Brumley). Thus, while industrialization has brought apparent benefits for people, they should not neglect the possibilities of reducing the negative effect of production on air. Generating resources for humans’ comfort is useful, but it is important not to neglect the vital natural resources without which people cannot survive.

The reduction of the number and amount of dangerous air pollutants is discussed both at global and local levels. Every country tries to come up with viable solutions to mitigate the risks posed by industrial air pollution. There exists a common opinion that it is easier for middle- and high-income countries to fight pollutants than for low-income states. However, recent research indicates that such a view is erroneous (Landrigan et al. 463). Thus, it is possible to find appropriate ways out in countries will different levels of income.

One of the possible approaches to reducing industrial air pollution is altering transport policies. Fuel consumption varies among countries since it is contingent on the accessibility of natural resources, the available energy per unit of fuel volume, and the stability and prices of fuel (Crippa et al. 3827). To reduce the emission of carbon dioxide, which is one of the most dangerous gases, Greenpeace recommends shifting from driving private cars to car sharing, cycling, walking, or using public transport (Morozzo).

Another common pollutant, nitrous oxide, is produced as a result of such activities as chemical production, biomass and fuel combustion, agricultural processes, and sewage treatment procedures (Li et al. 5290). Managing programs, such as domestic regulation, are suggested to employ to overcome this problem. These approaches include increasing the production of renewable energy, raising energy efficiency, and advocating energy-saving habits (Li et al. 5295). By using such methods, governments are likely to decrease the detrimental emissions in the air.

It has been found that preventive measures can be rather cost-effective, and they do not necessarily involve considerable financial input. As Landrigan et al. remark, the enactment of legislation and regulations authorizing clean water and air has allowed many countries to curb their “most flagrant forms of pollution” (463). Evidence indicates that such countries have cleaner air and lower lead concentration in blood, and their rivers and waste sites have become much less dangerous (Landrigan et al. 463). In high-income countries, such results were obtained simultaneously with increasing their gross domestic product (GDP).

Therefore, scholars note, it is not necessarily the question of financial stability that can resolve industrial air pollution problems. Countries with low income can start with implementing some of the policies and gradually increase their number. The initial opportunities for low-income countries are improving the public transport system and encouraging active travel. In the long run, the promotion of such strategies is likely to increase such countries’ GDP.

Conclusion

Industrial air pollution is one of the acutest aspects of modern healthcare and environmental systems. Polluted air affects both climate change and people’s health, which aggravates the problem. A variety of harmful substances resulting from industrial activity hurts citizens’ health and can even reduce their longevity. Poor-quality air causes premature deaths and provokes the deterioration of seemingly minute health problems.

At a global rate, polluted air has a destructive effect on the ozone layer, which causes major changes in climate. Although the issue is highly dramatic, scientists and environmentalists have come up with a variety of plausible solutions to manage the quality of air. By combining the efforts, governments of various countries come up with effective approaches to managing the outcomes of industrial air pollution.

Works Cited

Brumley, Sarah. “BizFluent. 2019. Web.

Crippa, Monica, et al. “Forty Years of Improvements in European Air Quality: Regional Policy-Industry Interactions with Global Impacts.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, vol. 16, no. 6, 2016, pp. 3825-3841.

Landrigan, Philip J., et al. “The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health.” The Lancet, vol. 391, no. 10119, 2018, pp. 462-512.

Li, Li, et al. “Reducing Nitrous Oxide Emissions to Mitigate Climate Change and Protect the Ozone Layer.” Environmental Science and Technology, vol. 48, no. 9, 2014, pp. 5290-5297.

Mackenzie, Jack. “NRDC. 2016. Web.

Morozzo, Paul. “Greenpeace. 2016. Web.

Natural Resources Defense Council. Industrial Air Pollution. 2016. NRDC. Web.

Nunez, Christina. “Climate 101: Air Pollution.” National Geographic. 2019. Web.

Ritchie, Hannah, and Max Roser. “Air Pollution.” Our World in Data. 2017. Web.

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