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Analysis and Comment (37)

Air pollution is harming India’s wheat farmers. EPA

Want to feed the world? Tackle pollution from ozone and soot

Researchers have long known that man-made climate change will harm yields of important crops, possibly causing problems for the world’s food security. But new research shows air pollution doesn’t just…
Despite firefighters' efforts, the Hazelwood mine fire showered the nearby town of Morwell with pollution. AAP Image/Country Fire Authority

Dirty air, dodgy politics: why it’s easier to attack science than listen to Morwell fire death stats

I’m quite nervous about writing this. I’m going to stray from my familiar academic world into a political one, and it’s on an issue that may very well have killed several people. My reputation has already…
China’s air pollution reached crisis levels last year - but dealing with it could also mitigate climate change. William Veerbeek/Flickr

China’s plan to combat pollution will fight climate change too

Last month was the hottest May in terms of global surface temperature in a historical record that extends back 130 years, according to NASA, and with an El Niño forecast for the end of the year, we could…
The South Australian town of Port Pirie – home to a historic smelter – has some of the worst reported toxic air pollution in Australia. Photo by Imre Hillenbrand www.universalfocus.com.au

Australia’s dirty secret: who’s breathing toxic air?

Australians living in poorer communities, with lower employment and education levels, as well as communities with a high proportion of Indigenous people, are significantly more likely to be exposed to…
Taking precautions in Manchester. Dave Thompson/PA Archive

Understanding the pollution that’s hurting our health

The visibly high levels of pollution southern England is experiencing have drawn all of our attention to the ill-effects bad air quality can have on our health. Wherever we live, there is always a risk…
Sahara on the move. SeaWiFS/NASA/ORBIMAGE

Explainer: how does Saharan sand end up in the UK?

Being perched off the northwest edge of Europe means that people in the UK are not often reminded of the vast Sahara desert situated only a few thousand miles to the south. This great desert is located…
Spoiler alert. Richard Masoner/Cyclelicious

The particles big and small that make up Saharan smog

The UK news media has been buzzing with reports of air pollution alerts associated, at least in part, with the long-range transport of dust from the Sahara. Colleagues from Africa have asked why British…
Forbidden forest to replace the Forbidden City? myheimu

Planting forests across Beijing could help combat pollution

Smog has become an unfortunate feature of Chinese city skylines. Air pollution has gotten so bad in recent years that citizens have rallied and the government has declared a war upon it. One weapon in…
Firefighters say they have the Hazelwood mine fire under control, but it’s still expected to burn for some time. AAP Image/Incident Control Centre hazelwood

Stronger laws needed to prevent another Hazelwood coal mine fire

The Hazelwood coal mine fire shows that Victoria’s current mining laws are not strong enough to prevent a similar disaster in the future. While the mine’s owner GDF SUEZ has vehemently rejected claims…
Tourists wear protective masks in smoggy Tiananmen Square on February 26, 2014, when the air quality was officially ‘hazardous’. EPA/Rolex Dela Pena

China can’t smother growing public demands to clear the air

Beijing has once again experienced extremely poor air quality, in what is becoming a regular event for the Chinese capital and other parts of the country. But has anything changed since the last “airpocalypse…
Firefighters battling the blaze at an open-cut coal mine in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, with Hazelwood power station in the background. AAP Image/Incident Control Centre Hazelwood

Victoria’s coal fire poses a rare challenge for firefighting

Victoria’s Hazelwood coal mine is still burning, nearly three weeks after it started from a grassfire during severe fire conditions. Police are currently investigating the original fire for arson. Meanwhile…
Thick haze has shrouded Shanghai for the past week, in the latest instance of extreme air pollution. Wikimediacommons/Galaxyharrylion

Shanghai’s ‘airpocalypse’: can China fix its deadly pollution?

The current “airpocolypse” emergency in Shanghai - which has seen schoolchildren ordered indoors to protect them from the polluted air, flights grounded and companies ordered to cut production - comes…
The role pollution aerosols play in climate change is incredibly complicated. CzechR/Flickr

Masking and unmasking of global warming by aerosols

Climate scientists have established a convincing case for the link between increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases and observed warming of the Earth since the 19th century. The Fifth Assessment Report…
Cold weather and coal-burning fires have plunged China into another air pollution disaster. EPA/Hao Bin

China is groping its way through another ‘airpocalypse’

The cold weather has come, the coal-powered heating has been switched on, and China’s north is once more swathed in thick smog. Air pollution has been a worsening problem in China in recent years, and…
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans. Andrew Tseng

Air pollution causes cancer, so let’s do something about it

Late last week, the world’s leading experts on cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans. The agency’s report, Air Pollution…
Cheap emissions permits means industry hasn’t traded in its polluting ways. David Davies/PA

Permits to pollute can be bought too cheaply

When the carbon price collapsed to below €3 in April this year, EU policymakers sought to prop up carbon prices by a deal that would delay the release of carbon allowances (known as “backloading”). This…
What is coming out of our tailpipes that we can’t see? Lewis Whyld/PA

Explainer: nanoparticles in air pollution

Hearing the words “airborne nanoparticles” for the first time, one would probably ask: just how tiny are they, where do they come from, and do we need to worry about them? These tiny particles between…
Pollution face masks are not just for China. Dave Thompson/PA

Air pollution is not yet a thing of the past

It may seem odd for the European Commission to declare 2013 the “Year of the Air” in order to focus on improving air quality standards. Most would feel air pollution is a problem that has been more or…
Thousands of dead pigs pulled from a Chinese river are pushing China’s parliament to take the environment more seriously. Philippe Semanaz

Pigs and pollution: China can’t keep ignoring the environment

In a joke currently circulating on China’s most popular social media, Sina Weibo, a Beijing resident boasts about his happy life in the badly air-polluted capital, saying that every morning when he opens…
Heavy smog is descending on Beijing again, a week after record air pollution choked China’s capital and much of northern China. AAP/EPA/Adrian Bradshaw

Deadly air: the smog shrouding China’s future

Beijing has been smothered by a dense and dangerous smog this month, which has set new air pollution records over several days. The World Health Organization advises that the acceptable level of fine particles…
Nice when a few sandstone houses get smoking, but what are people breathing in bigger rural towns where wood stoves are common? Flickr/welshmackem

Should we worry about winter chimney haze in rural towns?

Winter in many Australian country towns is accompanied by a pall of smoke from wood-fired heaters that lasts from late afternoon to the following morning. In larger towns and cities burning wood has been…
It’s currently difficult to limit your exposure to traffic pollution because you can’t smell it. Flickr/pəruse

Creating a stink about traffic pollution

The World Health Organization’s recent decision to categorise diesel fumes as carcinogenic is yet another reminder of the negative health effects of traffic pollution. Cancer can now be added to a list…
It’s not just greenhouse gases that affect climate: other air pollution could be changing atmospheric circulation. NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Poleward-shifting climate zones - where are they headed and why?

The Earth’s principal climatic zones appear to be shifting poleward. If this continues, as climate models project, the weather patterns that give rise to deserts in the subtropics, and stormy wet weather…
Australians should be more aware of the health effects of pollution. OZinOH

Why petrol bowsers deserve the same treatment as cigarette packs

Every time smokers pull a cigarette pack out of their pocket, they’re reminded of the harms their habit is likely to cause. In much the same way, Australian petrol stations should display health warnings…
The risk of cancer from air pollution is a fraction of the hazard posed by smoking. EPA/Alex Hofford

Unproven cancer risks diverting focus from real cause: lifestyle

The fixation on potentially cancer-causing chemicals in the air, food and consumer products is diverting attention from the real risks, according to a review of global evidence by an Australian cancer…

Research and News (3)

Research Briefs (14)

China’s air quality kills

China’s high level of polluted air is costing lives, according to researchers at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…