Illustration by @_ximena.arias

Air Pollution and Climate Change


Air pollution is an important problem that is facing the world today. There is a wide variety of pollutants that are found in the air that can cause major problems for human beings. Among them are Mercury, Black carbon, and short-lived climate pollutants. These pollutants can cause asthma, respiratory disease, heart attack, and stroke. They also cause damage to ecosystems and cause the climate to change.


Many factors can influence the cycling of mercury. Among these are changes in land use, climate change, acidification and eutrophication. These effects could affect mercury bioaccumulation in the Canadian environment.

The magnitude of changes to mercury levels is largely influenced by the nature of the source and the timing of emissions. For instance, seabird colonies on the Atlantic coast have relatively stable mercury concentrations. However, in the Great Lakes region, a range of mercury declines are observed.

In general, mercury levels have declined across Canada since the mid-1990s. However, some areas have experienced faster declines than others. As with any changes to an ecosystem, the response to emissions reductions will vary by region and ecosystem type.

Black carbon

Black carbon is a small particle that absorbs light and is produced by incomplete combustion of fuels such as coal, wood and other fuels. It is an important component of climate change because it changes the way our planet receives sunlight. The effect of black carbon on human health may be as consequential as its contribution to climate change.

Black carbon and air pollution are both known to cause respiratory problems, such as a cough, asthma and lung function disorders. Although the effects of black carbon are difficult to measure, the World Health Organization estimates that more than two billion people suffer from indoor air pollution.


Methane is a greenhouse gas (GHG). When methane is emitted into the air, it is absorbed by the earth's climate system. It has a short life and a very large atmospheric warming potential. Compared to carbon dioxide, methane traps more heat.

Methane is released from a variety of sources, including agriculture, wastewater treatment, oil and gas systems, and landfills. Natural sources, such as wetlands and permafrost, are also important. However, the major industrial sources of methane emissions are coal, oil, and gas production.

Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. It has a relatively short atmospheric lifetime of about 12 years, and its warming potential is between twenty-five and thirty-six times greater than that of CO2.

Methane is the primary component of natural gas. When it is released into the air, it reacts in several hazardous ways. Some of its reactions cause ground level ozone, which damages plants and is harmful to human health.

Short-lived climate pollutants

Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP) include hydrofluorocarbons (F-gas), black carbon, and methane. They are harmful to human health and ecosystems, and contribute to global warming. By limiting the SLCP emissions, we can reduce the warming effects of climate change. The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that specific reductions in methane and black carbon could save 2.4 million lives in 2030.

The United States and several other countries have signed the Paris Climate Agreement. This pledge commits to limit global warming to 2degC, and to reduce the impact of climate change on people and nature. However, without coordinated action on many fronts, this promise may be difficult to realize.

Heart attack, stroke, diabetes and respiratory disease

Many studies have shown that air pollution is a contributing factor in the development and progression of cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary artery disease, heart failure and stroke. It can also increase the risk of respiratory ailments, including asthma and chronic bronchitis.

There are several factors that contribute to the development of heart or blood vessel disease, but the EPA has identified ambient air pollution as the greatest health burden. Air pollution comes from a variety of sources, including power generation, transportation, cooking and wood burning.

The EPA has created a toolkit of resources for patients and clinicians to help minimize the effects of air pollution on their lives. Some of the resources include a course that teaches clinicians how to take actions to limit exposure to wildfire smoke.

Common solutions

Air pollution is one of the biggest health hazards we face. It can also cause disruption to flora and fauna. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to minimize the effects. You can do things such as installing a fan rather than an air conditioner, insulating your attic and choosing greener energy sources.

Climate change, on the other hand, is a global issue that affects every nation. As such, it is important to find solutions to this problem on an international scale. Thankfully, there are a number of cities and communities stepping up to the plate and doing their part to solve their own climate problems.

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Air Pollution and Climate Change

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Published on January 25, 2023

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