Air Quality

When most people think of air in the context of the environment, they probably think of air pollution – and that’s part of the picture. But air is a dynamic and delicate mix of chemicals in constant motion, flowing from place to place through atmospheric circulation systems. 
In the Hindu Kush Himalaya, air quality impacts the entire region through the summer monsoon and winter westerlies, which can transport pollution such as black carbon over long distances. That means the emissions from vehicles in a crowded city might impact farmers in remote parts of a neighboring country. Local air pollution is a regional problem.

Pollutants can intensify haze, which not only leads to health problems but can reduce crop yield from lack of sunlight. An increase in winter fog, traceable in part to pollutants from sources such as brick kilns and firewood burning, can lead to a cycle where sunlight is reduced, local temperatures drop and people burn more firewood to ward off the chill, sending more pollution into the air and intensifying the problem.

Greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants can also impact the temperature balance of the lower atmosphere. Evidence indicates that overall atmospheric temperature in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region has already increased. Air quality impacts the environment in ways that communities experience every day, scientists can quantify and track, and policymakers need to understand.

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