levels of air pollution middle east

What price for a little fresh air in the middle east? Surprising study results //Au Moyen-Orient, la guerre aurait fait baisser la pollution de l’air

Photo:Changes in the levels of nitrogen oxide between 2005 and 2010 (A) and 2010 and 2014 (B). Science Advances.

  • A combination of armed conflict, political upheaval and economic restrictions has unexpectedly decreased air pollution in the Middle East since 2010.
  • The Arab spring and economic crises in the Middle East have drastically altered air pollution levels in the region, according to new research.

    Levels of nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas produced by car engines and power plants than can contribute to climate change, grew rapidly in cities like Damascus, Aleppo, Tehran and Cairo in the early years of the 2000s until they experienced a drop-off around the beginning of the following decade. The onset of unrest caused an economic impact that led to the decline, researchers say.

    The report, published in the journal Science Advances, argues that the decline is “tragically” linked to political and social upheaval since the time of the Arab spring. It says the dramatic trend reversal is unique to the Middle East.

    “We find that geopolitics and armed conflict in the Middle East have really drastically altered air pollution emissions,” said Prof Jos Lelieveld, director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany and lead author on the report.

    “From 2005-10 the Middle East has been one of the regions with the fastest growing air pollution emissions. This also occurred in East Asia, but especially in the Middle East. This was related to economic growth in many countries. However it’s the only region in the world where this upward trend of pollution was interrupted around 2010 and then followed by very strong decline.”

    Nitrogen oxides, released from fossil fuel use and other combustion processes, affect air quality and climate. From the mid-1990s onward, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) has been monitored from space, and since 2004 with relatively high spatial resolution by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument. Strong upward NO2 trends have been observed over South and East Asia and the Middle East, in particular over major cities. We show, however, that a combination of air quality control and political factors, including economical crisis and armed conflict, has drastically altered the emission landscape of nitrogen oxides in the Middle East. Large changes, including trend reversals, have occurred since about 2010 that could not have been predicted and therefore are at odds with emission scenarios used in projections of air pollution and climate change in the early 21st century..

    The rise of Islamic State has led to a substantial decrease in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions in Baghdad and central Iraq since 2013, with a downward trend beginning two years earlier, the report says. A similar trend reversal is identified in Egypt around the time of the government’s overthrow in 2011. But it attributes drops in other parts of the region, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, to the introduction of air quality controls.

    In Syria, NO2 over Damascus and Aleppo has decreased by 40-50% since 2011, coinciding with the uprising of that year which triggered a bloody civil war that is ongoing. In sharp contrast, the report found a 20-30% increase in NO2 levels over Lebanon in 2014, which it links to the 1.5 million Syrian refugees that have moved into the country, where they make up at least one-fifth of the population.

    The analysis stretched as far as Greece, where NO2 levels have been in gradual decline for two decades, but the report shows the trend has accelerated as the economy has declined, citing a drop of 40% over Athens since 2008.

    The researchers focused their analysis on data collected by high resolution satellites on cities between 2005 and 2014. They then compared this data to development statistics gathered by the World Bank.

    Lelieveld added that the observations have unexpectedly contradicted existing predictions, and that there should be further investment in the use of satellites to monitor the impacts of environmental measures, migration and economic crises. In the Middle East, there are no air quality networks on the ground.


  • Dans plusieurs pays du Moyen-Orient touchés par des soulèvements populaires et autres conflits, d'importantes modifications des émissions de polluants dans l'air ont été relevées par les scientifiques.

  • C'est une conséquence inattendue de l'horreur. Et pourtant, elle a quelque chose de positif: dans plusieurs pays du Moyen-Orient touchés par la guerre, des soulèvements populaires ou encore par des crises économiques, les niveaux de pollution de l'air ont été considérablement modifiés. C'est une nouvelle étude scientifique, publiée dans la revue Science Advances et relayée par The Guardian, qui révèle le tout:
    "Nous avons découvert que la géopolitique et les conflits armés au Moyen-Orient ont modifié de manière drastique les émissions de pollution", résume le professeur Jos Lelieved, directeur de l'Institut pour la chimie Max Planck en Allemagne, et qui a conduit les recherches en question.
    De 20 à 50% de polluants en moins dans l'air Ainsi, depuis 2010 et après le Printemps arabe, plusieurs villes majeures de Syrie, de Palestine, d'Irak ou encore d'Egypte ont vu leurs taux de dioxyde d'azote (NO2) contenus dans l'air baisser de 20 à 50%. Une chute importante, alors que leurs niveaux n'avaient eu de cesse d'augmenter de manière constante depuis le début des années 90.
    "De 2005 à 2010, le Moyen-Orient a été une régions du monde qui comptait le plus forte progression des émissions de polluants dans l'air. Tout comme dans l'est de l'Asie. C'était lié à la croissance économique dans de nombreux pays", a également commenté le chercheur. "Cependant, c'est la seule région où cette tendance à la hausse a été interrompue, avant de connaître un très fort déclin."
    Dans la même veine, il a été observé que le soulèvement de l'Etat islamique (Daesh) en Irak depuis 2013 a conduit à une baisse substantielle du dioxyde d'azote (NO2) à Bagdad et dans le centre du pays. (bfmtv.fr)

    Source: theGuardian.com, Time, Reuters, Haaretz and Twitter

    Related links:
    Jos Lelieveld


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