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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.

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    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.”

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