EDGAR reveals air pollutant emissions decrease in developed countries

A novel study utilising the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) has indicated that air pollutant emissions have regressed in more developed countries.  

The investigation employed EDGAR, which was developed by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, to examine how urbanisation across the world has affected anthropogenic CO2 and air pollutant emissions, showing that advancements in green technologies in developed countries have alleviated their abundance.  

The results of the study are published in the IOP Publishing journal Environmental Research Letters.  

The effects of a growing population

The researchers used EDGAR to demonstrate a country-to-global view of how sector-specific greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions have evolved throughout the last 50 years, analysing urban centres, rural areas, and other geographical entities for the impacts of human settlement. The results demonstrated that around one-third of Earth’s global anthropogenic greenhouse gases and air pollutant emissions were created by urban centres by 2015.  

The population of the Earth has increased by 80% between 1975 and 2015, with the population of urban areas increasing in all continents and nearly doubling globally, with rural destinations also growing by 40%. Developing countries and emerging regions displayed the most rapid growth, and by 2015, nearly half of the planet lived in urban centres, with substantial urban centres that are home to more than one million people representing 5% of the global surface, whilst containing 22% of the worldwide population. By forming a more comprehensive understanding of which greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions are produced, the location of their presence and the nature in which they are contributing to the effects of climate change, strategies, policies, and technologies can be introduced to mitigate them. 

What is Edgar?

EDGAR is a groundbreaking, state-of-the-art technology proficient in examining modern and historic levels of greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions at a global, country, and regional level, containing extensive spatio-temporal homogenous, consistent data of greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions globally between 1970 and 2015. The EDGAR technology expertly spatially distributes anthropogenic emissions throughout a globally mapped grid system with a spatial resolution of 0.1 degree – 10 kilometres – which allowed the researchers to analyse the route of the emissions.  

The worldwide scope of air pollutant emissions 

The resulting data indicated that urban centres are the most considerable emitters of COand air pollutant emissions, and when factoring in the suburbs to the equation, around 50% of global emissions take place in an area of 1% of the global surface of the Earth. When not onlynon urban centres are included, this rises to 70-80%, which is mainly attributable to combustion sources, with geographically focused mitigation actions potentially able to reduce these effects due to the emissions being spatially concentrated. 

NH3 is the only exception to this rule, as this is predominantly exhibited in rural areas, where agricultural activities account for over 50% of global emissions. Over the last 50 years, emissions in urban areas with emerging economies have increased dramatically; however, in high-income economies, CO, SO2, and PM10 have been reduced in industrialised countries, likely because of novel green technologies, policies, and higher energy efficiency. Furthermore, de-industrialisation, effective mitigations actions, and advancements in the service economy have meant that the emissions in the megacities of high-income economies have also been reduced, with the data signifying those high-income countries have decoupled their emissions from economic growth.  

Although climate change is a global issue, air quality is a geographically specific problem where different courses of action will need to be taken dependent on the location to tackle exposure to toxic pollutants, mitigate consequences to human health, and protect vital ecosystems. This means that local strategies need to be implemented to tackle air pollution emissions; an area that would be ideal for targeting on a city level would be combatting PM2.5 population exposure, with the data suggesting that a 30% reduction of PM2.5 is attainable in around half of the considered European cities.  

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