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News > World

Middle East Conflict and Crisis Cause Major Air Quality Changes

  • A smoggy city scape of Tehran, Iran.

    A smoggy city scape of Tehran, Iran. | Photo: Xinhua

Published 22 August 2015

War, conflict, and economic crisis in the Middle East have brought on a reduction in air pollution that contradicts global emissions trends.

Air pollution levels have dramatically changed in countries in the Middle East as a result of war, conflict, economic turmoil, and humanitarian crisis in recent years, according to a new study.

Levels of nitrogen oxides, released from burning fossil fuels, have dropped across Syria, Egypt, Palestine, and Iraq, researchers found in their study published in the journal Science Advances. These changes in air quality contradict global and historical trends, leading researchers to link the changes not to environmental advances but to conflict in the region.

“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,” researchers wrote in the report.

The presence of nitrogen oxide emissions in the air had been on the rise since the mid-1990s, according to previous data. But levels have dropped from between 20 percent to 50 percent in major Middle East cities since 2010, marking a drastic change.

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Researchers conducted the study of high resolution image technology from space that uses satellites to capture the presence of gases in the earth’s atmosphere.

Prior to 2010, beginning in the mid-2000s the Middle East was one of regions with the fastest increasing air pollution levels in the world due to rapid economic growth, researchers told the Guardian. Now, turning back the clocks on emissions in the last few years is unique to the Middle East, as the rest of the world continues on the upward trend.

According to the report, specific downward trends have been observed in conjunction with the fall of the government in Egypt in 2011, conflict in Syria spiking in 2011, and the emergence of the Islamic State group in Iraq in 2013.

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“It is tragic that some of the observed recent negative NO2 trends are associated with humanitarian catastrophes,” wrote researchers in the report.

Researchers also correlated emissions with economic factors, noting that Greece and the United States have also observed drops in emissions during economic recessions.

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