U.N. Expresses Grave Concern over Recent Pollution Evidence

A recent U.N. report studying atmospheric brown clouds finds that they are the newest, and perhaps the worst, threat to the world environment.
The U.N. warned the world again yesterday about the presence of "atmospheric brown clouds," huge plumes of dense smog that are apparently caused by the burning of fuels, including fossil fuels and wood. A U.N. Environment Program report indicates that when mixed with carbon dioxide emissions and other gases, they pose a lethal threat to the world environment. According to Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Program, "All of this points to an even greater and urgent need to look at emissions across the planet."

The large clouds first became prominent in the world’s consciousness during the Summer Olympic Games that were held in Beijing last summer and are said by scientists to be especially thick around glaciers in the Himalaya and Hindu Kush mountain ranges. Scientists warn that not only could the clouds lead to further global warming, but could also contribute to extreme weather conditions that have seemed to occur more frequently in recent years. On top of that, it is also widely believed that the changes to the environment expected to be wrought by the clouds will have "negative effects on water resources and crop yields," according to the U.N. report.

Yet another concern surrounding the insidious clouds is that they will cause human health problems, including those often associated with so-called "particulate pollution," particularly cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Some cities in particular appear to be bearing the brunt of the massive levels of fossil fuels being burned in Central and Far East Asia, including Bangkok, Beijing, Cairo, Dhaka, Karachi, Kolkata, Lagos, Mumbai, New Delhi, Seoul, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tehran. The clouds were also cited as the source of light loss in cities such as Karachi, New Delhi, Shanghai and Beijing.

While the recent study focused primarily on the brown clouds and their formation and effects on Asia, it has been found that the clouds also form in other parts of the world and can move across entire continents in a matter of just three to four days. The clouds do form in the eastern United States and in Europe, but the heavier amounts of snow and rain in those regions tend to lessen the effect.

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