The never-ending conflicts plaguing the Middle East have resulted in a major, unbelievable alteration in air pollution levels throughout the region.
A new study published by Science Advances has shown that “a combination of air quality control and political factors […] has drastically altered” levels of air pollution in the Middle East in a way that was previously unimaginable and unforeseen in air pollution forecast models before.
The latest study relied on data, gathered from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument on the NASA Aura satellite, on the production of a chemical called nitrogen dioxide in the Middle East. Nitrogen Dioxide is a chemical that gets released into the air as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. This chemical, along with a series of chemical reactions, produces smog and ozone and damages Earth’s atmosphere.
Researchers from Germany have noticed a pattern between the changes in nitrogen dioxide and political and economic events in the Middle East and arrived at the conclusion that these events have a major impact on air pollution and the Earth’s atmosphere.
As the New York Times reports, the latest turmoil and economic crises in certain areas in and around the Middle East over the past five years have reversed a significant increase in air pollution levels in 2005-2010.
One example the study highlighted was the effect of the rise of ISIS in Iraq on air pollution levels in areas under its control. While air pollution levels increased following the end of major U.S. operations in the country, these levels began to drop as violence and clashes returned to harm the economy and livelihood in affected cities.
The Syrian civil war has also dragged the country’s economy downward, resulting in lower levels of air pollution as well.
Political and economic problems in Egypt have produced cleaner air as well. The economic crisis in nearby Greece has also dragged air pollution to lower levels. Not all areas in the Middle East experienced a decline in air pollution levels, however.
In Lebanon, for example, an influx of Syrian refugees has increased the amount of nitrogen dioxide released into the air.
The BBC mentioned that there are still other causes of drops in air pollution levels in the Middle East, including stricter environment laws in some of the countries.
The new Middle East air pollution study may help scientists better understand the effects of political and economic issues and events on the environment.
[Photo by Daniel Mayer via Wikimedia Commons]