by Michael Morrison
We now know that the general term “climate change” includes many different aspects, from changes in rain and snowfall patterns, to local increases and decreases in temperature, and more. One of the discoveries we have made is that some aspects, like increased carbon dioxide levels, are long-lasting and others, like sulfur emissions, are removed from the air in a matter of a few years.
One of the implications of these fast and slow changing pollutants is that the sooner we start on the long-lasting ones, like carbon dioxide, the easier it will be and the greater our success. But another implication is that there are changes we can make that will have an near-immediate effect, and offering a nice, instant-gratification hit in the process.
Ground level ozone results when fossil fuel combustion products are exposed to sunlight. Without the combustion products, ozone does not form, and if combustion products are reduced, ozone drops off within days. Ground level ozone is very reactive worsening, and even causing, respiratory illnesses. It also damages plants.
Sachin Ghude and colleagues just estimated the crop losses in India resulting from fossil-fuel fueled, ground level ozone. They estimate that 5.6 million tons—5.6 billion kilograms—of wheat and rice were lost from ozone damage in 2005; enough to feed about 94 million people.
Just one of the many health, economic, and security costs of climate change, policies that reduce fossil fuel emissions would result in instant, significant, increases in crop yields in India.