Firefighters try to control fires in a pine forest near the city of Lac, some 50 km north of Tirana, on August 22, 2023. LEHTIKUVA / AFP

International news

Recent extreme heatwaves around the world are not only increasing in intensity and frequency due to climate change but are also exacerbating air quality and pollution issues, says a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The 2023 WMO Air Quality and Climate Bulletin, the third in an annual series, highlights the growing impact of heatwaves,

emphasizing that it's not just the soaring temperatures that pose a threat but also the often-overlooked consequences of resulting pollution.

"Heatwaves worsen air quality, with knock-on effects on human health, ecosystems, agriculture, and indeed our daily lives," warned WMO Secretary-General Prof Petteri Taalas. "Climate change and air quality cannot be treated separately. They go hand-in-hand and must be tackled together to break this vicious cycle."

The report underscores that wildfires, often fueled by extreme heat, have wreaked havoc in various parts of the world. Canada has witnessed massive wildfires, Hawaii has suffered tragic devastation, and the Mediterranean region has seen significant damage and casualties. These events have resulted in hazardous air quality levels affecting millions and sent plumes of smoke across vast distances, including into the Arctic.

Climate change, driven by heat-trapping greenhouse gases from human activities, represents a long-term global threat. One of the critical findings of the report is that ozone-induced crop losses globally average between 4.4% and 12.4% for staple food crops. In key agricultural areas of East Asia, such as wheat and soybean production regions, losses can be as high as 15% to 30%.

The report underscores the urgent need for integrated efforts to address climate change and air quality concerns. As heatwaves become more frequent and severe, they not only challenge human health and safety but also disrupt ecosystems and agriculture, with far-reaching consequences for our planet.

In conclusion, the WMO report serves as a stark reminder that addressing climate change and mitigating its impact on air quality are intertwined challenges that demand immediate and concerted action on a global scale.