European and African scientists in a new research have warned of imminent risks posed by the increasing air pollution that could have negative impact on human health, meteorology and regional climate in West African cities.
A report published by the Nature Climate Change states that the “rapidly expanding cities such as Lagos in Nigeria, Accra in Ghana and Abidjan in Ivory Coast were producing large amounts of harmful aerosols and gaseous pollutants.”
According to the scientists led by Professor Peter Knippertz of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, in an EU-funded research project, “Human health, food security and the climate of the region is at risk and there is an urgent need for better observations and models to quantify the magnitude and characteristic of these impacts,” the report warns.
It further explains that the West African “climate is characterized by a sensitive monsoon system which controls winds, temperature, clouds and most importantly rain. Changes in air pollutants may be causing changes in the solar heating and clouds, which in turn may lead to changes the rainfall and temperature,” the scientists say adding, “As the population of the region grows these changes may intensify.”
The scientists also warned that “the region has been, and is projected to be, subject to substantial greenhouse-gas-induced warming with the monsoonal flows particularly sensitive to the impact of aerosols.”
Professor Mat Evans of the Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories at the University of York said: “The story here is that climate change is happening, there’s no doubt about that. How that manifests itself with something like rainfall, which is what really matters, is much more complicated.
“If we are missing key processes in our models because we have not gone out and tested them in challenging environments then we have less confidence in what is going on.”
He advised that future policy advice be based on sound scientific observations from the region. “If you are going to make plans for how to deal with this in the future you want to do it from a position of knowledge rather than a position of ignorance. We need to get more observations in the region and we have started to do that.
“At the moment we don’t have the observations to be able to test the models to even know how good the predictions are.”
Stressing the urgent need to collect the much needed data from the atmosphere above the region, Evans said that they would need to make predictions about what they think would happen in a five-year timescale, 10-year timescale and 50-year timescale.
“The environmental degradation maybe local but the implications can be regional and global. One of the potential impacts is population migration. If people have no food because the climate is changing in their region then they will move. There are knock on effects,” he emphasised.
By Abdallah el-Kurebe, with Agency reports