Air Pollution Falls As War Rises in Middle East

War may be bad for people, but it's apparently a good way to battle climate change, a report says.

Yaakov Levi ,

Air pollution in Tel Aviv
Air pollution in Tel Aviv

War may be bad for people, but it's apparently a good way to battle climate change. While greenhouse gas levels over recent decades have climbed around the world, they have actually fallen in the Middle East – and according to scientists, it's because of the ongoing wars in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere in the region.

Since 2010, the journal Science Advances said this week, levels of nitrogen oxides have dropped by 20-50%, the British Guardian reported Sunday. According to Professor Jos Lelieveld, director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany and lead author of the report, “geopolitics and armed conflict in the Middle East have really drastically altered air pollution emissions.”

Although they are unhealthy for many people – the young, the elderly, and the sick – greenhouse gases, better known as “air pollution,” are a sign of a humming economy; as more factories and businesses use electricity and more people acquire cars, emissions rise, raising the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

In the Middle East, however, economies have been deteriorating because of war, and, the report said, the rise of ISIS, which has basically shut down the economy in many locations in Iraq and Syria. According to the report, emissions recorded over Damascus and Aleppo has decreased by 40-50% since 2011, roughly the time the civil war broke out in that country, leading to the exodus of over 20% of the country.

In Egypt, a large decline that began in 2011 has stabilized, while reductions were also seen in Saudi Arabia, Gaza, and several Gulf countries. However, the report said, some of that falloff could be due to the implementation of new air quality control systems. That was the case in Israel, the report said, as air pollution levels around Haifa and Tel Aviv fell substantially as new laws were implemented to clean up the environment.

Even in Greece, the report added, pollution levels are down, falling by some 40% since 2008 – again, roughly the same time that the economy there began bottoming out.

Unfortunately, the Middle East is not the only region in the world affected by economic recession and upheaval owing to war, although geopolitical changes appear to be more drastic than elsewhere,” the report said. “It is tragic that some of the observed recent negative NO2 trends are associated with humanitarian catastrophes.”