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Air pollution and climate change

In Wales air pollutants are primarily monitored because of their effect on human health and ecosystems. However, some pollutants can also contribute towards climate change and these impacts have to be taken into account when planning national and local abatement strategies.

More information is available about greenhouse gases, Particulate Matter, international and national action on climate change and reducing your carbon footprint.


Particulate Matter

Particulate matter in the air also affects climate change. Some types of particles reflect light and heat energy - or radiation - from the sun and therefore have a cooling effect in the atmosphere. Other particulate species absorb and re-emit radiation which causes a net warming effect. Particulates in the atmosphere also affect the formation of clouds which indirectly affects the amount of radiation entering and escaping from the troposphere.

Components of particulate matter that have a cooling effect (negative radiative forcing):

  • Sulphates formed from the emissions of sulphur dioxide SO2, from fossil fuel combustion
  • Nitrates formed by nitrogen oxides emitted by fossil fuel burning
  • Ammonia (NH3) from agricultural sources promotes the formation of nitrates and sulphates

Components of particulate matter that have a warming effect (positive radiative forcing):

  • Black carbon (soot) absorbs heat from the sun