Integrating science and policy to address the impact of air pollution

Centre researcher addresses air pollution effects on human health, ecosystems and climate change in Europe in major journal

Writing in the journal Science, Centre researcher Professor Martin Williams examines how science and policy have addressed air pollution effects on human health, ecosystems and climate change in Europe.

In the article, ‘From Acid Rain to Climate Change’, Professor Williams, Dr Stefan Reis of the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UK), and colleagues, discuss how scientists and policymakers, working collaboratively, have developed and implemented policies to improve air quality and reduce the impact of air pollution on human health and ecosystems.

The authors conclude that substantial improvements have been made, for example in reducing deposition of acidifying substances on soils and ecosystems in Europe since the 1970s. However, they add that there are still major challenges ahead. For example, emission levels of air pollutants in 2020 will still lead to an average loss of life expectancy by about four months, while excessive nitrogen deposition will put more than 40 per cent of Europe’s nature at risk.

Professor Williams, who is also Chairman of the Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) Executive Body, said:

"The key role played by science as an integral part of the policy process in the Convention on CLRTAP has been demonstrated again in the revised Gothenburg Protocol. In one of the few international environmental instruments to be agreed in this time of worldwide economic difficulty, science has helped steer a positive path through the problems. By incorporating the latest science at the boundary between air pollution and climate change, it has pointed the way forward for the future of the Convention".


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