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Until the Earth’s protective atmosphere was formed, there was no life except in the sea. Now big cities, cars and factories pollute the air so much, we may soon be better off back there! GEO-2000 tells us there has been some improvement, but it is not fast enough.

Our planet is becoming choked with poisonous gases mostly from our daily activities like driving cars, warming our houses and running power stations. The problem is worst in Latin America and Asia. In cities like Seoul and Mexico City, the air is so bad, some people wear face masks to filter the air they breathe. In cities like Beirut and Damascus, dust storms make it even worse! And pollution doesn’t need a passport. Pollution from factories and power stations in Europe, North America and Russia ends up in the Arctic region.
click picture to enlarge
Ali Abbas Panju, Kenya, based on an idea by Noelia V. Cocco, Argentina

Air pollution is a major factor in causing humans to get ill. Tuberculosis, bronchitis, heart and chest diseases, stomach disorders, asthma and cancers can all be traced to chemicals in the air. Pesticides and fertilisers release gases and particles into the air which poison people and kill animals.

Imagine that the Earth has a sunshade around it protecting it from the heat of the sun. This is called the ozone layer but the sunshade has holes so that harmful rays get through, causing cancer. To prevent it, we wear sun glasses to protect our eyes, and sun cream to protect our skin. Ling So Low, Malaysia

For years, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were used as a cooling device in freezers and air conditioners. Scientists discovered, however, that CFCs destroy the ozone layer – the layer that filters ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Ultraviolet radiation causes eye damage and skin cancer. An international agreement commonly called the Montreal Protocol, signed in 1989 (see page 62), has helped stop the production of CFCs. If we keep to this agreement, ozone-depleting substances will stop being produced and the ozone layer will begin to repair itself over the next 100 years.

The world is warming up because carbon dioxide (CO2) from smoke and car exhausts collects in the atmosphere and traps some of the heat going back to space, like a greenhouse. CO2 and other greenhouse gases are expected to raise global temperature by an average of 2°C by the year 2100 causing the polar icecaps to melt, sea levels to rise and freak weather conditions which may cause millions of deaths.

web site editor: webmaster@grida.no Last update: March 2000