Health, Agricultural and Water Risks Associated with Air Quality and Climate in Asia

An international workshop on "Health, Agricultural and Water Risks Associated with Air Quality and Climate in Asia" was held at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, 9-12 July 2013. This workshop is a component of an NSF Earth System Modeling Project on Chemistry and Climate in Asia (PIs: M. Barth, NCAR and G. Carmichael, U.Iowa), which is developing a community and research tools focusing on the climate and air quality of Asia and their impact on humans. Asia is one of the most highly populated and economically dynamic regions in the world, with much of the population located in growing mega-cities. It is a region with significant emissions of greenhouse gases, aerosols and other pollutants, which pose high health risks to urban populations. Emissions of these aerosols and gases have increased drastically over the last decade due to economic growth and urbanization and are expected to rise further in the near future. As such, the continent plays a role in influencing climate change via its effluent of aerosols and gaseous pollutants. Asia is also susceptible to adverse climate change through interactions between aerosols and clouds, which potentially can have serious implications for freshwater resources.

About 55 scientists from Asia, Europe, and the United States participated in the workshop to foster collaborations between the atmospheric chemistry, climate, health, agriculture, hydrology, and social sciences communities and to develop ideas and plans for future studies in the Asian region. The workshop began with keynote talks first on the role of Asian development in air quality, climate, health, agriculture and water resources (V. Ramanathan, UCSD) and separately on impacts of air quality and climate on health, agriculture, and hydrology (A. Cohen (HEI), J. Burney (UCSD), and R. Kotamarthi (Argonne National Lab.), respectively). These presentations were followed by talks on various tools including climate modeling at different scales, emissions, chemical weather forecasting, satellite observations, and adjoint modeling. Presentations on cross-disciplinary activities highlighted air quality and health, urbanization, government policies, and co-benefits of improving air quality and reducing effects on future climate by reducing pollutant emissions.

Two breakout sessions were held that discussed needed data or tools to further scientific understanding of the cross-disciplinary activities and important scientific questions addressed by cross-disciplinary projects. Some of the scientific mysteries concerning Asian atmospheric chemistry are that SO2 has decreased in Asia but PM has increased and rain is still acidic, CO has decreased in Asia but NO2 has increased, and BC concentrations cannot be explained by current emission inventories. The participants agreed it was important to use a holistic approach for a 2030 climate scenario, meaning to include both the physical and social sciences, such as connecting urbanization to rural regions, agriculture, and health, or adding water nutrients and pollutants with economic policies. It was recommended to take advantage of intervention studies, such as the reduced emissions during the Beijing Olympics, to investigate, in a holistic manner, the impacts on air quality, humans, and ecosystems. A summary article is planned to describe tools from different communities that can be used together for future cross-disciplinary projects focused on Asia.