Air Pollution and Global Warming Study Guide

Air pollution and global warming are two major threats the whole world faces, and there is a dire need to control them.

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Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants in the air, which are detrimental to human health and the planet as a whole. According to the World Health Organization, 90% of the earth's population is currently breathing in air, exceeding the WHO's guideline limit for clean air! Around 5-7 million deaths every year are caused by air pollution.

Air pollution can be region-specific or transboundary in its effect, whereas global warming pollution is not local; it is global and has no boundaries. It is spreading across the globe, trapping the heat around the earth for 50-200 years, once emitted, and it is ever increasing. Air pollution and global warming may seem to be two very different issues, but they are closely interlinked.

Adverse effects of Air Pollution

  • Air pollution is due to natural and human activities (anthropogenic sources).
  • Natural sources of air pollution are ash from volcanoes, smoke from a wildfire, etc., and anthropogenic sources of air pollution are emissions from vehicles, planes, factories, etc.

air-pollution Source

In the last 200 years, air pollution due to human activities has multiplied in magnitude, and its effects are horrendous.

- Health hazards and air pollution diseases

There are numerous respiratory and heart problems like bronchitis, pneumonia, lung cancer, skin issues, and heart diseases caused by air pollution.

- Acid rains

Air pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, when combined with water vapors, lead to sulfuric acid and nitric acid formation. Acidic precipitation is hazardous to humans and animals, and even architectural monuments and buildings are also ruined by it.

- Ozone layer depletion

The ozone layer plays a crucial role in absorbing and blocking harmful UV rays. But due to the air pollutant chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), holes have been observed in the ozone layer. If UV rays fall on us, they lead to skin cancer and others. Year by year, the ozone layer is thinning.

- Global warming

  • Air pollutants like carbon dioxide and methane are two major greenhouse gases that have increased a lot in the past few years and have caused very serious danger to the earth in the form of global warming.
  • Before the industrial revolution, the average level of carbon dioxide was 280ppm, and by 2020, it has gone up to 417ppm, and it is continuing to increase @ 3ppm every year, which is highly alarming.
  • If global warming is not contained, our coming generations will have to bear its adverse effects.

Greenhouse and global warming

  • To keep the earth's temperature moderate for life to sustain, greenhouse gases were always naturally present in the atmosphere. But today, human activities are changing the natural greenhouse.
  • In the last couple of hundred years, greenhouse gases increased drastically due to the rise in population and industrialization.

global warming Source

  • Practices like burning fossil fuels for vehicles, industries, modern agricultural methods, livestock farming, coal mining, natural gas productions, etc., rocketed the percentage of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere.
  • These are two of the principal greenhouse gases, along with water vapors.

Adverse effects of Global Warming

The effects of human-caused global warming are irreversible and will affect us, and the generations after generations will have to pay. It is only going to worsen decade after decade.

Some of the major effects of global warming are as follows:

Temperature Rise

Hotter days and heatwaves are already evident in many parts of the world today. Heat-related illnesses and wildfires are also the results of temperature rise. 2020 has been one of the hottest years on record. There will certainly be a significant temperature rise on earth in the coming decades, as well. Environmentalists anticipate that the arctic ocean will become ice-free by the mid of century.

Changes in precipitation patterns

Changes in temperature causes changes in the raining patterns. This also leads to frequent and more powerful storms leading to floods, landslides, destruction of life and property on a large scale.

Rise in sea level

The oceans soak up a lot of heat produced by global warming, thus melting the ice sheets and increasing the seal levels, posing a threat to the island and coastal populations. It is speculated that there will be a 1-8 feet rise in sea level by 2100.

Wildlife/ Marine life Destruction

The changing climate is risking the survival of many species both on land and in oceans. The absorption of carbon dioxide makes the oceans more acidic, which is endangering marine life. Increasing forest fires and drastically changing temperature and weather patterns are leading to endangering wildlife all over the globe.

Melting Glaciers

Due to climate change, glaciers have already started to melt worldwide, thus posing threats of more frequent and stronger floods in the future.

Increased Droughts & shortage of food

The scarcity of water is one more adverse effect of climate change, which is likely to increase intense droughts. Droughts can stir destructive sand and dust storms, leading to the movement of billions of tons of sand across continents. Due to this, deserts are increasing, and the land for growing food is rapidly decreasing, leading to a shortage of food.


  • Air Pollution and Global warming are not just the problems of the present. If not taken proper control, they may lead to horrendous effects in the future.
  • High regulation laws should be passed to contain air pollution.
  • Air pollution and global warming are not only region-specific, and their reach is global and needs global measures and laws to deal with them.


1. How does air pollution affect global warming?

Air pollution is one of the major causes of global warming. Air pollutants like Carbon Dioxide and Methane are two of the main greenhouse gases which trap the excess heat and cause the earth to heat, hence increasing global warming.

2. What are the global effects of air pollution?

The global effects of air pollution are seen as

  • Human health deterioration
  • Acid Rains
  • Depletion of the ozone layer
  • Global warming
  • Wildlife destruction

3. Does pollution cause global warming?

Yes, pollution does cause global warming. Carbon dioxide, one of the major air pollutants, is also one of the top greenhouse gas. More pollution means more carbon dioxide hence more global warming.

4. What is global warming?

Global warming refers to the global effect of global warming as it knows no boundaries. Global warming pollution enters the atmosphere, spreads throughout the globe, and traps heat around the earth for 50-200 years, once emitted. Global warming is not area-specific but is global.

5. How does global warming affect the environment?

Many severe effects are caused by global warming on the environment. Some of them are:

  • Rise in temperature
  • Changes in precipitation patterns
  • More droughts, famines, and heat waves
  • Stronger and frequent storms and hurricanes
  • Rising sea level
  • Melting glaciers

6. Why is air pollution considered a global system?

Air pollutants are carried to long distances by winds, and they transcend regional and continental boundaries, affecting global weather and climate. Hence air pollution is a global system.

7. What are the five effects of air pollution?

The five major effects of air pollution are:

  1. Respiratory diseases
  2. Heart diseases
  3. Acid rains
  4. Ozone depletion
  5. Global warming

8. What causes global warming?

There are certain gases like Carbon dioxide, Sulfur dioxide, Nitrogen dioxide, methane, water vapors, chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere that block heat from escaping, thus increasing the temperature.

9. When did air pollution become a global problem?

After the industrial revolution, in mid 19th century, air pollution and water pollution came into existence. Within a century, i.e., by the mid of 20th century, the effects of these pollutions were seen globally. For example, in 1948, in a town in Pennsylvania, a thick smog appeared for 4 days, causing 20 deaths and making 6000 sick.

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  1. Air Pollution. https://flexbooks.ck12.org/cbook/ck-12-biology-flexbook-2.0/section/6.29/primary/lesson/air-pollution-bio/. Accessed 3 Dec, 2021.
  2. Global Warming. https://flexbooks.ck12.org/cbook/ck-12-biology-flexbook-2.0/section/6.30/primary/lesson/global-climate-change-bio/. Accessed 3 Dec, 2021.
  3. Air Pollution and Illness. https://flexbooks.ck12.org/cbook/ck-12-biology-flexbook-2.0/section/13.56/primary/lesson/air-pollution-and-illness-bio/. Accessed 3 Dec, 2021.
  4. Air Pollution. https://flexbooks.ck12.org/cbook/ck-12-biology-flexbook-2.0/section/13.56/primary/lesson/air-pollution-and-illness-bio/. Accessed 3 Dec, 2021.