Pollution in southern Asia produces a brown haze made up ofsoot, particles, aerosols and other pollutants that affectsrainfall and farming, and causes respiratory disease inhundreds of thousands of people. "The haze is the result offorest fires, the burning of agricultural wastes, dramaticincreases in the burning of fossil fuels in vehicles,industries and power stations, and emissions from millionsof inefficient cookers burning wood, cow dung and other'bio-fuels,'" says Dr. Klaus Toepfer, of the UN EnvironmentProgram (UNEP). "There are also global implications, notleast because a pollution parcel like this, which stretches[two miles] high, can travel halfway round the globe in aweek."
Scientists say the haze is reducing the amount of solarenergy reaching the Earth's surface by up to 15%. Since italso absorbs heat, it not only cools the Earth's surface butwarms the lower atmosphere. This is changing the wintermonsoon, sharply cutting rainfall over northwestern Asia andincreasing it further east. The haze could reduce India?swinter rice harvest by 10%.
Dr. David Viner, of the University of East Anglia in theU.K., thinks Asia can learn from London?s experience. "TheLondon smogs of the last century were a comparable problem,though the Asian haze is more widespread, more persistent,and thicker,? he says. "There are solutions -- stop burningthe forests, switch to less polluting fuels, and introduceclean air technology, like scrubbers on power stationchimneys. They're simple to work out. Unfortunately, they'rerather more difficult to implement."
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