Africa to spew half world's particle pollution by 2030, study says

Mar 11, 2014
Credit: Alfred Palmer/Wikipedia

With its exploding urban population burning ever more coal and wood, Africa could contribute as much as 55 percent of the world's particle pollutants by 2030, a study said Tuesday.

In 2005, the continent's global share of these ranged from a five percent for and nitrogen oxide to 20 percent for organic carbon, according to the findings published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

It was about 10 percent each for black carbon, carbon monoxide, and non-methane hydrocarbons.

"A considerable increase in emissions from Africa is... expected in 2030 if no regulations are implemented," wrote the study authors from France and the Ivory Coast.

The particles are released in burning petrol and diesel for car and motorcycle combustion, and coal, fuel wood, charcoal and animal waste incinerated for heating and cooking.

The study said Africa could represent 40 percent of the world population by 2100 and its urban population could double from 2000 to 2030—along with rapid growth in mining, oil and industrial activities.

"In western and eastern Africa, action on biofuels would be the most efficient way to decrease domestic emissions... not to mention the decrease in the use of two-wheeled vehicles," the authors wrote.

Congolese charcoal dealers push their bicycles up the hill as they transport their produce to the market in Sake, North Kivu, on December 3, 2011

"In southern Africa, action on coal would be the most efficient way to decrease industrial and power plant emissions."

These can cause asthma and allergies, respiratory and cardiovascular ailments and the smallest among them, which can enter the bloodstream and lungs, have been classified as cancer-causing by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The UN's health body estimates more than two million people die every year from breathing in tiny particles in indoor and outdoor air pollution.

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Osiris1
1 / 5 (1) Mar 11, 2014
If the Organization for African Unity can approve a constitution for the whole continent, and the continent/nation gets its act together; then wholesale developement of hte sahara for solar projects and water desalinization can begin. The Sahara has tens of thousands of square miles of prime solar project land. Power can light ALL of Africa forever, and excess power can desalinate ALL of Africa's water needs...forever; and extension of the desalinization can be used to fill up the Sahara's dry lakes and roll back the desertification of the last 6000 years. Africans can do this with African workers and African engineers. Ethnicity or religion should not matter whether you are a caucasian or person of color, Jew Gentile, Christian or Islamic....long as you are African. All can be one with this for the good of all Africa.
David Bofinger
5 / 5 (1) Mar 11, 2014
While coal particulates would kill some people, probably they'd kill a lot fewer than the indoor dried dung cooking fires many Africans used today. African coal consumption is more a global climate issue.
Vietvet
4 / 5 (4) Mar 11, 2014
@Osiris, your idealism is laudable but your ignorance of Africa is evident.
Scottingham
4 / 5 (4) Mar 11, 2014
It seems to me like modular, buriable, and long lasting (50+ years) nuclear reactors (see terrawave) could serve as a way to ween Africa off coal. With the abundant energy they'd supply they could power the urban centers, desalinate water (though not in the crazy amounts osiris is talking about), and eventually produce enough photovoltaic cells and energy storage (see ambri) to transition off of nuclear.

Bill Gates, Google, whoever else super-rich. Please make this happen. Governments are too corrupt to do it alone.
Scottingham
1 / 5 (1) Mar 11, 2014
correction: Terra power...not terra wave. I thought 'wave' because its a traveling wave reactor design.
alfie_null
3.3 / 5 (4) Mar 12, 2014
What's downwind of Africa? Water. So my question is: how much of this pollution will affect anyone outside Africa?

Regarding use of complex technology to solve problems in developing countries: as people keep on suggesting this kind of solution, trying to do it over and over again, there really ought to be a class in engineering curricula about how many times this has been tried and how many times it has failed. Why the answer to all problems is not unadulterated technology.
janani_matthew
1 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2014
nice subject for talking too much. I like this

http://everestind...s.co.in/
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (5) Mar 12, 2014
What's downwind of Africa?

Europe? Distance Europe - Africa is all of 14km (at Straits of Gibraltar).

And you may have read reports that Beijing smog is showing up in California - so don't assume that pollution there will solely be an african problem. This stuff will also show up in any foods exported from africa to your table.

Regarding use of complex technology to solve problems...

Africa seems ideally suited for solar power. Africa can also not compete for oil/coal on the world market against the buying power of China, the US and Europe - so they'd be better of looking towards developing what they have in abundance instead of trying to invest in a resource that'll put them in a dangerous dependence situation.

And certainly that presents some business opportunities for technology transfer which I am sure companies are already looking at.
Shakescene21
5 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2014
@antialias -- I agree that solar is especially promising for Africa, especially for the rural population. Most rural Africans are off the electric grid, and even for those who have access the service is usually unreliable. Solar electricity generated at the residential or village level is usually the best alternative for these villagers, even if they only get 1 to 5 kwh per day.

Another good thing about solar electricity is that it becomes more economical every year, so the goal of solar power for Africa is steadily becoming more realistic.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2014
Most rural Africans are off the electric grid, and even for those who have access the service is usually unreliable. Solar electricity generated at the residential or village level is usually the best alternative for these villagers, even if they only get 1 to 5 kwh per day.

Yes. But I also agree with alfie_null on the part that we should not only look to technology. One issue with Africa is that traditionally the warm meal of the day is cooked after sundown. This is why such efforts as introducing 'solar stoves' have failed in the past. So there must be a parallel effort to take care that the technology integrates well with the culture.
Diogenes Tha Dogg
not rated yet Mar 12, 2014
Yes. But I also agree with alfie_null on the part that we should not only look to technology. One issue with Africa is that traditionally the warm meal of the day is cooked after sundown. This is why such efforts as introducing 'solar stoves' have failed in the past. So there must be a parallel effort to take care that the technology integrates well with the culture.


This is fine for the 60ish% of Africans that live rurally. What of the urban population, for whom the coal plants are coming online? Surely solar won't be useful in areas with any meaningfully high population density (e.g. > 1000/km^2). For those, I think Scottingham's suggestion makes more sense. Actually, I wouldn't mind if the US phased out more coal plants in favor of modular nuclear reactors, assuming the technology becomes cost-effective in the future.
Diogenes Tha Dogg
not rated yet Mar 12, 2014
When AIDS is finally eradicated, I think rural-urban migration will increase.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (1) Mar 13, 2014
What's downwind of Africa? Water. So my question is: how much of this pollution will affect anyone outside Africa?

@alfie_null

https://en.wikipe...ral_dust
The Sahara is the major source of mineral dust, which subsequently spreads across the Mediterranean (where is the origin of rain dust) and Caribbean seas into northern South America, Central America, North America, and Europe. Additionally, it plays a significant role in the nutrient inflow to the Amazon rainforest.
http://iopscience.../014005/

http://local.msn....-worries

anyone in the American continents should be at least a little concerned
but I do agree that we should not only look to technology