Pollution cloud “masks warming”

A three-kilometre thick cloud of smog from factories, fires, cars and deforestation not only kills thousands of people in Asia every year, but it also may be masking the worst effects of global warming on the continent, Reuters reported a United Nations report as saying.

The brown cloud of pollution contains some particles that reflect sunlight away from the earth, cutting its ability to heat the earth. However, while the plume of smog may hold temperatures down overall, the mix of particles means it is also speeding up warming in some places.

"One of the impacts of this atmospheric brown cloud has been to mask the true nature of global warming on our planet," Reuters reported UN Environment Programme head Achim Steiner as saying at the launch of a new report in Beijing.

The report estimates that about 340,000 people are dying prematurely because of damage to their lungs, hearts and risk of cancer.

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