Electric Cars Could Help Feed the World By Reducing Pollution: Researchers

Electric Cars Could Help Feed the World By Reducing Pollution: Researchers

Electric cars could help feed the world by reducing pollution, according to new research.

Gases that are emitted by vehicles can reduce crop productivity and lead to lower yields.

Scientists used satellite images to reveal the phenomenon for the first time.

Lead author Professor David Lobell of Stanford University in California, said: “Nitrogen oxides are invisible to humans.

“But new satellites have been able to map them with incredibly high precision.

” We can also track crop production in space.

“This opened up the chance to rapidly improve our knowledge of how these gases affect agriculture in different regions.”

Nitrogen oxides, or NOx, come from car exhausts as well as power plants, factories and fertilizers. They are one of the most common pollutants that is released and can be linked to many diseases.

Removing them from the atmosphere could lead to dramatic gains in fruit, vegetable and grain yields.

They damage plant cells, absorb and scatter sunlight away and fuel airborne toxin ozone, explained the U.S. team.

The study in Science Advances sheds fresh light on their direct impact. It compared satellite measures of crop greenness and NOx levels for 2018 to 2020.

Nitrogen dioxide interacts with ultraviolet light, enabling measurements at a much higher spatial and temporal resolution than any other air pollutant.

Co-author Professor Jennifer Burney, of the University of California San Diego, said: “In addition to being more easily measured than other pollutants, nitrogen dioxide has the nice feature of being a primary pollutant, meaning it is directly emitted rather than formed in the atmosphere.

“That means relating emissions to impacts is much more straightforward than for other pollutants.”

By 2050 there will be over 9 billion mouths to feed – 2 billion more than today. The environmental challenges are huge.

Halving NOx emissions would improve winter and summer yields by about a quarter and 15 percent in China, respectively, nearly 10 percent for both in Western Europe and 8 and 6 percent in India.

North and South America generally had the lowest NOx exposures.

Overall, the effects seemed most negative in seasons and locations where the gas drives ozone formation.

Burney said: “The actions you would take to reduce NOx, such as vehicle electrification, overlap closely with the types of energy transformations needed to slow climate change and improve local air quality for human health.

“The main take-home from this study is that the agricultural benefits of these actions could be really substantial, enough to help ease the challenge of feeding a growing population.”

Previous research by the same team estimated reductions in ozone, particulate matter, NOx and sulfur dioxide between 1999 and 2019 contributed to about 20 percent of the increase in U.S. corn and soybean yields, worth about $5 billion a year. Future analysis may include satellite data such as photosynthetic activity and solar-induced fluorescence. This will allow us to understand the effects of NOx throughout the year.

Similarly, more detailed examination of other pollutants, as well as drought and heat, could help explain why the gas affects crops differently across different regions, years and seasons.

Co-author Stefania Di Tommaso, a data analyst at Stanford, added: “It’s really exciting how many different things can be measured from satellites now, much of it coming from new European satellites.

“As the data keep improving, it really drives us to be more ambitious and creative as scientists in the types of questions we ask.”

The U.S. has yet to put into a place a future ban on gas- and diesel-powered vehicles, but three states — Washington, New York and California — have announced they will do so.

More than two dozen countries, including the U.K., Canada, India, China and Japan, have all introduced plans to ban gas-fueled vehicles, some as soon as 2025.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.

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