A combination of armed conflict, political upheaval and economic restrictions has unexpectedly decreased air pollution in the Middle East since 2010. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: Amid the increase in death, displacement and overall chaos in the Middle East over the past five years, Professor Jos Lelieveld of the Max-Planck Institute, says he has spotted one area where statistics indicate a decrease. He says, air pollution has declined significantly. Using satellite data Lelieveld says he's found that the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East is drastically decreasing the level of air pollutants across the region. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR JOS LELIEVELD, MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE, SAYING: "Apparently there are economic and other societal factors, geopolitical factors that can have a very strong impact on air pollution and this is what we see from space. And the resolution that we now have available from space really enables us to look at particular cities." Cities like Cairo, Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad. Lelieveld explains that as millions of people flee conflict zones, economic activity and energy usage declines. And it's not just the Middle East, He says political turmoil elsewhere has been an important factor in the pollution decline. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR JOS LELIEVELD, MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE, SAYING: "Well we see Greece for example, since 2008, since the start of the economic and financial crisis that there is a very strong reduction, very strong. We are talking about something like 50 percent. Then we see in Syria a very strong reduction as well but that started in 2011. We see changes in Egypt which started in 2011. And we see the effects of the Islamic State in Iraq where they are active. We see that people are migrating away and activities are coming to a halt. And in other countries which are taking on refugees like Jordan and Lebanon, there were increases." Levieveld says tracking pollution in the AIR, could help policy makers decide which areas on the GROUND are in need of the most help.