UKZN Air Quality Specialist Serves on UN Environmental Assessment Panel

UKZN Air Quality Specialist Serves on UN Environmental Assessment Panel

Professor Sivakumar Venkataraman of the Atmospheric Research Group (ATMRES) in the School of Chemistry and Physics (SCP) at UKZN has recently returned from serving on the Environmental Effects Assessment Panel (EEAP) in Vermont, United States of America.

Venkataraman, who leads the ATMRES on UKZN’s Westville campus, is known for his leadership in research related to atmospheric sciences. He is driving the establishment of networks using various remote sensing technologies such as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) systems to measure vertical aerosol profiles in the atmosphere above South Africa. This is done to assess air pollution, weather and the potential for human-induced climatic change.

The EEAP is a review meeting held every four or five years to review the status of ozone depletion and revisit the Montreal protocol for protection of the ozone and prevention of destruction in the stratosphere. The ozone forms an important barrier protecting living beings on earth from ultraviolet (UV) and other harmful radiation.

The EEAP assesses the various effects of ozone layer depletion, and its members from more than 16 countries worldwide are scientists working in photobiology and photochemistry. The Panel members contribute chapters to a report, occasionally with input from co-authors for special topics. The chapter authors review each other’s chapters, and the Panel takes responsibility for the entire assessment. A draft assessment is sent out to external scientific reviewers all over the world. Between the major assessments, the Panel meets at least once a year and informs the parties about new developments.

This major meeting, held in September, involved the consideration of seven chapters of the 2018 Quadrennial Report on Environmental Effects of Ozone Depletion and Interactions with Climate Change. Venkataraman contributed to the first chapter on the topic of Ozone-climate interactions and effects on solar ultraviolet radiation, and gave comments on the sixth chapter concerning interactive effects of changing stratospheric ozone and climate on air quality and composition of the troposphere.

The report deals with issues which include the consequences of stratospheric ozone depletion for human health and well-being, including interactions with global climate change, and the implications of UV radiation and climate change on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, among other topics.

The review meeting consolidated and addressed the comments to revise the report’s seven chapters; the revised and final version of the report is expected to be made available to the public in December.

Venkataraman was one of two contributors from South Africa, joining Dr Pieter Aucamp. Other sub-Saharan countries like Botswana and Ethiopia were also represented. The participation of diverse countries contributes to the quality of science contained in the EEAP’s communications with the Parties to the Montreal Protocol. The report will be presented to the United Nations Environment Programme in December, and submitted for publication in Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences for publication in early 2019.

Venkataraman’s participation on the Panel has resulted in prospective international research collaborations with scientists he met at the review.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph supplied by: Sivakumar Venkataraman