The U.N. Environment Programme reported that a dirty, brown haze a mile thick, called “atmospheric brown clouds,” is darkening the skies over vast areas of Asia, the Middle East, southern Africa, and the Amazon Basin. Caused by the burning of fossil fuels and firewood, the enormous plumes are threatening health and food supplies, according to the report.
When mixed with emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, they are the newest threat to the global environment, with negative effects on the climate and leading to extreme weather patterns. “All of this points to an even greater need to look at emissions across the planet,” said Achim Steiner, head of UNEP. The clouds were prominent during the summer Olympics in Beijing, and have been found to be more than a mile thick around glaciers in the Himalaya and Hindu Kush mountain ranges.