According to a new World Health Organization (WHO) report, air pollution causes both climate change and disease. Particulate matter, including major climate forcers such as black carbon soot (one of four climate pollutants known collectively as short-lived climate pollutants or SLCPs), is linked to diseases such as ischaemic heart disease, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, respiratory infections, and lung cancer. SLCPs are also the second leading cause of global warming behind carbon (CO2).
The WHO report indicates that one in eight deaths in 2012 is attributed to exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution. A total of 7 million people die annually due to indoor and outdoor air pollution. Addressing air pollutants could save millions of lives & cut warming in half by 2030.
The report suggests that indoor particulate matter air pollution from the burning of solid fuels for heating and cooking caused 4.3 million deaths in 2012, and outdoor particulate matter air pollution caused an additional 3.7 million deaths globally.
The highest number of deaths from air pollution is to be found in low- and middle-income countries in South-East Asia (3.3 million deaths) and the Western Pacific (2.6 million deaths).
Exposure to particulate matter air pollution, which “Reducing air pollution, including black carbon soot pollution, can save millions of lives a year, reduce crop losses significantly, and cut the rate of global warming in half and the rate of warming in the Arctic by two-thirds over the next few decades,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “With this combination of benefits—healthier citizens, higher crop yields, and half the rate of climate change—reducing air pollutants should be a top priority for sustainable development and climate protection.”
Reducing SLCPs has the potential to cut the rate of climate change in half, slowing global temperature rise by up to ~0.6°C by 2050 and 1.3°C by 2100, while preventing 2.4 million air pollution-related deaths per year, and avoiding around 30 million tonnes of crop losses annually.
Eliminating emissions of black carbon from traditional solid biomass stoves with improved cookstoves could reduce the direct climate effects of black carbon over South Asia by about 60%.
Click here to access the WHO press release.
Click here to access the IGSD’s Primer on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (pdf).
© 2014, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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