Climate Change and Air Pollution are Causing Millions of Premature Deaths

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Climate Change and Air Pollution are Causing Millions of Premature Deaths

Climate change is predicted to cause more death each year / Photo by Nitsuki via 123RF


For the past few years, humanity has seen how climate change has negatively affected the health of millions of people across the globe. The United States Global Change Research Program has warned the public that current and future effects of climate change can expose more people to public health threats. As temperatures continue to warm and extreme weather events increase, we can expect more unprecedented health threats. In fact, the World Health Organization predicted that climate change can cause 250,000 more deaths each year from 2030 to 2050, mainly from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, and heat stress.

Climate change will not only affect people's health, but also the social and environmental conditions that influence health such as adequate food, safe drinking water, clean air, and secure shelter. In an interview, Madeleine Thomson, a senior research scientist at the Earth Institute’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society, explained that climate change affects people wherever they are. “All of the evidence suggests that warming is continuing globally and in the U.S. and that we should expect more heat waves and more droughts. We’ve already seen huge challenges with water in California, in particular, and the wildfires and mudslides that we’ve had. They’re all connected," she said.

Link Between Climate Change and Air Pollution

Climate change and air pollution are two of the main environmental problems on our planet. Although these two have negatively affected the health of many people, both are linked with each other. According to an article by Sustainability, it is important to understand first in what ways they differ, the links they have, and the solutions they might share.

To begin, climate change is the global variation of the climate of our planet mainly due to rising sea levels, the changes in climate patterns, more extreme meteorological phenomena, and also human actions. The phenomenon not only impacts our environment, but also our society and economy.

On the other hand, the presence of substances or particles in the air that imply danger, damage, or disturbance for humans, flora or fauna is called air pollution. Air pollution is mainly caused by tropospheric ozone gases, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, benzopyrene, and particulate matter. These gases cause emissions coming from the burning of fossil fuels, burning of forests, industrial processes, aerosol use, and radiation.

One significant similarity between climate change and air pollution is that it can cause flooding, drought, flooding, deforestation, homelessness, and the extinction of plant and animal species. In fact, air pollution causes over six million deaths every year. Plus other cases of people having lung cancer, heart attacks, and strokes. Other factors such as the burning of fuel and increasing carbon emissions can worsen both climate change and air pollution.

If not remedied, both climate change and air pollution will worsen. Both can devastate the planet and human health. Carbon emission can also accumulate for at least 100 years in the atmosphere.

With the combination of climate change and air pollution, people around the world are more likely to acquire cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. They can also trigger asthma and many other illnesses. Those who live in developing countries and other coastal regions are more vulnerable than others.

Moreover, children living in marginalized countries are among the most vulnerable to health risks. These effects on our health can also be more severe for elderly people and people with infirmities or pre-existing medical conditions.


Air pollution causes six million deaths each year / Photo by Akhararat Wathanasing via 123RF


More Premature Deaths

In a recent study conducted by researchers from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the effects of climate change on human health, and the implications for society were analyzed. The study, which was a collaboration with the research coalition The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change, found that rising temperatures caused by climate change are exposing people all over the world to high health risks. The researchers also warned that ageing people in Europe and the East Mediterranean are more likely to be vulnerable than those from Africa and Southeast Asia.

According to Science Daily, the study also reported that toxic atmospheric pollution caused several million premature deaths last 2015. Gregor Kiesewetter, IIASA lead researcher of a team from the Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases research program, estimated the dangers of air pollution to human health. According to their findings, about 16% of pollution-related premature deaths happened over the past year.

Moreover, the researchers utilized the GAINS Model, which calculates the emissions of precursors of particulate matter based on a detailed breakdown of economic sectors and fuels used. In an interview, Kiesewetter said, "The attribution shows that unfortunately, an approach targeting a single sector or fuel won't solve the problem -- air pollution is a multi-faceted issue that needs integrated strategies cutting across many sectors, which will differ from country to country. This is what we typically do with the regional and local GAINS model: giving advice to policymakers on the most effective approaches to tackle air pollution in their specific settings."

The researchers said that by 2032, the world should keep warming below two degrees to mitigate the effects of air pollution and climate change. Otherwise, it can overwhelm and threaten the emergency and health services of countries around the world.




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