More people die every year from fossil fuel pollution—a problem that receives little attention—than have died from COVID since the outbreak in early 2020. According to new research, 8.7 million died prematurely in 2018—more than 18% of the entire global death toll for the year. And while the daily media coverage of the pandemic is on every news feed 24/7, pollution-caused deaths remain largely unnoticed.
(The following piece was previously published in Yale Climate Connection.)
Deaths from Fossil Fuel Pollution – Worse than COVID
Burning fossil fuels creates harmful air pollution that can worsen lung disease, heart disease, and other health conditions. The consequences can be dire.
A new study estimates that air pollution from burning fossil fuels caused 8.7 million premature deaths worldwide in the year 2018 alone. That’s almost one out of every five deaths that year.
“We’re showing that there is an immediate impact, a public health emergency,” says Eloise Marais of University College London.
She was part of a team that used global atmospheric models to map local air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels.
Their analysis included power plants and other emissions sources, including vehicles, trains, diesel generators, and coal used in homes.
And they drew on the latest epidemiological research, which allowed them to improve upon previous estimates of the health consequences of all that air pollution.
Marais says their findings reveal the enormous cost, in human lives, of continuing to burn fossil fuels and underscore the need to transition to cleaner sources of energy.
“There needs to be a far more urgent response to our dependence on fossil fuels,” Marais says.
You can listen to the radio story below.
In trying to draw parallels between the COVID pandemic and the climate crisis, Mark Carney (currently the UN’s climate envoy) told BBC news that “the world is heading for mortality rates equivalent to the Covid crisis every year by mid-century unless action is taken.”
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