Reducing some climate pollutants could save millions of lives, says a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Gases, like soot, or black carbon, methane and the ozone in city smog, are called “short-lived climate pollutants.” Not only do they contribute to climate change, but they can cause ill health.
WHO says emissions from these climate pollutants cause cardiovascularand respiratory diseases. These include heart disease, pulmonary disease, respiratory infections and lung cancer.
The WHO says these pollutants are responsible for many of the more than 7million premature deaths each year that are connected to air pollution.
The UN health group also says the pollutants can decrease agricultural crops.These pollutants exist both outdoors and indoors.
WHO Environment Chief Maria Neira says the pollutants have a strongimpact on climate change. She says the good news is that they only stay in the atmosphere for a few days to 10 years. That is much shorter than carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, that can remain for hundreds, or even thousands, of years.
”The fact that they are short-lived pollutants, when you address them, you canreduce emissions very rapidly, and then improve both air quality as well asslowing the rate of near term climate change. You will have an immediatereduction in the ill-health and diseases caused by the reduction of air pollution.”
WHO has a number of available and affordable ways to mitigate these short-lived climate pollutants? At the top of their list: cutting vehicle emissions byrequiring higher emissions and efficiency standards. More emissions arereleased when engines are running.
Indoor air pollution also contributes to bad health and premature death. TheWHO reports that nearly 3 billion low-income households rely on “dirty fuels.”Coal, wood and kerosene used for cooking and heating are examples. Theysay cleaner and more efficient stove and fuel alternatives could cut down on the health risks.
Another way they say to cut back on these pollutants is to have moreinvestments and policies for rapid transit. These include buses, trains,bicycles and pedestrian, or walking routes. They say these investments couldhave many benefits, including safer travel, reduced health risks from noiseand air pollution and more physical activity.
The WHO report also calls for encouraging high- and middle-incomepopulations to include more plant-based foods in their diets. It says this could reduce heart disease and some cancers. It could also slow the methane gasproduction that comes with some animal-sourced foods.
Words in This Story
cardiovascular – adj. involving the heart and blood vessels
respiratory – adj. having to do with breathing
premature – adj. early, before a normal time
mitigate – v. causing something to be less harsh
emission – n. act of producing or sending something from a source