Air pollution from fossil fuels is responsible for 40,000 children dying before their 5th birthday and costs the global economy as much $8bn a day, according to a new report published today (February 12) by Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
Burning fossil fuels, primarily coal, oil and gas emit particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen oxide (NO2) and ozone, all of which contaminate the air that we breathe and have dangerous effects on human health.
Greenpeace has estimated that exposure to PM2.5 from fossil fuels is responsible for 7.7 million asthma-related hospital trips each year and for the death of around 3 million people due to cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and lung cancer.
A further estimated 1 million people die prematurely due to ozone pollution and 500,000 people due to NO2.
According to the report, the cost of this, based on health care costs and the cost of the lives lost is up to $8bn a day, this is 3.3% of the world’s GDP.
China, the U.S. and India bare the highest cost from fossil fuel pollution, $900bn, $600bn and $150bn respectively.
In order to calculate this, the researchers looked at public reports on the contribution of burning fossil fuels to global air pollution levels, and then this data was used to perform a health impact assessment of the pollution.
In the report, the researchers outline the two main courses of action that governments must take in order to mitigate the health impacts and reduce the cost that air pollution from fossil fuels is having on the global population.
The report states that governments must help to transform the way that people travel, particularly in highly populated urban areas.
One of the most important steps is for governments to phase out the use of petrol and diesel cars.
Governments can also ban the use of cars from city centres, for example with Clean Air Zones or car-free days.
A phaseout of existing coal, oil and gas power plants, and the prevention of new fossil fuel projects is another essential step that will bring about major public health benefits, while also helping to mitigate climate change by keeping global temperatures below 1.5 degrees of pre-industrial levels.
Minwoo Son, clean air campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia said: ‘Air pollution is a threat to our health and our economies.
‘Every year, air pollution from fossil fuels takes millions of lives and costs us trillions of dollars.
‘But this is a problem that we know how to solve by transitioning to renewable energy sources, phasing out diesel and petrol cars, and building public transport.
‘We need to take into account the real cost of fossil fuels, not just for our rapidly heating planet, but also for our health.’
Photo Credit – Pixabay