Sunday, September 16, 2018

This Is Absolutely Unacceptable - By Christiana Figueres

Christiana Figueres was executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010 to 2016.

The coal-fired Plant Scherer in Juliette, Georgia. June 3, 2017. (Credit: AP Photo/Branden Camp) Click to Enlarge.
Climate change is here now, and it’s time to urgently ask ourselves:  What kind of future do we want to work toward?  The air we breathe is key to answering this question.  Global warming is not just manifesting in devastating fires, floods and heatwaves; its causes are impacting nearly every breath we take.

A recent World Health Organization report said that nine out of 10 people on the planet breathe dangerous air, and an estimated 7 million premature deaths a year are caused by air pollution-related diseases, including stroke and heart disease, respiratory illness and cancer.  A recent Health Effects report reiterated these statistics, saying more than 95 percent of the world population breathes bad air.  Just a few weeks ago, another study showed that air pollution damages cognitive abilities.

Thick, heavy smog caused by the burning of fossil fuels and crops is choking cities around the world.  China has been forced to close tens of thousands of factories to reduce its air pollution.  Air pollution in Africa has been ruled responsible for more deaths than unsanitary water or malnutrition.  Last November, Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of India’s capital city, wrote:  “Delhi has become a gas chamber.”

Pollution is not invisible — but it can be hard to see.  The pollutants that give most cause for concern are toxic gases such as nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, or PM2.5. These gases come from car, truck and bus exhaust, the burning of fuels such as coal, oil, gas and petrol, as well as burning crop materials or naturally-occurring forest and grass fires.  These particles are so small — a fraction of the size of the diameter of a human hair — that they are easily ingested deep into the lungs.

PM2.5 is now increasingly showing up in places like Europe and North America, partly due to wildfires.  Studies have linked air pollution to about 40,000 deaths a year in the United Kingdom — with about 10,000 in London, partly due to the rise of diesel vehicles there.  Meanwhile, wildfires are reversing decades of air quality improvements across wide swaths of the western United States.

The most vulnerable people are impacted the hardest.  Fossil fuel combustion byproducts have been deemed one of the most serious threats to children’s health and global equality.  Emerging evidence indicates that pollution from coal combustion and motor vehicles has been linked to development delays, reduced IQ and autism in children.

Carrying on along this trajectory is irresponsible and absolutely unacceptable.

Read more at This Is Absolutely Unacceptable

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