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Waste and Emissions»Reducing Air Pollution Could Prevent Millions of Deaths

»Wednesday, July 29,2009

A recent report produced by the Netherlands Environment Agency has highlighted how reducing air pollution through lowering emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could lead to millions of deaths being prevented.

According to the forecasts of researchers, introducing measures such as low-emissions cars could avoid around 100 million early deaths associable with poor air quality. 

Dutch researcher Johannes Bollen, who co-authored the study, drew attention to how a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of this century would be needed if these potential air pollution victims were to be kept alive.  His ’50 by 50’ requirement married up with current international thoughts on the acceptable emission cuts needed over the next four decades.

The agency’s report stressed that, if governments around the world carried on with current energy use trends, the introduction of more people to the world, the fact that people were living longer these days and the issue of more people living in urban areas would co-conspire to raise the percentage of deaths linked to air pollution.  This percentage, it explained, would go up by 30 per cent in member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and by 100 per cent in countries outside the organisation.

Technologies and the Environment

The report also covered the issue of technologies and the environment, throwing some new light on the subject. For example, it highlighted the ability of CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) technologies to remove atmospheric CO2, but also mentioned how, in general, CCS was ineffective in scrubbing the air of other forms of pollutants. 

What would work, it said, would be to lower vehicle exhaust emissions and take more cars off the road.

Cutting Air Pollution

Cutting air pollution would also have financial benefits, the report wrote.  For instance, by saving the lives of workers in countries like China and India, Gross Domestic Product growth could reach five per cent by 2050.  “The local air pollution benefits of climate mitigation policies provide an additional economic incentive for countries to participate in a global agreement to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions”, Bollen added.

Enviro-News recently reported on the American Lung Association’s 2008 ‘State of the Air’ study, which found that no less than sixty per cent of Americans – 186 million – resided in areas where air pollution was present at a dangerous level.

Since then, the London Assembly Environment Committee has issued its own report on the British capital city, suggesting that its air pollution could be linked to 3,000 early deaths that occurred four years ago. 

London’s air pollution surpasses those of all other cities in Britain, and ranks among Europe’s worst.
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