UN issues warning over air pollution

World Today

Air pollution is still the world’s single biggest environmental health risk. According to the United Nations, it kills millions of people every year.

In addition, air pollution contributes to food insecurity and global warming. CGTN’s Liling Tan reported on World Environment Day.

“The problem is extremely bad because we are losing seven million people to premature deaths directly attributable to air pollution. These are the WHO studies from 2016 and the numbers are rising,” Satya Tripathi, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of UN Environment NY Office said.

“Fossil fuel burning comes from transportation emissions, then you have the energy sector producing energy for homes and industries and manufacturing for production purposes. On the biomass side, it’s basically a range of agriculture and ecosystem management type activities and also wildfires,” Alex de Sherbinin, an associate director for Science Applications at the Center for International Earth Science Information Network said.

“Our own ranking basically found that India and China run neck and neck in terms of their air quality issues,” de Sherbinin said. “These are basically a function of heavy reliance on coal burning and other technologies that are increasingly being replaced in China but are the mainstay of India’s energy economy.”

Premature deaths are the most dangerous consequence of air pollution and come at a huge economic cost. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimated the global welfare costs associated with premature deaths from air pollution would reach $18-to-25 trillion U.S. by 2060.

“The biggest solution to air pollution is adaption which is stopping damaging the environment any further,” Tripathi said. “Let’s plant trees because trees sequester carbon and make sure that we find alternative forms of agriculture. Let’s not put chemicals into our land. Let’s not pay for our own destruction.”

The struggle continues in the face of rising energy demand and a growing global population, but the hope is that with big polluting countries like China taking a lead in providing solutions, the rest of the world will follow suit.