The findings of a new report suggest that air pollution will kill more than 4.5 million people by 2040, unless drastic measures are taken worldwide.
The International Energy Agency released an in-depth analysis of the world’s air quality June 27, highlighting the links between energy, air pollution and health consequences for people around the world.
The report identifies ways the energy sector can help curb poor air quality, which is the fourth-largest threat to human health, after high blood pressure, poor diet and smoking.
According to the findings, premature deaths from outdoor air pollution are projected to rise from 3 million to 4.5 million by 2040, with the majority of the deaths concentrated in developing Asia.
“Clean air is a basic human right that most of the world’s population lacks,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “No country – rich or poor – can claim that the task of tackling air pollution is complete. But governments are far from powerless to act and need to act now.”
The report indicates millions of tons of air pollution from factories, power plants, and vehicles is released into the atmosphere each year. Nearly 2.7 billion people still rely on stoves and fuels for cooking, including wood, charcoal and other biomass. These sources are key air pollutants.
Energy use and production from unregulated, poorly regulated, or inefficient fuel combustion are the most significant man-made sources of air pollutant emissions, creating more than 85% of particulate matter and almost all of the sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides.
A study published in May linked air pollution exposure to an increased risk of heart disease and heart attacks, even at low exposure levels commonly found in many U.S. Cities.
Reducing Air Pollution
The report calls for three key areas of focus and government action; including setting ambitious long-term air quality goals, putting in place a package of clean air policies for the energy sector, and ensuring effective monitoring enforcement evaluation and communication.
The group indicates that while emissions have fallen in industrialized countries, they are also rising in poor areas, including India, Southeast Asia and Africa, as the drive to produce more energy for growing nations often politically outweighs the drive to curb air pollution.
A seven percent increase in total energy investment through 2040 can result in sharp improvement in health, according to the report. Under this Clean Air Scenario, premature deaths from outdoor air pollution would decline by 1.7 million in 2040. Emissions from household pollution would fall by 1.6 million annually.
The IEA also called for actions to deliver access to clean cooking facilities to an additional 1.8 billion people by 2040 to reduce household emissions in developing countries.
The air pollution problem is felt around the world but particularly in the poorest societies. More than 80 percent of the population living in cities that monitor pollution levels are breathing air that fails to meet air quality standards set by the World Health Organization.
Air pollution greatly affects the population and causes many deaths worldwide.
Each year an estimated 6.5 million deaths are linked to air pollution and the number will increase significantly unless action is taken to curb emissions and clean up air pollution.
“We need to revise our approach to energy development so that communities are not forced to sacrifice clean air in return for economic growth,” Birol said. “Implementing the IEA strategy in the Clean Air Scenario can push energy-related pollution levels into a steep decline in all countries. “