A report released on Tuesday shows that emissions from fossil fuel use are responsible for one in five deaths in the world – significantly more than previously thought.
The study showed that burning fossil fuels has serious consequences for human health and is a major factor in climate change.
“Our study complements the growing evidence that air pollution from continued dependence on fossil fuels is detrimental to global health,” said co-author Eloise Marais, an associate professor at University College London. “We can’t continue to rely on fossil fuels in good conscience if we know there are such serious health effects and viable, cleaner alternatives.”
In 2018, 8.7 million people died from air pollution from fossil fuels, according to new research from Harvard University in collaboration with the University of Birmingham, the University of Leicester and University College London. (According to Marais, 2018 was the most complete with information, among other factors.) This is more than double the previous estimate of 4.2 million deaths in the previous benchmark study (although this study also included deaths from dust and smoke) from fires and agricultural burns, not just from fossil fuels).
For the new study, the research team used a global 3-D model of the chemical composition of the atmosphere, an open source software called GEOS-Chem that allows higher-resolution studies of the air and its locations at any given location.
Previous research methods do not differentiate between the type of particles in the air because satellite technology has been used, according to one claim.
“With satellite data, you see only pieces of the puzzle,” Loretta J. Mickley, senior researcher at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) on chemical-climate interactions and the study, said in the statement. “It is difficult for satellites to distinguish between particle types and there may be gaps in the data.”
For the Harvard study, “we wanted to map out where the pollution is and where people live so we could find out more precisely what people are breathing,” said Karn Vohra, a graduate student at the University of Birmingham and the first author of the study. the statement.
In general, it is more dangerous to live in a country where there are more particles in the air by burning fossil fuels. “Mortality rates are higher in countries where more fossil fuels are burned,” Marais told CNBC Make It. “These include countries like India and China.”
Of course, 2020 reversed almost every trend, and fossil fuel emissions were no exception. The coronavirus epidemic has blocked travel around the world, limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
But “studies focusing on air quality changes due to closure in response to a pandemic have also generally found that improvements in air quality have been dramatic but short-lived,” says Marais. “Studies examining the health effects of short breaks due to poor air quality are only just beginning to appear, as a full year of data is needed to compare long-term health exposures to air pollution.”
In response to the Harvard study, the U.S. Department of Energy Information (EIA) told CNBC Make It that the government agency would not comment on “third-party reports.”
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