Some common short-lived climate pollutants are black carbon, tropospheric ozone and methane. These substances are pollutants, which trap green house gases but also through their pollutant effect damage human health.
Globally, 88% of the world’s population breathes air that does not meet the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines. In 2014, WHO estimated 7 million deaths annually are attributable to air pollution. This death rate makes air pollution comparable to tobacco smoking.
Identifying the harmful health effects of short-lived climate pollutants, allows us to propose mitigating solutions, which not only decrease the short-term effect on the health of individuals but also has the added benefit of decreasing carbon dioxide production.
Air quality improvements targeting black carbon are estimated to prevent about 2·4 million deaths annually. Decreased household pollutants with improved lighting and energy generation from renewables would also decrease the black carbon generated from burning solid fossil fuels.
Other mitigating actions that will lead to public health improvement:
- Active transportation, increased diesel filters and higher emissions controls all will improve human health and decrease the burden of diseases such as asthma and chronic lung disease.
- Most mitigating actions are relatively simple and would have multiple health benefit spin offs. For example moving to a largely plant based diet, has the added benefit of improving cardiovascular health of our population.
- Decreasing food waste with redistribution of food leads to improved nutrition.
- Waste management systems using landfill gas recovery and improved water management decreases pollution of the air and water.
Contributed by Georgina Wilcock
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