Global Fossil Fuel Phase-Out Could Save Millions of Lives Annually

According to studies, there may be significant health advantages to gradually lowering our reliance on fossil fuels since air pollution is a leading cause of mortality globally. Using the most recent World Health Organization Global Air Quality Guidelines, the paper emphasizes the critical need to move to renewable energy sources in the fight against the awful health effects of air pollution.  

According to research based on the 2019 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study and World Health Organization (WHO) standards, air pollution is responsible for approximately 11.3% of female fatalities and 12.1% of male fatalities globally. Millions of lives are lost each year as a result of air pollution, which is as harmful as cigarette smoking.

Improved air quality is compatible with two crucial United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, all of which are linked to air pollution, according to the report. The study’s primary goal is to look at the possible effects of removing fossil fuels on disease-specific and all-cause mortality as it pertains to air pollution.

Despite the fact that it might save lives and help meet the Paris Climate Agreement’s temperature objectives, the transition to renewable energy sources is hampered by problems such as a lack of global consensus on carbon pricing, laws, and investments.  

Outdoor particle pollution (PM2.5) and ozone (O3) are the principal causes of the 8.34 million fatalities caused by air pollution worldwide each year. The study corrected previous underestimations of health problems related to low PM2.5 concentrations by employing a unique risk model, FUSION. Air pollution, according to the research, is a significant killer in Eastern Europe, areas of the Middle East, South and East Asia, and Eastern Europe as a whole.  

According to the research, cardiometabolic disorders such as cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, and diabetes account for more than half of the worldwide death toll from ambient air pollution. Furthermore, COPD and lower respiratory infections are significant causes of mortality globally, particularly in low-income nations. The study’s primary result is that phasing out fossil fuels globally may have a higher positive impact on health than previously thought.

The researchers emphasize the need to increase the use of clean, renewable energy in order to attain climate neutrality by 2050 and the UN’s sustainable development goals. Although data show a drop in mortality from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer, lower respiratory infections may not reduce as much in low-income countries.  

The study’s findings highlight the critical need for a worldwide campaign to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, which might have far-reaching benefits for public health and the fight against climate change. The findings stress the importance of swift and urgent action to mitigate the adverse effects of air pollution, emphasizing the link between environmental and human health.  

Journal Reference  

Lelieveld, J., Haines, A., Burnett, R., Tonne, C., Klingmüller, K., Münzel, T., & Pozzer, A. (2023). Air pollution deaths attributable to fossil fuels: observational and modeling study. Retrieved from https://www.bmj.com/content/383/bmj-2023-077784 



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