The Issue / Health and Climate Impacts

Health and Climate Impacts

Air pollution threatens our health and our climate but is often invisible

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Overview

Take a deep breath: today we start making a change. The air pollution we breathe in doesn’t just impact our health; it impacts our climate’s health, too.

A TWO-FOLD PROBLEM:
A TWO-FOLD PROBLEM:
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Health impact

Tiny, invisible particles of pollution penetrate deep into our lungs, bloodstream and bodies. These pollutants are responsible for about one-third of deaths from stroke, chronic respiratory disease, and lung cancer as well as one quarter of deaths from heart attack. Ground-level ozone, produced from the interaction of many different pollutants in sunlight, is also a cause of asthma and chronic respiratory illnesses.

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Climate impact

Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) are among those pollutants most linked with both health effects and near-term warming of the planet. They persist in the atmosphere for as little as a few days or up to a few decades, so reducing them can have an almost immediate health and climate benefits for those living in places where levels fall.

Sources of Air Pollution

Meet the pollutants.

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Black Carbon

Sources:
Produced most often by diesel engines, burning trash, and cooking or heating stoves that burn coal, kerosene or biomass (organic matter such as wood or animal waste).

Impact:
Black carbon particles are fine enough to penetrate deep into the lungs, bloodstream, heart and brain, causing inflammatory responses and other long-term health effects.

Reduction:
Fortunately, its lifespan is only up to ten days, so if emissions of black carbon and other short-lived climate pollutants were dramatically reduced in the next few years, global warming by 2050 would slow by as much as .5⁰ C.

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Ground-level ozone

Sources:
Forms when emissions of methane, nitrogen oxides and other “precursor” pollutants from industry, traffic, waste and energy production interact in the presence of sunlight.

Impact:
A major factor in respiratory illness and has been shown to decrease crop yields, spurring food security challenges and poor nutrition.

Reduction:
Depletes in a few days, but traces can remain for 1–2 months, acting as climate warming agents. Reductions can help prevent climate change impacts.

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Methane

Sources:
40% of human-generated methane emissions come from agriculture, primarily rice paddies and livestock production. This is followed by emissions from sewage and solid waste, and oil and gas production.

Impact:
Methane emissions contribute significantly to the development of ground level ozone; chronic exposure to ozone is a factor in asthma and other chronic respiratory illnesses, and can harm childhood lung development.

Reduction:
Methane persists for about a decade, but improved waste management methods, including capture and combustion of methane as a clean energy source, would rapidly begin depleting emissions.

Health & Disease Burden

Air pollution is a leading cause of many common killers.

36%

of lung cancer deaths

35%

of COPD (pulmonary disease) deaths

34%

of stroke deaths

27%

of heart disease deaths

A Vicious Cycle

Many sources of air pollution also are heavy emitters of CO2, contributing to a vicious cycle that threatens our health and climate.

Rising temperatures

Global warming increases the intensity of storms, droughts and heat waves, and expands the zones of transmission for many vector-borne diseases transmitted by mosquitoes (e.g. malaria) or other insects and pests.

Snow & ice melt

Black carbon speeds up glacier and mountain snow & ice melt, leading to loss of water storage in these “ice reservoirs” increased drought, and exacerbating local weather extremes.

Crop damage

Ozone reduces crop growth and agricultural productivity, which in turn reduce food security and leads to undernutrition.

Solutions We have proven solutions to combat
air pollution and help save lives.
See the Solutions
Who it affects Over 80% of all cities exceed WHO limits for safe air. See who is affected