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Smog in Singapore
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Health

Air Pollution From Fossil Fuels Kills 4.5 Million People Every Year

Why Global Citizens Should Care
The United Nations Global Goal 13 urges countries to phase out fossil fuels in favor of clean energy sources. Not only will this mitigate climate change, but it will also improve the health of people and economies worldwide. You can join us in taking action on this issue here.

Burning fossil fuels caused an estimated 4.5 million premature deaths in 2018, including the deaths of 400,000 children under the age of 5, according to a new study by Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

People who die from air pollution caused by coal, natural gas, and oil lose an average of 19 years from their life span. 

This air pollution costs the global economy an estimated $2.9 trillion annually, a figure arrived at by calculating health care costs and lost days of productivity. For example, $200 billion was spent in 2018 on treating chronic illnesses caused by fossil fuel air pollution, while sick leave rose to $100 billion. The cost of handling all the premature deaths is estimated at more than $2.4 trillion.

 “Air pollution is a threat to our health and our economies,” Minwoo Son, clean air campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia, told the Guardian. “Every year, air pollution from fossil fuels takes millions of lives, increases our risk of stroke, lung cancer, and asthma, and costs us trillions of dollars.”

The researchers tried to isolate air pollution from fossil fuels from other sources such as forest fires, indoor air pollution, and chemical releases. Globally, an estimated 8.8 million people die from outdoor air pollution, while millions more die from indoor air pollution

The report helps to bolster the case that fossil fuels are no longer financially viable. The fossil fuel industry receives more than $5 trillion in subsidies annually. The economic costs of failing to deal with climate change, which is primarily driven by burning fossil fuels, will reach into the tens of trillions of dollars

The researchers argue that phasing out fossil fuels in favor of clean energy alternatives will boost economies worldwide by improving the health of people everywhere.  

In the US, every $1 invested in the Clean Air and Water Act generated a $30 return. This 30-to-1 ratio could be even greater in developing countries, where air pollution is particularly hazardous.

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