Author: Sheena McKenzie | CNN
Air pollution is being reduced from the lives of billions of people around the world for years, and is a greater Threat to life expectancy A report published on Wednesday showed that it is different from smoking, HIV/AIDS or war.
In countries where air pollution levels are lower than the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO), people will lose an average of 2.2 years of life.
India is the country with the highest level of air pollution in the world. Its residents live longer than any other country, with an average reduction of 5.9 years. According to Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), Published in the annual report of the University of Chicago Energy Policy Institute (EPIC).
In northern India, 480 million people breathe pollution levels 10 times more than anywhere else on the planet. In some parts of the region, including Delhi and Kolkata City, residents could lose up to 9 years of life on average if the pollution levels recorded in 2019 continue.
The index calculates the number of years lost based on a country’s life expectancy when it meets the clean air guidelines set by the WHO.
The top five countries with the highest average years of loss are all in Asia. After India is Bangladesh, where the average life expectancy of residents has decreased by 5.4 years, followed by Nepal (5 years), Pakistan (3.9 years) and Singapore (3.8 years).
The author of the report said that air pollution is mainly caused by the use and production of fossil fuels, causing “a global problem that requires strong policies in all aspects.”
The study also pointed out how the world can enjoy cleaner skies and air as the pandemic forces air travel to be suspended and road traffic and manufacturing decrease. But at the same time, some parts of the world have experienced severe air pollution caused by wildfires, which has been exacerbated by hotter and drier weather conditions. In the United States, smoke from relentless wildfires in some western states has swept the country, affecting air quality as far as New York City.
“These high-profile events show that air pollution is not only a global challenge, but also intertwined with climate change. These two challenges are mainly caused by the same culprit: power plants, vehicles and other industrial sources. Fossil fuel emissions,” the report said. It calls on governments around the world to urgently implement policies to reduce dependence on fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.
“The Air Quality Lifetime Index shows that strong pollution policies can bring extra lifespan returns for people all over the world.”
World leaders will gather in the Scottish city of Glasgow in November to participate in the international climate negotiations known as COP26, and make the end date of “unreduced coal” an important agenda. Some fossil fuel companies defend their future by “capturing” enough greenhouse gases from the fuel to prevent them from entering the atmosphere, causing air pollution and climate change.
Asian megacities are at risk
Deep down to the city level, people in Asian megacities are suffering from some of the most serious pollution, and with it comes the greatest impact on life expectancy.
For example, in Bandung, Indonesia, people’s life expectancy has been shortened by nearly seven years on average, while in Jakarta, the capital of the country, it is nearly six years.
The report found that in Central and West Africa, the harmful effects of air pollution on life expectancy are “equal to well-known threats such as HIV/AIDS and malaria.”
More than half of the 611 million people living in Latin America are exposed to air pollution levels that exceed WHO guidelines. Across the region, air pollution reduces life expectancy by an average of five months, but this varies by location. In Lima, the capital of Peru, life expectancy will be reduced by an average of 4.7 years.
China’s “War on Pollution”
However, there are some reasons for hope. From 1998 to 2016, China was among the five most polluted countries every year. But since the so-called “pollution war” started in 2013, its particulate pollution has been reduced by 29%-accounting for three-quarters of the world’s air pollution reduction.
This reduction—if sustained—has restored the life expectancy of the Chinese by 1.5 years and reduced their average life expectancy to 2.6 years.
“Putting China’s success in the background, it took decades and economic recessions for the United States and Europe to achieve the same pollution reduction that China was able to achieve in six years,” the report said.
Indeed, there was a time when London was widely referred to as the “Great Smog” because of its dirty air, and Los Angeles was once the “Smog Capital of the World”.
Compared with 1970, the average particulate pollution that Americans are exposed to today has been reduced by 62%. Similarly, Europeans are exposed to an average of 27% less particulate pollution than they were 20 years ago — and as a result, life expectancy increased by four months, the report said.
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