Environment

Fossil fuel dangers are even worse than we knew

Consumption of fossil fuels may be even more dangerous to humans than COVID-19. According to researchers from Harvard and three British universities, over eight million people died in 2018 from fossil fuel pollution. They estimate exposures to particulate matter from fossil fuel emissions accounted for 18 percent of total global deaths, which is almost one out of five.

Our study adds to the mounting evidence that air pollution from ongoing dependence on fossil fuels is detrimental to global health. We can’t in good conscience continue to rely on fossil fuels, when we know that there are such severe effects on health and viable, cleaner alternatives.

ELOISE MARAIS, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON

The study found serious effects of air pollution on the very young and the unborn, which leaves me to expect “pro-life” mobs will immediately demand coal, oil and gas producers be legislated out of business:

The developing fetus and children younger than 5 years of age are more biologically and neurologically susceptible to the many adverse effects of air pollutants from fossil-fuel combustion than adults. This differential susceptibility to air pollution is due to their rapid growth, developing brain, and immature respiratory, detoxification, immune, and thermoregulatory systems. Children also breathe more air per kilogram of body weight than adults, and are therefore more exposed to pollutants in air. 

Harvard’s School of Public Health noted a key takeaway that would save lives:

Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy has immediate health benefits, including preventing premature deaths attributed to fossil fuel pollution.

Most people associate climate change with melting ice, rising sea levels and extreme weather events, while illness and death get less attention outside of scientific communities. The study participants believe fossil fuel consumption should be reduced as quickly as possible.

Politicians and corporate leaders talk about transitioning from oil and gas but global consumption numbers show little progress is being made in 2022. The world’s economy paused during early months of the COVID-19 outbreak and that reduced energy consumption. However, demand has been restored to levels before the pandemic.

Large players in the global economy quietly fund climate change denial but they have increased public relations efforts, which appear to be little more than self-serving puffery. Journalists at the New York examined public statements from business leaders and found their promises to decrease dangerous emissions were mostly empty.

Finally, corporations are jumping into action on climate change — or at least that’s what they’d like us to believe. Many of the world’s biggest and most polluting companies have recently promised to curb their carbon output, by reaching net-zero emissions in the next few decades. These sweeping pledges conjure a world where we can have it all: economic growth and global trade — without the global warming that usually comes with that. While saving the planet demands an approach more ambitious than incremental change, these corporate fantasies of the future just don’t stand up to scrutiny


Karn Vohra, Alina Vodonos, Joel Schwartz, Eloise A. Marais, Melissa P. Sulprizio, Loretta J. Mickley,
Global mortality from outdoor fine particle pollution generated by fossil fuel combustion: Results from GEOS-Chem,
Environmental Research,
Volume 195,
2021,
110754,
ISSN 0013-9351,
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2021.110754.

Categories: Environment

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