(Wednesday 16th October 2019 Issue)
Nine out of 10 people around the world are exposed to air pollutants that exceed safe levels, according to the World Health Organization. Yet the problem persists, and has even worsened in many countries.
The United Nations reports that every year, household indoor pollution is linked to 3.8 million premature deaths around the world, mostly in developing countries. Air pollution from transport, meanwhile, is linked to some 400,000 deaths annually. The transport sector accounts for nearly a fourth of carbon dioxide emissions, with the UN expecting the proportion to increase.
Developing countries have resisted efforts to completely stop using coal for energy generation, arguing that the cheap fuel is needed to power industries. But governments can provide more incentives to the private sector for investing in green energy, including support in research and development.
Mitigation measures are also needed to offset the pollution generated by livestock, which are among the largest sources of methane and ammonia that aggravate climate change. Some of the biggest cattle-producing countries plant trees around their livestock and dairy farms.
Around the Africa, smoke belchers continue to ply the streets. Open burning of garbage continues in many areas. From afar, some of this heavy pollution could be visible in most cities and urban settlements. The health care costs linked to air pollution put a heavy burden on public funds even in wealthy economies.
In the annual observance of World Environment Day, the UN is urging governments to do more to beat air pollution. The observance also aims to inspire individuals to do their share in improving air quality. Often, the most vulnerable to the health risks posed by air pollution are those who produce it.
A Guest editorial