A new Harvard University study has found that fossil fuel pollution is linked to one in five deaths worldwide. The study found that globally more than 8 million people are estimated to have died from fossil fuel pollution in 2018 – almost double previous estimates.
In Australia this represents about 4 per cent of all deaths each year, or about 5700 fatalities. Australia’s primary energy sources are *coal (approx. 40%), oil (34%) & gas (22%). At present coal accounts for about 75% of Australia’s electricity generation. Hydro energy (5 %) and wind around (2 %).
Fossil Fuel Pollution Culprits
The researchers estimated that China’s decision to cut its fossil fuels emissions nearly in half for 2018 saved 2.4 million lives worldwide, including 1.5 million lives in China alone. The report concluded that deaths from fossil fuel emissions were higher than previously thought by the scientific community.
More than 8 million people died in 2018 from fossil fuel pollution which is significantly higher than previous research had suggested. The new research was carried out by Harvard University (USA), in collaboration with the University of Birmingham (UK), the University of Leicester (UK) and University College, London (UK).
Eloise Mariais, Ass. Prof. at University College London, said, “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.”
Researchers estimated that exposure to particulate matter from fossil fuel emissions accounted for 18 percent of total global deaths in 2018 — a little less than 1 out of 5.
Regions with the highest concentrations of fossil fuel-related air pollution — including Eastern North America, Europe, and South-East Asia — have the highest rates of mortality, according to the study published in the journal Environmental Research.
The study greatly increases estimates of the numbers killed by air pollution. The most recent Global Burden of Disease Study, the largest and most comprehensive study on the causes of global mortality, put the total number of global deaths from all outdoor airborne particulate matter — including dust and smoke from wildfires and agricultural burns — at 4.2 million.
How did the researchers arrive at such a high number of fossil-fuel-caused deaths?
Coauthors Alina Vodonos and Joel Schwartz, Professor of Environmental Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH), developed a new risk assessment model that linked the concentration levels of particulates from fossil fuel emissions to health outcomes.
This new model found a higher mortality rate for long-term exposure to fossil fuel emissions, including at lower concentrations.
Sources: Harvard School John A. Paulson School of Engineering & Applied Sciences and *ga.gov.au.