WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- As many as eight million lives could be
saved if climate control policies are soon adopted worldwide, according to an
internationally recognized group of scientists, physicians and health experts.
The Working Group on Public Health and Fossil-Fuel Combustion, convened by
Dr. Devra L. Davis of the Washington, DC-based World Resources Institute,
predicts that if the world continues with current patterns of energy
consumption into the next century, instead of implementing international
greenhouse gas control policies, this lack of action will have serious global
short-term public health consequences.* These findings are published in The
Lancet (November 8, 1997), the world's oldest medical journal, and in
Environmental Health Notes, a WRI health, environment and development
publication. Highlights from the findings include:
-- AIR PARTICLES ARE DEADLY: Industrial processes that form greenhouse
gases also produce a host of other air pollutants, including deadly airborne
particles that have immediate public health impacts.
-- From the year 2000 to 2020, the total number of avoidable deaths could
reach 8 million worldwide (1.1 million in developed countries, and 6.9 million
in developing countries). For the U.S. alone (over this same period), nearly
half a million avoidable deaths are projected to occur.
-- By the year 2020, over 700,000 deaths worldwide will occur annually
from exposure to particles as a result of fossil-fuel burning that could be
avoided by a climate control policy. (The 700,000 figure under-estimates the
real value due to limiting assumptions used in analysis. For example, not all
sources of particulate air pollution were included.)
-- The projected number of annual avoidable deaths in the United States
in 2020 (33,000) would be of the same magnitude as occurred in 1995 as a
result of HIV infections, and all liver-related diseases; thus, avoidable
deaths tied with air pollution from fossil fuels rank among the top ten causes
of death today.
*(Note: The study assesses a climate policy scenario based upon the
European Union proposal which calls for a 15 percent reduction by developed
nations in carbon emissions from 1990 levels by the year 2010. In addition,
the climate policy scenario proposes a 10 percent reduction from "business as
usual" in carbon emissions of developing countries by 2010.)
-- New animal and human studies confirm that airborne fine particles can
sicken or kill people. For example, laboratory rats with respiratory
disorders died after being exposed to air pollution at concentrations found
today in Massachusetts. Studies in many countries show that particles
increase premature deaths in infants and adults.
-- AIR PARTICLES TRAVEL GLOBALLY: Air pollutants from fossil fuels have
global impacts are not just a local, national or regional concern because
they can be transported thousands of miles. Fine particles, for example, from
the Kuwaiti oil fires, have been detected thousands of miles away.
-- In 1990, respiratory diseases were a leading cause of disabilities and
illnesses worldwide. By 2020, respiratory-related diseases are projected to
rank among the top ten causes of poor health globally.
-- Data suggest that air pollution from outdoor and indoor sources
(cooking and heating fuels, for example) is responsible for more than 1
million deaths per year in China (that is, about one in every eight deaths
-- Regardless of how or when greenhouse gases alter climate, reducing
them now will save lives worldwide by lessening particulate air pollution.
Any action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions requires the reduced burning of
-- Patterns of rapid growth and development in emerging mega-cities of the
developing world can impose significant involuntary risks from air pollution
on large proportions of their population because of the concentration of
multiple sources of emissions from fossil fuels.
-- Climate control policies will yield multiple benefits -- reducing both
local and global air pollution and lessening the build-up of greenhouse gases.
About the Working Group
Dr. Devra Lee Davis, a leading environmental health researcher and
director of the Health, Environment, and Development Program of the
Washington, D.C.-based World Resources Institute, convened the working group.
International experts in energy modeling, climate, atmospheric chemistry, and
public health from the World Health Organization, the Environmental Protection
Agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development, Harvard University,
University of California, Berkeley and private consulting firms, collaborated
in the conduct of this assessment. The team included Professors Richard
Wilson and Joel Schwartz of Harvard University, Drs. Tord Kjellstrom and Rudi
Slooff of the World Health Organization, and Drs. William Hohenstein, Dwight
Akinson and Tracey Woodruff, of the U.S. EPA. For detailed information on the
study, please refer to www.wri.org, or call WRI at (202) 638-6300.
Other Expert Contacts
Eric Chivian 617-432-0493 Chge@warren.med.harvard.edu
(Harvard Medical School) 617-432-2595
Anthony McMichael 0171-927-2254 Tmcmichael@lshtm.ac.uk
M.S. Swaminathan 44-1865-310-210 (Hotel)
(Madras India) 44-1865-274-775 (Crispin Tickell's Office)
Sir Crispin Tickell (Oxford) 44-1865-274-775
Prof. Lester Lave 412-268-8837
(Carnegie Mellon University)
The World Resources Institute provides objective information and practical
proposals for policy change that will foster environmentally sound
development. WRI works with institutions in more than 50 countries to bring
the insights of scientific research, economic analysis, and practical
experience to political, business, and non-governmental organization leaders
around the world.
SOURCE World Resources Institute