Greenhouse Gas Emissions Endanger the Public's Health Today
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 nationwide). Implications -- 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 fossil fuels. -- 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 0171-580-6897 M.S. Swaminathan 44-1865-310-210 (Hotel) (Madras India) 44-1865-274-775 (Crispin Tickell's Office) 44-1865-274-796 Sir Crispin Tickell (Oxford) 44-1865-274-775 44-1865-274-796 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
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