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Study: Air pollution reductions may prevent 1M premature deaths

By
Kyle Barnett
Aerosol emissions from sources such as this coal-fired power plant in China have been linked to millions of deaths, researchers say, but cutting aerosol emissions could prevents at least some of them. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI.
Aerosol emissions from sources such as this coal-fired power plant in China have been linked to millions of deaths, researchers say, but cutting aerosol emissions could prevents at least some of them. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI. | License Photo

June 1 (UPI) -- A new study suggests aerosol emissions be included in climate targets in reducing harmful gasses -- potentially saving about one million lives per year -- researchers said on Tuesday.

Aerosol emissions were not addressed in the document setting emissions targets for some 194 countries across the world with the aim of slowing global warming.

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But researchers say, in a study published in the journal Earth's Future, that reducing aerosols could be as good for human life as it is for the planet itself.

"While all greenhouse gas emissions might be thought of as unambiguously harmful, aerosols are more complicated," study first author Pascal Polonik said in a press release.

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"All aerosols are harmful to human health but they also often help counteract global warming by cooling the Earth's surface," said Polonik, a doctoral student at Scripps Oceanography.

Researchers estimate that emissions of aerosols from burning fossil fuels like coal and diesel create aerosol emissions that are linked to nine million premature deaths across the globe.

Researchers said warming can be limited by reducing commercial and waste sectors.

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"There are real benefits to being thoughtful about how aerosols factor into climate policy outcomes. There may be big benefits to cutting emissions from certain sectors first," co-author Kate Ricke, assistant professor with Scripps Oceanography and the School of Global Policy and Strategy, said in the press release.

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Under the Paris Agreement on Global Warming, each country is required to submit a Nationally Determined Contribution on the steps to be taken to achieve a common goal.

While the goal is to reduce population mortality, each country decides for itself how and where to implement the various processes.

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The researchers emphasized that, in terms of climate policy, different countries have different priorities in reducing warming and protecting public health due to varying industrial footprints.

The news comes after the World Meteorological Organization last week said temperature averages continue to increase despite goals set by the international coalition.

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