I’ve decided to bring up a topic that is perhaps not as well discussed as it should be: air pollution. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that in 2012 up to seven million people, one in eight total world-wide deaths, lost their lives as a result of air pollution. This startling new statistic doubles what the WHO had previously estimated- now placing air pollution as Earth’s largest environmental health risk.
It is generally accepted that pollutants are anything that us humans put into the atmosphere that would not otherwise be there- so of course air pollution comes in a wide array of forms. The most well-known, and most serious, pollutants included carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons and sulfur dioxides. These pollutants are introduced into our atmosphere in a variety of ways. Carbon dioxide, Earth’s main pollutant, enters our atmosphere due to our consistent use of machinery (such as cars and planes), power plants, and of course breathing. Sulfur dioxide emissions primarily come from industrial activity, though it is present in fuel emissions as well. Methane gas is primarily emitted by swamp areas and livestock while Chlorofluorocarbons mostly come from old refrigerators and aerosol propellants.
On a small scale we can all do our parts to be more sustainable, but for real measurable change to occur most changes will have to occur on a larger scale. One such attempt is the Kyoto Protocol, a between-country agreement some nations have taken part in, committing to cut back on emissions. Another functional notion towards reducing emission would be for governments to start taxing company’s emissions or fuel use.
However we are to fix this global crisis, we will have to go about it soon. Ideally the recent findings highlighting how severe this matter is will start pushing governments to prioritize air pollution as an issue of paramount importance. Until then watch your carbon footprint, start carpooling, and spread the word folks!