Climate Change

Air Pollution and Climate Change

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#1 on WHO’s Global Threat List


(Archived story. Original version is here.)

The World Health Organization (WHO) placed air pollution and climate change at the top of its list of ten threats to global health in 2019 — even ahead of such concerns as noncommunicable diseases and Ebola.

Air pollution seriously affects health. There are two main types of air pollution: ambient air pollution (outdoor pollution) and household (or indoor) air pollution (pollution generated by household combustion of coal, wood or kerosene using open fires or basic stoves in poorly ventilated spaces).

Hand in hand with air pollution, climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health: clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. In recent years climate change has drastically increased the number of natural disasters, the rise of temperatures and sea levels, the warming of the oceans and the spread of water-related diseases such as malaria.

WiRED International joins nations and organizations all over the world to raise awareness on how climate change impacts human health. Many of WiRED’s Health Learning Center modules discuss the effects of climate change. WiRED modules on vector-borne diseases affected by climate change include malariachikungunya and Zika. WiRED also offers modules on bacterial, viral and parasitic infections impacted by climate change.

Visible evidence of the threat to our planet can be seen in the fires in California and Australia, the extreme flooding in Venice and the outbreak of plague in China — to name examples found in stories on the front pages of today’s newspapers. Most governments and health agencies and the global youth movement are taking action, while many climate change deniers are, at this moment, undermining efforts to reduce the most serious causes of climate change. We are at a tipping point, and the climate change skeptics may be tilting the balance toward an irreversible loss of our ecosystems. 

Facts from WHO

  1. Air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year.
  2. Nine out of ten people breathe polluted air every day.
  3. The World Health Organization considers air pollution the greatest environmental risk to health.
  4. Around 90% of deaths from pollutants that cause cancer, stroke and heart and lung disease occur in people who live in low- and middle-income countries.
  5. The major cause of air pollution, the burning of fossil fuels, is a major contributor to climate change.