According to a recent report, published by the Air Quality of Life Index, air pollution is killing millions of people worldwide, who have seen their life expectancy reduced by at least 6 years, which is a more dangerous cause of death than others such as tobacco, road traffic accidents or HIV/AIDS.
Currently, one of the most affected countries is India, due to the burning of coal and fossil fuels. Other countries, such as China, where everyday efforts are made to reduce air pollution, are also suffering from the risks of polluted atmospheric particles, which contribute to the deaths of thousands of their inhabitants.
According to other research, the climate crisis is adding to air pollution by causing forest fires, thus completing a whole series of environmental problems that seem to irremediably complicate our daily lives.
The pandemic as a portrait of a possible future
With the onset of the pandemic last year and the closure of buildings and roads, it became clear how the dynamics of everyday life contribute to pollution.
For this reason, experts recommend that governments take immediate action to prevent the arrival of an undesirable future full of natural disasters, or higher pollution rates that end the lives of millions of more people.
"Not only are we letting the pollution take its course, but we are also causing it," explains Michael Greenstone, a professor at the University of Chicago. "The most surprising thing is that there are large countries where, indeed, a combination of government and [social] norms are choosing to allow people to live dramatically shorter and sicker lives."
How the countries of the world face this fact
It is a fact that this problem often receives more attention in some countries than in others. This is the case in countries like Africa, where these environmental problems are reducing years of life to levels comparable to those of HIV/AIDS and malaria, but are receiving less interest.
China, by contrast, began its restructuring of air purification and environmental control systems in 2013 and has managed to reduce by at least 29 percent, increasing the life expectancy of its inhabitants by 1.5 years.
On the other hand, fossil gas is significantly less polluting than coal and Japan said in June it would offer $10 billion in aid for energy decarbonization projects in Southeast Asia, including gas power plants. But gas flaring still drives global heating and Christiana Figueres, former UN climate chief, says: "Let’s be clear, gas is not an alternative to coal and it is not a transitional fuel. Investments in new gas must stop immediately if carbon neutrality is to be achieved by 2050".
It is important to note that these data, in addition to having an alarmist purpose on the future of humanity, invite us to reflect on the contributions that each country is making to improve environmental problems.
Governments need to pay more attention to this reality and rely on air quality professionals to develop intervention strategies that reduce air pollution levels and thus maintain our life expectancy.