Pollution linked to fossil fuels causes more than five million deaths per year

Pollution linked to fossil fuels causes more than five million deaths per year

While announcements and financial promises follow one another at COP28, without necessarily reaching a consensus, a new study reveals the impact of atmospheric pollution due to the use of fossil fuels on the health of populations. It is responsible for more than five million additional deaths each year, or more than half of the deaths attributable to outdoor air pollution.

Around a hundred countries have committed to tripling renewable energy capacities in the world by 2030, during the COP28 currently being held in Dubai, when around twenty said they were in favor of tripling nuclear capacity. Two solutions envisaged to avoid the use of fossil fuels, and in particular coal and gas, considered to be extremely polluting. A finding confirmed by a new study carried out by European and American researchers, who estimate the number of premature deaths linked to air pollution due to the use of these fuels at 5.13 million each year worldwide.

This equates to 61% of the estimated 8.34 million deaths worldwide from ambient (outdoor) air pollution from all sources in 2019 that could be avoided by replacing fossil fuels with alternative sources of air pollution. clean and renewable energy“, we can read in a press release. According to the authors of this research, these new estimates are more substantial than expected, leading to the fact that the elimination of these fuels used in the industry and transport sector, in particular , as with the production of electricity, could have significant consequences on the health of populations.

61% of deaths linked to air pollution

The researchers relied on a modeling study to estimate the number of deaths linked to air pollution due to the use of fossil fuels. Using data from the Global Burden of Disease 2019 study, data obtained using NASA satellites, and an atmospheric composition and relative risk model, they estimated exposure to ambient air pollution, mortality and disease from all causes, and attributed them to several emission categories. All according to four potential scenarios: the first suggesting that all sources of emissions linked to fossil fuels are gradually eliminated, the second and third that 25% and 50% of the reduction in exposure to these energies have been achieved, and the fourth that all sources of human-caused air pollution have been eliminated.

Published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ), this work suggests that 5.1 million deaths worldwide could be attributable to pollution caused by the use of fossil fuels. This would correspond to 61% of all deaths (8.3 million) linked to fine particles and ozone in ambient air. Coronary heart disease (30%) and stroke (16%) are among the main “common conditions” associated with most of these deaths, although a fifth of these have not been defined, as highlighted Researchers. It should also be noted that China and India appear to be the two countries most affected by deaths attributable to all sources of air pollution.

“Huge benefits for public health”

Still according to researchers’ estimates, some 460,000 annual deaths could be avoided by abandoning fossil fuels in high-income countries. A figure which would rise to 3.85 million in South, South-East and East Asia, or between 80 and 85% of deaths linked to all potentially avoidable sources of air pollution of human origin. “Replacing fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy sources would have enormous benefits for public health and the climate“, say the authors of the study. And conclude: “Improving air quality would reduce the burden of several major diseases, resulting in healthier and longer lives, fewer patients requiring hospitalization and other treatments, and reduced burden on health systems worldwide“.