Josie Taylor | November 18, 2021
New research from NASA, Duke University and Columbia University shows that improving air quality by reducing the burning of fossil fuels could also improve human health and prevent economic losses.
When burned, fossil fuels emit carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is one of the leading causes of climate change. The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that heat exposure caused by increased temperatures will be the largest health impact of climate change. Burning fossil fuels also emits air pollutants, such as sulfur and nitrogen oxides. This is linked to premature death and respiratory illnesses, including asthma.
“Emission reductions help us in the long term to avoid disastrous climate change,” said Duke University climate scientist Drew Shindell. He says those disasters can affect health, agriculture, overall wellbeing, the economy and more.
The research shows clear benefits of reducing fossil fuel emissions. Globally, reducing emissions over the next 50 years could prevent about 4.5 million premature deaths, 1.4 million hospitalizations and emergency room visits, 300 million lost workdays, 1.7 million incidences of dementia, and 440 million tons of crop losses nationwide. Roughly two-thirds of those benefits would still be realized if only the United States reduced emissions.