Rapid global shift to renewable energies can save millions of lives

pollution
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Reducing global air pollution can prevent millions of premature deaths according to an international team of scientists, led by the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. The most significant contribution would be the rapid phasing out of fossil fuels, which is currently being discussed mainly to abate climate change. The researchers used a global atmospheric chemistry and climate model, linked to the latest estimates of health effects in order to study the combined impact of decarbonisation on public health, precipitation and the climate. The results of the study have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

The team headed by atmospheric researcher Prof. Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry calculated that fossil generated emissions are responsible for about 65 percent of premature deaths from human-made worldwide. Polluted air significantly elevates the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. According to Prof. Richard Burnett of Health Canada, co-author of the study, it was recently found that the burden of fine particulate matter is exceedingly high. Phasing out the use of would therefore prevent more than 3 million annually worldwide. "If all sources of air from human activities could be eliminated, that number would further rise to more than 5 million per year", adds Prof. Andy Haines from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who is also a co-author of the study.

Air pollution also impacts the climate

Reduced air pollution would not only have a positive effect on human health but would also influence the . Although a global phase-out of fossil fuels would decisively slow down the increase in atmospheric CO2, the current level of around 400 ppm in the atmosphere would not diminish anytime soon. On the other hand, air pollution from particulate matter in the atmosphere, which reflects some of the solar radiation and cools the Earth to a certain extent, would rapidly decline. For this reason, a global phase-out of fossil fuels would even lead to a short-term global temperature increase of about 0.5 degrees Celsius.

Nevertheless, it is still possible to limit warming to 2 degrees. "The rise in temperature resulting from the removal of pollution particles from the air can be tempered by a simultaneous reduction of the greenhouse gases , ozone and hydrofluorocarbons in the troposphere," explains Prof. Ramanathan of the University of California in San Diego, who co-authored the study. Methane, ozone and hydrofluorocarbons are much shorter-lived than carbon dioxide, but they have a particularly strong near-term impact on the climate. Their reduction would therefore have a direct cooling effect, whereas the climate impact of the longer-lived CO2 will last for centuries.

More precipitation due to less particulate matter

Less particulate matter in the atmosphere and the consequent increase in sea surface temperature, will increase evaporation from the oceans. This would result in more rainfall in several regions plagued by drought. The effect is particularly pronounced in monsoon regions and could help improve food security and access to water for people in parts of Africa, notably the Sahel, Central America, northern China and India.

The main implication of the study is that fossil fuel phase-out is a major opportunity not only to slow down climate change, but also to significantly improve the health of people from around the world. Therefore, the scientists advocate a rapid shift from fossil to renewable energies: "Clean energy sources have the potential to save many lives," adds Lelieveld.


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More information: J. Lelieveld et al. Effects of fossil fuel and total anthropogenic emission removal on public health and climate, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2019). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1819989116
Provided by Max Planck Society
Citation: Rapid global shift to renewable energies can save millions of lives (2019, April 1) retrieved 23 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-04-rapid-global-shift-renewable-energies.html
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Apr 01, 2019
The narrative seems to be shifting from "We must save the planet from CO2" to "We must save humanity from atmospheric carbon".

1) Deaths from carbon particulates are not real, measured or counted deaths. These deaths are simply estimates or guestimates. This is not valid scientific data.
2) We cannot simply severely reduce or eliminate carbon fuels. We do not have alternative systems to replace carbon fuel. Severe reduction of carbon fuel would result in many more deaths than the guesstimates of particulate matter deaths.

We should, of course, continue to develop alternatives to carbon fuel. We cannot simply stop using it.

Apr 01, 2019
"Rapid global shift to renewable energies can save millions of lives"

-Is that net or gross? Because it has the very real potential of costing millions of lives as well, by crashing economies, replacing proven tech with unproven tech, causing flash resource shortages in many parts of the world leading to starvation, violence, mass migration, etc.

The best of 5 Year Plans...

Apr 01, 2019
All of these apocalyptic events are happening yet our life spans continue to increase. That is of course, unless we commit suicide due the guilt and depression caused by all of these end of the world warnings. Suicide by drugs seems to be the preferable way to go. Oh yea, the very same people who want to ban fossil want to legalize marijuana.

Apr 01, 2019
" Because it has the very real potential of costing millions of lives as well, by crashing economies, replacing proven tech with unproven tech, causing flash resource shortages in many parts of the world leading to starvation, violence, mass migration, etc."

As I have said many times Otto that is the plan. From the ashes the '1% will come out of their well supplied bunkers and form the One World Government.

Apr 02, 2019
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Apr 02, 2019
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Apr 02, 2019
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Apr 02, 2019
DogFart an antigoracle sockpuppet once again you MORON Death from
carbon particulates are real. On the scale it's pumped into the atmosphere it is beyond Devastating. Furthermore we do NOT NEED Stinky fossil fuels, why do you think there no other energy sources ? Because Corrupted Big Oil is DELIBERATELY crushing the competition. Go stick your ugly face into a Fossil Fuel Factory Chimney and tell me it's all Sunshine and Glory..Dumb Dumb. Renewable energy must be funded 1000% and the oil Industry RAZED to the ground immediately ! ! !

Apr 02, 2019
Well, I like your enthusiasm. The concerns I think raised by the article are not necessarily about CO2 but the waste products of combustion. We all use fossil fuels by means of chemical combustion reactions. Those reactions result is a combination of oxygen with some other product with CO2 being one possible resulting chemical of the reaction, but others that are surprisingly far more toxic exist. For example in the combustion of coal, vast amounts of heavy metals such as mercury are released into the air, all fairly close to the smokestack (upto 200 km). So the concern at least with Mercury is that the mercury levels will be higher and more toxic and potent near coal fire plants for example. Near highways, diesel soot is a concern for the health of people that live nearby. So it's a concern.
Renewables would certainly help the situation.

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