The report focuses primarily on the five most populous cities in the world, where around 160,000 people died prematurely last year as a result of air pollution. The worst affected city is the Indian capital New Delhi. An estimated 54,000 people died from the effects of the particularly harmful particulate matter of particle size PM2.5, also known as fine dust. Worldwide, around 4.5 million people die each year from a wide range of diseases caused by excessive levels of air pollution.
Health effects from air pollution
Fine dust can cause severe long-term damage to the heart and lungs
Particulate matter of particle size PM2.5 and smaller is considered particularly harmful to our health. Common air pollution types of the same are fine dust, smoke, pet dander, and bacteria. The particles are so small that they can get deep into the lungs and into the bloodstream. There is sufficient evidence that exposure to PM2.5 over long periods (years) can cause adverse health effects and increase the risk of severe asthma attacks.
Although some cities have seen improvements in air pollution during Covid-19, the alarming numbers highlight the importance of expanding clean energy and ending dependence on fossil fuels. “When governments choose coal, oil, and gas over clean energy, it’s our health that pays the price. Air pollution from burning fossil fuels increases our likelihood of dying from cancer or stroke, suffering asthma attacks, and experiencing a more severe form of COVID-19. We can’t afford to keep breathing dirty air when the solutions to air pollution are widely available and affordable,” said Avinash Chanchal, climate campaigner at Greenpeace India.
In Delhi, there were about 54,000 preventable deaths from PM2.5 air pollution in 2020, equivalent to one death per 500 people. Jakarta suffered 13,000 preventable deaths in 2020 and even suffered losses of $3.4 billion from air pollution, equivalent to 8.2% of the city’s total GDP.
Economic impact of air pollution
Globally, air pollution causes severe economic damage in addition to devastating death tolls. Tokyo, for example, suffered an economic loss of $43 billion.
Los Angeles recorded the highest per capita financial cost of PM2.5 air pollution of all cities on the estimator in 2020, at approximately USD 2,700 per resident. With a population of 4 million, this makes it a total loss of an incredible 10.8 billion US-Dollar.
Greenpeace is now pushing governments at all levels to invest in renewable wind and solar energy to protect residents from deadly air pollution. ‘’In most parts of the world, it is now cheaper to build clean energy infrastructure than to continue investing in polluting fossil fuels, even before taking the cost of air pollution and climate change into account. As governments look to recover from the economic impact of COVID, they must create green jobs, build accessible clean-energy powered public transport systems, and invest in renewable energy sources like wind and solar. We demand a better normal, not only for the sake of our air but also to address the flooding, heatwaves, and intensified storms that we’re experiencing as a result of climate change,” said Bondan Andriyanu, campaigner at Greenpeace Indonesia.