Pollution throughout the world is leaving almost 7 million dead per year in a crisis the International Energy Agency (IEA) says should not be left to the public sector.
The IEA believes that this emergency should be tackled by governments worldwide. They estimate that an increase in investment by only seven percent would save thousands of people, pay for itself, and lead to better social conditions.
The IEA also points out that even though pollution is widely seen as a social problem, it is causing increasingly harmful economic consequences. Developing cities are experiencing a significant drop in lost work due to air pollution.
The energy industry is the worldwide leading sector in air pollution. These sectors produce sulfur and nitrogen compounds that cause people to have breathing difficulties, especially the elderly and young children.
Take a look at Europe. Farming is the single biggest cause of air pollution on the continent, with chemical compounds from fertilizers and animal waste contaminating the air more than industrial regions.
Another major problem is that an estimated 2.7 million people worldwide still depend on wood and waste fires for heating and cooking. This method leads to a higher concentration of indoor air pollution, which impacts women and children the most.
Governments have been slow to respond to this crisis, the IEA says. But if they act soon, the air pollution problem could be reduced by half in 30 years. So they are calling on governments worldwide to respond to the situation, and fast.
Individuals can do their part as well to help reduce emissions. One way to do so is to invest in a hybrid car, which produces 90% less pollutants than their non-hybrid counterparts .
The Guardian reports that Fatih Birol, the executive director for the IEA, urges nations to take more responsibility. She says “Air pollution does not get the attention it deserves. It is a global problem, and it is extremely important. It is a crisis.”
Globally, air quality has been identified as the fourth largest risk to human health and well-being, after high blood pressure, poor diet, and smoking.