As Paris climate talks get underway, some sobering – and promising – news

The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17[1]The 21st annual Conference of the Parties (COP-21) meeting in Paris, France is about to get underway. The two-week conference, which begins Nov. 30th and ends Dec. 11th, convenes leaders and climate-change negotiators from 196 nations. There is hope that reached will be a binding accord.

Meanwhile, more than a month ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) in a prepared statement announced: “A new WHO report highlights the urgent need to reduce emissions of black carbon, ozone and methane – as well as carbon dioxide – which all contribute to climate change. Black carbon, ozone and methane – frequently described as short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) – not only produce a strong global warming effect, they contribute significantly to the more than 7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution.”

That’s profound! Think about it: One-in-eight early deaths in the world are due to the effects of polluted air.

Added the WHO: “The report, Reducing global health risks through mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants, produced in collaboration with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, reveals that interventions to cut SLCPs can reduce disease and death and contribute to food security, improve diets and increase physical activity.”

The WHO further explained that scores of early deaths attributed to air pollution could be lowered – from the more than seven million currently to an estimated average 5.6 million annually by year 2030, that is, if 16 SLCP-reduction measures are deployed worldwide; this assessment made by the WHO and the U.N. Environment Programme in 2011 to which the new report is built off of. The number of premature deaths prevented could be upped to an estimated low of 3 million to a high of 5 million by mid-century, according to the WHO; the most recent projections based on the organization’s most recent data on air-pollution-linked deaths as well as on new measures related to short-lived climate pollutants.

320px-Giant_photovoltaic_array[1]The “WHO rated more than 20 available and affordable measures to mitigate short-lived climate pollutants, including vehicle emissions standards, capturing landfill gas, switching from fossil fuels to renewables, reducing food waste and improving household cooking fuels, to see which have the greatest potential to improve health, reduce SLCP emissions and prevent climate change,” the World Health Organization in the news release went on to state as well as to further describe in greater detail those four so-called “interventions.”

“Evidence from previous WHO studies on healthy transport already suggest that shifts to mass transport and the introduction of safe walking and cycling networks are relatively inexpensive when compared with the loss of life and costs of treating people for air-pollution related illnesses, traffic injuries and diseases related to physical inactivity.”

The WHO further mentioned that the Reducing global health risks through mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants report precedes launch of the organization’s “first climate change and health country profiles,” the presumption being that several have been released already, ahead of the 21st annual Conference of the Parties gathering in Paris which, incidentally, officially kicks off tomorrow.

For much more on this, see: “New report identifies four ways to reduce health risks from climate pollutants,” from the World Health Organization here.

This post has been updated.

Upper image above: NASA

Lower image above: United States Air Force

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