Silent, but deadly: A new Lancet report pointed out that air pollution is most severe in the Indo-Gangetic plain | Photo: Pixabay

India reported most air pollution-related deaths in the world in 2019: Lancet report

A recent report on pollution and health published in The Lancet Planetary Health says 16.7 lakh people died in India in 2019 because of air pollution, the  largest number of air-pollution-related deaths of any country, the Indian Express reported.

The report stated that pollution was responsible for an estimated 90 lakh deaths in 2019, a number that has remained unchanged since the 2015 analysis. Ambient air pollution was responsible for 45 lakh deaths, and hazardous chemical pollutants for 17 lakh, with 9 lakh deaths attributable to lead pollution. Of the majority of the 16.7 lakh air pollution-related deaths in India–9.8 lakh were caused by PM2.5 pollution, and another 6.1 lakh by household air pollution.

The report pointed out that air pollution is most severe in the Indo-Gangetic plain. This area contains New Delhi and many of the most polluted cities. Burning of biomass in households was the single-largest cause of air pollution deaths in India, followed by coal combustion and burning of crop stubble. 

Cuts in air pollution in North America and Europe helped to increase tropical Atlantic hurricane activity

A new study by NOAA published in Science Advances showed that the increase and decrease of industrial soot—aerosols—plays a critical role in tropical storm activity all over the world. The research stated that aerosols often form a reflective shield in the atmosphere that can trap warmth higher up, but reduces the amount of heat reaching the planet’s surface. The research modelling suggested that an estimated 50% drop in atmospheric aerosol pollution in Europe and North America between 1980 and 2020 led to surface warming of the tropical Atlantic Ocean, where cyclones have increased 33% during the same 40-year period. 

Inside Climate News reported that the impacts of falling emissions are less studied than increases, but understanding how the climate responds to such declines is also critical to protecting people from climate extremes like flooding, heat waves, dry spells and cyclones.

The lead author of the report told Inside Climate News that reducing air pollution is not always decreasing the risk of hazards from tropical cyclones. His research showed how surging greenhouse gas concentrations intensify deadly storms, droughts and heat waves, but cutting them, along with other industrial pollution emissions, will also affect global weather.

7-year Filipino inquiry finds big polluters ‘morally and legally liable’ for climate damage

According to an inquiry set up by Filipino typhoon survivors, the world’s most polluting companies have a moral and legal obligation to address the harms of climate change because of their role in spreading misinformation. The report said coal, oil, mining and cement firms engaged in “wilful obfuscation” of climate science and obstructed efforts towards a global transition to clean energy. This could add fuel to climate lawsuits around the world.

The Guardian reported that the inquiry by the Philippines Commission on Human Rights began seven years ago after a petition by survivors of Typhoon Haiyan and local NGOs. The report drew on scientific, legal and personal evidence from around the world to examine the role played by 47 of the world’s most polluting companies in the climate crisis.

Study: Cutting air pollution in the US would save 50,000 US lives, $600 billion each year

A new US study found that eliminating air pollution emissions from energy related activities in the United States would prevent more than 50,000 premature deaths each year and provide more than $600 billion in benefits each year from avoided illness and death.

The study by University of Wisconsin-Madison reported the health benefits of removing dangerous fine particulates released into the air by electricity generation, transportation, industrial activities and building functions like heating and cooking—also major sources of carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change—since they predominantly rely on burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas.
Meanwhile, the US Justice Department (DOJ) announced that the government is opening a new office to enforce laws around the climate crisis, toxic pollution. The US attorney general Merrick Garland said the office will address the department’s environmental justice efforts as part of the Biden administration’s strategy to prioritise environmental justice.

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