By now, we know that climate change is currently affecting weather patterns, air quality, sea levels and crop production. We also know that these effects are set to become a lot worse in the future, especially if we don’t curb our emissions. But did you know that climate change is set to turn deadly?
Air Pollution by Climate Change
Climate change affects air quality by changing the air currents that move pollution across continents and over oceans. If the air becomes stagnant, a high concentration of pollution is able to stay close to the ground.
Climate change is also responsible for increased pollutants in the air. As more chemical pollution is released into the air, through sources like car emissions and manufacturing plants, they react with sunlight. With climate change, more areas are receiving more sunlight, meaning pollution will become more powerful. With less rain, also due to climate change, these pollutant particles are able to stay airborne for longer periods of time.
These pollutants are known as ground-level ozone and fine particle pollution. While they do appear naturally, they have significantly increased due to man-made climate change. Once they enter our atmosphere, they become hazardous. They have been directly linked to lung disease, heart conditions and stroke.
Multiple studies have been done on the effects of climate change caused air pollution on human life and health. The most recent study in Nature Climate Change magazine involved researchers from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Japan and New Zealand. It is the most comprehensive study on the subject to date.
Overall, the study found that if climate change continues at its current levels, it will be responsible for an additional 60,000 deaths every year by 2030. By the year 2100, climate change will add an extra 260,000 deaths per year around the globe. These numbers are in addition to the millions of people who already die from air pollution related illnesses every year.
This current study looked at just climate change’s effects on global air pollution by using emission data from the year 2000. This data was used to create simulations for 2030 and 2100. These simulations that showed the change in air pollution due to climate change were then plugged into a health risk assessment model.
The model revealed that climate change was responsible for 14% of ozone-related deaths by 2100. The model also showed that deaths would increase in all regions of the world. The areas most affected would be India and East Asia.
In total, this comprehensive global study used nine different health risk assessment models and simulations. This way, they were able to come to consensus and eliminate any single model that resulted in outlier responses.
Currently, countries in Oceania like Australia and New Zealand enjoy relatively low rates of air pollution when compared to countries in the Northern Hemisphere. However, through the study’s simulations, researchers learned that this would not be the case. Air pollution would increase in these countries and so would ozone-related deaths.
Air Pollution: One Problem of Many
Sadly, while the ozone-related death numbers are significant, they are only one part of the problem. Climate change will also contribute to health problems and deaths through drastic temperatures, such as heat waves and cold fronts, severe storms and the spread of infectious diseases that is caused by serious weather change. Even more upsetting is the fact that air pollution caused by climate change will most likely offset all of the current measures being undertaken to improve air quality.