Status Update for Planet Earth: Atmosphere

Air pollution is the fourth greatest overall risk factor for human health worldwide [1] and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. [2] If this statement does not make you realize that it is time to make a change, then the following information should.

Essentially, the rise of surface temperature, coming along with an extreme volatility of the weather, affects the earth heavily. For 1400 years, there has likely not been any warmer period than the latest one, starting in 1880. The temperatures have been rising constantly for decades and the global average surface temperatures exhibit natural variability. The climate change report by the intergovernmental panel for climate change, IPCC, calculated a current warming of 0.85 °C; sources are varying from 0.65 to 1.05°C.[2] Therefore, the ice is melting, species are becoming endangered, habitats are being lost and all this is clearly caused by our species.

Non-sustainable actions have led to climate change and air pollution, which have unavoidable serious impacts on the environment and human health. Turning the gaze towards smog problems in China’s capital, Beijing, is one of the many examples where air pollution is already putting negative pressure on health and the quality of life. Mexico City, one of the highest populated cities in the world, is also choking in its “worst smog for nearly two decades” which forced authorities to establish a pollution alert. The critical air conditions required children, elderly people, pregnant women, and people with respiratory problems to stay indoors.[3]

Other consequences of air pollution include premature deaths, being estimated to 6.5 million. Moreover, early eighty per cent of the population living in urban areas that monitor air quality are breathing air that does not comply with the World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality guidelines. Most of them exceed these standards and only a few countries actually meet them. Concerning the economic impacts, the costs of non-intervention are large and likely outweigh the cost of taking alleviating steps. Air pollution is associated with health impacts that are costly and which tend to dominate any overall economic assessment.[1]

Thus, the WBCSD has set a proactive strategy to provide helpful solutions. They are working to find ways to build Zero Emission Cities (ZEC), circular economies and maximize energy efficient infrastructure.[4] As industry is responsible for 21% of the greenhouse gas emissions [5],  the involved companies have set the goal to move away from reacting to actively involving. We are looking forward to get deeper information on the “Cities and Mobility Pathway” in “brumoso” Mexico City.

P.s.: Have a look at the picture and try spotting the buildings in Beijing – they are less than 100 meters away from the photographer!

 

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