Friday April 19, 2024

11 million premature deaths linked to air pollution in Pakistan

By Munawar Hasan
March 21, 2018

LAHOREL A fairly large number of Pakistanis have been among the world’s population most affected by air pollution and their ordeal could only be lessened if governments speed up their timetable for reducing fossil fuel emissions.

Five Pakistan cities, including Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi and Saidu Sharif of Swat Valley, located in three out of four federating units---Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, are among the top 30 world cities that can benefit from accelerating carbon mitigation steps. As many as 11 million premature deaths linked to air pollution in Pakistan, including 153 million worldwide, could be avoided this century if governments accelerate systematic steps for reducing fossil fuel emissions, a new Duke University-led study finds.

In a breakthrough study that highlights significance of taking early steps to curb negative impact of climate change, it is emerged that timely mitigation measures can lead to save 2.6 million premature deaths in Lahore, 2.0 million in Faisalabad, 0.75 million in Rawalpindi, 0.63 million in Karachi and 0.62 million in Saidu Sharif, administrative centre of Swat District.

Lahore is at 5th place in the list of top 30 world’s cities that can save millions of lives by taking early carbon mitigation steps, Faisalabad at 7th position, Rawalpindi at 23rd, Karachi at 28th and Saidu Sharif at 29th place.

The study is the first to project the number of lives that could be saved, city by city, in 154 of the world’s largest urban areas if nations agree to reduce carbon emissions and limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C in the near future rather than postponing the biggest emissions cuts until later, as some governments have proposed.

Talking to this scribe, Drew Shindell, who conducted this study with other researchers, said the whole point of doing this analysis at the city level rather than saying something general about pollution worldwide is to create awareness among people and policy makers of respective areas. He observed that decision makers generally don't seem to know or care very much due to lack of awareness regarding large benefits of reducing pollution and making air cleaner.

Premature deaths ratio would drop in cities on every inhabited continent, the study shows, with the greatest gains in saved lives occurring in Asia and Africa. Especially, millions of lives could be saved in South Asian countries following early reduction in carbon emissions.

Kolkata and Delhi lead the list of cities benefitting from accelerated emissions cuts with up to 4.4 million projected saved lives and up to 4 million projected saved lives, respectively. Thirteen other Asian or African cities could each avoid more than 1 million premature deaths and around 80 additional cities could each avoid at least 100,000 deaths.

Nearly 50 urban areas on other continents could also see significant gains in numbers of saved lives, with six cities - Moscow, Mexico City, Sao Paolo, Los Angeles, Puebla and New York - each potentially avoiding between 320,000 and 120,000 premature deaths.

In a statement released to media, Drew Shindell, Nicholas Professor of Earth Sciences at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, said the new projections underscore the grave shortcomings of taking the lowest-cost approach to emissions reductions, which permits emissions of carbon dioxide and associated air pollutants to remain higher in the short-term in hopes they can be offset by negative emissions in the far distant future.

“The lowest-cost approach only looks at how much it will cost to transform the energy sector. It ignores the human cost of more than 150 million lost lives, or the fact that slashing emissions in the near term will reduce long-term climate risk and avoid the need to rely on future carbon dioxide removal,” he said. “That’s a very risky strategy, like buying something on credit and assuming you’ll someday have a big enough income to pay it all back.”

Shindell conducted the new research with Greg Faluvegi of Columbia University’s Centre for Climate Systems Research and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies; Karl Seltzer, a PhD student in earth and ocean sciences at Duke; and Cary Shindell, an undergraduate student in civil and environmental engineering at Duke. They published their peer-reviewed findings March 19, in the journal Nature Climate Change. Funding came from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.