This year’s World Environment Day (June 5th 2019) is dedicated to reducing air pollution. The programme is a ‘call to action’ to combat one of the most significant environmental challenges of our generation. Hosted by China, World Environment Day challenges us all to learn more about pollutants and to make changes in our daily lives to reduce the growth in pollution.
What Causes Air Pollution?
We believe that understanding the causes of pollution can help us to take action to improve the air around us. Here are a few key facts about the causes of air pollution.
Households across the world make a significant contribution to air pollution, primarily through the use of fossil fuels. A general increase in the amount of energy that it takes to cook, heat and light our homes has taken it’s toll on the environment.
As our homes become full of gadgets to simplify life, the ‘stand-by’ lights are often lighting up our rooms 24 hours a day! Not to mention the multi-room TVs, phone chargers and gizmos that switch your lights on and off for you! Progress at a cost!
Across the world around 3 billion people continue to utilise solid fuels to cook and heat their homes – causing increasing pollution and a rise in related illnesses. Whilst countries are increasing access to alternative fuels and equipment, the progress isn’t coming fast enough.
Not really a surprise here! Often when we think of pollution we jump to a picture of industrial giants pumping smoke out into the air don’t we? And we’re not far off the mark!
Power generation is a leading source of air pollution, not to mention general industrial processes involving toxic chemicals, solvents and mining.
Across the world only 82 (out of 193) countries have incentives in place to encourage investment into renewable energy, energy efficiency and cleaner production processes. But time is running out and not all Governments are recognising the need to promote the environment over international business!
If you’ve ever blown your nose after wandering through a busy, car-filled city … then you kind of get the gist! Global transport accounts for almost 25% of energy related emissions. And this proportion is continuing to rise!
Air pollution from transport alone reportedly contributes to nearly 400k premature deaths, and those living close to major traffic routes can be up to 12% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia. Scary facts!
Contributors to transport emissions range from air travel to the everyday family car. Reducing the congestion (and pollution) on our roads means that we need to improve both the efficiency of vehicles and the overall number of vehicles in use!
There’s no such thing as ‘throwing it out’. Everything we dispose of has to go somewhere, and that means over-used landfills, air polluting disposal units and oceans littered with our cast offs!
Organic waste in landfills and open waste burning release dangerous dioxins, methane and black carbon into the air. Scarily – over 40% of waste is openly burned in this way. A practice utilised in over 85% of countries!
The answer is not simply in having better recycling programmes – we must significantly reduce the waste we create, dispose of organic waste appropriately and use alternative materials that can be more easily repurposed/re-used!
Agriculture emissions come from a number of different sources. everything from methane producing livestock to the burning of agricultural waste. Worryingly, methane emissions create ‘ground-level ozone’ which is known to cause respiratory diseases amongst the population.
Methane is also an even more potent contributor to global warming than carbon dioxide. On fact it is estimated to be 34 times more destructive over the period of 100 years.
Solutions to agriculture emissions include reducing demand for food (through less waste, plant-based diets), optimised livestock feeding practices and improved land management. All of this takes increased education and investment from institutions and governments around the world. An increase in organic farming can also help to protect our environment and to create a healthier alternative at a more affordable price.