Climate Action Brings Big Benefits to Human Health

Fast action to cut common pollutants like soot – also known as black carbon – and methane will not only slow global warming, but save millions of lives.

Reductions of these so-called short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) would slow rapid melting in the Arctic and in mountain regions with glaciers, like the Himalayas.  It would also bring multiple health, crop and ecosystem benefits, and decrease risks to development from flooding and water shortages  says a new scientific study released.

On Thin Ice: How Cutting Pollution can Slow Warming and Save Lives is about how climate change is affecting the cryosphere – those snow-capped mountain ranges, brilliant glaciers and vast permafrost regions on which all of us depend.

It warns that current warming in the cryosphere could have dire human consequences from resulting sea level rise, increased water stress and more extreme weather.  For example, the release of large CO2 and methane stores as a result of melting permafrost could contribute up to 30% more carbon to the atmosphere by the end of the century.

The report also lays out immediate measures we can take to slow the ice melt including reducing the black carbon emissions from diesel-fueled vehicles and solid fuel cooking fires that lowers the  reflectivity of snow and ice, leading to greater melting.

Such actions would also provide important health, agriculture and other development benefits.  According to the report, if more clean cook-stoves – stoves that use less or cleaner fuel – would be used it could save one million lives.  In addition, a 50-percent drop in open field and forest burning could result in 190,000 fewer deaths every year, many of them in Europe and Central Asia.

Reductions in emissions from diesel transport and equipment, meanwhile, could result in more than 16 million tons of additional yield in crops such as rice, soy and wheat, especially in Southeast Asia; and also avert 340,000 premature deaths.

Emissions of methane, as well as nitrogen oxide from diesel use, causes higher levels of ozone which results in lower growth of food crops, and thus a decrease in crop yields.

Source | World Bank