Fossil fuel pollution caused more than eight million premature deaths in 2018, accounting for nearly 20 per cent of adult mortality worldwide, researchers reported recently.
Half of that grim tally was split across China and India, with another million deaths equally distributed among Bangladesh, Indonesia, Japan and the United States, they reported in the journal Environmental Research.
The toxic cocktail of tiny particles cast off by burning oil, gas and especially coal was responsible for a quarter or more of the mortality in half a dozen nations, all in Asia.
‘We often discuss the dangers of fossil fuel combustion in the context of CO2 and climate change and overlook the potential health impacts,’ co-author Joel Schwartz, a professor of environmental epidemiology at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said in a statement.
The potential to avoid millions of premature deaths should be a powerful additional incentive for policymakers to drive down greenhouse gas emissions and hasten the global shift from brown to green energy, he said.
Worldwide, air pollution shortens lives by more than two years on average, earlier research has shown.
Worst-hit is Asia, where average lifespan is cut 4.1 years in China, 3.9 years in India, and 3.8 years in Pakistan. In some regions of these countries, life expectancy is reduced by twice as much.
In Europe, it is shortened by eight months on average.