Almost by the day new research, studies and scientific findings emerge that ought to offer enough evidence that, collectively, we are doing long-term irreparable damage to our environment. As present-day stewards of this green planet, our actions and inaction are harming it for the generations to come.
The annual State of Global Air report, published on Wednesday, should serve as a clarion call that we must act urgently to improve the quality of our air.
Why? Because lives literally depend on it — and the young are most vulnerable. Simply put, the life expectancy of children born today will be shortened by 20 months on average by simply inhaling the toxic air that is widespread across the globe.
Poor air quality was responsible for one in 10 early deaths in 2017 alone, according to the study. And things certainly haven’t improved since then. Here, between the Middle East and South Asia, the issue of poor air quality is acute. It’s a bigger killer than malaria and road traffic accidents and is almost akin to the death rates resulting from smoking.
In sub-Saharan Africa, every new person born today will likely live 24 months less than expected and poor air quality — caused by traffic, industrial emissions, poor indoor air and smoke from cooking fires — is to blame.
But poor air quality does not discriminate against the young. No. Older adults are at risk when air quality plummets, with one in ten deaths now attributable to the air filling their lungs. Simply put, poor air is a leading factor in 41 per cent of deaths attributable to chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, 20 per cent from type 2 diabetes, 19 per cent from lung cancer, 16 per cent of heart diseases and 11 per cent of strokes.
Here in the UAE, the government is taking action. Officials have focused on expanding renewable energy sources, and are taking measures to ensure that the vehicles on our roads are cleaner and greener. That’s an example that needs to be followed by others.
In bigger countries like India, where choking air quality regular exceeds safe limits in large cities, more needs to be done to ensure that people have the proper means to prepare their meals, have the access to cleaner public transport, and that the factories and plants powering the country’s growth are clean and green. And that needs to be an election issue for all.