Air pollution is harming many of us around the world. Many of us are breathing air that is damaging almost every organ in our body. Worse, one of the main causes of air pollution – burning fossil fuels – also causes climate change that’s endangering all of us by heating the planet on which we depend.
Air pollution is indeed a crisis, but it’s a crisis we can solve – and around the world, people are solving it! Here’s what that looks like.
Burning all fossil fuels is bad, but coal is the worst. When burnt, it releases more carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of energy than oil or gas – which means it heats up our planet faster.
Coal is toxic too. Burning it releases elements like mercury and arsenic, and small particles of soot which contribute to air pollution. When we breathe it in, that soot harms our heart and lungs and even increases our risk of strokes.
But the worst thing about coal is how widespread it is. Coal provides more than a third of the world’s electricity. That’s more than any other single source! These power plants affect air quality for hundreds of kilometres – and are often placed right in the heart of cities – so countless millions of people get little respite from the pollution these plants cause.
We desperately need to wean ourselves off coal, and get our power from clean sources like wind, sun and tides.
Some counties have started. In 2019, coal power had its biggest slump ever recorded! But we need every country in the world to move much faster towards renewable energy. Greenpeace International has even mapped out how they could go about it.
Most cars run on oil – petrol and diesel. And just like burning coal, burning oil comes with a huge environmental price tag. Petrol and diesel cars emit CO2 and other gases which heat our planet. On top of other nasties, the exhaust fumes these cars produce contain Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), which is another pollutant that harms our health.
But there are other ways we can move around, and leave the car behind.