“Air pollution”, the theme for World Environment Day 2019, is a call to action to combat one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time. Chosen by this year’s host, China, the theme of World Environment Day 2019 invites us all to consider how we can make changes in our everyday lives to reduce the amount of air pollution we produce, and thwart its contribution to global warming and its effects on our own health.
Approximately 7 million people worldwide die prematurely each year from air pollution, with about 4 million of these deaths occurring in Asia-Pacific. Nine out of ten people worldwide are exposed to levels of air pollutants that exceed those considered as safe by the World Health Organization.
Air pollution doesn’t just impact human health and economic growth. Many of the pollutants also cause global warming. Take black carbon, which is produced by diesel engines, burning trash and dirty cookstoves. Black carbon is deadly, but it is also a short-lived climate pollutant. If we were to reduce the emissions of such pollutants, we could slow global warming by up to 0.5°C over the next few decades.
Methane, a large percentage of which comes from agriculture, is another culprit. Methane emissions contribute to ground-level ozone, which causes asthma and other respiratory illnesses. It is also a more potent global warming gas than carbon dioxide—its impact is 34 times greater over a 100-year period, according to the International Panel on Climate Change.
What you can do
This year’s World Environment Day provides an opportunity for each of us to combat air pollution around the world. And you don’t have to wait until 5 June to act.
There are so many things that we can do: from cycling or walking to work and back, to recycling your non-organic trash, to pressuring your local authorities to improve green spaces in your city. Here are some other ideas:
- Turn off lights and electronics not in use.
- Check efficiency ratings for home heating systems and cookstoves to use models that save money and protect health.
- Never burn trash, as this contributes directly to air pollution.
What else can we do to tackle this problem? Share your ideas on social media using the hashtag #worldenvironmentday.
Check this space in the coming weeks for more details on this year’s campaign, and don’t forget to sign up to receive updates in the run-up to World Environment Day 2019.