Three – protecting human health
Emissions linked to the burning of fossil fuels’ – e.g. sulfur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) – often help to make people ill, or even to kill them. Air pollution cuts 8.6 months off the life of the average European, causing 310 000 of the continent’s people to die before their time every year. Worldwide three million people a year die because of outdoor air pollution, the World Health Organization says. Normally healthy people may not notice what polluted air is doing to them, but those affected by lung disease or heart problems probably will. The pollution is pervasive: it comes from vehicles, power stations and factories. It also damages the natural world, through acid rain and smog. The marathon runner Haile Gebreselassie refused to compete in the 2008 Olympics because he said Beijing’s pollution – all fossil-fuel related – was too dangerous for his health.
Four – boosting the economy
Individuals who reduce their energy consumption and thus their climate impact also save money. On a more macro-economic level, economic opportunities arise from measures taken to reduce GHGs: insulating buildings for example will not only save energy costs, but also give the building sector an enormous boost and create employment. While some sectors might suffer increased costs, many will seize the opportunity to innovate and get a step ahead of their competitors in adapting to changed market conditions.
Mitigating climate change addresses all these factors –directly or indirectly
Of all the reasons to try to reduce our climate footprint, the prospect of climate change is definitely the most pressing, because it will cause the most far-reaching changes, to humans directly, but also to all the ecosystems on which we depend for our well-being. The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, released in 2007, describes in detail various emission scenarios and the associated impacts of temperature rise.
One of the IPCC’s conclusions was that warming caused by human activities could lead to “abrupt or irreversible” impacts. Scientists warn that
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