Pollution alert in Beijing reminder of high cost of climate change

Chinese officials have issued the first ever “red alert” in the capital city of Beijing with pollution levels described as “very unhealthy”. Robert Howarth, the David R. Atkinson Professor in Cornell’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, has studied global warming for 40 years, particularly the impact of methane gas emissions on the environment. Howarth, who is attending the COP21 climate conference in Paris, says air pollution from fossil fuels is a $33 billion problem in New York state alone, and will cost China even more.

Bio: http://ecologyandevolution.cornell.edu/people/faculty/robert-howarth.cfm

 

Howarth says:

“The current smog crisis in Beijing reminds us all that climate change is not the only reason to move beyond fossil fuels: air pollution from burning fossil fuels is a major cause of death and disease globally.  And we should not think of this as just a problem for China and other developing nations.  Despite decades of effort to clean up air quality in the United States, problems remain.  In our ‘2030 Plan for a Fossil-Fuel Free New York’ paper, we estimated that air pollution from fossil fuels causes approximately 4,000 deaths every year in New York state, and costs New York citizens an estimated $33 billion per year in health costs. Imagine what the current costs are to China.

“It now appears that the nations of the world will agree through the COP21 process, to work to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.  This target is ambitious, but also absolutely necessary if we are to avoid catastrophic global warming.  To reach the target will call for a rapid transition away from all fossil fuels, natural gas, as well as coal and oil.

“In fact, it will be particularly important to stop using natural gas, since this is a major source of methane emissions, and reducing methane emissions is essential to slow the rate of global warming during this decade, which we must to meet the 1.5 degree target. Luckily, the tools for the transition to a fossil-fuel future are in place.  The time for the transition is now, both to protect human health from the ravages of smog and to reduce the damages of global change.”

 

 

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