Ajmal Khan Yousafzai
Earth heat touches its highest point, glaciers are melting, sea level rising and heat waves are recorded in many regions, fresh and drinkable water crisis is becoming real. Experts have along said that in the near future wars will be fought over water crisis. As one see it in Africa, the experts’ worries are becoming true. While, many still thinks that climate risks are nothing but a mare natural issue and that the earth will heal itself soon or later. But, recently the United Nations are getting stressed on climate issue and they are voicing concerns while constantly communicating with the world leaders. This week UN organized COP25 climate change summit in the Spanish capital, Madrid to further highlight the risks that the globe face.
Though, this development is much appreciated but one must also spread awareness on the climate crisis which is linked to health crisis. The same emissions that cause global warming are also largely responsible for polluting the air we breathe, causing heart diseases, stroke, lung cancer, and infections, and affecting every organ in the human body. Air pollution is the new tobacco, causing as many deaths as cigarettes do. And although it threatens us all, children, the elderly, pregnant women, and adults with weakened immune systems are the most at risk.
It is now common knowledge that smoking causes severe harm to you and those around you. That is why the tobacco industry’s lobbying and advertising campaigns have been strictly regulated around the world. Globally, we have taken steps to safeguard existing health policies, and to force these companies to tell the truth: that their products kill.
Yet our reaction is very different when we learn that air pollution and fossil-fuel-driven climate change are just as deadly. Where are the policies to prevent the fossil fuel industry from lobbying governments, or to end the $370 billion in subsidies lavished on coal, oil, and gas companies every year? Why are we still paying for a product that is killing us?
As with the world’s strong response to tobacco, ending harmful fossil fuel use will require scaling up current policy interventions and social mobilization efforts. Fortunately, some multilateral financial organizations have already recognized the opportunity that such a change represents. For example, the European Investment Bank recently announced that it would end all of its funding for unabated fossil fuel projects, and use its position to funnel public and private capital toward renewable energy.
The choice between phasing out fossil fuels and continuing on the current path is black and white－it is a matter of life or death. We either will decide to prevent 7 million premature deaths per year by cleaning up our air and providing people with clean energy sources, or we won’t. We either will decide to prevent 4 million childhood asthma cases per year from traffic fumes, or we won’t. In any case, the lifetime health of a child born today will be profoundly affected by the decisions we make about climate change now and in the years to come. That is why the World Health Organization has made climate change a top institutional priority.
Climate change should be a priority for all businesses, governments, multilateral organizations, and individuals too. Keeping the issue high on the agenda provides the necessary motivation to make difficult choices. By taking action now to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius relative to the pre-industrial level, we would not only ensure that our planet remains hospitable for future generations; we could also save at least 1 million lives per year, according to WHO’s estimates.
Moreover, in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, eliminating air pollution would save the economy 4 per cent of GDP per year in averted healthcare costs. In China and India, reducing emissions enough to limit global warming to 1.5 C would more than pay for itself when accounting for the attendant health benefits. Likewise, transforming our food and transportation systems would save still more lives, by providing healthier diets and encouraging more physical activity all while cleaning the air and stabilizing the climate.
The human right to a healthy life and a sustainable future is increasingly being enforced through legal systems, and officials that fail to uphold these rights are being held accountable. In France, for instance, a Court found that the government had failed to do enough to limit air pollution around Paris; similarly, Jakarta residents took legal action against the Indonesian government because of air pollution.
At this year’s United Nations General Assembly, many governments answered WHO’s call to achieve “air quality that is safe for citizens, and to align climate change and air pollution policies by 2030.” This represents an encouraging first step. Now, many of the countries with the heaviest health burden from air pollution need to phase out their highest-pollution energy sources.
Like the pollution that causes it, climate change does not observe national borders; it does not save its effects just for those who pollute. On the contrary, inequality is a key feature of the climate crisis: those least responsible for the problem, disadvantaged communities, and the Global South must bear a disproportionate share of the health burden.
Just as in example, Pakistan a developing country working on projects that are essential for global environment such as planting billion trees project, clean and green Pakistan project are a few steps in this regard. Though, with such efforts the goals to clean atmosphere is achievable.
Therefore, if we to achieve a clean and healthy atmosphere, we will need all signatories to the Paris climate accord to strengthen their national climate plans by 2020. Beyond that, we need to establish new, robust mechanisms for protecting the most vulnerable and helping communities adapt to the realities of climate change. Health must be at the heart of our Paris commitments. The pollution that is choking our air and warming our planet has been accumulating for generations. We cannot afford to take that long to fix the problem.
-The writer is a staff member of the Daily Mail.
Ajmal Khan Yousafzai