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Earth Science

WHO: Air Pollution 'Killed 7 Million People' In 2012 97

dryriver sends word of new figures from the World Health Organization that estimate around 7 million people died in 2012 as a result of their exposure to air pollution. "In particular, the new data reveal a stronger link between both indoor and outdoor air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and ischaemic heart disease, as well as between air pollution and cancer. This is in addition to air pollution’s role in the development of respiratory diseases, including acute respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases." The Organization says the bulk of the deaths occurred in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific Regions (PDF), with indoor air pollution causing more deaths than outdoor pollution in those areas, largely due to the use of coal, wood, and biomass stoves for cooking.
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WHO: Air Pollution 'Killed 7 Million People' In 2012

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  • The problem is sorting itself out.
  • From one of TFA:

    WHO reports that in 2012 around 7 million people died - one in eight of total global deaths

    This pretty much says that ~56 million people died in 2012.

    Given that we have 7 billion people living on this rock, 56 million deaths implies an average lifespan of 125 years. While living to 120+ would be kind of interesting, I somehow doubt that that will be happening too often soon.

    • by bunratty ( 545641 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @04:48PM (#46578115)
      That would be true if the number of people of each age was the same. But there are many more children than elderly, since the population is still rising.
    • I think you are assuming a uniform distribution of age. Not a good assumption.
    • Could you share the math on that?
      • Okay, so I was wrong.

        Looking at the numbers for 2012, I find that 56 million deaths is entirely consistent with the population growth rate (just under 1.1%) and birth rate (1.915%).

        This seems counterintuitive to me, since 0.8% of the population dying every year suggests a much higher AVERAGE lifespan than we empirically have.

        Nonetheless, the numbers (birthrate, deathrate, and population growth rate) are consistent (assuming they are correct, mind you - no opinions on how accurate estimates of any of thes

        • As others have said - for AVERAGE (arithmetic I assume) lifespan you also need to consider the average age at death. When infant mortality is a major contributor to the death rate it skews things considerably. Not to mention the large number of countries where thanks to war, AIDS and/or other factors the MEDIAN death age is only in the twenties or so.

  • This right here is something that anyone who lives in a highly polluted urban area knows instinctively. You don't need studies and scientists to point out that pollution(air) is not healthy, and that exposure to it over time(years) is bad and probably contributes to Asthma and Emphysema(would appear obvious) and also things like Lung Cancer and Heart Disease... Common sense would dictate this observation.

    This Common Sense observation, that air pollution is bad, is my main, MAIN point of animosity towar
    • its been said many times before, but the heart of the anti-global warmers are the religious idiots who think that the earth is our to use, abuse, and we won't be here very much longer since 'jesus v2.0' will be coming soon to take (some) of us up to heaven.

      nutjobs! total whacked-out brains. but half of the US is like this; maybe more than half the US.

      the other group is the greedy old rich men group; they care only enough for themselves and nothing really bad will happen in the next 10 or so years and they

      • They must not have gotten the memo - Jesus did in fact return at the end of 2013 and transported all the worthy believers directly to heaven. Social demographics remained unaffected, in fact vanishingly few individuals were even reported missing, but the second coming and Rapture has come and gone. If you're still here you'd better make yourself comfortable, we've got another 2000 years to wait until the third coming.

        On a less satirical note, I think you underestimate the greedy old men - I suspect most of

    • We should be doing everything in our power to reduce the amount of air pollution we put into the air

      Yes we should.

      But AGW Warmist Fanatics such as yourself don't want to reduce the air pollution that causes health issues (Carbon MONOXOIDE, Sulfur dioxide, CFC, various particulates, etc) - they want to reduce CO2.

      So you force efforts and money away from REAL pollution reduction to waste on reduction of a pretty much harmless gas that the entire biosphere of Earth has spent millions of years evolving to proce

      • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @08:46PM (#46580365)

        First off I agree that considering CO2 at the expense of all other pollutants is folly. However...

        There's *lots* of evidence that the global climate periodically shifts dramatically due in large part to instabilities in the carbon cycle - i.e. planet starts to cool, ice sheets spread, CO2 gets locked into the permafrost,etc. in a self-accelerating cycle until we reach a full-on ice age. Or alternately planet starts to warm, permafrost thaws releasing more CO2 into the air until eventually the ice sheets melt entirely. It's more complicated than that, but there's basically zero scientific debate that if something destabilizes the global climate badly enough we slide to the opposite extreme. The positive-feedback link between the ecological carbon cycle and global climate is firmly established, it's happened many times in observable history, and the combination of atmospheric CO2 levels and variations in solar irradiance, along with a few other minor contributors, pretty much explain all global climate shifts in the bast half-million years, though they're mostly all preceded by one or more major trigger events that destabilize things. And the fact that we're currently in an interglacial period within an ice age is equally firmly established.

        The only question remaining is exactly how big a change in global climate is required to act as a trigger event to set the planet on a long-term warming cycle. Human CO2 emissions are vanishingly small compared to the environmental emissions that will be released if we cross the tipping point, but reaching the tipping point only seems to require, at most, a few degrees of temperature change to send us sliding to the opposite extreme. The question that remains unanswered is whether human CO2 emissions are causing sufficient warming to be a trigger event in their own right, and the evidence is strongly suggestive that it is. Depending on the assumptions made we may be able to have another century of warming before crossing the threshold, or we may already have done so.

        So yeah, CO2 emissions are a big deal. Disregarding humans I'd be tempted to say lets just keep toxins out of the environment, and let things follow their course. But humans introduce two major problems:
        1) Over the last few tens of thousands of years we seem to be responsible for one of the larger extinctions in our planets history - this on top of the extinctions due to being in an ice age - interglacial period or not. Adding a sudden dramatic climate shift - potentially faster than any in the geologic record, could be devastating to an already severely damaged biosphere.
        2) We're unlikely to go quietly - if things get ugly I fully expect most every human on the planet to do anything and everything necessary to ensure their own survival, and/or ensure that nobody else profits from their death. Pollution will be a non-issue if weighed against survival, and WWIII could make things far uglier for millenia to come. In other words if we cross the tipping point I suspect we'll start emitting toxic pollution at rates to dwarf those seen before the environmental movement got started - to avoid long term hideous pollution rates we need to avoid crossing the tipping point.

      • But AGW Warmist Fanatics such as yourself don't want to reduce the air pollution that causes health issues (Carbon MONOXOIDE, Sulfur dioxide, CFC, various particulates, etc) - they want to reduce CO2.

        So you force efforts and money away from REAL pollution reduction to waste on reduction of a pretty much harmless gas that the entire biosphere of Earth has spent millions of years evolving to process in mass quantities.

        This is in fact really my only beef with AGW religious fanatics such as myself, otherwise I wouldn't care how much you lie or mislead to make your case. But you are harming the environment directly, which is why I work to stop your dark and twisted philosophy from taking root where possible.

        Wow, where do I begin replying to this...
        1. When did I say I "don't want to reduce the air pollution that causes health issues"?
        2. When did I "lie or mislead" to "make my case"?
        3. Explain how I am "harming the environment directly", anymore than you are...?

        And now to the piece de resistance(this is too good for words):

        which is why I work to stop your dark and twisted philosophy from taking root where possible.

        Do you know how nutty that sounds?
        "Dark and twisted" philosophy? You need to crawl back into under your rock...

        Damn Kendall, you gave me the best laugh I've had in a while!

  • by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @04:53PM (#46578167) Homepage

    This is a meaningless statistic. Serious medical researchers report this in person-years lost, not in meaningless "millions of deaths". To illustrate, let's suppose those 57 million people were infirm and about to die, but pollution hastened their demise by one second. Then this is not a big deal. Personally I would happily shorten my life for exactly one second in exchange for the conveniences of modern life. On the other hand if these people had their lives substantially shortened then this is a veritable tragedy.

    However such misleading headline doesn't surprise me: the UN is a master of over-hyped sky-is-falling chicken-little statistics.

    • You could say that of any category of death. It doesn't matter if people die of hearth disease if it only shortens their lifespan by 1 second. It doesn't matter if people are killed in road traffic accidents if they would otherwise have died a second later by something else.

      But of course you would only say something like that if you were trying to diminish the importance of a category deaths for some reason. Like politics for example.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by Alomex ( 148003 )

        You could say that of any category of death.

        Precisely, which is why medical researchers tend to speak of person-years. They also readily volunteer that people dying of cancer or heart attack at age 55 is a completely different thing than people dying of the same illnesses at age 90, since the latter would have died of something else not much later anyhow.

        Like politics for example.

        The statistic, as I pointed out, is meaningless and it is not used by medical researchers. Who is playing politics you say?

        • Precisely, which is why medical researchers tend to speak of person-years.

          Sometimes. More often about number of deaths from a particular cause though.

          Who is playing politics you say?

          I think you are. To the extent of misrepresenting medical research.

    • Wow, what a great point. Are you very consistent in applying this logic? Next time O'Reilly asks about Benghazi, Obama could try something like, "Ambassador Stephens was 52, so it's really only like 1/3 of a death."
    • However such misleading headline doesn't surprise me: the UN is a master of over-hyped sky-is-falling chicken-little statistics.

      I would love to see the statistic about how many people will use this statistic as evidence in their next argument.

    • by Sabriel ( 134364 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @08:29PM (#46580207)

      There are problems with the report (per Figures 4, apparently zero people between the ages of 5 and 25 died of air pollution), but there are also problems with your response:

      #1. Pollution-related illnesses and deaths are rarely quick or pleasant. Heart disease. Lung cancer. Stroke. Respiratory infections. These are not pleasant ways to go.

      #2. Relating to #1, "Person-years lost". If I stubbornly live to the ripe old age of 85, but the last third of that is spent choking on my own phlegm, being hooked up to machines on a weekly/monthly basis, and puttering about in my wheelchair whilst breathing with the assistance of an oxygen tank, apparently I haven't lost any person-years - in fact, by refusing to lay down and die, I've _improved_ my region's "person-years lost" statistic.

      #3. So their headline "Air pollution killed 7 million people in 2012" is misleading whilst your conclusion "the UN is a master of over-hyped sky-is-falling chicken-little statistics" is not? Seriously?

  • WHO: Air Pollution 'Killed 7 Million People' In 2012

    How many of those were in China?

    (and since it is the WHO which is part of the UN and thus kowtows to China, we'll have to subtract the numbers from Taiwan ourselves)

  • If we multiply that by 10 we have balanced the excess births and stopped the population explosion :p

  • Oh please... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by niftymitch ( 1625721 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @07:04PM (#46579521)

    OH PLEASE insulate me from this madness.

    Yes insulation... we need more of it.
    Lots more of it.

    Dense living + acoustic insulation lets you sleep in quiet while your neighbors party
    yet be able to walk to most markets. Dense living can save on many energy fronts
    and not impact the environment by a sprawl out on farm land.

    Hot or cold thermal thermal insulation is undersold for locations that need heating and cooling.

    Windows are so bad thermally that it makes sense to replace most with insulated
    wall and with a small camera invite view of the outside in. LED TV with an aero-gel
    backlight for some locations.

    Review your local building codes. Remove penalties for improvement and
    demand better total insulation packages for homes and businesses.

  • The two biggest forms of biomass are wood, and methane reclaimed from landfills. They are considered renewable because it's "new" carbon and so is considered carbon-neutral. As opposed to the "old" carbon locked up in fossil fuels which is released when burned. This ignores the pollutants it releases into the atmosphere other than CO2.

    Of the electricity generated in the U.S. [], 7% comes from hydro, 3.5% from wind, 1.4% from biomass, 0.4% from geothermal, and 0.1% from solar. So it's actually the third-
  • If doomsayers used a number such as 6,967,231 nobody would believe the report. Yet somehow saying 7 million is totally believable. Humans are such a gullible species.

  • Air pollution kills more than communism did!
  • Regardless of the "rounded" number, it all sounds like it is on track then! /facepalm @ maddening stupidity of the W.H.O.

  • If you're unbelievably unhealthy and some bad air pushed you over the edge, that's not what killed you. Unclear air at that level alone also cannot kill you. That means the vast majority of these people should have simply gotten some exercise regularly.
  • by XNormal ( 8617 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @03:17AM (#46582035) Homepage

    Take a look at this graph: Nuclear Electricity Production []. It's quite easy to spot 1986 on this graph (Chernobyl). That's where the trend of acceleration in nuclear power growth has reversed into deceleration. No such reversal has occured in demand for electric power, of course. The shortfall has been largely picked up by coal.

    The number of people that have been killed by air pollution from coal as an indirect result of the nuclear stagnation after the Chernobyl accident is well into the millions.

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