Researchers have calculated that stronger climate regulations across the globe could help prevent up to 150 million premature deaths. Much of the public health benefits of strictly regulating greenhouse gases would be concentrated in South Asia, with nearly 13 million lives spared in large Indian cities alone if air pollution is curtailed. Cairo, Egypt and Lagos, Nigeria would also experience more than 2 million fewer deaths under strong international greenhouse gas regulation.
While the Clean Air Act has improved public health outcomes in the United States, hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved in the cities of Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Washington if stricter greenhouse gas regulations were implemented. “Americans don’t really grasp how pollution impacts their lives,” study lead author Drew Shindell told the Washington Post. “You say, ‘My uncle went to the hospital and died of a heart attack.’ You don’t say the heart attack was caused by air pollution, so we don’t know. It’s still a big killer here. It’s much bigger than from people who die from plane crashes or war or terrorism, but we don’t see the link so clearly.”
To determine the public health benefits of stricter greenhouse gas regulations, the research team created computer simulations of future emissions and pollutants. According to a statement, they then “calculated the human health impacts of pollution exposure under each scenario all over the world — but focusing on results in major cities — using well-established epidemiological models based on decades of public health data on air-pollution related deaths.” However promising the benefits of strong climate change regulations may be, time is running out, says Shindell. “There’s got to be a significant amount of progress within the 2020s or it’s too late.”