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What Are Nations Doing About Deadly Air Pollution?

There is a rising incidence of deaths from air pollution around the globe, particularly in developing nations.

Awareness of the deadly air pollution problem—which stems from “dirty” methods of producing much-needed and desired energy and electricity—just isn’t enough in and of itself to spur action that can mitigate or eliminate it, because the demand for energy (electricity production, heating, mobility, etc.) continues to increase along with per capita wealth and the world population.

ReportLinker’s data have found that deaths attributable to ambient air pollution in India for just one year (2012) were nearly 861,000. And, of course, India has one of the world’s largest national populations while its infrastructure and wealth grow rapidly and thereby demand ever more energy and electricity.

The data tell us that in that same year, death by ambient air pollution equaled 28,000 souls in Brazil (population of about 200 million), nearly 21,000 in South Africa (with a population of 53 million), 87,000 in Russia, nearly 94,000 in Indonesia, and over 900,000 in China. All of these nations are modernising and include large or significantly growing populations. Their demand for energy is continually on the rise, and as a result ambient air pollution is on the rise, too.

In the developed countries, the problem of deadly air pollution from energy production exists, but is not nearly as significant. For instance, from the same year (2012) the numbers of air pollution deaths are approximately 22,000 in the US (population 314 million), 1,000 in Canada (population approximately 35 million), 5,000 in France (pop. nearly 66 million), and 8,000 in the UK (pop. 63.7 million).

Given the fact that China, which is now the world’s most rapidly modernising nation, has the world’s largest population and the world’s biggest ambient air pollution problem, it comes as no surprise to find that this nation is the one investing the most in equipment for the prevention and mitigation of atmospheric pollution. The growth in such investments in China has gone from 85.7k metric tons in 2013 to over 376k metric tons as of the end of 2017.

Given global ambient air pollution problems, it also comes as no surprise that investments in forms of renewable energy are now bigger than those made directly into “fossil fuels”. For instance, the share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption in the EU28 nations increased well over 61% from 2007 through 2016. Meanwhile, in the developing BRICS nations, the total supply of renewable energy went down significantly, for the most part, between 1990 and 2014 because the total demand for energy rose, and continues to rise, faster than the creation of new sources of renewable energy in those nations.When looking into China, we notice that the country has been investing heavily in solar-generated and wind-generated electricity in recent years, and that trend is upward all the way. Yet, China, too, faces the same hurdle to get over as the BRICS nations. That is: China’s total energy demand increases faster than its solar and wind powered infrastructure can be updated, built, and deployed. And the reality is that no matter what pundits and politicians say, China’s biggest energy source remains that “non-renewable” “fossil fuel” called coal.

And yet, renewable energy production and consumption in the developed nation of France rose dramatically from 2005 through 2016. Why? It’s because France looks, quite correctly, at nuclear energy—which produces zero air pollution—as a source of “renewable” energy.However, even France’s generation and consumption of nuclear energy, which spiked sharply beginning in 1981, has stagnated in very recent years.

The government, environmental organizations, and social movements must work together to achieve change and progress. A brilliant example of this is Chile, which is currently undergoing a renewable energy boom which started two decades ago, and is the second largest market for renewable energies in Latin America, according to Scitech Europa.

“Prof. Madariaga, of the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, in Mexico, and the Universidad Mayor, in Chile, said: “The official understanding of the Chilean renewable success story highlights the role of a few government entrepreneurs, but this has hidden the crucial role played by environmental organizations and social movements in pushing this process… they managed to increase their political clout and policy influence by forming what we call contingent coalitions.””

This coalition is key to bring change in environmental policy making. In 2016, Chile was the top scoring renewable energy producer in the Americas and the second top renewable energy producer in the world after China.