2 world threnats deadlier even than the virus

Published March 6, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

The coronavirus plague now in over 60 countries is  not quite  pandemic as many of the world’s 195 countries  remain untouched,  the World Health Organization said this week. But  there is one worldwide killer that  could qualify as a “pandemic,” according to a study published in the International Cardiovascular Research. It is air pollution, the air people breathe,  which is  responsible for 8.8 million premature deaths every year.

Air pollution is mostly due to the burning of fossil fuels like gasoline in car engines and coal in power plants.  According to the study by the Max Planck Institute of Mainz, Germany,  air  pollution is a much bigger public health risk than tobacco smoking. Scientists who conducted the study said it causes 8.8 million premature deaths  annually.

This is 19 times more than the deaths caused by malaria, nine times more than HIV-AIDS, and three times more than alcohol. The worst-hit region in the world is Asia, where the average life span is reduced by 4.1 years in China,  by 3.9 years in India, and 3.8 years in Pakistan. In  India’s Uttar Pradesh,  with a population of 200 million, air pollution cuts the life span by 8.5 years, the study said,  citing the Air Quality Life Index  developed by researchers of the Energy Policy Institute of Chicago.

There was one other report from researchers this week concerning another threat to humanity – the same burning of fossil fuels is causing world temperatures to rise,  melting the glaciers and raising ocean levels. The study published in Nature Climate Change  said this may result  in the loss of half the world’s sandy beaches by the year 2100, not only affecting tourism but also threatening infrastructures  against storm surge during typhoons.

Sandy beaches often serve as a first line of defense against  coastal storms and flooding, researchers at the European  Commission’s Joint Research Center said.  Australia could be hit hardest, according to the findings, followed by Canada, Chile, and the United States. The Philippines, whose coastline is longer even than that of the US, would certainly suffer should climate change wipe out many of the world’s sandy shorelines.

The  coronavirus epidemic is now hogging the headlines as it continues to spread around the world. The two research reports on air pollution and on climate change remind us that we have so many other problems, deadlier even than  COVID-19, that call  for even more sustained and coordinated action from the world’s nations.