Jean-David Zeitoun, doctor: “Pollution is the older sister of climate change”


LThe brakes are well-known. From the point of view of States, decarbonization has two discouraging features. Firstly, our emissions are drowned in the m of CO2 global, any major effort will be intangible if we are the only ones making it. Second, the climate is affected by inertia, and reducing our emissions now, even globally, will only produce results decades from now.

These two elements (dilution and delay) have been repeated so much that they belong to our inner myths. In the minds of political leaders, they combine to form a perfect excuse not to embark on necessary change. Technically, both arguments are not wrong, although they are not invincible either. But only see CO emissions2 amounts to leaving aside a central scourge: pollution.

Read the decryption: Article reserved for our subscribers One in five deaths worldwide are linked to air pollution

Pollution is anything that is transferred to the environment and which alters ecosystems and human health. Pollution is an unintended and overwhelming consequence of industrial growth. She is the older sister of climate change. Their parents, that is to say their causes, are the same, namely, mainly, fossil fuels. Pollution was born much earlier, and it is much greater, in the sense that its impact is much greater today.

Pollution is the world’s leading environmental risk, contributing to the deaths of nine million people per year, or one in six deaths. In France, estimates are variable but substantial, ranging from forty thousand to nearly one hundred thousand people per year, whose deaths are partially caused by pollution. There is not an organ in the human body that escapes it.

Huge economic losses

However, the phenomenon is under-publicized and does not get the attention it deserves, for several reasons, one of which prevails: pollution causes common illnesses. Its toxicity is non-specific. It contributes to cardiovascular diseases and cancers, already the two biggest killers on a global and national scale. It has a role in respiratory illnesses and mental illnesses, and so on, all pathologies that we expect to see around us and expect to die from one day. Except that we don’t think of blaming pollution as the culprit when these diseases occur.

Likewise, the economic losses are enormous, but are not stigmatized anywhere. They never exist in accounting, which is the fundamental language of governments. The estimates of Lancet or the World Bank suggest that 6% of annual wealth would be lost due to pollution-related damages, which is undoubtedly an underestimate, because, once again, the data is incomplete.

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