It’s already been well documented that combating climate change can create a healthier, more sustainable planet for the generations who come after us. By curbing greenhouse gas emissions and treating the planet with greater care, we can make our land more habitable, our climate more tolerable, and our food supply more sustainable. Our children and grandchildren will thank us. According to new research, though, the benefits don’t end there. Protecting the climate can even add years to our own lives.
In the United Kingdom, Climate Action Programme reported that King’s College London scientists have unearthed revealing data on the impact of climate change on life expectancy. If the UK as a whole takes tangible steps to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as mandated by the nation’s landmark 2008 Climate Change Act, the impact should be significant. Cutting air pollution from particulate matter (PM) by 44 percent over the next three decades should add 7,178,000 years to people’s lives in the UK in total, the researchers found.
“Our research demonstrates that climate change mitigation policies have the potential to make dramatic improvements in public health through their parallel improvements in air quality,” said Martin Williams, lead author of the study. “It is imperative that climate change and air pollution policies are considered together to fully realize the health benefits of both.”
The air quality issue is an especially salient one in the United Kingdom. It’s estimated that 40,000 people die in the UK each year because of the problem, mainly due to the increased risk of cardiovascular and respiratory problems such as stroke, heart attack, and asthma. The hope is that by changing their habits, such as how they travel and how they ship products, they can limit the spread of toxic pollutants like carbon dioxide that pose these health risks.
This is far from an exclusively British issue, of course. Climate Action Programme was quick to note that the King’s College London research comes on the heels of other respected scientists around the world making similar discoveries. For example, a study at MIT recently found that China could save at least 94,000 lives if it achieved similar climate goals. It’s reasonable to extrapolate that this principle could hold true for other populations worldwide.