By Garlynn Woodsong CNA Board Member, SW1 CNA LUTC Chair
Two new studies released last month drive home the point that the human species needs to be working to end the era of fossil fuels as quickly as possible, for our own sake if nothing else.
The first study found that burning fossil fuels kills nearly nine million people worldwide and 350,000 Americans annually. That’s more than twice what was previously estimated, according to the study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research by scientists from Harvard and three British universities.
‘There’s a perception in the United States that we have this under control, but that’s a mistake,” Joel Schwartz, told the Boston Globe. He is a Harvard professor and one of the study’s authors.
The second study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It found burning fossil fuels is making the North American spring pollen allergy season come earlier, linger longer and be all-around more miserable.
“This is a crystal clear example that climate change is here and it’s in every breath we take,” lead author Bill Anderegg told the Associated Press.
The study measured changes in pollen concentrations across North America from 1990 to 2018. It found the pollen allergy season now starts 20 days earlier, and results in 21% more pollen in the air.
The study further found this trend to be caused by global warming, which is caused by higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels that are produced by the burning of fossil fuels.
It’s more than just an obnoxious cause of sneezing and sniffly noses. Worsened pollen allergies are a significant public health concern because they can set off or exacerbate respiratory diseases like asthma. That chronic condition already costs the U.S. medical system $80 billion annually in lost productivity and treatments.
Concordia is not immune from fossil fuel emissions with the roads, rail lines, airport and industrial facilities in and near our neighborhood.
The only silver lining for us is that we’re not as bad off as some. The worst U.S. pollen impacts, the study found, are in Texas, closely followed by the Midwest and Southeast.
Worldwide, nearly one in five deaths are from fossil fuel combustion. In much of east and southeast Asia, the rate is nearly one in three deaths.
The good news, however, is that reducing fossil fuel emissions can save lives. Emissions were cut nearly in half in China between 2012 and 2018. That saved 2.4 million lives worldwide during 2018, including 1.5 million in China.
Cutting, and eventually eliminating, fossil fuel consumption is something we can do.
Doing so will literally save our lives.
Garlynn Woodsong lives on 29th Avenue, serves on the CNA board and is an avid bicyclist. He also is a dad who is passionate about the city his son will inherit. He is the planning + development partner with Cascadia Partners LLC, a local urban planning firm. Contact him at LandUse@ConcordiaPDX.org.