We may be well past the days of London’s “pea soup” fog, but air pollution is still a killer in cities around the world. Beijing and the rest of China’s megacities have made most of the smog news in recent years, but in the West, Europe stands out for its ongoing air pollution ordeal. The Economist reports:
What if all Londoners, no matter how young or frail, smoked for at least six years? In effect, they already do. The city’s air pollution exacts an equivalent toll on each resident, cutting short the lives of nearly 10,000 people each year and damaging the lungs, hearts and brains of children. […]
Daytime levels of nitrogen dioxide in London exceeded the World Health Organisation (WHO) limit for hazardous one-year exposure for 79% of the time, and were on average 41% above the guideline. About half the time both nitrogen dioxide and fine particulates were above the limit. In daytime Paris, at least one of these pollutants exceeded the WHO’s limit for 82% of the time. Pollution is less of a problem in American cities, partly because most cars run on petrol and emit less nitrogen dioxide than diesel vehicles, which are preferred in Europe.
It’s important to note here that U.S. cities are considerably less polluted than European ones because diesel cars are much more popular in Europe than they are in the states. That’s no accident, either, as Brussels has backed diesel in a big way to help tackle carbon emissions (speaking in general terms here, diesel cars can get better gas mileage). But there’s a tradeoff with this fuel alternative, as diesel cars emit a lot more local air pollutants than, which is one of the reasons Paris has had such high-profile struggles with smog recently.
Thanks to green policy, it look like many Europeans won’t have to worry about climate change, as they will die early as the result of green-mandated exposure to dangerous pollution.