Even as attention has shifted to climate change, the air pollution case has grown stronger and stronger, as the science on air pollution has advanced by leaps and bounds. Researchers are now much more able to pinpoint air pollutionâ€™s direct and indirect effects, and the news has been uniformly bad.
The evidence is now clear enough that it can be stated unequivocally: It would be worth freeing ourselves from fossil fuels even if global warming didnâ€™t exist. Especially now that clean energy has gotten so cheap, the air quality benefits alone are enough to pay for the energy transition.
This conclusion has been reaffirmed by the latest air quality research, presented at a recent hearing of the USA's House Committee on Oversight and Reform by Drew Shindell, Nicholas professor of earth science at Duke University (and a lead author on both recent IPCC reports).
Right now, air pollution leads to almost 250,000 premature deaths a year in the US. Within a decade, aggressive decarbonization could reduce that toll by 40 percent; over 20 years, it could save around 1.4 million American lives (and in other countries) that would otherwise be lost to air quality.
See Air pollution is much worse than we thought
Ditching fossil fuels would pay for itself through clean air alone.