Air pollution is an issue that ignores borders and concerns any inhabitant of this planet equally – air does not confine itself to singular nations, and it is among the very bare necessities that our ecosystem needs to survive. A recent report by the World Health Organisation has found that despite the constant struggle for cleaner air, air pollution has now reached unprecedented and sometimes alarmingly dangerous levels. In fact, according to said report, 80 percent of city-dwellers worldwide are breathing poor quality air, which greatly increases the risk of lung cancer and other life-threatening diseases. The percentages of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, as well as other adverse effects, directly correlate with the levels of air pollution present in the areas surveyed. As an example, in Great Britain alone 50’000 Britons die prematurely each year from the aforementioned illnesses or other adverse effects associated with polluted air.
The causes of this issue are manifold – especially in rising economies the dependency on fossil fuels such as coal and oil is a major factor. However, there are many additional factors and they greatly differ from case to case. Be it waste produced by agriculture, the reliance on rail freight and/or road traffic, the prevalence of old and obsolete cars, which do not meet the appropriate standards or influences brought about by the climate itself. The problem at hand does possess many facets and thus needs to be treated carefully and in detail. The worsening conditions in air quality are especially notable in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Only two percent of cities in countries classified as middle- and low-income meet the UN’s body standards. These standards define a certain limit of particles allowed in the air (per cubic metre) for it to still be considered safe to breathe. Many countries such as India, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, and many others harbour cities, which far exceed those standards, which makes living there a liability. However, the rest of the world is anything but spared from these issues, as they have also been found to have grown increasingly dangerous in richer areas, such as Europe or North America.
The consequences are widespread: From the aforementioned increase in disease, over peril for the ecosystem as a whole, to the reality of smog- and climate-refugees, the quality of our air is not something to be shrugged off as unimportant. This is an issue that concerns the international community as a whole, as citizens of the same planet, and thus the members of the United Nations need to come together and discuss appropriate measures to combat the steadily rising levels of pollution, lest everyone’s lives and livelihood get endangered. Be that as it may, different countries do have varying points of view, which often gets in the way of consensus. But time seems to slowly be running out, and an agreement is direly needed.
Sources and further reading