Discover more from Creative Destruction
Air Pollution x Climate Action
New perspectives to solve climate inaction
Last week, we explored the role of corporations, bullshit jobs, the anti-work movement, community-driven economies, DAOs and productizing yourself. If you haven’t read this deep dive yet, you should definitely check it out: “From Corporation to Self-Actualization”.
Between these deep dive issues, which will come out once per month, I’ll tease some interesting, perspective-shifting ideas from the world wide web with you which might later become parts of a bigger deep dive story.
“The air pollution case against fossil fuels is still the best case!”
Decades of climate activism haven’t yet had the effect we direly need: a quick, systemic and fundamental transformation towards a carbon-free, sustainable or even regenerative world. So, how can we improve advocating for and accelerating climate action? Let’s dig into some new perspectives!
Air pollution has, for decades (even centuries), been this almost hidden, illusive elephant-in-the-room problem. It’s pervasive in all cities around the world (i.e. where most of humanity lives), yet, it is also deeply connected with something that is essential to our survival: breathing.
And here comes a paradox: Although breathing is essential to our survival, it is something we aren’t really consciously doing. And that paradox might actually also be the reason why we don’t really care so much about air pollution. We need to breathe the air around us whether it is polluted or not and we are - for the most part - doing it unconsciously.
Ok, but why is air pollution then - as the title above suggests - the best case against fossil fuels? In the rather gloomy Vox article “Air pollution is much worse than we thought” the author David Roberts hints at a few, interesting reasons which I think will evoke some new ways of thinking about the link between air pollution and climate action:
Ditching fossil fuels would pay for itself through clean air alone // “The air quality ‘co-benefits’ are generally so valuable that they exceed the cost of climate action, often many times over.” For example, the US would benefit from over $700 billion of cost reductions due to improved health and labor productivity as a consequence of better air quality.
The air quality benefits will manifest locally, no matter what the rest of the world does // This is unlike global warming, where cooperation is an imperative: meaning it won’t make any difference if Germany goes net-zero but India and China kept their current emissions trajectories - air quality benefits, to the contrary, will manifest more locally, and much faster.
For emerging countries like China, India, Nigeria, Indonesia… who are often dodging stricter decarbonization efforts in favor of economic growth and its prosperity promise, the case for improving air quality is much more pressing // A Lancet Commission study in 2017 found that in 2015, air pollution killed 1.81 million people in India and 1.58 million in China.
Air pollution can quickly become a civil rights issue // Solving air pollution doesn’t necessarily require a new technological invention, an almost impossible global cooperation effort, or will only have effect years or decades later. As Roberts writes: “The extraordinary level of suffering humanity is currently experiencing from air pollution is not necessary for modernity.” It’s a choice! The more those who suffer most from air pollution - i.e. those most vulnerable - will realize that the more it will become a civil rights issue across the globe.
Given all of these points, why don’t we emphasize the role of air pollution and its implications more when it comes to climate action? 🧐
That’s all for now! See you next week with another mind-shifting idea!