A new report from the World Meteorological Organization examines weather-related disasters over the last 50 years and finds that while the frequency and cost of climate-related weather disasters like hurricanes and heat waves has increased, thanks to improved preparations and resilience measures, their death toll has decreased. The most lethal events were droughts and storms in the ‘70s and ‘80s that caused hundreds of thousands of deaths in Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Sudan, while the most costly events were Hurricane Katrina followed by 2017’s trio of Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma. However, while emergency response and infrastructure improvements have protected people from fossil-fuel-intensified extreme weather events, the air pollution from fossil fuels remains a steady and significant health threat.
A new report from the University of Chicago’s Air Quality Life Index shows that coal is killing us, with the average global citizen losing 2.2 years of life due to air pollution, primarily from burning coal. Overall, that adds up to 17 billion lost years. If India were to meet WHO guidelines for pollution, particularly in the north of the country where nearly a half-billion people live with air ten times as dirty as anywhere else in the world, it would add an average of nearly 6 years to residents’ lives. “Coal is the source of the problem in most parts of the world,” said report author Michael Greenstone. “If these [health] costs were embedded in prices, coal would be uncompetitive in almost all parts of the world.” (Extreme Costs: AP, Reuters, Axios, Reuters; Air pollution: The Guardian, Axios, The Hill)