The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion What the U.S. can do to mitigate global air pollution

High voltage electricity transmission pylons are positioned alongside the a coal-fired power station in Mpumalanga, South Africa, on March 21. (Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg News)
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The June 16 news article “Study: Air pollution reduces global life expectancy by more than two years” made the startling point that breathing dirty air has more of an impact on global life span than alcohol, cigarettes, terrorism or conflict. Think this is just a problem for the more crowded and less-developed parts of the world? A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin at Madison showed that eliminating air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels would prevent 50,000 premature deaths and provide more than $600 billion in health benefits each year in the United States.

We hear a lot about the costs of fighting climate change, but much less attention is paid to the benefits. Drastically reducing the use of fossil fuels will not only prevent — or at least mitigate — the global catastrophe of climate change. It also will give everyone cleaner air, cleaner water and improved health — and maybe even a few more years of life.

Julie Bauer, Vienna

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