Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

5 Feb 2024

Addicted to fossils

Posted by Michael Keating

Around the world tens of thousands of people die every year from drug overdoses. It’s a tragic loss of life and the subject of much debate on how to save drug addicts. But millions die annually because of our addiction to fossil fuels: coal, oil and natural gas. A 2021 study by Harvard University, the University of Birmingham, the University of Leicester and University College London, estimated that more than 8 million people died in 2018 from fossil fuel pollution, or 1 in 5 deaths worldwide. The burning of these fuels releases pollutants such as fine particulates and ozone. Breathing these leads to heart disease, strokes, lung disease and cancer.

Credit: cherwell.org

Numerous studies say that phasing out the use of fossil fuels, which we know is essential to stop climate disasters, will also save millions of lives and reduce suffering from these diseases. Medical experts say it is extremely hard for addicts to break their dependence on drugs. The same is true for fossil fuels, which produce about 80 per cent of the world’s energy and support our economies and lifestyles. The greenhouse gases they produce are also causing a dramatic increase in weather disasters, such as floods, droughts and wildfires. Warmer weather is melting glaciers and polar ice caps, raising sea levels, and is allowing tropical diseases to spread further. The net result is more death, destruction of property and human misery. So cutting fossil fuel use will not only stabilize our climate but it will save millions of lives a year.

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