Curb soot, methane emissions in Himalaya to slow global warming: World Bank

'A million deaths can be averted annually by containing these emissions'

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Saturday 09 November 2013

Cutting common pollutants like soot or black carbon, will not only slow global warming but also save millions of lives, says a World Bank report released in Friday. Titled “On thin ice—how cutting pollution can slow warming and save lives”, the report says more than one million premature deaths could be avoided annually in the Himalayan region by reducing the emissions of black carbon and methane.

The study says this effort will bring many benefits like multiple health, crop and ecosystem benefits and decrease risks to development from flooding and water shortages.

“Just a 50-per cent drop in open field and forest burning, a leading source of black carbon, could result in 190,000 fewer deaths from air pollution. By reducing emissions from diesel transport, we could avert yet another 340,000 premature deaths—while giving us some quick gains in our fight against climate change,” said Rachel Kayte, vice-president of sustainable development network, World Bank.

Biomass cook stoves blamed

Biomass cook stoves, still in wide use throughout the region, have the greatest impact on human health in the countries comprising and surrounding the Himalayas.

The Global Burden of Disease estimates show a ratio of about 7:1 globally from household (indoor) cook stoves as compared to outdoor cook stoves' pollution exposure, because of the greater concentrations of pollutants within and immediately around the home.

The number of potentially avoidable deaths from all smoke exposure from cook stoves, therefore, could be more than double the modeled outdoor result from this study, says the report.

In his statement, president of World Bank group, Jing Yong Kim, said that the health of people around the world will improve greatly if we reduce emissions of black carbon and methane. Limiting these emissions also will be an important contributor to the fight against climate change.

He added that the damage from indoor cooking smoke alone is horrendous every year—four million people around the world die from exposure to the smoke. With cleaner air, cities will become more productive, food production will increase and children will be healthier.

The Himalayan mountain ranges extending 2,400 km through six nations (India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Bhutan, and Nepal) make up the largest cryosphere region. Rapid climate-induced changes in the region will directly affect the water resources of more than 1.5 billion lives, as well as services such as electricity, and the food supplies of three billion people, says the report.

On thin ice: how cutting pollution can slow warming and save lives

The global burden of disease: generating evidence, guiding policy - South Asia

Outdoor air pollution among top global health risks in 2010: risks especially high in India and other developing countries of Asia

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