World environment day – more people, more pollution.
On this year’s World Environment Day (5 June), countries must recognise that more population translates to more air pollution, according to Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).
Using satellite observations, a 2013 NASA study revealed that, as urban populations grew from one to ten million people, air pollution increased. In the US, Europe and India, air pollution more than doubled but, in China, the increase was larger, by a factor of five.
SPA national president, Ms Sandra Kanck, says Australia’s biggest cities will pass the 10 million-mark mid-century.
“The Australian Bureau of Statistic’s highest projection says there would be 12.2 million people in Melbourne by 2066, compared with 11.7 million people in Sydney,” she says.
The latest Australia’s State of the Environment report notes that, by world standards, Australia has very clean air, but there is still work to do.
“According to the SoE report, challenges to maintaining and improving our air quality include population growth, more people living in cities, and growing demand for energy and transportation,” says Ms Kanck.
“Air pollution causes one in nine deaths worldwide, and is responsible for about one-third of deaths from stroke, chronic respiratory disease, and lung cancer as well as one quarter of deaths from heart attack. Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), such as ground-level ozone, black carbon and methane, are not only linked to health effects but also to warming of the planet.”
Ms Kanck warns that warming of the planet has further implications for human health such as heat stress, and expanding the zones of transmission for many vector-borne diseases transmitted by mosquitoes (e.g. malaria) or other insects and pests.
Ms Kanck says Australia must adopt national air quality standards that meet World Health Organization guidelines.
“We must also support policies that strengthen emissions standards, provide incentives for cleaner vehicles, low-energy appliances and energy-efficient housing. This is not enough, however, if our cities continue to grow. “