The global climate crisis presents enormous challenges to our current high-energy consuming lifestyle. Or does it?
Consider the following:
More than half of the U.S. population gets less than the recommended daily levels of exercise, contributing to rising rates of obesity and related diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
In the past decade, greenhouse gas emissions – responsible for the global climate crisis – increased at roughly twice the rate that they did between 1970 and 2000. About a third of these emissions comes from the transportation sector.
And globally, an estimated 7 million people die prematurely each year from air pollution.
The common link between these disease statistics and the warming of the earth's climate? Fossil fuels.
Fossil fuel combustion accounted for 78 percent of the total increase in carbon dioxide between 1970 and 2010. But burning oil, gas and coal also releases pollutants that harm respiratory and cardiovascular health in the short and long terms. This means that cleaner energy can help reduce the threat of global warming, while also saving lives from air pollution.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates a return of $30 for every $1 invested in reducing air pollution through the Clean Air Act. So this shouldn't be any surprise.
The health benefits of clean air must be front and center as President Trump and Congress discuss rolling back environmental regulations.
As incomes rise in developing countries, their citizens buy more cars and eat more meat. Chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease are rising globally in parallel. This link provides even more golden opportunities for public health through:
adopting more alternative modes of transportation, especially those that promote "active transport" – on foot or by bicycle – alongside effective public transit; and
reducing meat in the diet.
Current rates of chronic disease alongside rising use of the fossil fuels that cause climate change threatens our civilization. Yet their interdependence presents a golden opportunity to solve both simultaneously.